IN a career fast-approaching the landmark of 500 senior appearances, Nathan Clarke has been part of three squads so together that success seemed inevitable.
The first came at Huddersfield Town, as they emerged from the trauma of administration to win promotion from the basement division at the first attempt in 2003-04.
Next came Leyton Orient, where he was part of the side that came oh so close to claiming a place in the Championship only to be denied in May, 2014, by Rotherham United at Wembley in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
Now there is Bradford City, the club he joined last summer after cutting short his time in East London.
“This is a good group that is totally together and capable of being successful,” said the 32-year-old. “It doesn’t happen too often in a career. I had it first at Huddersfield. When you go to clubs, you get on together but once in a good run of form you can sense that something is building.
“Things feels different to most clubs. I can’t tell you why it happens. Let’s face it, every club would try to bottle it if they could. But, certainly in my career, I have been able to tell when the togetherness is there to push you on.
“We had it again at Orient when we got to the play-off final. It felt exactly the same at Huddersfield and now at Bradford. There was a group at the club who believed in each other and then backed it up on a Saturday.”
City have certainly been doing that of late. A 10-game unbeaten run has taken Phil Parkinson’s men into the top six of League One for the first time in a year.
Clarke has played the last four of those matches after stepping in to cover for Reece Burke following his brief return to West Ham United before rejoining on Wednesday.
Four clean sheets attest to how well the Halifax-born defender has dove-tailed with Rory McArdle at the heart of the defence in the absence of Burke.
“I have been getting some games so that is great,” added Clarke. “The defence has done well this season so when you step in you want to do well.
“We have been pushing each other along and fitness-wise I felt really good. I was just waiting for that chance. I am now happy to have contributed to the team but want to keep that going.
“I enjoy playing with Rory McArdle. He is so consistent. Off the field, he is a good lad as well. That is what I mean when I say there is a real togetherness and loads of banter. It helps a lot when everyone is friends off the pitch, it makes you look out for each other a bit more.
This is a good group and we are all friends off the field.”
A team meeting in the wake of September’s defeat at Colchester – the last time Parkinson’s men lost – played a part in the recent upturn in form as players and coaching staff had their say in what was going wrong.
Clarke added: “The honesty of the group came through at the meeting. It wasn’t designed to dig anyone out or anything like that. Just to air a few views and see how far we can push ourselves.
“Basically, everyone was asking, ‘Where do we want to be? What are our aims?’
“This is an important time for the club and we have had some fantastic runs. But we want to go further and really push on in the league.”
City moved into the play-off places courtesy of Tuesday’s draw against leaders Coventry. Walsall away tomorrow will be tough and Clarke adds: “Like Coventry, it is a good benchmark for our season.”