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Last Updated: Friday, 11 August 2006, 16:08 GMT 17:08 UK
Southend's Clarke is aiming high
By Mark Duell

Peter Clarke
The defender moved to Southend a week before the new season began
Southend United defender Peter Clarke has sent out a warning signal to the rest of the Championship.

The 24-year-old feels his new club are the league's dark horses and will progress even further in the future.

"Ultimately I want to play in the Premiership again - hopefully that will be with Southend," he told BBC Sport.

"There's a good feeling about the place and hopefully the lads will all pull in the same direction to make it another successful season for the club."

He added: "The aim is to be in this division next season. But everyone wants that little bit more and being in the mid-table positions would be perfect, giving us a platform to push on from next season."

After representing England at every youth level from Under- 15s upwards, Clarke was captain at his previous club Blackpool and insisted that the move south was not for financial reasons, stating how much he loved the supporters there.

"When I played for Blackpool I never made any secret of my desire to play at the highest level possible, and I left in order to try and do that," he said.

"For the fans who went to the games at Blackpool it was the be all and end all. I'm sure it's certainly the case down here.

"The support at Southend is fantastic and so there are certainly similarities in that case. Both sets of supporters are unbelievably loyal and very vociferous in their support!"

Peter Clarke
Clarke has represented England at seven different youth levels

The 6ft centre-back made nine appearances in the Premiership with Everton over a six-year period, but is now looking forward to the challenges this season will bring, and cannot wait to visit the likes of the Stadium of Light.

"There are some big grounds this season. You want to go and play on that stage and hopefully when that comes about I'll be in the side and I can show my worth," he said.

Clarke thinks he will be able to cope with the high quality of strikers in the division, and said: "I have got a confidence in my own ability and give whoever I may play against the respect they deserve, but I don't fear anyone."

Southend are tipped to be relegation candidates this season, but the former Coventry man believes they have already proven to the Championship that they are not there to make up the numbers.

"From the games we've had so far I think things have gone reasonably well and we've played some good football," he said.

"If we can keep going the way we've started I don't see there being any problems.

"There's a good feeling about the place and hopefully the lads will all pull in the same direction and everyone will be working together, making it another successful season for the club."

Peter Clarke and Thierry Henry
Clarke has played in the Premiership against Thierry Henry

Having only recently arrived at Roots Hall, Clarke is desperate to be in the first team, but knows must first get past the other three highly-rated centre-backs - Adam Barrett, Spencer Prior and Efe Sodje.

However, he hopes this challenge will benefit the team.

"The fact that we've got some decent players around the club and the competition for places can only bring out the best in the lads involved. Hopefully that should benefit each of the individuals and ultimately the club," he said.

The former England U20 captain also made clear he does not mind which position manager Steve Tilson wants to play him.

"The gaffer can put me wherever he feels is suitable. At times I played up front at Blackpool, and originally started off my career as a central midfielder.

"I feel reasonable comfortable in any of the positions and I think Tilson knows he can use me anywhere - the ultimate ambition is that you want to be playing in the side."

His belief that Southend will soon get into the Premiership may be considered by some as unrealistic.

But after two successive promotions and a good set of summer signings, the next five years could prove to be a fine time for the Essex side.

Southend capture defender Clarke
02 Aug 06 |  Southend Utd


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