Harpenden Paralympic ace David Clarke all set for London 2012

HARPENDEN’S David Clarke is adamant the GB blind football squad are in the best shape ever to finally bridge the gap between themselves and the world’s best at London 2012.

Clarke knows all about Paralympic preparation having appeared at two previous Games – as part of the goalball squad in 1996 before appearing in the five-a-side football ranks in Beijing four years ago.

At 41 skipper Clarke is the most experienced member of the GB squad who are trying to improve on their fifth-place finish in China in 2008. The 2012 Games begin on Wednesday.

Clarke is the goalscoring talisman of the side, but insists personal success comes second to bagging an unlikely medal and building a footballing legacy in the capital.

“We’ve made a lot of progress, and we’re aiming to show that when the Games begin,” he said. “We’re in a much better position this time than in past Games. We’re much more prepared and have a couple of talented young guys coming through.

“We’re in a tough tournament, but we believe we can beat whoever is put in front of us.

“The media are much more interested in us and the public are more aware of what we do now than ever before, which is great for our sport.

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“Hopefully the result will be more new young players coming through the pathways we’ve set up, because at the moment the talent pool is still pretty small.”

It might be Clarke’s third Paralympics but the 41-year-old will experience a Games first in the capital – sold out stadiums.

Around 2.1 of the 2.5 million tickets have been sold to date with the rest expected to be snapped up to make London the first-ever sold out Paralympics.

But Clarke is warning his side to concentrate on their own preparations, rather than the bumper crowds in the capital.

“While all the attention we’re getting is good, at this moment in time it’s all about us being ready,” he added.

“Things are going well right now. We’re looking strong and we’ve got a fully fit team, which is always good.

“We’re in good shape and feeling very confident in any case, but having home advantage will definitely make a difference. It will give us a big lift.

“Having said that, we can’t afford to get too carried away with the occasion because we’ve got to stay focused on what we have to do.”

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