Tom Clarke ready to put his head in where it hurts in Preston North End cause
Preston skipper Tom Clarke is looking to breathe easy this season and not be the man in the protective mask.
Clarke, 31, suffered serious damage to his nose during the last campaign which hindered his breathing.
He had to wear a plastic mask to protect the injury last term but has been able to ditch that in the opening three pre-season friendlies.
There was a chance that Clarke would need surgery over the summer but that was avoided and a full repair might be something he can put off until he finishes playing.
Clarke told the Lancashire Post: “I saw the surgeon in the summer and he thought it has all calmed down in my nose.
“I’ve got to go back next year to see how my nose is, see how the cartilage is.
“That cartilage is what has caused most of the problems, it got badly damaged and that affected my breathing.
“The bone was broken but apart from it looking curved that hasn’t caused a problem.
“If I can get away with it, the surgery to repair the cartilage is something I can get away with until I finish my career.
“Being out with the knee injury I got in the Millwall game meant my nose was able to settle down in that last two months of the season.
“Not playing meant I didn’t get it knocked and bumped.
“I’ve felt confident enough not to use the mask in the three games so far.
“I was able to put my head in and challenge.”
Clarke is likely to start PNE’s pre-season at Chorley tonight (7pm).
He was a second-half sub in the 4-0 win against AFC Fylde last season.
North End boss Alex Neil used the starting XI for an hour at Mill Farm before he changed all 10 outfield players.
He is set to flip that over tonight and use Saturday’s subs from the start. At the moment, Clarke is getting his pre-season action in the right-back role.
Patrick Bauer’s signing this summer means Neil has five central defenders at his disposal, with Clarke having the versatility to play as a full-back.
Joe Rafferty played the first hour at Fylde and Clarke is his competition at the moment.
Darnell Fisher, North End’s first-choice right-back for the last two seasons, underwent hernia surgery last week and is likely to be back before the start of the season.
Clarke has enjoyed the work done in pre-season, this his seventh at PNE.
He said: “We had a good few days in Ireland and got through a lot of work
“It’s more than a fortnight since we came back and you can feel the sharpness coming back, we are in good shape.”
Admission to the game at Victory Park tonight is £7.50 for adults, £5 for 12-16-year-olds and free for Under-12s.