31st March 2012, is the 30th anniversary of Dave Clement’s sad and untimely death. For many younger Rangers fans his name is associated with the never to be forgotten 1975-76 team that came so agonizingly close to winning the League Championship but, for those of us old enough to have seen Dave play regularly, he was without any shadow of a doubt one of the all-time Rangers greats – a superb all-round player who could always be relied upon to deliver his very best, right from his debut in 1967 until his last game for Rangers in May 1979.
Chris Guy pays tribute to one of the very best of that select band of players who have graduated from the Rangers youth team to play international football for their country.
Dave signed professional forms for the club in July 1965, but didn’t make his first team debut until a month after our League Cup triumph in April 1967 in a 5-1 home victory over Scunthorpe United. In goal for Scunthorpe that day was Ray Clemence and, by strange quirks of fate, Clemence was also in goal nine years later in March 1976 when Dave made his England debut v Wales in a friendly in Wrexham and again in November 1978 when Dave made his 400th league appearance for Rangers versus Liverpool.
In his first game for the R’s, 19-year-old Dave wore the number 5 shirt for the only time in his Rangers career – the number 2 shirt is the one that he will always be associated with in the minds of Rangers fans. By the start of the following 1967-68 season, in which Rangers won the second of their back-to-back promotions and became the first team to achieve this post-war, Dave was in the first team for the opening game at Portsmouth and went on to make 30 league appearances in total that season.
(1967-68 QPR Squad photograph – Dave Clement is middle row, to the left of goalkeeper Mike Kelly)
In 1968-69, Rangers embarked on their first ever season in the top flight. Dave started 17 games that season, alternating between right and left-back. He scored his first ever first team goal for the R’s on 29th January in a 3-2 defeat at Tottenham. Also that season, Dave would play with Ian Gillard for the first time. They would go on to appear an incredible 264 times together for the club as probably our all-time strongest full-back pairing. Although both played for England around the same period in 1975-76, unfortunately they did not ever appear together in the same England national side.
After Rangers’ relegation following only one season in the top flight, Dave then played in 32 games the following season with a credible 5 goals, all scored in a purple patch before Christmas 1969. Dave embarked on a remarkable feat of playing in every game in the league and cup over the next two seasons, proving that he was one of the fittest and most dedicated professionals in the game. In a 1973 interview with Michael Wale, Dave stated that even when off-duty he liked to play squash to keep fit.
In the 1972-73 season Rangers were promoted back to the top flight after a four-year absence with Dave scoring in the 2-0 victory over Fulham in our final home game in front of over 22,000 fans – a season in which our average gate was a disappointing 14,714.
Rangers well and truly put the Division One nightmare experience of 1968-69 behind them in 1973-74 and Dave was an integral part of Gordon Jago’s side that won admirers for their stylish football and finished 8th in the table and highest placed London club. Within two years Dave was getting recognition as part of our greatest ever sides under the tutelage of Dave Sexton in 1975-76. He was rewarded with his first England cap, coming on as substitute at half-time against Wales in March 1976.
Dave made a further 4 full appearances for England against Wales again, Italy (also twice) and Holland. One of the games against Italy in Rome in November 1976 was a World Cup Finals Qualifier. It was one of the biggest games for the national team in many years, as England had not qualified for the 1974 finals held in West Germany. In his autobiography, Stan Bowles remembers Dave looking around the terraces and saying: “look at that lot !” whilst viewing the vast banks of baying Romans. Stan said that Dave actually froze: “I could see the look of terror on his face”. Dave would soon experience more of this type of intense atmosphere as Rangers entered their first European campaign.
The 1976-77 season would end in being a disappointing one for the R’s in the hunt for both the League and the UEFA Cups. Rangers came up just short, losing over two legs plus a replay to Aston Villa in the Semi-Finals of the League Cup and in the UEFA Cup they reached the Quarter-Finals after beating Brann Bergen, Slovan Bratislava and the famous 1 FC Cologne side of Germany in the 3rd round first-leg – one of Loftus Road’s most memorable nights as Rangers beat Cologne 3-0.
Dave’s run down the right wing that set up Stan Bowles for the third Rangers goal versus Cologne was an archetypal Clement type move that created so many Rangers goals during Dave’s career. He scored 28 times in a total of 472 appearances for the club. An admirable total for a right-back and I do not recall any defender playing for any side who looked as confident going forward as Dave did.
