PETER CLARKE is firmly focused on leading Huddersfield Town to victory at Sheffield Wednesday in tomorrow’s big League I promotion showdown.
But as he always does when playing there, the skipper who started his career at Everton but grew up supporting Liverpool will also be thinking of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster.
Ninety six fans died as a result of the crush on the Leppings Lane terracing at the stadium on April 15, 1989.
Town’s 3,700-plus contingent of travelling fans will watch from that same end, now all-seated, and Southport-born Clarke said: “It’s an old ground with plenty of history.
“But because of what happened there, it’s not a stadium I’m keen on, and like a lot, I’ll never forget what happened.”
As far as tomorrow’s match is concerned, the 29-year-old is desperate for fourth-placed Town to mount a positive response to last week’s home setback against Bournemouth.
“It was a very disappointed dressing room afterwards, and we certainly weren’t happy with the way things went,” he said.
“We took nothing from a game we believed we had a very good chance of winning, and there’s no way we did ourselves justice.
“We were a little bit nervy and a little bit flat, and that’s a situation we have addressed during our preparations for tomorrow’s game.”
With the Owls second, four points better off than Town, Clarke continued: “We have to be brave against them.
“I don’t mean in the sense of putting your head or foot in to win the ball, because we’ll always do that, but in being willing to make mistakes.
“Perhaps we weren’t brave enough with the ball against Bournemouth for some reason, and that was part of our downfall.”
Clarke, who was making his 129th club appearance, finished last Saturday’s game, Town’s second loss in succession after going down 2-0 at leaders Charlton, up front.
“It was a last bid to get something from the game and I just tried go put myself about, make a nuisance of myself and make things happen,” he explained.
“But ultimately I would rather not be required up there, because it would mean we were in a good position in the game.
“Given our great record beforehand, there’s been a lot of analysis since Saturday, and we know we have to bounce back against Sheffield Wednesday.
“We went there and got a really good result last season (a 2-0 win with goals by Graham Carey and Anthony Pilkington), so there’s no reason why can’t do it again.”
While Town are aiming to hit back, hosts Wednesday have their sights set on a sixth successive win in all competitions.
Gary Megson’s men have dropped just one point at home this season, being held by Brentford last month.
And defender Reda Johnson insisted: “We do not stop because we are second. We want to go to the top.
“We are not watching other teams; we are only watching ourselves. If we keep winning, we know we will be first; winning is the most important thing.”
The former Plymouth man, who has switched from central defence to left-back, added: “It is very important that you have a quality squad.
“The manager here has done a very good job in the market with the players he has brought in.
“We have clever strikers, like Ryan Lowe, and strong strikers, like Gary Madine (currently out injured) or Chris O’Grady.
“In every position, we have two or three people who can play and it is the same with the goalkeepers.
“Nicky Weaver is coming back from injury and we have Stephen Bywater and Richard O’Donnell.
“At centre back, Miguel Llera has come in (on loan from Blackpool).
“I think we have a good squad, so we have the possibility of going first.”
Darren Deadman, of Peterborough, is the referee at Hillsborough on a day when leaders Charlton host Oldham, third-placed MK Dons are at home to Preston (after manager Phil Brown’s departure, ex-Town defender David Unsworth is in temporary charge of North End) and fifth-placed Sheffield United visit Bournemouth.
It’s a 25th game of the season or Deadman and his second in charge of Town after the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy first-round tie at Northampton in August, when Lee Clark’s side won 2-1.
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