BILLY Clarke knows better than anyone how quickly players can cement themselves in the affections of the fans on derby days.
It took him barely 23 seconds!
Clarke made an instant impression in Blackpool’s West Lancashire derby with Preston five years ago – scoring from the home side’s opening attack.
“We kicked off, had a couple of touches forward and then I just hit it,” he recalled with a grin. “Ben Burgess knocked it to me, I shifted it inside and put it in from 25 yards past Andy Lonerghan in the bottom corner.
“That was probably the highlight of my Blackpool career. Unfortunately the game finished a 1-1 draw but I still get fans sending me messages on Twitter about it.
“I can only imagine what it would be like if I scored against Leeds. Like any player, I’ve sat up in bed and had little flashes in my head just thinking about that!”
Clarke, who has also sampled the East Anglian derby for Ipswich, returns for City in the nick of time after missing the last three games with a minor hamstring problem.
“The Peterborough game probably came a bit early but I’ve trained the last couple of days. It was just a little tweak.
“Things were going well for e but I’ve only missed just over a week so I’ve not lost much momentum or fitness. This was the realistic target for me.”
Clarke is a keen football watcher on the telly and took a neutral’s delight in City’s progress to Wembley two seasons ago. He would love to play his part in another Capital One Cup glory night this evening.
“I watched all the Bradford cup games on TV and you always want the underdog to have a good go. That year they did a bit better than just having a go.
“It’s the first time in 14 years we’ve been at home to Leeds so you can see that it’s going to be massive for the fans. We also want to play in front of a full house when the atmosphere is going to be electric.
“There’s a little bit more pressure on derby games to win for the fans. We know the place is going to be passionate.
“These games tend to start off very fast but we’ve just got to concentrate on our own game and play at the tempo we want.
“It can be difficult but when the first few minutes are done then it calms down on the pitch – a little bit. But we can’t wait for this.”