Frustrated Clark weighs up his future options

SHEFFIELD Steelers’ Neil Clark has not ruled out a return to playing in the Elite League despite enduring the most frustrating season of his career.

The decision to go with at least one extra import for most of the season often found 30-year-old winger Clark sidelined by player-coach Ryan Finnerty.

He was an influential figure under title-winning coach Ben Simon last season - finishing as the second top goalscorer - but was, after November, on the periphery under Finnerty, who is currently in Europe on a scouting mission with assistant coach Ashley Tait as he looks to put together his squad for the 2012-13 season.

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The Steelers’ Elite League season petered out in the last two months, leaving them to settle for a regular season runners-up spot before a shock first-round play-off exit at the hands of seventh-placed Hull Stingrays.

Clark – who finished the season with 34 points, including 17 goals, from 38 games – came to Sheffield on a two-year deal and will remain in the city until he has completed his two-year MBA in Management, which formed part of the package to bring him over under then coach Dave Matsos.

And despite the recent frustration he has suffered, he is clearly open to the possibility of continuing his playing career in the UK.

“It’s about 50-50 with regard to whether I’ll be playing next season,” said Clark. “If I can find a good enough job then that will probably be it for me.

“But deciding to end your playing career is a big, big decision. I think the way this last year has gone might help make my mind up – it has been very frustrating – but you never know.

“Nobody wants to sit out and I was a little confused at times - had we won all the games it would have been more understandable I suppose, so that just added to the frustration.

“If I continue playing, coming back to the UK is something I would consider - I would not rule anything out completely. There was interest from other Elite League clubs this season, but I didn’t take them seriously because I was committed to the Steelers.”

Despite a less than satisfactory second season with the Steelers, Clark was quick to point out how much he had still enjoyed his time in South Yorkshire, largely because of the support he had received from Steelers’ fans over the course of the two years.

He added: “The fans in Sheffield have always been excellent to me and I owe them a lot of respect.”

SHEFFIELD Steeldogs’ player-coach Andre Payette has agreed a new two-year deal with the English Premier League club.

The appointment was announced by owner Shane Smith at Tuesday night’s club awards night at the Hilton Hotel.

It follows a successful season for the club which brought a third-place regular season finish as well as reaching the final of the EPL Cup where they lost to Guildford Flames.

“I am extremely grateful to Shane for putting his faith in me and offering me the opportunity to be coach of the Steeldogs for another two years,” said Payette.

The Steeldogs will now turn their attentions to the post-season when they take on Basingstoke Bison over two legs this weekend in the first round of the EPL play-offs.

The winners will then take part in the final four weekend in Coventry the following week.

Twitter: @philarra