Barry Fry, Posh’s director of football, revealed today that United were amongst the clubs in attendance at London Road at the weekend as Clarke-Harris scored a hat-trick in a 7-0 rout of Accrington Stanley.
But who is Clarke-Harris, why are United interested and what’s the chances of a deal happening? Let’s have a look…
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Clarke-Harris, now 26, began his footballing journey at Beaumont Town. He was playing at centre-back before being scouted for a team further up the football pyramid in the Midlands park football scene, and was invited for a trial at Coventry City.
Due to a lack of strikers, Clarke-Harris played up front and impressed the watching coaches. He was offered a scholarship – City acting quickly to snuff out a reported interest from Leicester City – and soon after, still 16 years old, he made his first-team debut for Coventry due to an injury crisis for then-City boss Aidy Boothroyd.
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In 2012, though, he was not offered a professional deal, with Boothroyd’s successor Andy Thorn alluding to disciplinary issues. That began a nomadic career which has seen Clarke-Harris play for nine different clubs, and taste multiple spells with two of those.
He became Rotherham United’s record signing and scored a stunning goal to beat Leeds United, but also suffered a serious knee injury and was soon on the move again.
So, what changed?
Clarke-Harris appeared to find a home at Bristol Rovers, scoring more than a goal every other game during his spell there.
He is said to have enjoyed a close personal relationship with then-Gas manager Graham Coughlan – who, intriguingly, recently joined United’s U23 coaching set-up – and his form earned a move, thought to be for around £1m, to Posh last summer.
Some who encountered Clarke-Harris at Rotherham suspect he is more suited to being the main man in a side, which he certainly is at London Road. A total of 27 goals so far this season has propelled Posh into the promotion picture, and Fry revealed that his club turned down bids for their star man in January.
Why are United interested? Will it happen?
A lot depends on whether United are prepared to stump up the cash. The striker is thought to be valued at around £5m – which could rise if Posh are in the same division as United next season – and United may have an eye on the rise of Ivan Toney, who has banged in goals for Brentford after making the move from Posh to the Championship.
They’re different players, of course, and there are no guarantees. The forward line is also one that United are well-stocked in, with six senior forwards currently on their books, so you would suggest at least one would have to move on if new strikers are brought in.
But Clarke-Harris’ potential was always obvious. He has pace, power and an eye for goal. Now he seems to have added the maturity to his game.
One to keep an eye on, perhaps.