Right-back has been a '˜haunted' role says Clarke
It will be famine turning into feast for Simon Grayson as far as the Preston North End right-back role is concerned when action resumes after the international break.
Alex Baptiste and Marnick Vermijl both resumed training before the break and should be ready to contest a place in the squad for Saturday’s home clash with Nottingham Forest.
The right-back position has been beset by injuries this season.
Calum Woods was the first to fall before a competitive ball was kicked, badly damaging knee ligaments in July.
Since the turn of the year, Baptiste, Vermijl and Tyias Browning have has spells on the sidelines.
After a brief experiment with Greg Cunningham filling in at right-back, it has been skipper Tom Clarke who has stepped into the breach for the last three games.
Clarke said: “Right-back has been a haunted position in terms of injuries.
“It is a role that I have been asked to play recently and is obviously one I’ve played here before.
“I do prefer to play in the middle but I’ve been happy to move to right-back.
“The position has changed a bit since I used to play there more regularly.
“I think you have to do more attacking from full-back now than you once did.
“I’ve enjoyed playing there, doing a job for the team and we’ve stayed on a good run.”
Baptiste, on a season’s loan from Middlesbrough, had made the right-back spot his own in the first half of the campaign.
He made 19 successive starts in the league, the first few at centre-half before his switch to the right.
The 31-year-old was rested for the win at Burton, having played 48 hours earlier against Sheffield Wednesday.
Grayson’s plan was to restore him to the side against Arsenal on January 7 but Baptiste injured his knee in training two days before. Vermijl played the next four games in his place but was being hampered by a hernia.
At the end of January, PNE moved to sign Browning on loan from Everton.
But last month after five games in a Preston shirt, he too suffered a knee injury in training.
He is likely to return later this month.