Matt Clarke has been a standout performer for Portsmouth this season but last nights playoff exit is likely to increase speculation he is set to leave Fratton Park.
The twenty-two-year-old has made sixty appearances for Pompey across all competition in a long season that ultimately ended in crushing disappointment for Kenny Jackett’s men and Clarke cut a dejected figure as he trudged off the Fratton Park pitch last night.
Amid rumours of interest from several Championship clubs with Stoke City reportedly at the head of the queue, Clarke was non-committal on his future when he spoke to Portsmouth News after last nights 1-0 aggregate defeat to Sunderland. ‘I’m contracted until next year, and that’s all I know,’ he said.
‘I can’t say what is going to happen. I guess you could say that for every member of the squad.’
‘Football’s a funny game, and you never know what’s going to happen.’
‘I’m not going to sit here and say I’m going to be here, or I’m not going to be here.’
He went on to signal his ambitious intent by commenting: ‘Every player has aspirations to get to the top and play as high as they can.’
‘We don’t work as hard as we do and put in the hours to settle for something less.’
‘You want to play and perform at the next level. You’re always looking to progress.’
The report also suggested Swansea manager Graham Potter was in the stands last night to take a look at Clarke but Pompey’s player of the season insisted he had been focussed on the job in hand until last nights final whistle ended his season.
However, when asked about bids for his services said: ‘There’s nothing I’m aware of,’ but then added ‘There may be something behind the scenes.’
Clarke has one year left on his current deal which he signed in 2018. He joined Pompey initially on-loan from Ipswich Town in 2015 and has made one-hundred-and seventy-five appearances for the South Coast club.
There is little doubt Clarke has been not only Pompey’s best player this season but also one of the best players in the division, and many fans will demand the board offer him Championship wages to encourage him to stay.
What the interview seems to indicate is that the player wants to test himself at a higher level, something after last night Portsmouth cannot offer for at least another season, and that’s if all goes well.
On the bright side, any fee for the player could be used to bolster the squad and help mount a serious challenge for automatic promotion next season.
I think Clarke will be playing in the Championship next season and will make someone a terrific signing.