Salisbury manager Darrell Clarke out to stun ex-boss Danny Wilson

By Caroline Chapman and Ian LongdonBBC Wiltshire Sport
Darrell Clarke
Clarke started his career at Mansfield and made 174 appearances

Salisbury player-manager Darrell Clarke has a dilemma on his hands.

Does he don his match-day suit and take his usual place in the technical area for the Whites' FA Cup third round clash with Sheffield United?

Or does he pull on his boots and throw himself into the heart of midfield, in a bid to help the non-league minnows secure a shock win against a team who sit 85 places above them in the league standings?

"If you'd have asked me two weeks ago then I wouldn't have been picking myself," he told BBC Wiltshire. "But we've got injury problems so it's a difficult one."

Clarke has made 197 appearances since joining the Whites in 2007, and has netted 27 goals in the process. He was a regular in the starting line-up even after his appointment as manager in August 2010, but seems to have taken a backseat this year and let the side's wealth of youngsters get a look-in.

But aged 34, and with 12 years of Football League experience behind him at Hartlepool, Rochdale and Stockport, you can see why he wants to play his part.

"I've had my career - I've played at the Stadium of Light in front of 40,000, I've been involved at the Millennium Stadium in front of 60,000 plus," he continued.

"I wouldn't pick myself for the sake of picking myself but we'll have to wait and see. It's one I'll have to judge and do whatever is right for the team."

Clarke may have an ulterior motive for wanting to show his face on the field on Saturday - as he comes up against Blades boss Danny Wilson, who took charge of Hartlepool during Clarke's time at Victoria Park.

The midfielder failed to get a run in the side under Wilson and spent most of his time out on loan before being released in 2007.

"Danny came in, when I'd been injured the whole year, and took over a squad of about 32 players and I fell down the pecking order," said Clarke. "I ended up going to Rochdale for six months. I went back to Hartlepool and team was absolutely flying - they broke all sorts of records that year - and ended up getting promotion. I could understand it from Danny's perspective.

"I've been 'umming and ahhing' but I think I'll have a bit of banter with him on the day."

Despite a frustrating end to his Football League career, Clarke has proved his credentials off the field.

He took over at Salisbury two months after they suffered a double demotion from the Blue Square Bet Premier for breaking Football Conference rules relating to their fight against administration.

The Whites sunk to the Southern Premier League, but remained a full-time outfit, and achieved promotion at the first time of asking last term.

They travel to Bramall Lane on an indifferent run in the Blue Square Bet South, having claimed two wins and two defeats from their last four games to leave them 16th in the table.

But their FA Cup run, which has seen them overcome Grimsby over two games and fellow non-league side Arlesey, has created a buzz around the Ray Mac.

"The national press are here to interview the boys so it's excellent for the football club," said Clarke. "To get into the third round, no-one is going to take that bit of history away from us.

"James Beattie can't even get a game - that says it all. We need to be realistic but it's 11 versus 11 on the day, if we perform to our best we'll give anybody a game.

"I've stressed to the players that they need to enjoy these experiences because they don't come around every day. Some players are only fortunate enough to get one of these days in his career. I want them to enjoy the occasion but we're not going for a day out - we are going there to get a result."