Clarke puts his faith in old heads and young legs

Richard Clarke may be getting to the veteran stage of his career, but the Ballinamallard United captain feels there’s still plenty of petrol left in the tank.

“I always set myself high standards and I’m my worst critic at times, but as club captain, I’ll be looking to set an example, especially for the younger boys [in the squad]. 

“It’s up to myself and experienced players like Mark Stafford to do this,” the 36-year-old midfielder said.

“Any team who has a player like Mark [Stafford] in it is fortunate with the knowledge he can pass on to others. My main aim is to play consistently well but, along with Mark, to do as much as I can for the younger players too.”

After last year’s fourth-place finish in the NIFL Championship, he believes his side can make a promotion push this season and he’s hoping to play a major part in it.

“It’s all about progressing on from last year. We’ve got to set the bar high, so promotion is what we’re aiming for. Anything less and we’re doing ourselves an injustice,” Clarke said.

“Personally and collectively as a team that’s what we want to try and do.”

A nice balance of experience and youth in the Mallards’ squad has given Clarke hope for the future, with the likes of Patrick Ferry and Caolan McAleer two of the emerging young guns.

“We’ve definitely freshened up the squad. It has a good mix of young and old. There’s no doubt at times we’ll need the wise old heads, but the young lads will bring more energy and that’s infectious at times. I’m sure Patrick and Caolan will be looking to make a big impact,” he said.

His side’s long road to promotion will begin against Ballyclare Comrades at Dixon Park on Saturday.

“We’ll be hoping to hit the ground running and make a good start to the season,” Clarke said.


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