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Page last updated at 09:43 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 10:43 UK
Ben: Sir Alan told me to keep in touch

Interview by Frances Cronin
Newsbeat entertainment reporter

Former Gavin Henson lookalike Ben Clarke is the latest victim in Sir Alan's firing line, after failing to flog a very expensive rocking horse during Wednesday's task to sell baby wares. The trainee stockbroker says he even annoyed himself when he watched the show back but he's feeling fairly confident about his future after Sir Alan told him to keep in touch.

Ben Clarke
Ben says he's had a positive reaction from people on the street

How are you feeling?

I'm genuinely gutted because I thought I was going to make it to the final. But I'm pretty proud of myself too. I'm 22, I made it to week nine so I'm delighted in that sense.

You looked pretty angry in the show...

It wasn't really an anger thing, I was just getting myself psyched up. I know a lot of people criticised me for the way I approached the boardrooms. So yes, on an aggression level that was really a reflection of my age and inexperience.

It was more of a defence mechanism because I didn't have a lot of self-confidence in the early stages. But in terms of fighting in the boardroom, I'm never going to apologise for that because in my opinion a £100,000 job working for Sir Alan was worth fighting for.

You've got a 22-year-old out there whose going hell for leather against people who have 10-15 years of business experience. Whilst I have been criticised, a lot of people have actually applauded me for it.

Were you shocked when you got fired?

I wasn't shocked but I wasn't fully expecting it. I was prepared for it and I am really disappointed but I definitely thought in terms of actual business acumen that Debra and I were better candidates than James. But he's a really nice bloke, I know I didn't get on with him at the start but I really do now. Whilst I wasn't really able to spot business acumen and any value in him, I think that was a weakness that Sir Alan, Nick and Margaret were able to identify.

He did seem pretty annoyed with you about your apprenticeship to Sandhurst didn't he?

Ben Clarke
Ben says he doesn't fancy a career in the media - even for 1m

The thing about Sandhurst is a lot of people my age are still banging on about their GCSEs and their Duke Of Edinburgh Award and things like that on their CV. To me the scholarship at Sandhurst, 6-7,000 apply every year and only 100 are given out so it is quite a big thing and it's not that I haven't gone or turned it down.

I'm 22 and at that age I think most people don't have a clue what they want to do with their lives. I'm not different. The army is a big commitment. You have to do a year at Sandhurst and three years regular service. I certainly wouldn't rule it out because it's a wonderful opportunity. Sandhurst is considered one of the finest educations in the world. So it's definitely still on the cards, it's just that I haven't exactly decided what I want to do with my life yet.

Can you see how you might have annoyed some people?

I can see that I might have annoyed some people. In fact, watching it back, I annoyed myself, I was screaming at the TV going: 'Mate, just shut up'. You see in task four I basically talked myself into the boardroom. I suppose that's the story of my life.

If I hadn't been in front of the headmaster so many times at school, I probably wouldn't have been so good at going: 'Yeah, it was him. It was all his fault'.

I think as the show progressed you started to see that I gained a lot more self confidence and I matured a lot. You could see that I was growing and that I realised I didn't need to be so aggressive.

What's the reaction been from people on the street? Have you had trouble?

Sir Alan and the female apprentices
Ben says the girls have been much better than the boys this year

No, not at all. In fact, whilst the press have done me a bit of a disservice, the reaction on the street has been actually really positive. I suppose the group that I'm really going to be socialising with is my age-group and they have all been very positive. They're big fans of the show, there's clearly a big following.

I've only really encountered a few negative remarks and I think that's possibly down to people like Paula going out there and taking things personally. While the rest of us appreciated what happened on the pitch stayed on the pitch, she went out and said: 'Yeah, he's been bullying me in the boardroom' and things like that and that wasn't really the case. And I was not going to take the wrap for not triple-checking her mistake.

What's next?

My plans now are that I'd really like to go into investment banking. I really hope that the investment banks have been keeping an eye out and thinking: 'Do you know what, maybe this guy's got something'. Sir Alan has obviously backed me up on that. He's said: 'This guy's got potential.' He's told me to keep in touch. The last person he said that to was Claire Young [runner up from 2008], so that speaks volumes.

My view's definitely to go back into banking and certainly not media. If an investment bank did come along and say we'll put you on our grad scheme for £30,000, I would take that any day over a million pound media deal.

Who do you think's going to win?

I think it's really difficult to call who's going to win. It's a three horse race right now as far as I'm concerned. I think the girls are a lot better than the boys this year and that's why there are so many of them still left.

You've got to look at the big ones, Debra, Kate and Yasmina. That's where the three horse race lies. Each one of those girls is absolutely outstanding in their own right and I'd be delighted to see any one of them win.



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