Peter Clarke’s pride may have been stung by his surprise release at Boundary Park but the experienced defender is determined to ensure his own story continues.

While many players are soaking up the last vestiges of sunshine on holiday before a return to pre-season, the centre-back has returned to work early, hungry to find his next challenge.

At 37, there are no cast-iron guarantees in football – something Clarke readily accepts when he talks about leaving Oldham just a couple of days after being voted the club’s player of the year.

“I know it’s not just myself and that there are lots of footballers in my situation,” he said. “It can be a precarious profession.

“I’m sure I speak for the vast majority when I say you’d rather know what you are doing next season when you go into the break. But that’s the hand I have been dealt.

“There are times when I catch myself in the mirror and think ‘what are you going to do now?’ That’s human nature.

“I left Oldham with happy memories but, from my point of view, it’s about moving on to the next challenge now.”

One of the happiest memories in a Latics shirt came at Fulham in January as Pete Wild’s side produced the shock of this year’s FA Cup by beating the Premier League multi-millionaires on their own turf.

The Oldham Times: Peter Clarke celebrates the win over Fulham in the FA CupPeter Clarke celebrates the win over Fulham in the FA Cup

Overall, last season proved a mixed bag in League Two for Oldham as uncertainty off the field was mirrored by fragmented results on it, admits Clarke.

“We had some great spells in the season and a couple of indifferent ones but I firmly believe we had the makings of a decent team and squad,” he said.

“Unfortunately it didn’t quite happen in the league and we finished in the middle of the table.

“But I think when we look back at that season we’ll remember the best performances and I don’t think there was one better than beating Fulham.

“I’ve been in football for 20 years, played close to 750 games, and I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the days I have had like that. It was something special.

“It was a great thing to be a part of and to see the smiles on the supporters’ faces that day just reminded me how great football can be at times.

“When the time comes and I think ‘enough is enough’ it’ll be one of those experiences that I look back on and tell stories about.”

Clarke’s first professional pre-season was at Everton some 19 years ago and in the intervening years he has learned a thing or two about getting prepared for a new campaign.

This summer, however, he finds himself in the rare position of not having a club to return to – a situation he hopes to resolve in the next few weeks.

“From a personal point of view I feel really good,” he said. “I feel rested, had that little bit of a break, and that desire to get back out there certainly hasn’t diminished.

“It is in your blood, I think. You are driven to be out there on a Saturday and a Tuesday night and I don’t think it’ll ever leave me. You crave the competitiveness of it, the battle and the fight.

“And I honestly think I have got plenty to offer a new club, plenty left in the tank, as they say.

“You get to the end of the season and your body is ready for a little break but then in a couple of weeks you start to miss the routine, being around the lads on a daily basis.

“I’ve already started getting back on the grass doing fitness work or going down to the gym because nowadays that is what you have to do to prepare yourself. Working on your own in the summer is absolutely essential.

“Most players will vouch that pre-season isn’t a time they especially enjoy but it’s a necessary evil to ensure your body is in the best shape possible.

“It’s a job we are lucky enough to have, so those sacrifices you make are nothing in the grand scheme of things. There’s a small window to relax but then realism kicks in and you know you can’t eat and drink what you want”.

Voted player of the year at Blackpool, Huddersfield, Southend United, Bury and Oldham (twice), Clarke’s CV as one of the lower’s league’s true professionals goes before him. In recent times, however, he has added a new string to his bow – dealing with off-the-field distractions, such as those which have regularly hit the headlines at Boundary Park.

With finances in football becoming increasingly precarious in League One and Two, managing such disruptions may soon be a necessary skillset for footballers at this level.

“I’d like to think I learned from every stage of my career but in the last few years I’ve played at clubs which have had their own difficulties and that has taught me a lot,” Clarke said. “At Blackpool there was the big stand-off between the supporters and the ownership, at Bury and Oldham there were well-documented financial implications.

“When you have been through those you perhaps learn to deal with them better. I found that I can concentrate on my football – in fact in some circumstances the games and the training is a release for frustration.”