Skipper Tom Clarke is aiming for a change of fortune with Preston North End

Skipper Tom Clarke will be one of the Preston players looking to make up for lost time when he returns next week for pre-season training.

Preston skipper Tom Clarke was in the wars last season
Preston skipper Tom Clarke was in the wars last season

The defender was limited to 22 appearances last season by injury, and in the closing stages of the campaign when PNE faltered his experience was missed.

A badly broken nose and complications which followed forced him to miss matches mid-season.

Then a knee injury was to rule him out from February onwards, with him watching the last 10 weeks of the season from the sidelines.

Clarke did resume training in the final week of the season but after a lengthy absence, North End were never going to take any risks with him so late in the day.

The 31-year-old operated both as a central defender and a right-back last season and while not always first choice, his leadership around the squad was key.

It was that leadership and a bit of know-how which was probably most missed as PNE collected only four points from their last eight games of 2018/19.

Clarke told PNE’s official website:“I got the injury at Millwall and after that it was a case of thinking it would be a couple of weeks.

“It obviously didn’t turn out that way, the injury didn’t resolve quickly and that was disappointing.

“When you look back at the games that I missed, they were some key games and that was the most frustrating part.

“It was hard to deal with but I had to get my head down and try to get back fit.

“At the end it was nice to get out there and train the last couple of days of the season.

“Just to be there with the lads and get that last bit of training in was great.”

Clarke started last season as a first-choice pick in the centre of defence and then moved to right-back towards the end of October.

The following month, he broke his nose in a clash of heads with former Preston striker Jordan Hugill in the 1-1 draw against Middlesbrough.

Clarke had some breathing difficulties as a consequence and took time to recover.

The budding centre-half partnership of Jordan Storey and Ben Davies meant Clarke spent time on the bench in January and February.

He was recalled to the side for the win at Millwall but in the closing minutes at The Den got a kick on the knee which caused ligament damage.

This season will be Clarke’s seventh as a Preston player – he joined in June 2013 on a Bosman from Huddersfield.

Although PNE will look to add another defender to the squad for competition, Clarke’s ability to play both at right-back and in the middle still makes him a key player to have on board.