St Johnstone’s Zander Clark had a taste of first-team football in the Premiership last season and now he is hungry for more.
The 24-year-old keeper played six times for Saints including a run of games at the end of the campaign and was on the winning side every time.
He is looking for more of the same in this campaign but is all too aware that there will be a big challenge for the No.1 jersey from Alan Mannus.
The Northern Irishman has been given extra time off after being away with his country at the Euros and has been absent from Saints training camp in Belfast this week which means Clark will be between the sticks for today’s friendly against Glentoran.
He said: “Every season is big for a young keeper. But I suppose this is even more important for me after making the breakthrough towards the end of last season.
“The aim now is to push on and make even more starts.
“I got a wee taste of first-team football last season and of course I want more. It’s again down to me to show the gaffer what I am capable of when the chance comes along.
“But first, it’s about getting myself right in pre-season and taking any chance to show what I can do, starting against Glentoran.
“I feel as if I learn something every day from (goalkeeping coach) Paul Mathers and Alan Mannus.
“The gaffer was also a top keeper in his day and I know I can speak to him any time.
“I took a lot of pointers from him when he was the goalie coach.
“He has that specialist knowledge and it helps when you look back on a goal going in.”
While Clark is determined to make the keeper jersey his own, he admits he has a friendly rivalry with Mannus and he was delighted his pal was part of the Euros.
Clark added: “Alan and I respect each other. We have a great relationship. We work well with each other and are friends off the park.
“He has been at the Euros and isn’t in Ireland with us.
“We were texting over the summer while he was in France with Northern Ireland and it was a great tournament for them.
“It was a great honour for Al and for the football club that he was in the squad. It was thoroughly deserved because he has been consistently so good for us.
“The Glentoran game is about getting some match sharpness back and I wouldn’t read too much into it.
“But we know it’s always a fight for the jersey when you are a keeper.
“Every keeper wants to be the first choice.
“I haven’t lost a game yet and it’s a pleasing stat to have. But that’s down to the boys playing well when I got games towards the end of last season after the split.
“There’s always room for improvement but I feel I have stepped it up again after the season on loan at Queen of the South.
“But I have to keep it going.”