Writer: Eamonn Moore
Date:Tuesday June 30 2009
Billy Clarke last week became Ian Holloway's first signing as Blackpool manager when he joined from Championship rivals Ipswich on a free transfer after surprisingly being released by Roy Keane's club.
The Irish Under 21 international has signed a two year deal with the option for a further year and will meet his new team mates tomorrow at the first day of pre-season training.
Speaking about his move to Bloomfield Road, Clarke said: 'I met the manager on Tuesday and I had my medical on Friday morning, and I am delighted to be here, and I can't wait for the season to start.
'I knew I wanted to stay as high as I possibly could and fortunately for me Blackpool have come in for me and it is brilliant for me to still be playing in the Championship.
'I didn't think I would get another chance to play in the Championship next season, but I am delighted to get the chance.'
Clarke's fears about not playing in the Championship next year perhaps stem from the fact that he has spent a lot of time out on loan to lower league clubs and indeed, was expected to make a move to either a League One or Two club this summer.
One the lower league clubs that he has spent time at is Darlington, where he caught the eye of The Guardian's columnist Steve Claridge.
Having seen him play against Bradford, Claridge reported that 'I am glad I finally caught up with Billy Clarke as I had been meaning to scout him ever since I first saw him a couple of years ago just after he had broken into the Ipswich Town first team. But every time I had gone specifically to watch him he had not made the side. It was, therefore, on a very different stage that I eventually saw him perform.
'From the fleeting glance I'd had of him in the past, he looked extremely lively, buzzing around and relying on his industry to upset opposing defences. He had changed by the time I saw him playing for Darlington against Bradford and is now deployed in a different role.
'First he was much deeper, playing in the hole between the centre-forward and midfield. His job is to link the play and at times he did this with consummate ease. It was a high-quality game for League Two but some of his one-touch play, his timing when releasing a pass and his judgment of its weight shone out like a beacon.
'He commits opposing players and releases his colleagues with a vision not often seen at this level.
'He is rather small at 5ft 7in but punches his weight in the air and when standing his ground on the ball with his back to goal. This served him well around Bradford's 18-yard box, the only area of the pitch where he played tight to his marker. His brief in other parts of the field was to find pockets of space to make sure he was always an option.
'There are one or two areas he needs to improve -his touch was usually sublime but he needs to take more care not to lose possession cheaply. His work rate was good on and off the ball and he was quick to close defenders down when the time was right. This shows he is not at Darlington for an easy ride.
'After starting his professional career at such a good level, people may think he is in danger of losing his way. But, after taking the same route at his age to drop two divisions to get first-team games under my belt, I hope his desire to play football is rewarded by finding a club where he feels he has a significant part to play.'
Pool fans will be hoping that Clarke feels he has a significant part to play at Bloomfield Road and lives up to his potential.
The Irishman is certainly looking forward to his future at the club rather than dwelling on his time at Ipswich:
'I had a good time at Ipswich but a new manager (Roy Keane) came in and these things happen.
'However, it is not about the past, I am here now and I can't wait to meet the rest of the lads and get started.
'The things Ian Holloway had to say about the club and the way he wants to take the club forward really impressed me.'
However, he did admit he was nervous about meeting his new team mates tomorrow, especially as they are such a tight knit group and because he may be the only new signing.
'I will be a bit nervous on Wednesday,' he said, 'mainly because I could be the only new one!
'The only thing I know about Blackpool is from when I came up here with Ipswich. But I didn't play - I watched the game from the stand.
'I do know a few of the lads from playing against them in the past and I'm sure it will be fine.
'Joining a new club is part and parcel of football and I can't wait to get in, meet all the lads and the staff and get things going.'
Clarke may not be the only new face at Bloomfield Road tomorrow morning however, with Ian Holloway hoping to have made a second signing by the time pre-season training gets underway.
Either way, Blackpool Vital would like to welcome Billy to the club and wish him every best success.
Date:Tuesday June 30 2009
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