Captain Tom Clarke believes Preston can take next step to Championship play-offs

Preston skipper Tom Clarke is confident the Lilywhites can launch another play-off bid in the season ahead.

Wednesday, 27th June 2018, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th June 2018, 9:38 am
Preston North End's Tom Clarke

Clarke and his team-mates return to pre-season training tomorrow, seven weeks on from finishing the 2017/18 campaign in seventh place.

Having been within two points of a top-six finish, the aim is to bridge that gap over the coming months.

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Earlier this month, Clarke signed a new two-year deal and he is looking forward to the challenge ahead.

Clarke told the Post: “The Championship is a really tough league.

“To finish how we finished last season was a testament to the lads, especially with all the injuries we had to cope with.

“I thought we did tremendously when you think some of the teams have loads of money and can build big squads.

“The teams coming down will all have money.

“It’s going to be another season of tough games but we have got a good core group and with the additions we’ve made, hopefully can kick on again.

“With the potential that we showed last season we’ve got a great chance.”

There will be five new faces reporting to Springfields for the start of training – Andrew Hughes, Ryan Ledson, Jordan Storey, Graham Burke and Michael Crowe.

But North End have said farewell to stalwarts John Welsh and Greg Cunningham in recent weeks.

Cunningham was sold to Cardiff in a £4m deal, while Welsh joined Grimsby Town on Monday to end his six-year association with PNE.

Welsh and Clarke shared captaincy duties, Welsh doing the club skipper role behind the scenes with Clarke team captain.

Said Clarke: “You don’t get many players like Welshy anymore, he’s wholehearted, gives 100 per cent and puts everything into it day in, day out.

“You know exactly what you are going to get with him.

“Welshy is a true leader and exactly what you need in a dressing room.

“He’s going to be a big miss but we’ve got lads in there who can stand up and be counted now.

“We shared the captaincy from day one, he was great with me when I came.

“He was the first one to shake my hand, he was the first one to show me around the training ground.

“We became close and sharing lifting the trophy at Wembley was a special moment for us both – something we’ll have with us forever.

“He’s a top guy to have played alongside for a big chunk of my career.

“We’ve the young lad Ryan Ledson now for that role.

“Ryan has come in and is another young player who has bags of ability and potential, that is exciting.”