- Category : Football Player
- Type : MS
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : LAX The Alpha 1
Allan John Clarke (born 31 July 1946 in Short Heath, Willenhall, Staffordshire) was one of English football's greatest goalscorers who shot to fame in the much-admired and feared Leeds United team of the 1970s.
Clarke started his career at Walsall and made his debut aged 16, then moved to Fulham. Such was his early promise that Leicester City then paid £150,000 for Clarke in 1968 when he had yet to play at the highest level. He spent just one season at Leicester City, reaching his apex in an appearance in the 1969 FA Cup Final which Leicester City lost 1-0 to Manchester City through a Neil Young goal. Weeks later, he was on his way to Leeds United when Don Revie offered £165,000 to Leicester City, and so began one of the deadliest goalscoring careers in English football.
Clarke peaked at Elland Road and he scored 26 goals in his first season (and earned the predatory nickname "Sniffer", which stuck throughout his career) as Leeds United chased a dream "treble" of League championship, FA Cup and European Cup though ultimately they won nothing. Clarke hit the post in the FA Cup Final at Wembley (with strike partner Mick Jones following up to score the rebound) and then went on a mazy run through several Chelsea defenders in the replay to set up a goal for Jones again, but Leeds United still lost. The title had already gone to Everton on the last day of the season, and the European Cup campaign ended with defeat to Celtic in the semi-final.
The summer of 1970 gave Clarke an opportunity to take some consolation from an eventful but ultimately fruitless club season - he was called up for England's 1970 World Cup squad in Mexico, despite being uncapped, and made his début for his country against Czechoslovakia in the heat and pressure of a World Cup first round match. Clarke scored the only goal of the match from the penalty spot.
Clarke became an England regular thereafter and was in the Leeds United side which won its second Fairs Cup in 1971 - scoring in the final against Juventus - while again missing out on the League Championship in the last week of the season and losing to lowly Colchester United in the fifth round of the FA Cup (after which he was told by club medics that he was suffering from pleurisy). But in 1972, his place in Leeds United's folklore would arrive.
His most famous goal
Leeds United reached the FA Cup Final again in the competition's centenary year and at Wembley they faced Arsenal, the Cup holders. In a tight and largely unexciting game, Clarke threw himself at a Jones cross midway through the second half, and the diving header nestled into the corner of the net. He had hit the crossbar with another diving header earlier in the game. Leeds United won 1-0 and Clarke finally had an FA Cup winner's medal. Naturally for Leeds United, there still had to be some sourness to temper the sweet, and they lost the League title and the chance of emulating Arsenal's "double" when they lost to Wolverhampton Wanderers two days after winning the FA Cup.
1973 - a bad year
Clarke played again at Wembley - and lost - when Leeds United were surprisingly beaten 1-0 by Sunderland in the 1973 FA Cup Final. Later that year, he was in the England team which needed to beat Poland at Wembley to qualify for the 1974 World Cup. A goal down, England were awarded a penalty from which Clarke coolly scored, but he was among many England players thwarted by the charmed and brilliant Polish goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski. A 1-1 draw was not enough and England did not go to the '74 World Cup.
Domestic winner, European loser
Clarke was again Leeds United's top scorer as he finally earned a league title medal in 1974 as Leeds United sauntered to the crown on a record run of 29 opening matches without defeat. The following year he won his 19th and final England cap - he scored a healthy ten goals during his international career - and helped Leeds United to the European Cup Final.
Leeds United lost the match to Bayern Munich 2-0 and were denied a clear penalty when Clarke was hacked down by Franz Beckenbauer in the penalty area. This was the last time the great 1960s and 1970s Leeds United generation would be in contention for an honour in the game. The Revie side started to break up - their manager had left in 1974 for the England job - and Clarke himself left the club in 1978 after 351 appearances and 151 goals, with a knee injury curtailing his ability to play at top-flight level. His last major act in a Leeds United shirt was to score in the 1977 FA Cup Semi-Final, but the game ended 2-1 to Manchester United. He also scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory for Leeds against Manchester United in 1978 just months before he left Leeds.
Management and beyond
He went to Barnsley as player-manager in June 1978 and under him they won promotion in 1979, an impressive enough achievement for Leeds United to ask their most famous goalscorer to come back as manager in September 1980. This proved a bad move, as sadly, Clarke also became remembered by Leeds United fans as the man who took the club to relegation in 1982. He had another less successful spell at Barnsley between July 1985 and November 1989 when he was dismissed with the club third from bottom in the Second Division, and also at Scunthorpe United from 1982 to August 1984 when he resigned. He was very briefly Lincoln City manager for six months but he was sacked on 30 November 1990 to be replaced by Steve Thompson. He has not been employed in football since.
Clarke has pursued business interests in more recent years through being a travelling salesman for MTS Nationwide, a firm based at Wakefield, West Yorkshire. He has, however, remained an outspoken critic of the game, and like all the Leeds United players of the Revie era, has remained fiercely protective of the reputation of both the manager and the club. He has become crippled by arthritic knees in recent years.
Clarke was the second of five brothers to play the professional game - four of whom played for Walsall across three decades. Frank was the only Clarke brother not to represent Walsall, playing for Shrewsbury Town, Queens Park Rangers, Ipswich Town and Carlisle United; Derek played for Walsall, Oxford United and Orient; Kelvin played for Walsall; and the youngest sibling, Wayne Clarke, played for Walsall towards the end of his career after very successful spells with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Birmingham City and Everton (where he won the League championship in 1987). He also represented England at schoolboy level.
He is now living in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire.