Preston North End captain Tom Clarke believes it's all to play for in the Championship this season

Preston North End captain Tom Clarke believes the Championship is wide open this season with plenty of quality throughout the division.

Monday, 20th August 2018, 4:16 pm
Updated Monday, 20th August 2018, 5:25 pm
Preston skipper Tom Clarke

The Lilywhites are looking to bridge the gap from seventh last season to the play-offs this time around.

They have already come up against two relegated clubs in Swansea and Stoke City, while others have come up from League One and spent money as they look to stay in the

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Preston skipper Tom Clarke

second tier.

“You look at the teams that have come up from League One, they’re all strong and they’ve invested very well,” said Clarke, who is likely to lead out PNE at Norwich on Wednesday night.

“That’s the difficulty, you’re coming up against teams that have spent money or who have come down from the Premier League and have kept most of the players.

The teams that have come down like Stoke have found it difficult in the games they’ve had though.

Preston skipper Tom Clarke battles with Benik Afobe on Saturday

“There are no easy games in the Championship.”

Despite operating under more modest means than most in the transfer market, Clarke is confident PNE will be in the mix.

“Last season we did ever so well to get to where we did,” said the skipper.

“And we knew in the summer adding to the squad how we did that we’ve got nothing to fear.

“We’re a young, hungry group, always willing to learn under this manager and always wanting to improve.

“We were disappointed with the first half at Swansea but reacted well in the second half and we wanted to react well again on Saturday against a good side, and I felt we did that.”

Clarke and Ben Davies have started the Championship campaign as Alex Neil’s preferred two at the heart of the defence, with last season’s mainstay Paul Huntington on the bench.

Huntington played alongside new arrival Jordan Storey against Morecambe in the League Cup in a demonstration of the Lilywhites’ strength in depth this season.

“You want competition, it helps keep standards high,” said Clarke.

“You want training to be competitive and it’s really healthy.

“We all want each other to do well and we’re all striving for the same goal, which is promotion.

“You can’t do that without a squad. People can come into the side in place of someone else and it won’t weaken the team.

“I think that’s something Preston haven’t had before but we’ve got that now.”

It has been confirmed that PNE’s second round League Cup tie at Leeds will take place next Tuesday, August 28. Tickets go on sale at noon today.