Richard Clarke was one of Gavin Dykes’ big name signings of the summer, and the former Crusaders and Glentoran midfielder will provide much needed experience to the side as they embark on their sixth season in the Premier League.

The 31 year old has put in a full pre-season campaign with his new club, and has been impressed with what he has seen so far.

“From what I have seen so far the level of professionalism among the team is great and there is a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes,” he said.

“Down to the food after training and the new training gear, everything has been top notch and to be honest I didn’t expect anything different.

“Ballinamallard has got that mentality about them now and they have established themselves as a Premier League team over the last few years.”

Richard’s move to the Mallards marks the end of a long chase for his signature.

Former manager Whitey Anderson thought he had signed Richard in 2014 only for Crusaders to snatch him from his grasp, but over the summer Gavin Dykes finally got the deal over the line.

“I was close to signing a few years ago before I signed for Crusaders,” admitted Richard.

“Only Stephen Baxter came in for me at that time it would have happened a bit sooner. I went and signed for Crusaders and went for success because I knew Stephen could offer me that, but towards the second half of last season I felt I wasn’t getting much game time and I started to think of moving closer to home.

“I am 31 now and getting no younger and I have a young family now as well and to be honest I had no interest in signing for any other club other than Ballinamallard because of the way things panned out before.

“I felt I owed Ballinamallard something back. I’m glad now I’m here and looking forward to the season ahead.”

Richard has played several positions in midfield over the years and it remains to be seen how manager Gavin Dykes will utilise his new signing, but Richard believes he is not going to be a direct replacement for the departed Shane McCabe.

“At Newry I was known as an attacking midfielder and at Glentoran I was pretty much the same, but I ended up going to Crusaders as pretty much a defensive midfielder,” he explained.

“Talking to Gavin I think he wants a wee bit of both out of me, getting on the ball in deeper positions and making us play. There will be certain games he might be looking me to push forward and chip in with a few goals but I’m definitely not a combative midfielder like Shane McCabe, James McKenna or Blaine Burns. Probably more of a play maker and hopefully I can help the team out in that role.”

The last two seasons were a struggle against relegation for Ballinamallard, and while Richard acknowledges that survival is the most important target of the upcoming campaign, he is hopeful they can do better than that.

“That is our main target but I think as a squad there needs to be a sense of progression,” he said.

“The last few years the club has been toying with relegation and it’s important we set our mark early and get as many points on the board as we can, and that can build confidence and hopefully allow us to push on. It’s important we set realistic goals for ourselves and making progress from last year is the realistic goal for this season.”

The season starts with a game against Glentoran. The Belfast side have not had a great pre-season but Richard and his teammates will not be taking them lightly when they visit Ferney Park.

“In pre-season results are just a bonus and once the league starts people don’t look at those results,” said Richard.

“Glentoran have had a revamp and brought in a lot of young players. They are coming down probably thinking it is a good opportunity to pick up three points but we are thinking the same. They are coming to our home patch and we have to make it difficult for them.”