Ollie Clarke hopes he will receive a good reception when he faces former club Bristol Rovers on Saturday. The Mansfield Town captain came through the Gas academy, winning hero status and a pair of promotions before bringing his long association with the club to an end last summer. After Rovers’ relegation to League Two, the EFL computer determined the 29-year-old will be reunited with his former employers on the opening day of the new campaign. “It gave me tingles, it made the hairs stand up,” Clarke recalled of fixture release day in an interview with the Stags’ YouTube channel.
“Obviously, I was there for a long time and I had a funny feeling we would play them early on and I said to one of my mates ‘I hope we get them early doors’. I just want to experience it and get stuck right into it. “I had great times there and I really enjoyed playing there, but now I’m a player at Mansfield Town and I’m going to be looking to get the job done and get three points on Saturday.” Clarke made more than 250 appearances across 10 senior seasons at the Mem, scoring 22 goals and playing his part in the promotions from the Conference and League Two in 2015 and 2016. He turned down a new contract at Rovers a year ago in pursuit of a new experience, following Graham Coughlan to Field Mill. Clarke scored three goals in 36 appearances for the Stags, now managed by Nigel Clough, with the club targeting a promotion push after a disappointing 16th-place finish. The Bristol-born midfielder hopes he will be well received by the travelling Gasheads on Saturday.
Ollie Clarke celebrates his goal for Bristol Rovers against Gateshead in 2014
(Image: Dougie Allward/JMP)
“I can’t wait to run out there and see the atmosphere,” he said. “I don’t know whether I will get a good reception or not. I hope so, but I’m going to be doing my utmost to win the game with Mansfield. It’s part and parcel of football and I can’t wait to get going. “Over the years, I think I contributed well and I left the club as the captain. I think I went out with my head held high at a good time. “The last season was an up-and-down time for them, so maybe they did realise what they lost when I did leave, but it’s one of those things and I’m looking forward to playing against them and win the game for Mansfield.” Clarke does admit there will be nerves in play as he plays against a former club for the first time.
A summer of change is afoot at Bristol Rovers and you won’t miss a beat with our free newsletter. All the latest news, views, interviews, gossip and analysis concerning the Gas, delivered straight to your inbox, every day at 12:00. It’s completely free and you can sign up HERE
“I know I’ll be excited, but I will probably have a little bit of nerves because I’ve never had to play in front of a former club before, but at the same time I’m confident, positive and looking forward to it,” he concluded. “It’s something I’ve been waiting for all summer since the fixture were announced, so I’ve built this moment up in the back of my head and so many different scenarios. “I don’t know which way I’ll be in the tunnel, but I can’t wait to get going.”