Back in Action – Ryan Clarke Q & A

With the City squad returning to training ahead of next Sunday’s Vanarama National League South play-off match against Dorking Wanderers, Bath City Radio’s Mark Stillman spoke to captain Ryan Clarke and manager Jerry Gill. Here are Ryan’s answers with Jerry’s to follow tomorrow.

MS: What has it been like being back at training?

RC: It’s been good. Obviously it’s not our normal routine as we’d be preparing for pre-season now, but we’re doing all we can do for this game. All the boys are looking pretty fit, they’ve kept themselves in really good nick. It’s been good being back around the lads.

And you’re one of those feeling fit?

It takes a couple of sessions to get back into it, especially at my age! But overall I feel great and really looking forward to playing again. We have a couple more sessions until the Dorking game.

A year ago today (12 July) we had our first friendly for this season. Does that seem like a lifetime ago now?

It’s odd. Normally by now we would have had two weeks of fitness work for friendlies but now it’s more tactical stuff. It’s a good game to come back to and we’re all really looking forward to it.

You’ve had three play-off campaigns, does that help?

I’ve got a bit of experience but the formats have been different in terms of games to play for promotion. And also there won’t be a crowd so it might make it more of a level-playing field for Dorking, but at the same time it’s surroundings that we are used to. We know how the pitch plays, we’re hoping that’s an advantage in itself.

Will it be strange having no-one in the ground for such a big game?

It’s the biggest game of the season, whether there are fans there or not. At the start it will probably feel like a pre-season match. We will have to make our own atmosphere, we know how much is riding on the game and what the end prize is. We’ve got to do what we have done all season which got us into this league position. With the set of lads we’ve got we feel we can take all that into this game, and the fitness training has helped.

Both teams are coming into it after the pandemic so I’m sure it won’t be a game where teams are totally fluid in their patterns of play because we’ve only trained and had the odd game behind closed doors.

You’ve kept two clean sheets against Dorking this season in two tough games. Psychologically does that help?

We know what they’re all about. They’ve got experience and are well-organised – we picked up some good results against them. We know what they’ll be throwing at us. We will be prepared by the manager but on the day it’s down to us to get into the semi-finals. It’ll be a tough game.

You helped Oxford United win promotion back to the Football League 10 years ago under Chris Wilder, who is now working miracles with Sheffield United. Do you still speak to him?

I’ve sent him some messages of congratulations in the past when he’s won promotions with Sheffield United, but we haven’t spoken recently. I had some good years working with him at Oxford and Northampton.

For me he’s Manager of the Year. They’ve shown that you can have all the ability in the world but if you haven’t got that right attitude and mentality, which he has instilled, you’re going to come unstuck. He has a way of getting the best out of his players and has got his tactics spot-on in a lot of games this season. He deserves so much credit and the public seem to love him as well, he’s like one of those guys you’d want to stand at the bar with.

How have you kept busy during lockdown?

My boys have been off school so I’ve done some home-schooling, but it tends to get knocked on the head after half an hour because their attention span goes! It’s been fun, I’ve had some precious time which them which I might not have in a normal situation, so that’s a positive. We would go to the fields and play football, they kept me running around.

There have been some mornings where I’ve struggled and others when I’ve felt fine. I’ve kept myself fit, which was a big thing for me. Thankfully everything is starting to ease a bit and hopefully everyone remains responsible so we avoid a second wave.

I can’t imagine people want to go through lockdown again. Anyone who says it hasn’t been hard is lying, it’s tough for lots of people in different situations but thankfully we’re getting some form of normality back now.