Bradford City striker Clarke: R's was the best pre-season base I've seen

QPR will follow in the footsteps of Billy Clarke and City by using the same training facilities in Ireland

James Hanson, Alan Sheehan, Mark Yeates and Billy Clarke celebrate after Sheehan's penalty in the 4-0 win against Shelbourne

QPR will follow in the footsteps of Billy Clarke and City by using the same training facilities in Ireland

First published in Sport
Last updated

A GLANCE at the future bookings list just confirmed what Billy Clarke already knew.

If the City squad were still in any doubt about the splendour and luxury of their training surroundings in Ireland, they only had to see who was due to move in next.

After playing host to Phil Parkinson's Bantams last week, Carton House are now preparing for a visit from Harry Redknapp's free-spending QPR as they build up for a return to the Premier League.

QPR fly to the Emerald Isle at the end of the month for friendlies against Athlone and Shamrock Rovers and will be using the same pitches at the Maynooth hotel where City have been honing their fitness.

Clarke reflected: "That shows how good the place is. I don't think QPR save too many pennies when they are looking for a place for pre-season.

"But the hotel was incredible. They were the best facilities I've been at for a pre-season – and that includes when I played with Championship clubs.

"From the food to the training pitches, to the staff, everything was spot on for us.

"It's been really good but very tough as well. We've been able to work on a lot of different stuff in training."

City play their fourth friendly tonight at Ossett Town as the momentum starts to build in the countdown to the League One kick-off on August 9.

Clarke knows there is still a way to go before the team is ready to tackle Coventry in their opener at Valley Parade. But the signs are encouraging – not least from the versatile attacker himself.

It was not just his two goals that caught the eye for the sizeable contingent of City fans who made the short hop to Dublin for Saturday's game at Shelbourne.

Clarke's movement and ability to find little pockets of space for himself will prove a vital asset in the team's evolving style of play.

With Aaron Mclean sidelined, he lined up alongside James Hanson and looked to drop off the target man and pick up any knock-downs.

City may be looking to vary their approach more this season but Clarke, like the rest of the team, can appreciate the significant workload that Hanson will always provide.

"People tend to be worried about him in the air, which frees up space for the likes of myself," he said.

"The big fella won a few headers and I tried to get on the end of them. He takes most of the physical side away from me, which really helps because obviously I'm not great at that.

"He's quite happy to take a battering. I'm sure he does that when Macca (Mclean) plays as well, he takes a lot of the physicality out of it.

"I like playing in that position just off the front man in the hole.

"I've played on the wing in a three up front, just in a two or left or right midfield in a four – which I'm not too keen on. Ideally, I enjoy that number ten role and I think it suits me."

Clarke linked up well at Tolka Park with Mark Yeates, who took up the supporting job behind the front two, and Parkinson felt the former Crawley forward deserved his goals for a lively performance.

Clarke said: "Shelbourne had a lot of young lads and ultimately it was just about fitness for us.

"It was only our third pre-season game, so we're still building up. But it's always nice when things are working well together and it was a good, solid win.

"We've tried a new philosophy in the last three games and when it works it does look very nice. Obviously to score four goals on top of that – and get a couple myself - was a good feeling.

"It's still early days and we're not 100 per cent up to speed but we're getting there.

"We've moved away from long, distance running in training to short, sharp stuff. You feel yourself benefitting more with the games you play because match fitness is totally different to just running in straight lines.

"Going away to Ireland was also good as one of the new players. You get to know the rest of the squad being with them 24/7.

"That obviously helps when you're first at a club. But at the same time it was still nice to come back home and see our families again."

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