Leon Clarke is convinced he can fulfil his top-flight ambitions at Bramall Lane after signing a new contract with Sheffield United.
The centre-forward, whose improved agreement lasts until 2020, believes Chris Wilder’s side have the potential to become a Premier League team after climbing to sixth in the Championship table ahead of today’s game against Bolton Wanderers.
“All the boys can see there’s an opportunity for us this season,” Clarke told The Star. “Me personally, I think it’s going to be much tighter than it has been in recent years and possibly will be in the future. This is an opportunity for a lot of people to get out and we are definitely among them.”
Clarke, aged 32, enters this afternoon’s game as the division’s leading goalscorer after hitting the target 14 times in only 21 games. A member of the squad which lifted the League One title last season, he cost United an estimated £150,000 after arriving from Bury less than a year-and-a-half ago.
“The manager, you can see what he wants to do with the team,” Clarke continued. “Where he wants to go with the team. He wants to take us to the Premier League. You saw how he improved to group over the summer and I’m sure he’ll do that again this summer and also in January. To be a part of that would be amazing and hopefully we can get to the Premier League.”
Wilder praised Clarke for putting finance before football after admitting he could probably command higher wages elsewhere. United have awarded fresh terms to the likes of Billy Sharp, Chris Basham, John Fleck and Paul Coutts since winning promotion from the third tier.
Clarke, who captains United in Sharp’s absence, said: “It was simple and easy to get done. I wanted to do it and so did the manager. To captain a great and historic club such as this isn’t something I’m used to. It’s a real honour.
“This season, I just want to keep adding more goals and helping the team with my work rate. I think that’s really important.”