Clive Clark, our very own version of George Best and ‘Will O’ the Wisp’ winger during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s has sadly passed away. Perhaps this recent news was no great shock because he had been in ill health for quite some time and was receiving 24-hour a day medical care.
In my opinion, Clive Clark was the greatest winger to play for Queen’s Park Rangers in the last 60 years. Only Dave Thomas has claims to be his better.
Obviously as a Third Division club in that era we could not possibly hang on to such a terrific talent and he was sold to First Division West Bromwich Albion in January 1961 where he became a star at the Hawthorns in the top flight for eight years, playing over 300 first team games and scoring 80 goals. This transfer cost the R’s promotion to Division 2 in that 1960/61 season. No doubt about it!
My personal recollections of Clive’s performances are legion, but the top memories that stand out in my mind are as follows:
1. The wonder solo goal at Loftus Road in a Division 3 fixture against Tranmere Rovers on 3rd March 1960 where he did a mazy run from the half-way line, beating at least five players before cutting in to unleash a powerful low shot at the School End, this helping Rangers to chalk up a record 9-2 win. The spectators in the old wooden Ellerslie Road Stand were so enraptured that they were still on their feet applauding this goal when the teams resumed kick-off! He repeated a similar type effort, but not as classic the following week at Watford when he ran through the hapless Hornets defence like the proverbial dose of salts to hammer in the third goal in a 3-0 QPR victory.
2. Those brilliant left-wing runs on display against Coventry City (FA Cup 26/11/60 – R’s lost 1-2) and the Christmas home league game against Bristol City (27/12/60 – 1-1 draw) where upon brutal and cynical tackles were the only method of stopping him.
3. The League Cup Final of 1967 when playing for West Brom, he scared the living daylights out of us in the first-half with his devastating wing play and two typically clinical goals.
The biggest mystery to me and I suspect others of my generation, is how he was never a regular for the England football team? Perhaps his face did not fit with the “Blazers” at the FA and most certainly by the time Alf Ramsey came along, circa 1964 with his “wingless wonders” system, Clive’s chance had gone.
In his first spell at Loftus Road (1958-1961), Clive Clark played 64 first team games and scored 7 goals. In his second spell in 1969, he suffered injury problems. He played 9 games (including 1 as sub) and scored one goal.
Subsequently after leaving the R’s in 1969 he ended his career playing for the likes of Preston North End, Southport, Telford United, had a spell in the USA before finally calling it a day in 1976 with Skegness Town.
God bless you Clive – R.I.P. You were a sprinkling of stardust on Queen’s Park Rangers latter post-war history. It was an honour and a privilege to have seen you play.
Bernard Lambert (Kerrins)
I came across the following mention of Clive Clark which had been written by the ‘Ranger’ in the ‘Shepherds Bush Pie’ section of the Bournemouth programme, dated 17th January 1959:
‘It’s a long way from Yorkshire to London, especially for a teenager, and young Clive Clark confessed to me that he finds the vastness of our huge metropolis rather perplexing. Perfectly happy is Clive at Loftus Stadium, and he’s living in nice comfortable digs, but he admits to finding London in complete contrast to Yorkshire.
I’ll warrant that about six months longer in London and Clive will have forgotten that he once experienced moments of homesickness. For London, despite its size, is a friendly place and is inhabited by most friendly folk.’
In December 1960 the new Rangers Chairman George Wodehouse, described Clive’s wonder goal against Tranmere as; “the best I have ever seen”.
With Clive’s reputation rapidly rising, later that month the editor wrote about it in the Bristol City programme; ‘Success has bred publicity as well as confidence. Offers have flowed in for players and last week Rangers insured Clive Clark – 20-years-old last Monday – for ¬£17,500. He is the first player in the 75 years’ history of the club, as far as I can gather, who has been insured like this.’
He was then snapped up by West Brom a few weeks later and it was noted by the programme editor at the end of January that; ‘I hear that Clive Clark had a blinder against Preston on his West Bromwich Albion debut. His new club are unbeaten since he went into the side and BBC “Sports Report” last Saturday labelled Clive as “a future international”.
Clive Clark was born in Leeds in December 1940. The son of a professional boxer, Clive was initially a Rugby player who switched to soccer at the age of 15. His first league clubs were Huddersfield Town and Leeds United.
Rangers signed him in August 1958 and he made his first team debut the following month at Bournemouth on 6th September. West Brom snapped him up in January 1961, but he was to return to QPR in June 1969, only to move on to Preston North End around six months later. He later played in the USA and coached for a while in England.
I remember very clearly his two first-half goals against us at Wembley in 1967 and later that year on Wednesday 3rd May, he guested for an International X1 captained by Ron Springett, against a Rangers side in aid of Tony Ingham’s Testimonial.
Clive Clark sadly passed away on 1st May at the age of 73 after suffering many years of ill-health which had confined him to a nursing home in Filey, near Scarborough.
Rest in Peace.
(My thanks to Gordon Macey for his assistance)