In the second leg in West Germany, Don Masson scored an early goal to put Rangers 4-0 up on aggregate and to appear to be cruising. However, the Germans were a good side and hit back with three goals before half-time. Dave then did something totally out of character. He was pulled down by his shirt and allegedly spat at by Cologne veteran Hannes Lohr one minute before half-time. Dave was understandably irate and lashed out with his fist. Lohr got away with it and Dave was sent off. I guess Dave “fought the Lohr and the Lohr won”. In the second-half, playing just Stan Bowles upfront, Rangers conceded only one more goal with Phil Parkes playing a blinder to see the club go through on the away goals rule after a 4-1 defeat on the night.
For the Quarter-Finals, with Dave out suspended due to his sending off, another great night ensued at Loftus Road with a 3-0 first leg win against AEK Athens and their massed ranks of local Greek supporters, many of whom were in the Ellerslie Road Stand. Rangers were very confident of going through, but in a hostile atmosphere in Greece in the second leg, Rangers were to lose 3-0 on the night and tumbled out of the competition on penalties, with Dave Webb and Peter Eastoe missing crucial kicks.
Sadly, this was to prove to be the end of an era for this Rangers team. Manager Dave Sexton left at the end of the season to join Manchester United as the replacement for Tommy Docherty. His number two, Frank Sibley, took over as Rangers manager and a season of struggle in 1977-78 meant that Rangers only stayed up by a single point, with Sibley resigning at the end of the season. Dave had a frustrating season, with Don Shanks keeping him out of the team for portions of it. It was Dave’s testimonial year and his testimonial match was staged on the Friday evening before the FA Cup Final with Rangers winning 4-2 versus Sexton’s Manchester United. Sadly it was a poorly attended game, with many fans not going due to the disappointing season that had just ended.
1978-79 was to be another poor season with Rangers not escaping the drop this time. Dave’s 476th and final appearance of a remarkable career at the club was the final match of the season against Ipswich Town at Loftus Road on a Friday night in May 1979. It was a depressing evening. The already relegated team managed by the newly appointed Tommy Docherty, lost 4-0. In this final appearance for the club, Dave was playing in the same line-up as Clive Allen, whose dad Les, he had played with in his first ever appearance for the club back in 1967. His last goal for the club was in a 1-1 draw away at Spurs at White Hart Lane on 14th April, coincidently the same ground where he had scored his first, first team goal ten years previously.
In June 1979, Dave left to join Bolton Wanderers for a £170,000 transfer fee where he made 33 appearances over two seasons. He and his young family couldn’t settle in the North and he moved back to London to join Fulham where he made 18 appearances. Dave would regularly return as a spectator to Loftus Road whenever Fulham weren’t playing. He then joined Wimbledon where he made 9 appearances, scoring 2 goals, before he sustained a broken leg in October 1981.
Doctors feared that the break might end his career, although in an interview in early 1982, Dave stated that he hoped to keep on playing for a few more years. Sadly depression took a hold of him and the stress caused by his injury led him tragically to take his life on 31st March 1982 at his father-in-laws flat in Battersea. Dave committed suicide by poisoning himself with weed killer and he had also stabbed himself. The official verdict at the inquest into Dave’s death stated that a combination of Dave’s worries about his career and the fact that he thought he was suffering from cancer caused him to take his own life.
Dave’s family had also suffered another tragedy in 1979 when his 24-year-old brother Trevor was killed with a knife by a jealous mistress. In 2006 his brother Lee was murdered at the age of 55 and his body not discovered for five years until the murderer eventually confessed to the crime. On a happier note, Dave’s widow Pat eventually was re-married to Mike Kelly, the old Rangers goalkeeper.
Dave’s death should really have been a turning point in how the mental health of players was dealt with when it comes to career threatening injuries but, as we have learned with the recent tragedy to Gary Speed and other cases like Dean Windass and Stan Collymore, three decades on it seems that many players are still suffering in silence.
A memorial match for Dave’s family was arranged and, in the week leading up to his beloved Rangers first ever FA Cup Final appearance in May 1982, a QPR X1 beat a Dave Clement X1 by 6 goals to 2. A who’s who of Queen’s Park Rangers F.C. turned out for Dave, the entire Cup Final team played minus Gary Waddock and the Dave Clement X1 featured Dave’s former team mates including Phil Parkes, Ian Gillard, Tony Hazell, Gerry Francis, Dave Webb, Stan Bowles, Frank McLintock and Mick Leach, who would also die tragically young some 10 years later.
