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8) Allan Clarke (1969–1978)
Country: England | DOB: 31/07/1946 | Position: Forward | Apps: 364 | Goals: 151
Allan “Sniffer” Clarke joined Walsall as an apprentice in 1961, turning professional on 12th August 1963. He began scoring goals regularly and was voted Walsall's Player of the Year by the supporters in 1964-65, when he top-scored with twenty-three League goals. He finished top scorer again in 1965-66, netting another twenty-three goals even though he was sold to Fulham well before the end of the season. He had scored forty-one League goals in seventy-two games when First Division Fulham signed him in March 1966 for £35,000.
While at Fulham he picked up five England Under-Twenty-Three Caps and he burst onto the International scene with a four-goal blast past a bewildered and shell-shocked Wales at Molineux in an 8-0 landslide on 12th October 1966. His second followed almost a year later at Boothferry Park, when he teamed up for the first time with Mick Jones to pilot England to a 3-0 win over Austria and his third came at the end of that month on 31st May 1967 as England were held to a 0-0 draw by Greece in Athens. Three days later he picked up his fourth cap in a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in Sofia and on the 7th June 1967 he scored in a 3-1 win over Turkey in Ankara to make it five goals in five games.
In just over two years at Craven Cottage he had scored forty-five League goals in eighty-six games while playing in a very mediocre team, before he joined Leicester City for a record £150,000 in June 1968. He picked up his sixth and final Under-Twenty-Three cap in a 4-0 win over Portugal at Highfield Road, Coventry when he got two of the goals to take his tally to seven from six games. Once again he had joined a struggling team but once again he proved his ability to score goals from nothing with remarkable consistency, and Don Revie had already noted his ability when he caused his defenders trouble when in opposition.
However, it was a "Man of the Match" display for the Foxes in their 1968-69 FA Cup Final loss to Manchester City, which coincided with their relegation, that prompted the Leeds Manager to break the club transfer record and pay £165,000 to bring him to Leeds, in July 1969, and so add the final piece to his jig-saw puzzle of making Leeds, freshly crowned Champions of England, the best team in Europe. His time at Leicester had seen him score twelve League goals in thirty-six games and the man they called “Sniffer” was united with Mick Jones to make the strongest spearhead in the Football League. “Sniffer” Clarke’s instinctive nose for goals won scores of games for Leeds.
Sometimes criticised for a lack of work-rate but when it came to goal-poaching, he was devastating. His partnership with Mick Jones was one which few clubs have bettered. He made his debut in the Charity Shield against Manchester City at Elland Road on 2nd August 1969, in what was to become the legendary Leeds team; Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter, Madeley, Clarke, Jones, Giles and Gray, with Lorimer, on this occasion, substitute. He was the final piece in the jigsaw, the jewel in the crown.
In his first League game, he immediately became a fans' favourite, scoring once in United's 3-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur in front of a crowd of 35,000 at Elland Road on 9th August 1969. Possibly the deadliest goal scoring career that Leeds United fans have ever seen was about to begin. In his first season with the club, Clarke and Leeds were on course for the treble. The European Cup, the FA Cup and the First Division Title were all on the Leeds agenda for the vast majority of the season, and they came very close to achieving their target, but fell so cruelly short of all three goal due to the small squad all clubs had in those days, Leeds just eventually burned, and fatigue took its toll on the club's players. FA rules of the time restricted each team to a squad of twenty players, and Leeds took part in sixty-three games that season. Clarke had top-scored with twenty-six goals.
But the season was not over for Clarke, on 11th June 1970 he made his full England debut, as the only previously uncapped player in England's vital World Cup Group "C" qualifying match against Czechoslovakia at Guadalajara. With England needing to win to stay in the competition, Clarke lined up with his Leeds team-mates Terry Cooper and Jack Charlton and it was he who took the vital English penalty, when other more experienced players would not, and with ice-cool precision hit the back of the net to give England the win they needed. It was his only appearance of the tournament.
He led the Leeds scorers for the second successive season in 1970/1971 with twenty-three goals, missing only three of United's fifty-nine games in a season when they lifted the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup on 2nd June 1971, at the end of another long and arduous season, in which Clarke had not had a break since his debut in the Charity Shield game, almost two years earlier. Arsenal won the title by one point, in what was the most controversial title race of the 1970's. However, United still had something to cheer as they beat Juventus in the Inter-City Fairs Cup on away goals, and Clarke scored at Elland Road for United in that Final, but, yet again United had falling short of their potential.
