Clarke: Every Time I Pull on the Shirt is Like a Dream Come True
Friday, 10th Nov 2023 16:30
Home-grown Harry Clarke’s dreams are coming true after his decision to return to Town from Arsenal at the beginning of this year.
Clarke joined the Academy ranks at Portman Road after being spotted in action for Brantham Athletic then left to join Arsenal’s youth set-up in 2015, signing professional forms in August 2018 and then renewing his contract again almost a year later.
He gained valuable loan experience at Oldham, in Scotland with Ross County and Hibernian, then spent the first half of last season in the Championship with Stoke, making 20 appearances and scoring twice, before the opportunity to return to his first love proved too good to turn down.
Clarke said: “I used to come here with my dad when the stadium was only half full, so to see the stadium rocking and with the buzz around the town and the club, it is a special feeling to see it the way it is now.
“Being a part of it is amazing as well because I’m part of a team that is doing something very special and will hopefully continue to do that right through to the end of the season.
“Every time I pull the shirt on is like a dream come true for me as a local boy. I always wanted to play for Ipswich, my club, and to be doing it in the current era makes me very proud. I try very hard to keep myself in a positive frame of mind and appreciate the position I am in.
“I get a buzz from seeing the shirt hanging up in the dressing room with my name on it and also if I see a young fan wearing a shirt with my name on it. I used to be that kid and to have people supporting me, shouting for me and the team, is very special. It’s a weird feeling in a way but it’s also the very best feeling.
“I was online yesterday with one of my mates and one of his work colleagues has a son aged 10. I played a game online with him and my mate texted me to say he has gone to school this morning and had the best day ever because he was telling his pals about playing computer games against me.”
Town had a magnificent October, winning all four games against Hull, Preston, Bristol City and Plymouth, but Clarke’s only involvement came as a late substitute in the 3-2 home win over the men from Devon.
But he added: “The boys had an amazing month. We were winning games so it was hard for me to say ‘Why am I not playing?’ The team was winning and that’s what I want.”
Asked if he felt the team had exceeded expectations after last season’s memorable promotion-winning campaign, the full-back or central defender added: “No, I wouldn’t say that. Obviously, we are doing amazingly well, but I think we always knew what we were capable of doing as a team with this manager and the way we work. We’ve just got to keep it up.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow’s visit from a Swansea side who have lost just twice in nine league games, he went on: “It’s going to be very important. Hopefully we can win and go into the international break with a bit more momentum.
“We respect every single team in the Championship and we know that every one of them carries a threat of some sort.
“Every home game has been special in its own way and I think Saturday is going to be the same. Every time we play at home in front of these fans it’s incredible.
Swansea will try to do their thing and we will try to do ours. On our day at home there aren’t many who can keep us out and us boys at the back will be looking to stop them from scoring at the same time. We should be alright.”
Clarke has been reunited with a former Arsenal colleague in winger Omari Hutchinson, who joined on loan from Chelsea in the summer. “Omari’s a couple of years younger than me but I knew him at Arsenal,” he said.
“We played in the same team on a few occasions and when I heard he was joining us on loan I knew he would be a great addition to the team. He has grown up a lot since I knew him at Arsenal and he has been an excellent recruit.”
Town fans will hope for victory over Swansea tomorrow and another chance for Clarke to show the fist-pump celebration he has made his own since asking ex-skipper Luke Chambers if he would mind if he adopted it.
He added: “Like I said, it’s special for me to pull on the Ipswich shirt and I enjoy the fist pumps. But as I’ve also said before, I want to be known for what I do on the pitch, not just the fist pump, even if it is special to have that sort of rapport with the fans. They’re always first to initiate it and it’s a nice connection.”
Asked if he was excited about the December 16th visit of Norwich City for what will be the first East Anglian derby since February 2019, he said: “I try not to think about it. But I’m from Ipswich and all my family and friends mention it now and again.
“It’s going to be a hell of a game but we’ve got to get ready for Swansea first and there are five other games to be played before Norwich come here.”
Finally, in an amusing end to today’s press conference at the training ground, Clarke owned up about an incident during Town’s recent 2-2 draw at Birmingham where he appeared to exchange words with their manager, former England and Manchester United star, Wayne Rooney, on the touchline.
He laughed: “I actually thought he was the fourth official! I really thought I was approaching the fourth official but then I realised I’d got it wrong. That’s what it was and I just muttered something like ‘Oh no. you’re not the fourth’. It was all a bit weird and I was embarrassed. I’ve no idea if he said something back or not.”
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