Former Huddersfield Town skipper Peter Clarke is still playing at the age of 40 and there was a time he when he even hoped to see out his playing days at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Signed from Southend in 2009, Clarke left the Terriers five years later having established himself as one of the most popular and respected players of the modern-day era.

“I have great memories of my time at Huddersfield,” said Clarke. “I loved the club and would have happily stayed there my entire career. However, the decision was taken to let me go and I can’t hide the fact that it hurt me a lot.

“I’m not bitter because I’ve had a great career with some amazing moments but I can say that when I was told I was no longer needed, that did hurt me.”

Turn the clock back to 2009 and the Southport-born defender signed for the Terriers. Clarke remembers the moment well and recalled: “I was at Southend and we played at the John Smith’s Stadium in April 2009.

“I thought I played well and we won 1-0. I asked if there was any interest from Huddersfield to my representative at the time. Ten days later first team coach Derek Fazackerley rang me to say Lee Clark the manager was definitely interested in me. 

“A meeting was organised on the outskirts of Bolton with Lee and Terry McDermott, Lee’s assistant. I came away from the meeting liking the sound of everything. I then met Lee and Dean Hoyle at the stadium.

“They wanted to get the deal all done and sorted then. However I had promised Phil Parkinson that I would go meet him and talk about signing for Charlton. However, I did say that unless he blew me away I knew where I wanted to be next season. After a couple of weeks it was sorted and I signed for Town.

“I was aware that the club had been relegated to League Two and had been through administration. By the time I got to the club it had got itself back on its feet and you could feel an excitement around the place. You could tell it was going to go places and that’s what intrigued me and ultimately why I joined.” 

Clarke joined the club at a huge turning point in its history. Just six years before Peter Jackson had created a miracle and helped to save the club from relegation along with Huddersfield Giants benefactor Ken Davy. Fast forward to 2009 and the club had been sold to local businessman Dean Hoyle. He and manager Lee Clark were looking to build something special and they felt Peter Clarke was the man to help them. 

Coming into a young, vibrant and talented League One team, optimism was the watchword as the New Era got underway. Clarke embodied what the club’s fanbase wanted – passion, energy, the desire to fight for the shirt and the determination to succeed. Clarke was the heartbeat of the team. 

Town were defeated by Millwall in the 2009 play-offs. The Lions were on another level to the Terriers but Clarke knew the club was on a journey.

He said: “That first season there was a real belief in what we could do. There was a feeling we could be at the higher end of the league and be in the play-offs. 

“We came up against a very good Millwall team. They had a little bit more knowhow of how to get out of the league. They were equipped to go up at that point and we were a bit green to it all. I think two years later we were in a similar position. We had that knowhow in 2012.” 

The team very quickly bounced back from the defeat to Millwall and were ready to go for promotion again in the 2010-11 season. Experienced players were added to the squad.

The Terriers reached the play-off final this time around against a high scoring Peterborough United. The game was played at Old Trafford, however a 3-0 defeat was to be the outcome for Town in what is considered to be one of the club’s lowest moments in recent history. 

Clarke painfully remembers that day and insists it was an emotional one for him from start to finish. He said: “We had been on a great run that season, and frustratingly the amount of points we amassed that year would have got us promoted automatically for each of the previous 10 seasons before that. Southampton and Brighton went up automatically and went on a great run themselves. 

“We went into the game thinking we couldn’t lose, we were really confident. We were let down by poor officiating for the first goal where their lad was offside, maybe if VAR had been around back then it wouldn’t have been given.

“Once they got that goal we went chasing the game and it cost us. The way the day went, the result and everything just felt like a wrecking ball had gone right through me.

“I can’t thank Lee enough though as he was great with me. My son had been born prematurely before the game and he was in special care. On the day of the game he was in an incubator.

“So the culmination of not getting over the line and things being as they were in my personal life meant it was all very emotional and I’ll admit it I cried on that day.”

After the heartache of Old Trafford Town picked themselves up again. However boss Lee Clark was sacked in January 2012 with the club third in the league after a poor performance against promotion rivals Sheffield United.

Chairman Dean Hoyle didn’t think the former Newcastle man could get the team promoted. Clark was replaced with Simon Grayson who Peter Clarke had previously played with and under. 

On that period of change Clarke said: “It came as a real shock to the lads. Lee was great with the players and they really felt for him. We all had a meeting with Dean who explained his reasons for sacking Lee. As players and fans we might have been disappointed by the decision but we had to get on with it and respect it.

“Would we have been promoted with Lee, who knows? We’ll never know. Did it prove to be the right decision? You can argue ‘yes’ because we got promoted under Simon.” 

