PETER Clarke had a wretched summer following Huddersfield Town’s humbling at Old Trafford in the 2011 League One final.
At the final whistle in Manchester, the tough tackling centre-back sat in a heap on the floor sobbing as Peterborough United celebrated gaining promotion to the Championship.
The Terriers adopted a conservative 4-5-1 formation, leaving top-scorer Jordan Rhodes on the substitutes bench, and deployed Lee Peltier, a right-back, as an extra central midfielder. In the final analysis, they paid the price for a lack of ambition as Posh scored three goals in the final 20 minutes to seal an immediate return to the second tier of English football.
After two years of play-off heartache, Clarke, Huddersfield’s captain, hopes it will be third time lucky when they lock horns with Sheffield United on Saturday, at Wembley.
Clarke told The Star: “It was the worst moment of my footballing career when we lost to Peterborough and I don’t want to experience that pain ever again. It was horrible and it stuck with me for a long time.
“In the time we had off over the summer, I was a nightmare.
“Ultimately, I don’t think that feeling passed or I got over it until we came back into pre-season.”
Tears continued to roll down Clarke’s cheeks 30 minutes or so after the full-time whistle had been blown against Post as he clapped the 30,000-plus Huddersfield fans who attended the showpiece final. The pain of defeat was etched all over his face. The experienced defender feels that setback can spur Huddersfield on into going one better this time around.
“The memories of last year can ultimately be used as a motivational tool,” he said. “Personally and collectively, we will do everything within our powers to make sure that doesn’t happen again. It is a fantastic feeling to get through to the final but we realise nothing has been achieved yet and there is still a lot of hard work to do.”
Clarke is refusing to underestimate the threat United will pose in the second ever all Yorkshire final, saying: “We had two tough games against them in the league. They have been up there all season on merit. We are under no illusions that it is going to be a very tough game.
“We are going to prepare right and do everything we possibly can do to make sure we are on the right end of the result this time.”
Clarke has also hailed the impact manager Simon Grayson has made since succeeding Lee Clark at the helm in February. Because of his connections with Leeds United, Ripon-born Grayson was not a universally popular appointment with all of the club’s supporters but he has silenced the detractors by steering Huddersfield to the national stadium.
“The manager has come in and done really well,” said Clarke, who played as a schoolboy at the old Wembley. “He has not made wholesale changes; he has made little tweaks here and there.
“We have been playing relatively well over the last few games in the last three to four games. We will do everything we can to prepare for what is about to come.”
He added: “I have never been to the new Wembley before so I’m intrigued to see what it is like. We will look forward to the day but it will mean absolutely nothing if we don’t get the right result.”