Sleepless nights and anguish for odd man out

Missing man: Spare import Neil Clark at Sheffield Arena.    Picture: rik rayner
Missing man: Spare import Neil Clark at Sheffield Arena. Picture: rik rayner
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NEIL Clark has spoken for the first time about being the “odd man out” at Sheffield Steelers.

The left winger has been earmarked with the unwanted tag as the “spare import” at the club and sits out most of their games.

His luck is atrocious - fellow import Matt Stephenson was injured last Sunday but Clark’s name wasn’t on the team sheet so he couldn’t step in.

And the arrival of Nick Duff means he isn’t likely to play this weekend either. In a frank interview with The Star, Clark said he’d suffered sleepless nights. The 30-year-old Canadian also believes it will be hard to get a good job at another club next year because of this experience.

He said: “In the last month I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights trying to figure out what I have to do to change. But as Finner (coach Ryan Finnerty) says it comes down to numbers and there is nothing I can physically do to change.

“I was trying (to get back in the team) but I didn’t have the best attitude the whole of the time. A lot of times you are angry and can’t figure out why and can’t sleep and that makes it worse. If you wake up positive about it you can think ‘If I get my chance I’ll be ready.’ You get over the hump and get on with it. I practice as normal; it’s just that I don’t show up for games at the weekends.”

Clark said he would not like to see another forward injured, a consequence of which would see him return to action. “Ideally I don’t get in and nobody gets hurt,” he said. “But it is a competitive game and if somebody does hurt I have to be ready to go.”

Clark said he respected Finnerty’s right to manage. Asked if he disagreed with the decision to drop him, he replied: “I’d be President if I had my choice.

“You don’t have a choice. It is up to him to win games if that’s the line up you need to win then that’s his decision. If I had my way I’d be captain on the Power Play and go in net too!”

On the issue of support from team-mates, Clark said: “They have been great, usually I am pretty funny around the (dressing) room. I make light of it as much as I can. I am the first to make fun of myself and try and be as positive as I can.”

The effect on his longer term career is likely to be negative one, Clark admits.

“You don’t want to see your career end, but it will be a tough sell, with limited number of games I have played, to find a decent job next year.”

Clark does not take his foot off the pedal when it comes to training.

“If I am going to bitch and complain about not playing I have to back it up on ice in practice. It comes down to my honour. I want to stay in shape so when I get my chance I’ll be ready.”