Billy Clarke: It's a struggle on the outside looking in
GUN for hire; 11 previous owners but still in full working order.
Billy Clarke desperately wants to find a club.
The former City frontman has been unattached since being released by Gary Bowyer in May – and admits the absence from the game is really taking its toll.
Clarke thought he would get back in with Bolton when Phil Parkinson took him on trial.
The crisis-hit League One club were unable to sign players at the time but Clarke trained as part of the squad for seven weeks.
The promise was there of a deal when the opportunity arose – but Parkinson’s decision to walk away changed all that. New boss Keith Hill had different ideas.
“I’m back to square one again,” admitted Clarke.
“I was pretty sure I was going to sign for Bolton. I know Phil and Nick Allamby’s fitness regime, with all the running he does, and I felt more than capable of being ready.
“But then Phil left and that didn’t materialise, so I’ve been back in the gym every day trying to keep myself fit.
“I’ve got an agent on top of things keeping my name circulating. It’s just about being patient.
“But I never thought I’d be in this position and the longer it goes on, certainly the harder it gets.”
To add to the frustration, Clarke had knocked back other opportunities to stick with Bolton. Inevitably, those clubs have moved on.
“People will have a list of five players and then knock the names off one-by-one,” he said.
“I’ve got to stay as positive as possible. Some days I wake up thinking ‘I can’t be bothered’ but then two hours later I’m in the gym.
“I haven’t got it in me to just knock it off altogether. I’d be kicking myself if I stopped for a week and then a club came in and I was a little bit off it.”
Clarke never saw this coming when he returned to Valley Parade from Charlton on the final day of the January transfer window. But he started only six times for David Hopkin and Bowyer, scoring once in his final game at Scunthorpe when he went off injured.
“I do feel that I didn’t get a fair crack of the whip with both managers.
“It was only the Scunthorpe game that I played in my proper position and felt that I was the most effective player on the pitch in the first half.
“I look at the Bradford team now and feel I could have done that when he plays with a number 10.
“I still think I’d get in any League Two team and the majority of League One. It’s just getting that chance and a manager seeing that.”
Clarke is still a regular visitor to the training ground where he helps with the coaching of the under-15s on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“This has opened my eyes for what is to come after football. When I do go to games, I try to look at it from a different perspective rather than thinking ‘I should be playing there’.
“But I do look out for bad results and injuries to see if managers will then make rash decisions to go out and sign somebody.
“That’s what I’m hoping for, as bad as it sounds.
“You see some players jumping year to year to different clubs. It’s never happened to me.
“I’ve had a pretty good career and then an unfortunate injury down in London coincided with me coming back and not playing at Bradford.”
Clarke’s wife Kate recently gave birth to their third son, Ezra, so he is hoping for a move that is commutable from their West Yorkshire home. The hour's drive to Bolton would have ticked the box.
Inevitably, his family have born the brunt of the Irishman’s frustration.
“It’s not easy to be around me,” he added. “My wife and the boys deserve massive praise.
“I try not to take the baggage of what’s going on in my head to the kitchen table, but sometimes it happens and it’s not fair on them.
“We’ve got a five-week-old baby now and my wife is looking to get back into work, so she’ll need more support on my side.
“My eldest boy is at a stage now where he needs me. He understands I might have to move away but I don’t want to do it to them.
“There are a lot of clubs up here. It’s just one of them realising they need an experienced player and hopefully I’ll fit that.
“Hopefully something pops up. The minute I do get in a team, I’m sure the manager will realise he should have done it weeks ago.”