Back in November 2022, veteran defender Peter Clarke completed a loan move to National League Oldham Athletic, a move that perhaps came as a surprise to most.
The 41-year-old had started 11 out of 14 league matches during his time with the Club but following some difficult family news, a collective decision was made for Clarke to make the move to the Latics.
After receiving news that his wife Lisa had some health issues in October, Clarke sat down for a very open and honest conversation with then Head Coach Michael Flynn and Clarke revealed that he will be eternally grateful to Flynn for his emotional understanding of the unfolding situation.
Following his release from Walsall in the summer, Clarke wanted to offer up an explanation to Saddlers supporters as to what happened prior to his loan move away from the Club.
“Initially the call came about and Michael Flynn was obviously in charge at the time and going back a couple of weeks before, I was on my phone when I shouldn’t have been in the training ground,” Clarke explained.
“The Head Coach, well within his rights, was asking why I was on my phone and I had taken a call from my wife who had been for a check-up regarding her health and the news hadn’t been too clever.
“He was brilliant the Head Coach. I think it was a Monday and he told me to just get in the car and go home and he would see me on Friday which was appreciated and I did that.
“I came back in on the Friday, I trained, I played on the Saturday and probably a couple of weeks after this, the manager pulled me after training and said that he had had a call from Oldham saying that they wanted to take me on loan.
“At the time I was like, ‘right, okay. It is not something that is necessarily top of my priorities.’ We were doing okay, I was playing, I was contributing.
“He turned round and said from a personal point of view, I think you should go which I have to admit, I was a little bit taken aback by it. We then had quite a long discussion the two of us and from his point of view, he was brilliant.
“He felt that me being closer to home, at home every night being there for my wife and for the kids was more important than his needs as a manager and the needs of the football club.
“I went out on loan to Oldham and from a professional sense, was it the right decision? I don’t know entirely.
“From a personal point of view and from a personal aspect, the benefits that were there for us as a family, it was definitely the right decision.
“I think there were probably questions asked when I departed as to why. I think people probably wondered had there been a falling out and things like that and it couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The manager was fantastic and I will be eternally grateful to him for his emotional understanding and his care of a player, a professional and another human being. He was brilliant but so were the rest of the staff at the football club. Those right at the top of the organisation as well, Ben Boycott and Leigh Pomlett, they were fantastic as well.
“I owe an eternal debt of gratitude to a lot of people at the football club and I can’t thank them enough for their care and understanding during what was a really difficult time for me and my family.
“I wanted to explain all this as to why I left, not necessarily to set the record straight but to just really thank those that helped me and my family at the time.
“The manager and I were not too dissimilar in age and with a wife and a young family of his own, he was aware of the needs to be with the family through some lived experiences and he knew that with having a wife and children, the love and care that they need.
“For him to put everything else as a secondary issue to mine and my family’s needs, I will be forever grateful to him for that.
“As a contracted player, I was always looking at the results and I wanted the lads to do well. At the time, could I have still been a benefit, yes I possibly could have but as I said, the way the manager and the people at the club dealt with the situation, which wasn’t an easy one and not necessarily a run of the mill situation, was fantastic.
“Football is, was, has, always probably will be really important to me but there are things in life that ultimately make the sport pave a way into insignificance really.
“At the time, there were things that were more important and that needed more care and attention and that needed to become my first priority.
“Thankfully, I was able to do all of that with the blessing of the people at the football club.
“Things have now improved which is good. My wife is in better health, she has got to have quite regular check-ups but as things stand at the moment, things aren’t too bad so I can’t complain.
“She is a tough girl, we are a tough family but she has got a really good perspective of things and I think that really helps as well.”