FROM the moment Simon Grayson first emerged as a serious contender to replace Lee Clark at Huddersfield Town, captain Peter Clarke suddenly became very popular among his team-mates.
What’s he like? How different are his training methods? And what sort of guy is he?
All these questions and more were fired at Clarke, a one-time former team-mate of Grayson at Blackpool who went on to play for the new Town manager at Bloomfield Road.
“That’s right, all the lads did start asking questions as the speculation started to mount,” admits the 30-year-old when talking to the Yorkshire Post at Huddersfield’s Canalside training complex.
“I’d played with him and been managed by him so that was only natural, it happens at every club. The lads wanted to know about his ways and his methods, and what he was like.
“I had only good things to say. When I first joined Blackpool, Simon was a player but he stepped up a year or so later during what was quite a turbulent time. Colin Hendry was sacked as manager and the club wanted to appoint from within.
“Simon had been looking after the reserves and was the obvious choice. He went on to justify that decision by doing a great job.
“He adapted really well in going from player to manager. It can be difficult to make that step up because the atmosphere and the mentality has to change.
“But Simon did it very well. He kept a tight-knit group together. He didn’t change overnight from the guy we knew as a player. That is the biggest compliment I can pay. The big difference was we stopped using his nickname.”
“I presume you mean Larry?” suggests a mischievous Yorkshire Post, bringing an immediate smile to the Town captain’s face before adding: “You said that, not me!
“Simon did a great job at Blackpool, he really did. We stayed up that year he took over, which turned out to be my final season, and then he built from there. By 2007, the club was in the Championship and when he left they were in their highest position for a long, long time.
“I don’t know exactly how long but it was in the decades. That shows the sort of job he did.”
Grayson’s arrival at Huddersfield this week capped a whirlwind few days at the Galpharm Stadium.
Clark’s sacking a week last Wednesday took the players by surprise and left a void at the top that was filled temporarily by Mark Lillis, the former Town striker who took charge of the Academy last December.
With Huddersfield not having a game last weekend due to Stevenage being involved in the FA Cup, the players were given three days off. They returned on Monday morning to discover Grayson had met chairman Dean Hoyle the previous night and the appointment was confirmed at a team meeting later in the day.
Clarke, who is recovering from a hernia operation, said: “It has been a strange couple of weeks, to be honest. In terms of the events of a week last Wednesday, I am not sure anyone saw it coming.
“There was definitely an element of surprise around the lads. We were called in the morning after (the defeat to) Sheffield United and told about the situation.
“For the interim period, we were told Mark would be taking training. Not having a game probably helped as a few days off over the weekend gave everything a breather, not just the players but the club as well who had that bit of extra time to bring in who they wanted.
“Perhaps being away from having to answer difficult questions helped the lads. It was also a chance to recharge the batteries. Once we were back in on Monday, we were ready for training and eagerly looking forward to the Exeter game. Obviously, I am still out injured so unable to join in with the rest of the lads.
“Mark Lillis asked for a bit of help from myself, which I was only happy to do. We have a terrific group of lads and they look after each other really well. The key was maintaining our focus.”
Clarke’s last appearance for Town was a little over a month ago in the 3-2 home victory over Brentford. Since then, he has undergone identical surgery to what kept Gary Roberts out for a couple of weeks recently.
Clarke added: “Every player is different but the injury is coming along nicely. I am getting close but I still have a few limitations from the scar tissue. But I am desperate to get out there with the rest of the lads and ultimately play again on a Saturday, the thing I enjoy most.”
The injury means Clarke will be restricted to the main stand today as Exeter visit the Galpharm to kick-start Grayson’s reign.
He said: “The new manager will obviously have changed a bit since we last worked together five-and-a-half years ago but nothing massive.
“To be fair, I am training a bit separately after my operation but looking across at the other lads I don’t notice too much difference.
“We are in a good position. We can still win automatic promotion, even if it is really Sheffield United’s to lose.
“But we are well placed to pounce should they slip up. We can only look after our own results and performances. That’s what we intend to do.”