Preston North End skipper Tom Clarke’s play-off target

Tom Clarke cannot wait for the new season to start
Tom Clarke cannot wait for the new season to start

Preston skipper Tom Clarke is hoping that his sixth season at Deepdale can turn out to be a very successful one.

The defender has seen a year-on-year improvement in his time with North End and the aim in 2018/19 is a push for the play-offs.

With the new season just a week away, the PNE squad get their last chance to catch the eye of Alex Neil in match action today when they face Oldham at Boundary Park.

Clarke told the Post: “The season is nearly here and we are all looking forward to it.

“I wouldn’t say pre-season has flown by – it doesn’t seem that way when you are doing all the running – but it does seem to have gone quickly since the games started.

“We have got a big season ahead of us and as ever the Championship is going to be an exciting challenge. Last season we did well and we want to improve on that and push higher.

“That will be hard work but we have the quality in the squad to make a push.

“Our squad is stronger than it was last season, the new lads have settled well and have the right personalities to fit in.

“We’ve now reached the last friendly game and when we play at Oldham it is a chance to put yourself in the manager’s mind for the first game.

“There are a lot of players pushing for a place, which has to be a good thing.”

North End’s opening day opponents next Saturday are Queens Park Rangers.

They are a side who PNE faced relatively recently at the back end of last season but Clarke thinks their approach will be different than in April.

That is down to the change of manager at QPR, with Steve McClaren taking over from Ian Holloway.

Said Clarke: “I think QPR will be different to how they were last season and that is something we’ll work on next week in training,

“Last season they were quite one-dimensional and physical, they played it up top quickly.

“It is a different manager now and if you look at the sides he’s managed in the past, they like to play out from the back.

“Our main focus is on what we do but we always have a look at our opponents and the gaffer will have studied them very closely.”

Clarke, 30, has got himself on the scoresheet twice in the friendly programme, a side of his game he is always looking to improve.

He netted in the 5-0 win over Cobh Ramblers and then headed home in last week’s 2-2 draw with West Ham.

“It is always nice to get on the scoresheet, whatever the circumstances of the game,” said Clarke.

“I’ll always try to get on the end of free-kicks and corners – I like attacking the ball in the opposition box.”