"It looked horrendous": Preston's masked man Tom Clarke reveals details of gruesome facial injury
Preston North End's masked man Tom Clarke is still able to see the funny side despite battling a gruesome injury after a clash with former team-mate Jordan Hugill.
The Lilywhites skipper suffered a broken nose when heading the back of the now Middlesbrough striker’s head in the 1-1 draw at Deepdale at the end of November.
The 30-year-old had expected to feature against Birmingham the following Saturday but saw his face swell up overnight ahead of the game.
He was back in the side wearing a mask for the 1-0 win at Nottingham Forest last time out and despite plenty of pain and discomfort, smiles when he recalls his pre-match chat with Hugill.
“We joked about it beforehand and said that we’d come into contact,” said the PNE captain, likely to lead the side out against Millwall at Deepdale on Saturday.
“I said ‘you can straighten my nose for me because it’s already bent and I’ll sort your teeth out’.
“I know he’s been wanting them done for a while!
“I couldn’t get near his teeth and he didn’t straighten my nose so it backfired a bit.”
Clarke travelled with the squad for the game at St Andrew’s on December 1 but was ruled out on the morning of a match which North End lost 3-0.
“I’ve broken my nose before and the played the following week,” he said.
“This one was a little bit different.
“I travelled to Birmingham as normal but the Friday night was horrendous.
“I was up at 3am and I knew there was no chance I would play.
“The swelling came down my face and into my top lip. It was throbbing constantly and looked horrendous and then my gums started bleeding.
“The following three or four days were a nightmare.
“I took myself to A&E back home because I was in pain with it.
“I got some stronger tablets and it eased after a while.
“I’m just glad it’s drained because it was a strange one.”
The decision was then taken to try and get Clarke swifting back into action wearing something to protect the broken nose.
The skipper was fitted with a carbon fibre mask akin to Zorro or a highwayman and impressed in a big three points for PNE at the City Ground.
“I had my face scanned in Leeds and then it got made in the Czech Republic,” said Clarke.
“It was a quick turnaround which was really pleasing.
“I got the mask fitted on the day before the game so managed to train in it on the Friday.
“But then Saturday was a little bit strange.
“My vision was fine but when I headed the ball it moved a little bit and it’s just about getting used to it.
“It’s giving me the protection that I need at the moment.”
It is now likely to be a feature for the next batch of games for a player who has impressed at right back recently.
“I’m expecting to be wearing it for a few weeks, how long exactly I don’t know,” said Clarke, now speaking with a nasal tone.
“I’ll speak to the surgeon and the doctor to see how long but it’s still a bit fragile and there’s a bit of pain.
“At the moment it’s quite sore to touch. As you can hear from my voice I’ve got quite a bit of swelling.
“I’m having steroid drops in that every morning from the physio and hopefully that will clear up because I don’t want to stay talking like this!”
In the longer term it is a matter of when not if Clarke requires surgery on the injury.
“They can break it and straighten it but that will create more swelling and I’ll be out for longer,” he said.
“It’s case of protect it for now with the mask as long as I need it and liaise with physio as to whether I get it sorted at the end of the season or just wait until I’ve finished playing.
“It will probably happen again at some point, especially given the way I play.
“There’s no point getting it done and needing to have it done again.”