Clark ready to go in centre court against Dzeko
With a paltry 15 senior caps to show for his 26 years of age, Ciaran Clark admits that it's time he started to grow up in terms of international football.
The Aston Villa man, feeling fit and confident (at last) after a spell out through injury with a struggling club, will probably get a chance to step up onto that big stage in the sleepy city of Zenica this Friday night, a battle on his hands against a centre forward who knows his way to the goal.
"I'd love to get the chance to play against top-class players. If you get the opportunity to do that, you have got to take the opportunity and do the best you can," said Clark, likely to fill in for the absent John O'Shea in central defence alongside Richard Keogh.
One of the key battles for that Irish defence will be against Edin Dzeko, the former Manchester CIty man who has (like Clark) battled with injury this season but is bang on form bang on time, having scored two goals in his last two games for Roma.
"I played against him [Dzeko] when he was at City and he is obviously a top-class player and difficult to play against.
"He's good with the ball. City had a lot of good players around him as well and he seemed to find space. He is a big lad and very powerful. He is a dangerous striker. Whoever plays, if they can keep him quiet, we might be able to come out on top.
"He's got that physical side to him but he is also very good with the ball at his feet and he is a top class finisher, which he showed at City.
"He is a dangerous player but I'm sure they will have more dangerous players as well. We will be looking at them over the next few days," added Clark.
He made his debut under Giovanni Trapattoni but until now he's been a bit-part player, who's likely to move centre-stage on Friday in the absence of O'Shea.
"There is a lot of competition there and there are places up for grabs. I think it will all depend on training this week and how the lads do.
"I'm sure everyone will be fighting for a spot. Everyone will be looking to play and take part in these two games," he says, keen to move up the ladder with Ireland.
"When I first came in I was still very young. It's about learning and getting to know the lads and picking up experience. The more you get involved and the more you play, the more you want to be involved. I think I'm at a stage now where I want to be involved as much as possible and play as much as possible. You can only do that by playing regularly for your club. Hopefully if I can keep playing now and stay fit, and just keep going, that's all I can do. Hopefully I can get my place."
Clark was one of the concerns for Martin O'Neill - one of his many previous bosses at Aston Villa - as he was carrying injury recently, so the sight of him playing 90 minutes (and keeping a clean sheet) for Villa against Manchester City last weekend.
"I had a quad strain but it just came at the wrong time with the international games and I was gutted not to be involved," Clark added.
"I've played a few games, we've had a couple of signings come in and there was competition for places at the start of this season.
"I've kept my head down, kept training and then obviously picked up an injury just before the last international break, which was disappointing for me.
"I got injured and then it was all about trying to get myself back fit as quick as possible. I got back training, managed to play a few games and then the new manager came in. So I probably got fit at the right time."