PNE star cannot wait for fixtures

PNE captain Tom Clarke is looking forward to going back to Huddersfield

PNE captain Tom Clarke is looking forward to going back to Huddersfield

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When the Championship fixtures are announced in a fortnight there is only one clash North End captain Tom Clarke will be looking out for.

Forget the tasty North West derby away days against Burnley, Blackburn and Bolton.

Clarke’s eye is firmly on upsetting the applecart at his old club, Huddersfield Town.

So when the Championship schedule is released on June 17, the defender admits he is eagerly awaiting his return to the John Smith’s Stadium as skipper of the Lilywhites.

He said: “I can’t wait to go back to Huddersfield – I’m looking forward to it.

“It is the first game I look for. I have many a friend still there. I can’t wait for it.”

The 27-year-old spent eight years at the Terriers and dropped down from the Championship to join former Huddersfield boss Simon Grayson’s PNE revolution.

Two years on, with 76 North End appearances under his belt, Clarke has carved his name into PNE folklore by scoring THAT goal against Blackpool and ripping up the history books by finally leading North End to play-off success at the 10th attempt.

The versatile defender toasted PNE’s Wembley win by signing a new two-year contract.

He tweeted: “I’m delighted to extend my contract with Preston North End. It’s been an honour to captain this great club to promotion.”

And he is thankful to have been part of the team that ended the play-off ‘hoodoo’ and steered PNE back up to the Championship.

He said: “When I first signed here it was all geared up for Championship football. We are just thankful that we are the team and the staff that have done that.

“The fans and people behind the scenes deserve Championship football.”

Clarke has even more reason to be relishing a return to the John Smith’s Stadium with his head held high.

The defender was an unused substitute when Grayson masterminded the Terriers’ 8-7 penalty shoot-out victory over Sheffield United in the League One play-off final at Wembley back in 2012.

And Clarke was pleased that his hard work has paid off as this time he was at the forefront of North End’s celebrations, rather than being on the sidelines.

He said: “Obviously I wasn’t involved in the Huddersfield play-off final so it is a totally different feeling walking up those steps and lifting the trophy.

“Going up the steps and getting hold of the trophy is what dreams are made of.

“That is what I work hard every day for.”

And fans’ favourite Clarke praised the supporters for being outstanding.

He said: “The fans have been incredible all season. They were magnificent at Wembley.”

l PNE have announced their first pre-season fixture.