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Former Terriers skipper Clarke relives Town spell

14th November 2017

Former Huddersfield Town captain Peter Clarke has told Radio Yorkshire he was disappointed to leave the Terriers after a successful spell with the West Yorkshire club.

The 35-year-old, now plying his trade at League One Oldham Athletic, was speaking to Derek Clark in the latest in the Yorkshire Legends series.

He looked back fondly on his 2012 League One play-off final win over Sheffield United when they went up via penalties despite missing their first three spot-kicks.

"We got there on the Saturday, which one thing I do remember the heat was ridiculous, I remember watching the game back on SkyPlus or whatever it was and seeing a thermometer on the side and it was 48°C so it was pretty warm! That's one of the lasting memories."  

Looking back over the game itself, he believes that the two teams in action were fairly evenly matched: 

"It was a pretty cagey affair, certainly in the first half. Not much difference in the two teams, not a lot of chances, as the game wore on I think we had the edge. We had a couple of opportunities, I had a couple of opportunities from set-pieces, one Steve Simonsen made a great save, the other was cleared off the line and then you're aware it's going to penalties."

With neither team able to break the deficit after 120 minutes the game went to penalties, Clarke remembers well the piece of good fortune he experienced before a kick was even taken: 

"Myself and Michael Doyle go in to toss the coin to choose ends and choose which team would take the first penalty and, well, somehow I won both coin tosses, I mean now I don't seem to be able to win one I think I just choose the wrong one on a double-sided coin! Managed to win both so said that we'd have them at the end where the Huddersfield fans were and we'd also take the first kick." 

After making sure the penalties would be taken in front of their own supporters, Huddersfield got off to the worst possible start: 

"I certainly remember the first three, Tommy Miller had a fantastic record with his penalties of not missing, I think one maybe miss in some thirty-odd penalty kicks so we were all confident when he stepped up and missed Alan Lee, missed, Damien Johnson, missed, so with three penalties down we've not scored one! I'm on the fourth knowing full well that if I miss then there's a good chance that it's not going to turn out right. I knew where I was going, knew what I was going to do with the penalty, was fully confident in myself that I was going to score and, still pleased when I saw net ripple, and a slight amount of relief too. You know, looking back first there was a little bit of a celebration and then I kind of thought you know maybe I can lift them a bit and gave them another cheer and as I walked back towards the centre circle, their next taker was coming up to take his and whether it was noticed, whether it was my finest hour, I'm not entirely sure but I just kind of made a beeline for him I didn't say anything but just walked straight towards him so he had to walk around me, fortunately, he missed the kick and then shall we say, the rest is history." 

Clarke says that the ecstasy of the win and securing promotion meant even more because of the agony he had experienced in the same game the season before:

"12 months previously I cried like a baby when we didn't win the play-off game against Peterborough, partly the reason being we'd had such a good season, finished so close to second spot and pipped by Brighton and Southampton as it was, that I, and not being disrespectful to Peterborough or you know any sort of arrogance, I never for one second contemplated losing that game so it was kind of double edged, the fact that we lost and also my little lad had just been born and he was still in the special care. It was like getting hit with a wrecking ball. So it wasn't good that Peterborough final, I had perhaps contemplated the worse case scenario before Sheffield United and also felt more of the pressure was on them because they'd finished I think, eight points clear of us, they'd been in the top two a lot through the course of the season and it was almost like a role reversal from ourselves the year previous. So we kind of went into the game, I would say in a more relaxed frame of mind than perhaps Sheffield United did, maybe with less to lose than they had to, more expectation of them because they had, they'd only recently been relegated and were probably bigger favourites to go back up."

After spending five years with the Terriers, taking them to two play-off finals and captaining them the entire time, in 2014 Clarke left the club. He says that an injury blow was a big reason behind his departure: 

"Ultimately leaving the club I was disappointed, so, maybe eight or nine months earlier there'd been talk of them extending my contract and then in the November I got a knee injury which meant I didn't play for them for, I think the next time I played from the beginning of November was sometime in February so I missed a portion of the football and ultimately there was no negotiation or re-negotiation of any sort of contract and I felt hard done by to be perfectly honest. I'd felt that over the course of my time there, on a regular, well averaged over forty-odd games a season, forty-five games a season and felt that I still had plenty to give.

"So to not be given a chance to prove my worth was a little, you know, a little hard to take but at the same time I was well aware that I wanted to carry on playing, I had an inner-drive and an inner-belief that I could still play, I knew I could play to a good level and I also knew I had the family to support and you know it was again, going back to when I was a kid, you know it was a case of toughest survive, again that times coming I'll come out fighting as such."

Having signed a new two-year contract in March, it's clear that Clarke isn't looking to retire anytime soon, but when that day does come, what has he got in mind for his future:

"One or two avenues I'd like to explore, I've completed my coaching qualifications, so there's certainly the possiblity of that route, going back when I was at Huddersfield and I got the knee injury in November I did a couple of games for Sky which I thoroughly enjoyed and also for the radio, and thoroughly enjoyed that as well, so there are one or two avenues I'd like to explore and see where the next path takes me, I'm not saying that anythings set in stone and there's a definite way I will or won't go but I've got one or two bits in place then it's not a complete and utter culture shock when the time comes that I no longer play."

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