The 1971-72 season saw Clarke write himself indelibly into United folklore and their History, when his renowned diving header against Arsenal in the FA Cup Final win over Arsenal at Wembley on 6th May 1972, became a goal all United supporters, young and old could relate to. Mick Jones got to behind Arsenal full-back Bob McNab, crossed the ball towards the edge of the penalty area where Clarke, ran onto the ball, diving in the air, meeting it perfectly and sending it into the bottom corner. Clarke also hit the bar in that game, and played a major part in some virtuoso performances that season, as Leeds turned in some outstanding performances of football brilliance to the delight of television audiences.
But Leeds were once again robbed of the title. After playing a gruelling FA Cup Final in front of 100,000 people and millions worldwide, Leeds were forced to play Wolverhampton Wanderers away on the following Monday to win the title. Lacking the services of an injured Mick Jones, a fatigued United lost 2-1 to Wolves at Molineux, which just a draw would have given them, the second half to the "Double". Clarke had not been as prolific as in previous seasons and Peter Lorimer had top scored, with Clarke collecting fifteen.
1972-73 was another season of disappointment for Leeds and for Clarke, as Leeds dropped to third in the League and provided one of the all-time FA Cup shocks when they were beaten 1-0 at Wembley in the Final by Second Division Sunderland. The disappointment did not stop there as United lost in the Final of the European Cup-Winners' Cup, with AC Milan, with the help of a biased and bought referee, winning 1-0 over a depleted United, with Clarke and several others unavailable. He was top in the Leeds goal scorers list, for the third time, with twenty-six goals. From the ashes of the 1972-73 season rose the phoenix that saw United go twenty-nine games undefeated in the 1973-74 season that gave Clarke his only Football League Championship medal and second to Mick Jones as United's top goal scorer with sixteen goals.
The 1974-75 season saw United struggle after the departure of Don Revie and the forty-four days of disaster that was the reign of Brian Clough, before Jimmy Armfield was able to salvage something from the ruins by leading United to the European Cup Final in Paris, and finish ninth in the League. Once again United were denied in a European Final by some dubious decisions by a referee, with Clarke being the subject of a clear penalty as he was scythed down from behind by Beckenbauer in the act of scoring. He again led the Leeds scorers for the fourth time with twenty-two goals and he added his fourteenth England cap to his collection.
Clarke was second to Duncan McKenzie in United's scoring list with thirteen goals as Leeds consolidated in fifth position of the First Division in 1975-76, and he added his two final England caps to bring his collection to sixteen with appearances in the European Cup qualifiers against Czechoslovakia and Portugal. 1974-75 saw United in tenth spot as Joe Jordan topped the scorers for United with Clarke getting seven, as injuries started to punctuate his career. In his final season at Leeds injuries again took their toll as Leeds finished ninth and Hankin led their scorers with Clarke scoring just four from nine starts and two games from the bench.
He joined Barnsley as Player-Manager in June 1978 for £45,000 and got them promoted from Division Four at his first attempt in 1978-79, scoring twelve times in thirty-four games. The Oakwell crowds increased as their confidence in the Tykes grew. Clarke invested wisely in new players, but in general would have been disappointed in finishing eleventh as he contributed three goals in thirteen games before he hung up his boots in September 1980. In the 1980-81 season his team came together and promotion to the Second Division was achieved, but Clarke was not there to see it as he had returned to Elland Road to take over from Jimmy Adamson as Manager on 16th September 1980 and took his Coach Barry Murphy and Chief Scout Martin Wilkinson with him, leaving Norman Hunter to become Player-Manager and ensure their promotion.
United had been in decline for several seasons and Clarke managed to stabilise a team that had won only one of its first nine games of the 1980-81 season and by working on the defence turned around their fortunes to ensure a creditable ninth spot in the final table. However, despite the disastrous purchase of Peter Barnes, it was a lack of goals that caused his downfall as he acquired Frank Worthington just a little too late for his nine goals to prevent the club's relegation to the Second Division at season's end and Clarke fell on his sword on 25th June 1982. After further management spells at Scunthorpe United, Barnsley he retired in 1990.
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