Captain’s injury worries at odds with positivity of club

INJURY SETBACK: Sam Clarke has struggled with fitness in pre-season due to a calf strain
INJURY SETBACK: Sam Clarke has struggled with fitness in pre-season due to a calf strain

Sam Clarke, AFC Sudbury’s long-standing captain, suffered an injury setback in the team’s penultimate warm-up game before the new season.

The 29-year-old midfielder was substituted seven minutes into the 0-0 draw at home to Stowmarket Town, as he continues to struggle with a calf strain.

KEY PLAYER: Manager Jamie Godbold said Clarke was an important player and would be needed in the new seaosn

KEY PLAYER: Manager Jamie Godbold said Clarke was an important player and would be needed in the new seaosn

It threatens to derail the player’s target of achieving the most ever appearances in an AFC shirt this season, as he sits just four games short of the current record of 377 appearances.

However, Clarke is confident a rest will get him back on track and able to complete a 90-minute game.

“I’ve been struggling”, he said. “It just feels really tight and uncomfortable, I haven’t managed to play 90 minutes in pre-season.

“And I just felt it too much against Stowmarket so decided to come off, I don’t want to aggravate it or cause a more serious injury.

“I’m disappointed, I really wanted to hit the ground running, there’s a lot of work to do this season.

“But it is what it is and, at this stage, I know enough not to try and manage it.”

He said he will see the physio at the end of the week and won’t play in the team’s final warm-up game against Norwich City Under-18s on Saturday (12pm).

“It’s hard to get the rest because of my job though,” he said.

“I’m doing a lot of driving, and the club thinks that’s probably aggravating it, but there’s nothing I can really do about that.

“It’s disheartening and, after being relegated last season, I was obviously keen to be involved early on and help to set the benchmark for the season and how we want to play.

“On the bright side, I’ve had worse injuries. That’s what I need to remember, to keep me in the right mindset.”

Manager Jamie Godbold admitted Clarke was a key player for the side, particularly important after the club underwent so many player changes over the summer.

“He’s a huge influence on and off the pitch,” he said.

“He’s a mainstay for us over the years so hopefully it’s just a niggle and he can be ready for the first game.”

Clarke added that, despite his injury woes, the team have had a positive pre-season as Godbold rebuilds The Yellows’ squad.

“We’ve started playing free-flowing football, and there’s a lot of pace and mobility in the squad now,” he said.

“The coach has rebuilt with the future in mind, with lots of opportunities for the academy players to step up.

“So we’re a young side now that has a lot to learn, but also a lot of talent and ability. It’s exciting.”

Godbold said it was the strength in depth of the academy that had, in part, caused this as some players had forced their way into contention.

“But I think we’re pretty close to nailing down our first team,” he said. “It’s going to be a good season hopefully.”

The Yellows’ first game of the new season is at home to Canvey Island on Saturday, August 12 (3pm).

n AFC Gold week 14 winners: £100 (206) D Morris, Alder Way, Sudbury; £10 (262) Mrs L Gates, Windham Road, Sudbury; £10 (186) Mrs L McCarthy, Springfield Road, Sudbury.