Allan Clarke was born in Short Heath on July31st, 1946. He did what he did best for 17 years - sticking the ball in the back of the net. he did that 275 times for the 5 clubs he played for. From humble beginnings at Fellows Park with Walsall he went on to play for Fulham, Leicester City, Leeds United and Barnsley. This came in a remarkable club career in which he played over 500 games. Its a fine record that he is rightly immensely proud of. He also had 12 years in management at Barnsley ( twice.) Leeds United, Scunthorpe United and Lincoln City.
It was clear from his chat that he is also proud of his local roots and his time spent with Walsall FC before he made it to the big time, "I'm from Short Heath one of five brothers who all played professional football I played for Birmingham South East Schools. Aston Villa were interested in signing me. Very interested. Their manager at the time, Joe Mercer, would give me two free tickets in the last year of my schooling and my father and I would attend. At one point I was going to sign but there was one factor that stopped me from doing so - it was 2 or 3 bus rides away from Short Heath."
Allan contested that it was Ron Jukes alone who discovered him all those years ago. "Well he would say that." He quickly replied when asked as such. "I was also scouted by West Bromwich Albion, the team I supported as a boy." There were trials and he had to impress to be given his chance and he gave an insight as to how times changed over the years. "I don't like politics in football. Our Wayne, who was a lot younger than me, was given a chance because he was Allan Clarke's brother. I don't like that."
Allan left school in 1961 and joined a club with less difficult bus journeys - Walsall. "In those days you were taken on the ground staff as they called it. There were 8 of us taken on that year. One of them was Nick Atthey. He and I joined the very same day. My duties included boot cleaning and toilet cleaning etc. There wasn't too much actual football to start with. Bill Moore was manager when I joined."
"Now here's something that may amaze you. When I left school I was just 4ft 5 inches tall. Later on when I d made it in the game I was 6ft and half an inch. Because of my size and the competition for places and the fact there was only two teams - the first team and the reserves - Nick Atthey and myself were sent out to play in a works league." Allan did get to play regular reserve team football in his second season. He signed professional forms in the summer of 1963.
Allan made his league debut on October 10th, 1963. He recalls, "It was a Tuesday night game at Fellows Park. Here's me at 17 and a half who's up against a big defender who is 32/33 years of age who kicked hell out of me!" Match reports from this game, that ended in a 1-1 draw, suggested he was pushed in the penalty area but no penalty was given. Alf Wood replaced Bill Moore the following month. He had to wait until December 28th for his next outing - a home game to Watford -where he partnered Ray Wiggin up front. There were 3 more appearances for him to experience that season. During that first season , he was called to one side. "Alf Wood took me out of the action for my own good. I was absolutely shattered at the end of each day with the training, so much so that was in bed at 8pm each night."
1964-5 was his first full season - and what a season it was! He failed to score in the first 4 games of that campaign then it all suddenly took off for him. He opened his Saddlers account on September 11th 1964 at Shrewsbury in a 1-3 defeat. The following game saw him find the net in a 1-4 home defeat to Workington Town but just a few days later he hammered home a hat trick in a 4-1 win against Reading. So by this time the lanky striker, growing in height all the while, was making his mark.
In total that season he had plundered 23 goals from his 43 league games. What was remarkable is that it was in a struggling side where the team ended in 19th spot. Allan was scoring for fun. He got the goals in a 2-0 win at Reading, both goals in a 2-2 draw at Grimsby, the 2 goals in the 2-1 home win against Exeter City, 2 in a 3-3 home draw to Hull and 2 more at Luton in a 3-2 win.
In the summer of 1965, manager Ray Shaw made a shrewd signing by snapping up experienced striker George Kirby who had been around a bit and was big and powerful and could look after himself. He became an excellent strike partner for young Allan. who quipped, "George Kirby was perfect for me and I learned so much about the game from him and he looked after me. He'd played at the top level with the likes of Everton and Southampton."
He played in the early season FL Cup tie at the Hawthorns and found a remedy to an on-field situation , "I went down with cramp and the trainer inquired if I took salt. Salt? What's salt got to do with it? However I took his advice, starting taking salt and I never suffered with cramp throughout my career again." Regarding the FA Cup victory at Stoke, Allan recalled words spoken before the kick off. "The referee had a word with George Kirby and Maurice Setters of Stoke, 'Gentlemen - are we going to have a quiet afternoon? George replied ,'That's up to Maurice! I recall their keeper ( Bobby Irvine) brought me down in the box and I sent him the wrong way. Their manager, Tony Waddington, never picked him again."
The goals continued to flow and he hit 18 goals in 24 games in the league. Add to that the goals in cup competitions and by the time he was sold to Fulham just before the deadline he had stacked up 23 goals from 31 games. A terrific return. In that season he scored 2 goals in a game again on 7 occasions and it was no surprise that he headed for the First Division. "I had heard that their manager Vic Buckingham wanted to meet me and it was arranged I'd meet up with him at 1pm. I went to the dressing room at 12.30am so I was nice and early and lay down on the treatment table but fell asleep and had to be woken up when he arrived!"
