Portsmouth are delighted with on-loan defender Clarke - Mick McCarthy

Matt Clarke on the ball at Crawley last season

Matt Clarke on the ball at Crawley last season

Young defender Matthew Clarke is progressing nicely at League Two side Portsmouth, not that Blues boss Mick McCarthy would have expected anything less.

The 18-year-old former Claydon High School youngster capped off a fine start to the season on Wednesday, penning a contract extension at Portman Road, having begun the season well for Paul Cook’s Fratton Park outfit.

The Blues youth product has been an ever-present at the heart of the south coast club’s defence this season, Portsmouth beginning the campaign with three wins and two draws from their first five League Two games, plus a morale-boosting Capital One Cup victory over Championship promotion hopefuls, Derby County.

Clarke put pen-to-paper on a new deal that runs until the summer of 2017 and includes the option of an additional 12 months.

McCarthy, who has handed full debuts to full-backs Josh Emmanuel and Myles Kenlock this season – two products of the Town academy – plus former Cardiff City rookie Josh Yorwerth at the heart of his defence, is pleased that Clarke is part of the future at Town.

“They (Portsmouth) are delighted with him (Clarke) and are telling me everything I was telling them about him,” explained the Ipswich boss, who made his Football League debut as an 18-year-old for Barnsley, 38 years ago.

“He’s a great lad, a good defender and you can hang your hat on him. “He can play, can defend, all those things that I already knew and I thought he would be great for them, and that’s what’s happening.”

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Clarke was a regular fixture in Town’s under-21s team last season, playing in a competition that is much-maligned, McCarthy himself having expressed his concerns over the competition in the past.

Rules state that only three players over-21 are allowed to play in a game, meaning senior professionals miss out on vital game-time, while youngsters tend to face similar inexperienced opponents.

“He is beyond the under-21s and it was becoming comfortable for him,” explained McCarthy.

“He needed to be challenged more and he would have played for me last season had the need arisen, but he didn’t because I had Luke Chambers, Tommy Smith, Christophe Berra, Tyrone Mings and Jonathan Parr fit for the most part.”

Clarke may be casting a few envious glances towards Suffolk, with Emmanuel, Kenlock and Yorwerth having all been given game-time in the first team, but as McCarthy explains, Clarke is probably better learning his trade further down the pyramid.

“If I am being honest, if I said we were playing a back-four of Josh Emmanuel, Myles Kenlock, Josh Yorwerth and Matthew Clarke, then I’m saying no, we couldn’t compete,” revealed McCarthy.

“If they have to come in and play one or two games, due to injury or suspension, then there’s not a problem, but they are not going to play 44-46 games and be a roaring success, that won’t happen.

“Hopefully, when we need them, they will be able to come in and play and perform very well.”

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