Charlton manager Karl Robinson has revealed he tried to sign Billy Clarke three times.

Clarke has made an impressive start to his Charlton career and returns to Bradford on Saturday for the first time since leaving.

The playmaker joined the Addicks following a three-year spell with Bradford and was watched closely by Robinson, who brought him to the Valley for an undisclosed fee in June.

When asked if he was surprised at the Bantams' decision to allow Clarke to join a League One rival, he said: “Listen, I can’t talk about why they sold him.

“I’ve always been an admirer of Billy before he went to Bradford. I tried to sign him last summer - I’ve tried to get him three times.

“He always used to score against the teams I managed which was never great. We knew how good he was.”

The Addicks are fifth in League One, two places below Bradford, who are very strong at home. Their 31-game unbeaten league run at Valley Parade was ended by Blackburn in August.

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Both clubs are among the favourites to gain promotion to the Championship this season.

Clarke’s team-mate Mark Marshall, who also swapped Bradford for Charlton in the summer, is a major doubt with a thigh injury.

Robinson says Clarke, 29, will be used as a “reference point” in their pre-match meeting.

He added: “I don't really use other players [for inside knowledge] - I should know about them anyway. If I start cutting corners by asking players, I’m not doing my job right.

“I’m going to make sure when we go into the meeting today, Billy will be used as a reference point to make sure that we’re right in what we’re looking for.

“But listen, one thing about Billy and Mark Marshall being here, speaking to them about their time at Bradford, they speak so fondly about the fans and manager. They loved their time there.

“It shows you that the club is run properly and the quality they have at the club is there to see.

“We’ll use them slightly but it won’t be a case of 100 per cent listening to Billy. Billy can’t even spell his own name!”