Clarke ready for the challenge

Date published: Saturday, December 31, 2011

CHRIS Clarke is sweating on coming through unscathed when he plays his first game in seven months at Whitebank on Monday.
His 2011 campaign ended at Swinton on a Friday night last May when he snapped a ligament in a thumb during Oldham’s 18-16 defeat by the side that went on to be crowned Championship One title winners.
Two years earlier he had ruptured the tendon in his other thumb and had chosen to undergo surgery to put it right.This time he declined an operation.
“I didn’t want to have two painful thumbs in later life,” explained the 22-year-old forward, “and I felt there was less chance of that if I let this latest injury heal naturally.
“The medical people assured me that if I did as I was told I would have just as much chance of a full recovery.”
Seven months on, Clarke will face the moment of truth when he makes his first tackle in the Law Cup clash with derby rivals Rochdale Hornets (3pm kick off).
He said: “You can’t rush these things, but it has seemed like an eternity since I last played. I’m itching to get out there again.
“The thumb still aches a little bit at times, but it’s as good as it’s going to get and it has coped with everything that’s been thrown at me during pre-season training.
“Both thumbs will be strapped up, but I’ve got to get on with it and put any self-doubt to the back of my mind. That’s what I intend to do.”
Clarke will be in a 20-man squad from which coach Tony Benson will name his line-up after training tomorrow.
OLDHAM (from): Dallimore, Langtree, Cookson, Robinson, Thompson, Fogarty, Whitmore, Gilchrist, McCully, Gillam, Clough, Clarke, Smith, Boults, N Rigby, N Roden, Bentley, Stenchion, Johnson, T Rigby.
The squad includes three new signings — forwards Paul Smith, Neil Rigby and Bruce Johnson — as well as 21-year-old former Widnes Vikings utility back Tom Rigby, who has been training with the reserves and who will be given an early opportunity to impress Benson.
Other first-team debutants will be a trio of young players who starred in last season’s trophy-winning under-23s side, namely Danny Langtree, David Cookson and Alex Thompson.
Players whose 2012 kick off has been put on hold include Lucas Onyango, newcomers Chris Murphy and Danny Heaton, and Dave Ellison, Mark Brocklehurst, Paul Noone and Michael Ward.
Giving the dressing room slant on this traditional, pre-season fixture, Clarke said the players viewed it seriously for many reasons.
He said: “It’s the opening game of a campaign that all clubs will regard as a particularly important one, with four clubs to go up.
“We know that Law Cup success matters to our fans and it’s important for the players if only because we are playing Rochdale.
“Friendly? I’ll guarantee it won’t be a friendly. There’s no such thing when Oldham play Rochdale.
“We are still hurting from our play-off defeat at Spotland at the end of last season and this is our chance to make amends
“We love to beat Rochdale — so do our fans — and we’ll be going all out to make it happen on Monday.”
++The next meeting of the Roughyeds’ supporters association (ORSA) will be held at Whitebank next Thursday, January 5 (8pm). All fans are welcome.