I was lucky enough to meet Dave as a seven-year-old at the QPR Open Day at West London Stadium, Wormwood Scrubs in August 1978. Dave being the gentleman that he was made sure my younger sister Tracy and I were lifted over a barrier to have a photo taken with him and to get his autograph. It’s a treasured photo of a great professional. Too often the word ‘legend’ is bandied around in this era. Players who have barely been at a club for a season or two are often labeled as such. Dave Clement however was a true Queen’s Park Rangers legend, someone who always carried himself in the right way, befitting of our hooped shirt and the national team. His 476 first team appearances total has only been bettered by Tony Ingham with 548 first team appearances. In this day and age neither player’s record is likely to be beaten.
I’m pretty sure we will never see his like again, a full-back with an engine like he had, a magnificent turn of speed, able to get up and down the touchline, acting as practically a back-up right winger in the mid-1970’s, “total football” style of Dave Sexton’s side. Strong in the tackle and with a powerful shot to match, legend has it that a 30-yard screamer that Dave scored versus Aston Villa in 1976-77 would match anything that has ever been seen at Loftus Road.
That goal was not captured on film, but another of Dave’s great goals from that same season was – away at West Ham in the League Cup:
Rest in Peace Dave. 30 years on – gone, but never to be forgotten by Rangers fans
Dave married Pat Walker in June 1970 in Wandsworth and they had two sons who both went on to have careers in football.
Their eldest son Paul was a youth team coach at Chelsea from 1995 until 2000. He then joined Fulham and combined his role there with that of assistant manager to the Republic of Ireland where he was the number two to his father’s old Rangers colleague, Don Givens. He returned to Chelsea in 2006, initially as under-16 manager. He progressed to youth team manager and was then promoted to reserve team manager, thus continuously coaching many of the players that he had started working with as youngsters back in 2006.
When Guus Hiddink took charge, Paul got his break and started working with the Chelsea first team and when Carlo Ancelotti became manager he was made permanent member 1st team coach. With the arrival of Andre Villas-Boas in the summer of 2011 however, he became one of the first of the coaching staff to move on. He then joined Blackburn briefly as assistant manager to Steve Keane in October. His first game was the away match at Loftus Road. He was on a short term contract though and accepted the opportunity to re-join Carlo Ancelotti as his number 2 at Paris St Germain in January 2012.
Dave and Pat’s younger son Neil was born in 1978 and started off as youth team player with Chelsea, making one first team appearance v West Ham in December 1996. He joined WBA in 2000 and went on to have ten very successful years with the Baggies, making 264 league appearances and scoring 21 goals before having to retire through a knee injury. On 4th May 2008, Neil was a member of the WBA team that was awarded the Championship Trophy at Loftus Road after a 2-0 win.
My own memories of Paul and Neil’s father are still vivid. He was a terrific player and, together with Ian Gillard, Gerry Francis and Mick Leach, formed the homegrown backbone of the 1975-76 team. Manager Dave Sexton had enormous respect for Dave and in his testimonial programme in 1978 was quoted as saying: “A lot of good things happened to me during what was a most enjoyable period as manager at Rangers. One of the nicest was to see Dave Clement win recognition as an England international at the highest level. He is a wonderful example to youngsters coming into the club. I can honestly say he never gave me a moment’s bother during my time at the club.”
Sexton mentioned the influence that Frank McLintock had on Dave’s game whilst he was at Rangers and, in an article in ‘Shoot’ magazine soon after Dave moved to Bolton, he acknowledged McLintock as being one of the biggest influences on his career as well as stating that his biggest disappointment had been Rangers losing the Championship so narrowly in May 1976. A few months prior to that Michael Wale interviewed Dave for the match programme v Newcastle in the FA Cup 3rd Round and he described Dave as: “Rangers’ secret weapon. A full-back with the speed of a winger and the shot of a centre forward……..he is one of our most complete players.”
My thanks go to Hywel Jones for his assistance with supplying some of the images that accompany this article and also to Yvonne Guy for the picture of her son and daughter, Chris and Tracy Guy, at the 1978 Rangers Open Day. Thanks also to Gordon Macey for the essential Rangers data contained in all his books and the biggest thanks of all go to Chris Guy for an excellent write up on one of the all-time greatest Rangers players.