Matthew Clarke programme article

Posted : 1st October 2018

Linfield defender Matthew Clarke has been an ever-present in a back four which has so far kept an impressive seven clean sheets from eight league matches this season. Speaking to ‘Look at Linfield’ earlier in the week, Clarke believes desire has been key to their strong start to the season.

“It’s been an unbelievable start to the season with our clean sheet record at the moment and remaining unbeaten. There’s nothing really different. It just feels that the lads have a massive desire not to concede goals and we are fighting for each other and every ball so that we keep it out. The back four has been brilliant so far and just look at the players we have capable of bringing into it - Stafford, Haughey and McGivern. It’s a record that we must keep going and have the same drive to keep keeping clean sheets, as it’s a record that we are very passionate about.”

I feel I have started well and have confidence back after a very tough season last year for everyone at the club. As long as our team are winning games and keep picking up results I am a happy man!”

Clarke is now in his sixth season at Windsor Park and is heading towards 200 Linfield appearances, but things could have been very different. When he left his boyhood heroes Rangers in 2013, he was ready to quit football and join the Army before Linfield came calling.

“I think it was mainly down to the disappointment of leaving my boyhood heroes. I remember leaving Glasgow and coming home to my wee village at home and thinking to myself, what am I going to do with my life now? I’d left Glasgow and some great friends behind and felt like I was at a real crossroads in life. I always had a passion and great respect for the armed forces when I was leaving school at 16. If I hadn’t have signed for Rangers, I was going to go to the RAF. I’m glad now that I stuck at it because the only place I want to play my football is at our club, with a fantastic group of players and lads.”

“I’m 24 now and being realistic, I don’t think I’ll make the transition again into full time football, as much as I’d love to. Staying at Linfield as long as I can is something I have a real desire to do. I want to win many more trophies with our club and as I’m only 24, there’s plenty of life in me yet! You just have to look at the likes of Jamie Mulgrew, Chris Casement and Robert Garrett and the amount of trophies they have won – it’s something I want to strive towards and with this current squad, there’s no reason it can’t happen.”

Looking ahead to today’s game, Clarke will cross paths with the man who brought him to Linfield - current Ballymena United manager David Jeffrey, whose side will certainly pose a tough challenge.

“Today’s game with Ballymena will be extremely tough. Coming up against a David Jeffrey team is never easy. He is a fantastic man. A motivator and a real leader. I will always have great respect for big Davy for bringing me to Linfield.”

The 24 year-old from Castlederg finished by saying he feels the best is yet to come from this resolute Linfield team.

“I still feel we have a lot more to give. The manager demands the best, as he knows how capable we are as a squad. Especially after the massive disappointments of last year, we as a group have a huge desire to put things right. There is certainly more to come from this group of players and we are continually building in confidence from week to week.”

Everyone at the club will hope that Matthew and his defensive colleagues will maintain their impressive early season form and momentum, to help the club get back among the honours later in the season.
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