ANTHONY CLARK will get England’s Commonwealth Games badminton campaign off to a rousing start on Monday when he plays in the two matches he needs to reach 100 caps.
The Nottinghamshire star, who made his debut against China back in 1997, becomes the 13th player to join England’s elite 100 Club.
England team manager Andy Wood said: “I think in the present structure of international matches it is an amazing achievement to reach 100 caps.
“Not only is Anthony set to achieve the 100 landmark, he has been an absolutely critical member of our team, winning crucial rubbers on a regular basis.
“He is generally known as our 'Captain' and sets the standards of professionalism throughout the squad. I just hope he can be around to add many more caps to his tally.”
Wood has already confirmed that Clark will play in both England’s opening Group C matches on Monday against Falkland Islands and Uganda.
Clark, who was born in Derby but lives in Leicestershire, said today: “To get to 100 will be amazing. It would have been nice to play against someone like Malaysia in my 100th. I don’t expect it will be the toughest match of my life. But the Commonwealth Games is about the smaller nations getting a chance, too.”
As well as the team event Clark is second seed in men’s doubles with Nottinghamshire partner and great friend Nathan Robertson and Clark is fifth seed in the mixed with Heather Olver – and on course to meet Robertson and Jenny Wallwork in the semi-finals.
Clark, who played his first international in 1997, said: “I can remember my debut vividly. I partnered Ian Pearson in a match against China and we won. I played an incredibly good match and I remember people coming up to me afterwards and saying how well I had played. It left me feeling, ‘I want more of this, I want to have this feeling again’.
Other matches stand out for him in a glittering career, like a must-win men’s doubles with Robertson against Malaysia at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002. “Without that win, we wouldn’t have gone on to take the gold,” he said. “And again against Malaysia in the Sudirman Cup groups stages in Glasgow when Rob (Blair) and I had to win – and England went on to win our first ever medal.”
For all the individual success that has come Clark’s way – he won silver in both mixed doubles and men’s doubles at the world championships in 2006 – he loves team events.
“There’s a lot of pride in playing for England and you form a special bond with your team-mates like Nathan (Robertson), Donna (Kellogg), Gail (Emms) and Tracey (Hallam).
“I love playing for England, it’s really special,” he said, as he prepares to tackle his third Commonwealth Games and the prospect of adding to five medals so far.
Clark, who will be 33 next month, admitted his success would not have been possible without the help of a lot of people.
“I would like to thank my coaches – Andy Wood, Julian Robertson, Rexy Mainaky and Pete Jeffrey and all the support staff.
“I would also like to thank my mum and dad, who got me started and were my motivation early on, and my in-laws, who help out so much when I am away. And of course, my wife Emma and my two children Mia (9) and Rowan (7).”
Clark, whose claim to fame outside badminton was to clean bowl Freddie Flintoff middle stump as a schoolboy, could have excelled at cricket or golf. But their loss was badminton’s gain.
Clark will join the following 12 players on 100 caps or more:
145 Gillian Clark
143 Stephen Baddeley
138 Mike Tredgett
128 Andy Goode
123 Gillian Gowers
119 Darren Hall
115 Helen Troke
111 Gillian Gilks and Ray Stevens
105 Nick Yates
102 Nathan Robertson
101 Martin Dew