Queen of the South’s on-loan St. Johnstone goalkeeper Zander Clark faced an anxious few days this week waiting to see if the Perth club will allow him to play against Hamilton Accies in the William Hill Scottish Cup this weekend.
The 21-year-old was brought in by Palmerston Manager Jim McIntyre for a month as cover for the injured Calum Antell however he did not know that he was cleared to play until a couple of days ago.
Apart from waiting on the decision on his inclusion this weekend the 6 foot four inch shot-stopper likes his time as a Doonhamer as he explained: “My first couple of weeks have been great and I have enjoyed being here. It is a great bunch of boys at Queen of the South and training has been very upbeat. It is a very good environment to be in and I am enjoying being part of it.”
Training and camaraderie are great but nothing beats getting goalkeeping gloves dirty with Clark saying: “Playing games on a Saturday is obviously really important to me and coming here is a great opportunity to do that. Games are something that when you are a young goalkeeper you do not always get but I am getting that here and gaining experience all the time.”
“I am looking forward to facing Hamilton in the Scottish Cup and then again in the League. It is only a 28 day loan that I am here on but it is a great chance for me. Whatever happens at the end of the 28 days, whether it gets extended or not, happens and I just need to hold tight until then.
This is Clark’s second spell out gaining experience away from Perth as he spent season 2011-2012 helping Elgin reach the play-offs in Division Three.
Clark said: “I enjoyed being up at Elgin and it was great to be playing every week at a high standard. I was only 18 at the time so it was brilliant for me to go out and get 43 games played at a competitive level. Getting that amount of game time under my belt was terrific as was finding out what you have to do to play week in week out at first team level.”
“I had hoped to go out on loan last season to build on that but because of injuries and what not it never happened. I am just pleased to be out playing again and it would be great if I get the chance to keep it going. If I am not going to be playing regularly at St Johnstone then I would like that.”
The shot-stopper has been at Perth for 5 years now although he has sill to make his top team debut as he explained: “I have been at McDiarmid pretty much since I left school. A few of the boys I was at Hamilton Accies with as a youth had heard that St Johnstone were looking for a full time goalkeeper within their Youth set up and they put my name forward to Derek McInnes and Tony Docherty.”
“I was fortunate enough to be offered a couple of weeks on trial and I was offered a contract at the end of it. To be honest it has been great for me and I am getting closer to the first team every season.”
Clark added: “I have been on the bench for a good run there when Allan Mannus was out with a shoulder injury. I moved up in the pecking order as Stevie Banks was going in goal and being involved in that environment was a great experience.”
“It can be frustrating for goalkeepers as you can only play in the one position but I am learning all the time. Allan is a Northern Ireland international goalkeeper so I learn from him all the time and Steve coming in as a coach has been terrific for me. He has taught me a lot of new methods and his techniques have been a breath of fresh air.”
“He is always trying to improve me as a goalkeeper which is terrific and the pair of them have done a lot for me. I feel that I have improved my game by leaps and bounds working with them.”
One thing that all the coaching in the world cannot legislate for is a Scottish rainstorm and a deluge ruined Clark’s debut for the Doonhamers as they lost 2-1 to Dundee.
Clark explained: “My debut at Dens was ruined by the amount of rain that fell. It was great to be playing in such a big game but the conditions were horrible. A shot came in and I pushed it away and on any other day things would go okay for you and it would have rolled away from goal and out to safety. However it slowed down as there was so much water on the pitch and that allowed Dundee to get it back into the box and score from it.”
The Palmerston team knew it was not going to be there day when shortly afterwards the Dundee goal had a lucky escape with Clark saying: “We had a shot that hit one of their defenders and then hit rose up and hot the bar with their goalkeeper beaten. That shows you the fine lines in football.”
“By all accounts that is how things had been going for Queen of the South this season but the manager told everyone to stick together and our luck would change. Hopefully the 3-0 win at Alloa is a good sign of that happening.”
It is on to Scottish Cup action now and Clark said: “I did not know that I would be playing this weekend until recently. The clubs had to speak to find out what was happening and it is great to be involved. I played for Elgin in the Scottish Cup and that was an experience.”
“Elgin played Fraserburgh in the Second Round and got through 5-2 after a replay. I came in for the next round and were then winning against Queen’s Park up at Borough Briggs. That was disappointing as it was given in something like the 86th minute.”
“We lost a goal from a penalty late on to force a replay and then headed to Hampden the next Saturday. As for the replay best not go there as that was a disappointing afternoon. “
The record books show that Queen’s won 3-1 and Clark was dismissed.
Time has moved on and the shot-stopper can resume his Scottish Cup journey this weekend against his first club and Clark said: “It would be great to face Hamilton and see some faces I know well. I was there with St Johnstone when we played them in the Scottish League Cup and we won that one 3-0.”
“It is always nice to go to old clubs and see your mates that you do not see that often. Sometimes on the park is the only time you see guys you have worked with over the years. It will be good to see them and hopefully beat them.”
Clark finished by saying: “We will be upbeat for the game especially after our win last weekend. Now that I know I am playing I am really looking forward to it.”