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Interviews

Darrell Clarke | “I love the FA Cup, it is always a big occasion”

4 November 2022

Interviews

Darrell Clarke | “I love the FA Cup, it is always a big occasion”

4 November 2022

Manager looking forward to kicking off Emirates FA Cup campaign on Saturday when the Vale host Exeter City at Vale Park.

  • Darrell Clarke | “I love the FA Cup, it is always a big occasion”
  • Port Vale manager talks Emirates FA Cup, Exeter City and managing his squad’s physical and mental wellbeing during busy period of league and cup fixtures
  • Clarke: “Sometimes it is a distraction away from the league but when you’re in a good place in the league – which I think we are – going into a cup game, you can go into it full of confidence.”

Port Vale manager Darrell Clarke says the Emirates FA Cup remains the biggest cup competition in the world in his opinion and that his side will go into Saturday's First Round tie against Exeter City full of confidence.

Speaking ahead of the meeting with the Grecians, Clarke said:

“From my perspective, when I was growing up [the FA Cup] was about the family being around, watching the final.

“It is always a big occasion; I love the FA Cup, it is probably the biggest cup competition in the world. It gives non-league clubs the opportunity to get some well-earned revenue and publicity against the big boys.

“Sometimes it is a distraction away from the league but when you’re in a good place in the league – which I think we are – going into a cup game, you can go into it full of confidence.”

Much has been made of the Vale’s rotation from game-to-game in recent weeks, with the Vale using 28 players in League One this season, a number only Barnsley can match.

However, the manager was keen to explain the process that leads to differing team selections, with each match treated as a separate project.

“Sometimes the changes aren’t tactical with the game-changers; there is sports data involved and how many metres and distance players have covered,” Clarke explained. “We do a wellness assessment every day on each individual that we assess collectively and – touch wood – because we have a fantastic medical team at the club, we haven’t had a lot of soft tissue injuries and we are trying to limit those as much as we can.

“Our pitch is very taxing; our pitch holds water and that is something we are looking to improve in the future. Any rain we get, the pitch holds the water and that makes the ground very soft and very heavy on players legs, which creates muscle fatigue. The main pitch is a different surface to the training ground so it is not always tactical, it could be that a player needs to not play so many minutes in a particular game because he might breakdown and be out for 4-6 weeks. We work hard to limit that as much as possible.

“This will be our seventh game in 21 days and when it is Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday, you will see more rotation in those periods. We treat every game as a different project and the data, the previous injury records of players etc. does come into it.”

The Vale’s strength in depth and ability to maintain performance within the changes made by Clarke and his staff has been highlighted as a real positive from the opening three months of the campaign.

Discussing how the Vale can keep improving, Clarke added:

“We do a lot of work on individuals but also collectively in the group; our work has been pretty structured over a long period of time now, setting players individual targets, going through individual clips and what we have done well within the gameplan on and off the ball,” Clarke explained.

“It is consistent work and when you are consistent, the players start to get the messages, they understand and appreciate – even if they are not in the team – what is expected of them both with and without the ball, the different patterns we try going forward, and it is about improving and trying to get better and better. You look at the best teams in world football and they have that cohesion, that link-up play, the individual brilliance at times as well - that is how the best teams become the best teams.

“The squad is probably four or five top heavy than what I would probably normally work with but with the amount of games we have this side of the new year, it is important to have a bigger squad while players are adapting and finding their feet at this level.

“We have a lot of development players within the squad, a lot of young players that are learning and we have a lot players that are learning the level as well. We want to keep progressing individually and collectively.”


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