It has been a year of change for Nathan Clarke. After spending 19 years at Huddersfield Town and having risen through the ranks from ball-boy to captain, he made the switch to E10 last summer hungry for a new challenge.
Provided with a flat at the ground and the captain’s armband, it was some welcome for the defender and Clarke has revelled in his new surroundings.
He told E10: “It’s been really good, I’ve played a good majority of games and I’ve felt great. I picked up the knock on my foot back in November and have managed to get over that well so it’s been good to be back involved recently.”
Russell Slade gave his new signing his full backing by throwing him the armband ahead of the new campaign and Clarke revealed it has been an honour but also in many ways a challenge.
“When I joined it was a bit of a surprise being made captain, it was something that I spoke to the manager about and he told me his thoughts on it and it’s a massive privilege. I had done it in bits and bobs at Huddersfield and really enjoyed it so to come here and be made captain is a real honour,” he said.
“It can be difficult to come in and be made captain straightaway, you know there was people before like Ben Chorley and Scott Cuthbert who were probably worthy of it as well so in that sense it is difficult coming into a new club. Everyone just got on with that though and how we’ve done it there’s not been just one captain, everybody chips in and we’ve got a lot of experience in the likes of Rowly [Martin Rowlands] and Kevin Lisbie who also put their points across so it’s not just a case of one guy bellowing out the orders.”
Despite being 29, Orient are just Clarke’s second permanent club having made 300 appearances for the Terriers in an 11 year first team career having come through as a trainee with the Yorkshire side.
Clarke admits that making the journey south after that amount of time was not easy but was necessary for his progression.
“It wasn’t so much difficult to leave Huddersfield, more strange really. It was something that possibly I should have done a little bit sooner to go out and experience something a little bit different. I think you can be at a club too long and possibly that was the case for me,” he said.
“When you’re there and you’re massively enthralled in everything to do with Huddersfield Town and have a family massively involved, you’ve got a brother playing there as well then you end up only really thinking of Huddersfield Town and then when I managed to get out on loan, I saw a wider picture really. You get to see the different qualities, the different routines of different clubs and it’s a good experience.”
Clarke’s younger brother Tom, who still plies his trade with the Championship club, is also no stranger to Orient fans after he made 12 appearances in a loan spell with the O’s last season and Nathan only heard good things about the club from his sibling.
He said: “Tom loved his time at Orient , he really got on well with the manager and the players and he always said it was a good club and a good family club and that the training facilities are spot on.
“I had the chance to play with him at Huddersfield and was a very special thing. I always looked out for him on the pitch and in training and then once he got out there he showed his ability and exactly what he could do. He’s a big, strong lad now and he can certainly look after himself and he’s gone on to do really well.”
Having missed out on Tuesday against Portsmouth with a rib injury, the skipper is itching to be involved in the season’s run-in and believes if their recent form is anything to go by, with a bit of luck the O’s can still gate-crash the play-offs.
“The run has come at a good time and everyone is up for a good strong finish to the season,” he said.
“The spirit throughout the squad is really good, the camaraderie is excellent and that helps on the pitch when everyone gets on and looks out for each other.
“It would take a run like the one went on earlier in the season, we’d need a bit of luck too with teams dropping out and missing out on points and then hopefully we can sneak in. Everybody knows it’s a tough task but if we focus on ourselves and picking up the points you never know what can happen.”
Clarke has another year to run on his contract at Brisbane Road and looking ahead to next season, his priority is getting the season off to a good start, something the O’s have struggled with over the last couple of seasons.
“The slow start we had was always going to hinder us a bit and it’s showing that now. If we’d picked up a couple of wins in that barren spell then we’d be in there with a shout. It’s all still to play for though and we’ll just keep going.
“Next year we want to get off to a better start and hopefully we can keep the solid group together. As I keep saying, everyone gets on well with each other and if we can keep this unit together then anything is possible. We’ve started to play some good stuff but also churning out results in difficult games too which is good,” he said.
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