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Tom Clarke column: Preston North End skipper recalls a groggy start to the season

Preston North End's Alan Browne (obscured behind team-mate Tom Clarke) scores the winner with a header' against QPR
Preston North End's Alan Browne (obscured behind team-mate Tom Clarke) scores the winner with a header' against QPR

Our first day win against Queens Park Rangers ended on a bit of a painful note for myself.

I got a whack on the head in the last few minutes and was briefly out of it.

I came round pretty quickly but the protocol is that you have to off for the sake of your health.

Over the last few days I’ve had a bit of a rest, seen the doctor and been monitored.

We’ll go from there when it comes to playing at the weekend.

I’ve watched it back and spoken to a couple of lads who were close by when it happened.

They heard the whack and saw me go to ground.

If you watch the incident back, Ben Pearson is one of the first to get to me and he’s telling me I need to leave the pitch.

It was a clash of heads with their centre-back who had been thrown forward as QPR chased an equaliser.

He has just caught me on the weakest part of the head and that stunned me.

The physio and doctor took good care of me, asked me a few questions about the game – most of which I could answer.

As a player, the thing which disappointed me was the fact I couldn’t carry on to do my job and we went down to 10 men because all the subs had been used.

At the time, QPR were pumping a lot of crosses and high balls towards the box.

My job is to get my head on those, put my body on the line as they say.

When I came off, Alan Browne stepped into the breach and played next to Ben Davies in the middle.

Thankfully the lads dug in deep and got us the result we all wanted.

It was good afterwards when the lads came back to the dressing room with the three points.

I think our clean sheet was the only one kept in the Championship on the first weekend of the season.

We played really well in the first half but without the reward of a goal.

As a team and group, we have spoken about the need to take advantage when we are on top in matches.

Thankfully, Browney got our winning goal early in the second half.

It was a really good header from him at the far post, I was just behind him when he jumped to meet it.

I tend to go to the far post at set-plays and Browney made the same type of run.

From there, he managed to get it in the one part of the net where it wasn’t going to be cleared.

There was the goalkeeper, a defender and also Callum Robinson in there as the ball dropped under the bar.

I think Callum at first was trying to claim it had gone in off his new hairstyle!

It was a great header and we deserved the goal.

To get off to a winning start was important and it was the second year running we have done that under the gaffer.

In the past we had not tended to start too well and we had to play catch-up a bit.

We will now try to follow the QPR result with another win at Swansea.

That will be a difficult game, Swansea have come down from the Premier League and kept hold of quite a lot of their players.

They appointed a new manager over the summer and will be hoping he can lead them straight back to the top flight.

This is a difficult league, clubs coming down from the Premier League don’t get it their own way, you really do have to battle every week.

On a personal note, it was very nice for my goal against Blackpool to be remembered last Sunday – it was the fifth anniversary of it.

I got tagged into quite a few Instagram posts about it and looking through them all was good.

Some were wishing me ‘Happy Tom Clarke Day’ but it stopped short of my wife walking into the room with a cake!

I can’t believe it is five years ago, the time has flown by and I have enjoyed every moment.

That was only my second game at Deepdale and was a nice introduction.

I’ve made more than 200 appearances in a Preston shirt since that game which is something I’m very proud of.

When I first signed here, I did a few interviews in which I said my aim was to play as many games as possible.

Bar when I was out with the Achilles tendon injury last season, I’ve always been involved in the squad.

Hopefully there are a lot more games ahead of me and I can play my part in getting Preston to the next level.

We are all striving hard to do that, it is a common goal and one which we think can be achieved.

It’s one game at a time though, and our focus is on Swansea.