Grayson managed to get the team promoted at Wembley after an incredible penalty shoot-out where Terriers keeper Alex Smithies scored the winning kick. 

Looking back, Clarke said: “After losing at Old Trafford and being in tears, there were tears of a different nature at Wembley. I think if you are into football it is every schoolboy’s dream to pick up a trophy at Wembley Stadium and I achieved that.

“To do that in front of the loyal fans who had gone down on the day was just simply amazing and not something I can fully ever put into the right words. It was a surreal moment and it’s something I hope I never forget.” 

Clarke scored a vital penalty in the shoot-out, with Town missing their first three penalties it was down to the skipper to score the much needed fourth one. He duly did and a roar from him shook Sheffield United’s foundations.

Clarke said: “We’d practised penalties and had some really experienced guys taking the first few. I managed to win the toss and decided we’d take them in front of our fans, and that we kicked first.

“I was thinking at that point everything was going in our favour and then we missed our first three penalties. When it came to my kick I stepped up, I wasn’t nervous, I was confident with what I wanted to do with it and where I wanted to put it. I think because I scored it, it brought back some hope which we needed and that’s what I tried to bring back with my celebration after scoring.

“As I’m walking back I made their lad walk around me, whether you think that was right or not is up to you but I wanted to win, I was desperate to win and so I did anything I could to make us win. Would I do it again, in a heartbeat, to make us win. 

“It was a fantastic day celebrating in the town with the fans. Each and everyone of the lads enjoyed the day being with the supporters. We all felt as one at that time.” 

The Terriers survived their first season in the Championship by the skin of their teeth on the final day against Barnsley. In what was another day to never forget, Clarke was immensely proud that the club had stayed up at the first attempt. 

He said: “For 85 minutes of the game we’d gone toe to toe. It was 2-2 at the time and we were safe but Barnsley needed another goal or for Crystal Palace to score against Peterborough.

“Luckily Palace got a goal which meant Barnsley stayed up and Peterborough were going down which was ironic with what happened two years before at Old Trafford. 

“With them knowing they were staying up their keeper just kept hold of the ball in their own area. We didn’t need to attack so we just stood there. I remember seeing Jack Hunt sitting on the floor, I had to tell him to get up just in case they wanted to attack. It was an amazing atmosphere with the entire stadium shouting `Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire.'”

After surviving the 2012-13 season just, the 2013-14 season would be Clarke’s last for the club. Despite being injured, Clarke still managed to play the majority of the campaign, 28 league appearances in total.

Although a new deal had been discussed in the summer of 2013, by the time of January 2014 the club had decided Clarke’s services were no longer needed and that he could find a new club.

He said: “From about March time in 2013 I needed an operation to have some cartilage removed. However I played on and said I would have the op at the end of the season. I wanted to make sure we survived in the Championship having worked so hard to get us there. 

“I came back during pre-season with no problems. There was a bit of talk around signing a new contract at that time. I said after Wembley I’d sign for the club until the end of my career. We started ok under Mark Robins.

“It got to November and I went into a tackle tearing a ligament which meant I was out until February. All talk of a new contract dried up and I was told in January if I wanted to leave I could and that I wouldn’t be offered a new deal. As I said, it hurt at the time as I didn’t want to leave. 

“Since I have left the club, older players have been offered coaching roles and I have looked on with a degree of envy and thinking what if? 

“I look upon my time at the club with great fondness. Could it have gone on longer maybe so, did I want it to go on longer, definitely yes. However, that wasn’t a decision I was allowed to make.”

As part of the Huddersfield Town Supporters’ Association Roll of Honour list fans have had the chance to vote for Clarke’s name to be included in the Hall of Fame. On receiving this news, the now 40-year-old said it was an honour and a privilege.

“To be considered as one of the few names to be on the list to be in the Hall of Fame is quite amazing and humbling knowing what great players have represented the club in its history,” said Clarke.

“Thousands have worn the blue and white so to be up there in that company is fantastic. It’s a fantastic personal accolade and something I’m immensely proud of. When I pulled on the shirt and crossed the white line I always gave it my all.” 

After leaving Town, Clarke returned to Blackpool for a second spell. He stayed there for a year before moving on to a host of other clubs including Bury, Oldham, Fleetwood and Tranmere Rovers. He’s now at Walsall in Sky Bet League Two still enjoying his football.

So does he have any thoughts of retirement? “I know my playing career can’t last forever but as long as I’m enjoying my football I’ll keep playing,” he said. “Retirement isn’t something I’m thinking about right now.”