TOM CLARKE is back – both on and off the pitch!
It takes a lot to dampen the popular 23-year-old’s spirits, but he admits to having a few ‘down days’ during his recovery from a third knee injury.
That’s why he appreciates the backing given by family, friends and Town’s physio staff during his rehabilitation after surgery on the right anterior cruciate ligament he damaged during last season’s Galpharm play-off clash with Millwall.
“You have to be mentally as well as physically strong,” said the Halifax-born academy product, who made his comeback at Southampton, made another start at Carlisle and came off the bench in Monday’s derby win over Sheffield Wednesday.
“I’m lucky that I have good people around me, and during the times when I’ve found the going tough, they’ve been brilliant.
“There was never any doubt in my mind that I’d be back as strong as ever, because the surgeon was confident as soon as he’d done the operation.
“But it can be a lonely road back, and it’s tough when you see the lads heading out onto the training pitch and you’ve got to go off to the pool or gym on your own.
“But I’ve done the work, and I’m back a little bit ahead of schedule, which feels great and reflects the help I’ve had along the way.
“The surgeon, the physios and the manager have all been very clear about what they wanted me to do, and I’ve followed their requests to the letter.
“Hopefully it’s now paying off, and I just want to do what I can to help us get to where we want to be this season.”
It’s been a mixed bag of results for former England junior international Clarke, who can now boast 103 Town appearances since his debut in the 2-1 League I defeat at MK Dons in February 2005.
The 4-1 loss at Southampton was followed by a 2-2 draw at Carlisle before Anthony Pilkington’s beauty saw off Wednesday in style.
“Southampton was a huge disappointment, but we’ve started 2011 far brighter,” he said.
“Carlisle is always a tough place to play, and while it’s a blow to be two up and not win, at least we got a point, which provided a platform for the derby.
“It was a hard-fought victory against Wednesday, but one I thought we deserved after showing that we can battle as well as play the passing game.
“And what a goal by Pilks. He does that kind of thing for fun in training, and goals like that are what people pay money to see.”