PNE skipper eyes a Wembley double

Tom Clarke at Deepdale last weekend
Tom Clarke at Deepdale last weekend
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Tom Clarke will be chasing a second helping of play-off final joy when he leads Preston North End out at Wembley.

The defender has a winner’s medal from his last trip to the national stadium three years ago with Huddersfield.

An unused substitute in 2012, PNE skipper Clarke can expect a far more active time against Swindon next Sunday.

“I was on the bench for Huddersfield when they beat Sheffield United on penalties,” Clarke told the Evening Post.

“What a crazy day that was – no one did enough to win it over 120 minutes and penalties were needed to decide it.

“It was nerve-wracking stuff to sit and watch, although I do remember the gaffer still being very relaxed. The goalkeepers ended up taking them and that is how it was decided.

“That was then – now I’m a Preston player and determined to help them to try and win.

“It will be a massive honour for me to lead the lads out at Wembley, I’m really looking forward to it. There is still plenty of work to do on the training pitch before then.”

It is an understatement to say that Clarke enjoyed last Sunday’s semi-final win over Chesterfield which sent them to Wembley.

At the final whistle he was swept up on to the shoulders of a PNE fan and carried along the pitch to celebrate the 4-0 aggregate victory.

“Someone in my family sent me the picture of me carried by the supporters,” said Clarke.

“That few minutes was all about relief and joy.

“It has been a long season, a tough season with a lot of games. We were all so frustrated at not having achieved automatic promotion at Colchester on the last day.

“All those emotions came out of me at the end of the Chesterfield semi-final.

“I was so pleased for the fans and the other lads. We have been given another chance and so far we have done a bit of the job.

“After missing out on the last day, I heard people saying would we have a hangover from that experience and asking how would it effect us in the play-offs.

“I think we answered that very clearly in the games against Chesterfield – we looked like a side wanting to put things right.

“After the second leg we all went out for something to eat together – it was nice to be able to do that as a squad.

“We enjoyed the night and it’s been back down to work since then.

“It is quite a long wait for the final and the staff have come up with a schedule to get us into the best possible shape during that time.

“We always train with a good intensity and the training will be intense as we get ready for this massive game.”

Clarke does not think there is any magic formula when it comes to winning a play-off.

“Our approach to any game is the same – we go out to try and win it,” said the 27-year-old.

“We work hard, we have the firepower which will always create chances in a game.

“Our record of keeping clean sheets has been good – we kept two more in the semi-finals.

“If we can be strong from one end of the pitch to the other, we will give ourselves a good chance.

“We’ve only had one defeat in 21 games. It is just the manner of that defeat which sticks out and proved so costly.

“So we are in some good form and it is up to us to extend that run when we go to Wembley.

“I’ve got family going who have been there all season, at places like Gillingham on a Tuesday night.

“Hopefully they can all enjoy this one.”