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LONG READ: “The last 50 were the best of the lot” says Clark

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By Colette Carr

Two and a half years on from writing her name in the history books for hitting 150 appearances for Celtic, the elusive double century finally arrived for Kelly Clark, who couldn’t hide her pride for the remarkable achievement. 

Speaking back in March 2019, the captain made no secret of her desire to reach 200, and a voided season, cancelled cup competitions and pandemic later, Clark eventually got there, as she lead the Celts out to a 6-0 victory over Partick Thistle

While it hasn’t been as plain-sailing as she may have imagined, the centre back can’t believe the journey she and the club have been over those last 50 matches, which she dubbed "the most important" ones of all.

“I can vaguely remember doing that interview, and last year feels like a lost year, but we’ve come on leaps and bounds since then.

“I can’t remember if we spoke about ambitions then, but if you’d said to me then, “do you think by the time you’ve hit 200, you’ll have played Champions League football?” I’d have said, “let’s take one step at a time”, but here we are and we’ve done it. It’s been an amazing 50 games since with unbelievable and unforgettable occasions,” she began.

The pandemic has caused consequences in all walks of life, and while some ultimately more devastating than others, it still has had a profound affect on what are essentially the ‘trivial’ matters in life. But despite the grand scheme of things, the 27-year-old was asked if it frustrated her knowing she could’ve hit that target a long time ago, and took a minute to chew over the question.

“I guess,” she admitted.

“For a woman to hit 200 is a huge milestone and like you mentioned there’s so fewer games in a season for us, so hitting 200 is amazing, but I’d probably be edging on 250 if we hadn’t had that season cancelled. 

“I don’t know if it annoys me as such, but put like that it’s maybe a bit frustrating. The whole COVID delaying the league situation was frustrating, but we got Champions League football at the end of it. 

“Would we have gotten the same if there wasn’t COVID and all those breaks? I don’t know, so maybe that was meant to be and we reacted well to the breaks both times. Even though we came back and our first result was a defeat we went on a big unbeaten run. In terms of hitting landmarks on a personal note it’s maybe a little frustrating, but the way the team played last year even though difficult times made me immensely proud, and we got Champions League, so I’ll take a COVID break for that.”

From being sheltered from lashing rain and howling winds inside Barrowfield following an evening session under the lights, to now speaking inside Celtic Park’s breakfast room ahead of morning training, much has changed since that interview. She recalled discussing the club’s plans and her own decisions for the future back in 2019 and again touched on the night and day changes we’ve seen.

Clark said: “We weren’t even professional then, so it’s been an unbelievable 50 games, and probably the most important of the 200 to be honest. 

"We went professional and I’ve continued to captain the squad but I’ve obviously stayed with my day job too. The squad have done so well under Fran and got huge results against Rangers last season to get ourselves in a really good place to qualify after being written off. Then you’ve got the Champions League, so they’re up there with the best two games of the whole 200. Even though the results weren’t what we wanted, we did ourselves proud.”

Ahead of kick-off in front of her nearest and dearest on Sunday, she was able to enjoy a moment of celebration with a presentation with her teammates, coaches and even her dad on the pitch.

“Sunday was amazing - it was everything I could’ve asked for it to be. The fact my family and my boss were there to all see me play that 200th game was really nice - they all traveled down to watch and absolutely loved it. They don’t see me play very often given they live so far away, so it was a really nice day all in and we got the result to top it off.

“Having the presentation with my dad was a really nice touch,” she said. 

While an immense hunger to achieve more yet with the Hoops still hangs on her every word, the captain wasn’t quite as forthcoming about clocking up 300 as she was her 200th, but didn’t write the possibility off completely.

“We’ll see,” she laughed, “one game at a time.”


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