An exclusive interview with departing James Clarke

James Clarke of Bristol Rovers looks to take on David Wheeler of Portsmouth - Mandatory by-line: Alex James/JMP - 21/08/2018 - FOOTBALL - Memorial Stadium - Bristol, England - Bristol Rovers v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One

Earlier this summer we were sad to see James Clarke leaving the club, to reunite with Darrell Clarke at Walsall. We were lucky enough to have a quick chat with him following the move. Thank you to James for sparing the time to answer these questions and best of luck next season.

James, it was a great shame to hear that you were going to be leaving us. Can I start by asking what led to your decision?

There were a number of things, but ultimately it came down to security. I like to get things done early and fortunately Walsall gave me that opportunity to do so.

It must be great to be linking up with DC and Sincs at Walsall. How was the mood in the camp when DC left and Coughlan came in?

Yeah it makes things a lot easier going into a club but having already worked with the manager. Obviously we were gutted to see Darrell go, he’s a good bloke & he has worked with a number of us for quite a few years. So you can imagine it was quite an emotional day. Graham had helped us to build a solid defence so when he was asked to be the caretaker manager we were pleased because it wasnt a complete stranger coming through the door. We went back to basics and managed to grind out some very important results.

On reflection do you think it was the right decision for DC to leave his position?

It’s a hard one to answer because you never know how things are going to turn out. I always believed Darrell could turn it around. It’s never nice to see anyone leave whether it’s for the best or not.

Last season was a struggle, as we faced a relegation battle for much of the season. Was there a turning point when you believed we would be safe?

You probably could have guessed this but honestly for me it was the Fleetwood game. It was the first home game I think since Darrell left, and after we got the last minute winner it felt like a massive release of emotion for everybody. So I feel like that kick-started our fight to stay up.

What will you miss about Rovers?

Everything! It’s such a great place to play your football & i’ve been fortunate enough to have played here for four seasons. It’s got an amazing fan base & there are so many great people within the club, players & staff that I will miss dearly.

You weren’t in the squad for the Dagenham and Redbridge game on that dramatic final day, so you must have been kicking and heading every ball from the stands. What was it like?

It was such an amazing day. I was gutted to not be involved but I felt like I was out there kicking and heading every ball with the lads. It was such a surreal day, one I may never experience again & it’s a memory I will never forget.

What was your best moment in a Rovers shirt?

My best moment would have to be the Fleetwood game at home. I’m not known for goals or even being a threat in the opposition box. For me to get a goal, let alone one in the last minute, was just a fantastic moment.

And your worst…?

My worst moment in the shirt would have to be the Doncaster game at home. I got dragged after 20 mins and stood in the tunnel until the game had finished. With how our results were going & how we were used to being such a strong force at home, that 4-0 defeat was my lowest point in the shirt.

Who was the best player you’ve played alongside at your time at Rovers?

I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some extremely talented players at my time at Rovers. But It would have to be Billy Bodin, he would do things with the ball I couldn’t even explain to people. It’s so unfortunate he got injured last season as I’m sure he was going to kick on and become a real threat in the champ. Fingers crossed we can see him chop some people up next season.

Who was the worst?

I’m going to say Jake Gosling but not for the reasons you’d think, only because the amount of ability that boy had, to now not be playing professional football is crazy. I feel he never lived up to his true potential & it was so frustrating to watch. One of the best blokes in football I’ve come across I must add!