The captain spent last summer continuing his rehabilitation from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered at the end of the previous campaign, with his return to first-team action not coming until December.
A knee injury in the second half of the season then completed a stop-start 2017-18 for the 30-year-old in which he made 20 appearances in all competitions.
Now though, after playing the final six games of the campaign the skipper is looking hit the ground running when the Championship resumes in August.
“I said when I joined I wanted to play as many games as I could,” said Clarke, who last week signed a new two-year contract to extend his Lilywhites stay further until the summer of 2020. “I felt that I’d done that but then the injury at the end of the season hampered that.
“It’s one of those things but I think to come back as quickly as I did is testament to everyone.
“I’m now just looking forward to having a good solid pre-season with the group, rather than being on my own.”
Before the real hard work begins Clarke admits that he has enjoyed a bit of family time, something that was also hit last year as he spent more time on the training ground to get back up to speed.
The defender believes some proper relaxation is key for all players, as they recharge before trying to improve on last season’s seventh-placed finish in the second tier.
“Everyone needs to switch off a bit,” Clarke said.
“It’s been a long season. I missed the start of the season but didn’t have as much of a break in terms of holidays as in the past, because I was having to keep up the fitness programme with my Achilles. It was nice to have that sort of down-time this time because I didn’t have that last summer.
“It was good to have a break with the family after the final game of the season.
“You have a few proper days off during your holiday and try and relax physically and mentally and I’ve spent some time with my little girl.
“I enjoyed that and now it’s about working hard before coming back for pre-season.
“You always have your fitness programme close by and ready to go.”
Family time is set to be extra special for PNE’s No.5 in the coming months with daughter Heidi, who turns three later this month, set to be joined by the latest addition to the Clarke household.
“We’ve got a little boy on the way in August as well,” said the captain, who will be entering his sixth season with PNE.
“We’re gearing up for that over the next couple of months and I’m excited to have a little boy on the way.”