The Rotherham United summer signing was the hot post-match topic of conversation among the Millers faithful following a debut which should definitely be bracketed in the dream variety after proving the game-changer and match-winner in the hosts’ 3-2 Leasing.com Trophy victory over near-neighbours Doncaster Rovers on Tuesday evening.
Not that those close to the Irishman were able to see it after they left South Yorkshire ahead of the game after coming over to spend some time with him.
Clarke, who struck the winning goal in the 77th minute to crown an unforgettable first appearance in English football, explained: “Funnily enough, my girlfriend only went home on Tuesday morning.
“And then my mum and auntie were over and only flew home at five o’clock. I did not think I was going to play and they said: ‘Look, you might get a chance, we’ll book a later flight.’
“I said: ‘Look, save your money, I am not too sure if I will get on; you are better off just going.’ When I pick up the telephone for a family group chat, they will all be grilling me.”
After a tough start to his Millers career after signing from Shamrock Rovers in the summer, Clarke’s genuine – and almost boyish – delight at events on Tuesday was a sight to behold.
Clarke’s cheery demeanour has lit up many a room during his time at the club thus far – all the more commendable given that he cruelly suffered a knee injury on the first day of pre-season with the versatile player taking the untimely blow with admirable perspective.
Fates decreed that Clarke – who came on at the interval for Freddie Ladapo – finally had his time in midweek, setting up an equaliser and winning a penalty before coolly stroking home the winning goal in quite a night for the 21-year-old.
Even if those close to him were not present.
On his special evening, Clarke, who featured in an unaccustomed wing role, said: “I cannot believe it. I was saying after the game: ‘Did that really happen.’
“I did not think I would be in the squad and thought I’d be training on Tuesday morning. But I got a text to say: ‘you are not training today, you are in the team, go to the stadium and report with the lads.’
“Freddie got injured and I got the call to go on at half-time. It is a bit of luck that you need in football as a player, although unlucky for Freddie and I hope he’s alright.”
And on keeping his spirits up during a difficult start to his United career, he continued: “The lads have been great, even when I have got injured.
“Straightaway, they have come in every day and are picking you up.
“When you are low, there is always somebody there to help you out, you are never on your own.
“When you are injured, it is a dark place and you are looking at the lads training.
“But every single one and all the coaching staff has been unbelievable and I would like to say thanks to the physio who had everything planned out for me for two months. If it was not for him, I would not have been on the pitch.”