"Fulham had some very good players at that time. Johnny Haynes, the first £100 a week footballer, Bobby Robson, George Cohen as well as younger players like Steve Earle, Les Barrett and John Dempsey." In Allan's first full season at Craven Cottage, he scored 24 First Division goals and 20 on his second. "I started out there on £25 a week basic wage with £10 win bonus. After the goals I had scored I thought I deserved to be on more money. I confided in Bobby Robson and felt I should be on £50. He suggested I go in and ask for £75! We used to get paid weekly, and on the Thursday, which was pay day, we had to go up to where the Cottage is inside the ground to go and collect our wages. Each week I would be arguing with the manager whilst waiting on about my wage demands and some players would simply wait until the Friday to collect theirs when we .were not around."
"For weeks he kept trying to knock me down, suggesting £60 or £65 but I would not budge. Eventually he relented. I asked him why didn't agree sooner and he said that it would have looked better in the eyes of his directors if he had knocked me down. I didn't like that attitude and I never forgot it. Years later in management if, for instance, a striker thought he deserved more, and I did, I'd sanction it."
"Bobby Robson replaced Vic Buckingham and there was speculation that clubs were after me. I spoke to Bobby and he said to me, 'Allan if we are relegated I will let you go, I won't stand in your way.' I had spoken to Leicester City manager Matt Gillies before I met Man United's Matt Busby and Jimmy Murphy. I had already given Leicester my word and told Mr Busby I was signing for Leicester. It was a British transfer record at the time, £150,000. I signed for them in the early hours and it was the day of the FA Cup final between West Brom and Everton. I got back home in time to watch the second half. " After just one season with Leicester he was on the move again.
"We played Manchester City in the FA Cup final and before the match I was told I was going to play in midfield. Midfield? I could not believe it. We lost 0-1 but the sports writers voted me the man of the match, despite being on the losing side and I was given a nice tankard. That transfer moved quickly and once again I broke the British transfer record as Leeds United paid £165,000 for me."
Allan's time at Leeds United is well known and well documented. He won just about everything he could win in the 9 years he had at Elland Road. "We had come close to winning the league three season in a row and The Gaffer ( Don Revie - but I never called him that as I had too much respect for him - to me he was always The Gaffer ) said to us at the end of that season, 'Lads, next season I want you to go all season undefeated. You know we usually have 4 weeks of pre-season training? Well this year we are having 5 weeks of sweat and blood'.
"As it turned out we went the first 29 games of the 1973-4 season unbeaten. We lost to Stoke 3-2. We went on to win the League though and we had some great times in those years. We should have won the FA Cup final against Sunderland. Pete Lorimer should have buried it.'" He was referring to 'that save' by Jim Montgomery that the game is best remembered for.
After 151 goals in 351 games for Leeds he knew his time in the top flight was drawing to a close, but being a man of principle he turned down the chance of a testimonial. "I'd been out with injuries and I could have hung around for another 12 months, got my testimonial and I could have picked up £25,000 or so for that game but I felt I'd have given Leeds United a dis-service. I was losing a bit of pace. I'd always wanted a crack at management and when Barnsley came in with an offer of being their player / manager I took it."
"It didn't bother me dropping down from the First Division to the Fourth. That's something I hate about the modern game. For me it will always be Division 1. 2. 3 and 4. Anybody would have thought football didn't exist before the Premiership came along. They tell me I didn't have a top career because I only played in the First Division!"
Allan had 12 years in management from 1978-1990 which included spells at Leeds United, back to Barnsley for a second spell, Scunthorpe United and finally Lincoln City. Regarding his international career, Alan won 6 caps at U23 level and 19 full caps. " I remember my international debut for the U23's. We beat Wales 8-0 and I scored 4. I remember visiting Fellows Park whilst I was on U23 duty with Alf Ramsey and we went and had a chat with Bill Harrison." Of his full international debut Allan recalled, " I had travelled with the squad for the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico and Alf Ramsey said to me on the eve of the Czechoslovakia game , ' Allan, you are starting . I think you are ready.' Ready? I've been in squads for the last 3 years. In a team meeting before that game, Alf asked us if we are awarded a penalty, who would like to take it? I politely waited a few seconds thinking one of the more senior players would want it but it fell silent. I told him I would take it. I found out later that whilst I was preparing to take that penalty Alf turned to Les Coker, who was my trainer at Leeds and asked, 'Will Allan score?' 'Will Allan score? answered Les, 'I'll put my mortgage on it!' As it happened I sent the keeper the wrong way and we won 1-0."
Allan Clarke - the teenage goal machine at Fellows Park.