After announcing that he’s aiming for a promotion push next season, Clarke has urged his players to show their mettle for the remainder of the season if they want a place in the squad for the next campaign.
“Our aim is to always win every game, but your eye is always on the bigger picture as well,” he said.
“It’s important through the course of these next 14 games that I’m seeing players really working hard and being mentally strong to earn a new deal.
“It’s a ruthless business, you can be out and released with the 700-800 players that are released every summer.
“They need to make sure they don’t want to be a part of that and showing me that they’re capable of getting into the higher regions of this division on a consistent basis.
“There’s a lot of players with question marks on that.
“I think we have a decent core now of eight or nine players that are top seven League Two players and for me it’s now building on that.
“We’re also working towards getting rid of the dead wood in the summer.
“There’s a good feel about the place and the spirit of the club.
“We concentrate on the next game but I’m not doing my job if I’m not looking at the next picture too.
“Looking at where we need to recruit to be where we need to be.
“There’s always a case to have a look at one or two things from now until the end of the season, I’ll be doing that.
“It’s a constant process, but they have to be working hard and showing me that they want to be part of what we’re trying to do here.”
A three-game losing run came to a halt on Saturday when the Saddlers clinched victory at Forest Green Rovers, but Clarke admits he is still frustrated with the team ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’ this season.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m a frustrated manager,” he added.
“But I’m not sat here frustrated because I’ve spent loads of money, I haven’t got the pressure of that.
“I have the pressure of, and I’ve had this at my previous clubs, is where the football club has been before.
“I mention these words all the time, I build a siege mentality because they’ll be a minority of fans that see where the club has been, but we know it’s a building job.
“We talk about the Walsall way and getting young lads through the system and I think we’ve done that this season.
“There’s a lot of positives in that and development stages.
“You have to bear in mind that before the previous week we were in top three form.
“We had a really bad week where we conceding some sloppy goals, which has been a bit of a theme at times this year.
“We’re building a new group and a new squad together without the resources that a lot of teams have at this level.
“We’re a building club and the fans aren’t daft, they appreciate that.
“I’m frustrated because I think we could have been further afield up there but we shot ourselves in the foot on too many occasions.”