BILLY Clarke is confident he can handle any flak from those questioning his return to City.

The Irishman is buzzing at getting a third chance at Valley Parade – but equally aware that there are some wondering about the wisdom of Stuart McCall’s move.

But Clarke is prepared to take any stick as well as the plaudits as he revs up for the new League Two campaign.

He said: “I’ve got thick skin. I’ve been around long enough and experienced a lot.

“Some players might have let it get to them a bit (being criticised). But if fans want to give it to me, I’m happy to take the pressure off the boys if that means they will perform better.”

After three upwardly-mobile years under McCall and Phil Parkinson, Clarke’s last spell at the club in 2019 did not go to plan.

That left him without a club last summer – the first time he had been in that situation in his career. The 32-year-old believes he is coming back far stronger having revived his fortunes with Plymouth and Grimsby since then.

“I feel I wasn’t played and used to my strengths here last time,” he added. “I probably wasn’t as fit as I am coming back from being injured.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Billy Clarke has rejoined City for a third time on a one-year dealBilly Clarke has rejoined City for a third time on a one-year deal

“Over the last year, I know where I am now.

“Going down to Plymouth and the sacrifices I had to make leaving my family behind, I know how quickly things can turn, which makes me even more grateful.

“It’s a big incentive because I don’t know when I could be in that position again.

“While I’m here, I’m going to give everything I have and make sure at the end of it whatever happens won’t be because I didn’t do this or that. It’s about controlling the controllables.

“Last year I didn’t know where I’m going to be, what am I going to do and even if I will play? I couldn’t second guess that.

“Now I’ve worked my way back in to get back to the club that I absolutely love.”

Clarke also hit back at the critics who point at his goal record. McCall intends to use him in his favoured role behind the frontmen as he did for most of the 2017 Wembley campaign in League One.

Clarke said: “I do offer more than just the statistics of scoring. But I still get it all the time.

“I get put down as a striker in papers and such and I honestly don’t think I’ve played up front in five years.

“I scored twice and got four or five assists at Grimsby in 13 games so that’s a contribution of one in two leading to goals.

“When I was here last time, I scored seven in my last season and had seven or eight assists.

“I’ll be the first to admit that I’m never going to be put in the team because I’m a goal-scorer. But I think I offer a lot more than that.

I know how quickly things can turn, which makes me even more grateful.

“Charlton didn’t sign me because they needed 20 goals from an attacking midfielder. I offered more experience and workload and the way I play to bring other people into the game.

“That’s what I’ll be looking to do if the manager wants that.

“He has a way of playing and if you ask me to play in that position then I can’t wait. It’s where I feel I play my best.

“But obviously, I also want to score as many goals as I can. I’ll do everything I can to do that.

"I'm just excited to get going."