Allan (Sniffer) Clarke
Born Short Heath, Willenhall on 31st July 1946.
DATE OF BIRTH
31 July 1946 (age 69)
PLACE OF BIRTH
YEARS Team Apps (Gls)
1963–1966 Walsall 72 (41)
1966–1968 Fulham 86 (45)
1968–1969 Leicester City 36 (12)
1969–1978 Leeds United 273 (110)
1978–1980 Barnsley 47 (15)
1970–1975 England 19 (10)
1980–1982 Leeds United
1983–1984 Scunthorpe United
1990 Lincoln City
Allan John Clarke. Born 31st July 1946 in Short Heath, Willenhall, Staffordshire. He obtained the nickname ‘Sniffer’ for the way he scored his goals! The inference being that he could sniff out a goal, but if you went down and stood on the Laundry Bridge on an afternoon, you would see him out on the pitch with the manager and some tyres tied around the goals and he would be hitting the ball from different areas around the pitch and he would have to get so many in the tyres before that days training finished. I watched him many times doing this, so he worked very hard at being able to do that (score in the top and bottom corners of the net) He is a former professional footballer who played in the Football League for Walsall, Fulham, Leicester City, Leeds United and Barnsley during his career. He also won 19 international caps playing for England and 6 under 23 caps.
Clarke started his career at Walsall making his debut at the tender age of 16 in 1963. He moved to Fulham FC in March 1966 in a transfer deadline deal, for £37,500. Such was his early promise that Leicester City then paid £150,000 for Clarke in 1968. He spent just one season at Leicester City, in which he scored the winning goal in the 1969 FA Cup semi final, knocking out the team he had supported as a boy – West Bromwich Albion. He also starred in the final, which Leicester City lost 1–0 to Manchester City.
Clarke came from a footballing family, his brothers Wayne, Frank, Derek and Kelvin played League Soccer, but he was the pick of the crop. He represented Birmingham Schools and South East Staffordshire Boys before joining Walsall as an apprentice on leaving school 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 F.A. Cup Final loss to Manchester City, which co-incided 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 he was 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 goalscoring 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 F.A. 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 goals. 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-two games, excluding the Charity Shield, that season. They lost to Celtic 3-1 on aggregate in the European Cup Semi-Final, and eventually fell away from the League title as Everton went from strength to strength. However, due to the fixtures being crammed into a smaller period, due to the timing of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, even after the League programme had been completed, United still had an FA Cup Final Replay to contest before the end of April. The Final was United’s first in five years. They had played nine games in twenty-two days as Don Revie led them onto the pitch to face Chelsea, at Wembley, on 11th April 1970. In a game in which Leeds totally outclassed Chelsea, they appeared to have the game won, with only minutes left. Billy Bremner played in Johnny Giles on the wing and from the Irishman’s cross Clarke headed the ball against the post, but the ever-alert Mick Jones was on hand to force the rebound low and hard into the corner of the net. Leeds looked to have gained some tangible result for a season of high endeavour, but it was not to be. Chelsea then went up the other end of the pitch and scored to send the game into a replay at Old Trafford, a game in which Clarke played a major part in, and a game which was revered in F.A. Cup history. Leeds took the lead through Jones. Clarke had received the ball, skipped past several challenges and put Jones clear, near the half-way line. Jones brushed aside tackles from the Chelsea defence before dribbling forty yards and placing the ball into the far top corner of the net. Chelsea scored a late goal to force the game into extra-time through Peter Osgood, and David Webb scored in extra-time. Leeds couldn’t recover and Chelsea won the F.A. Cup for the first time. A devasting blow for Leeds to finish with nothing from a season which had promised so much and in which Allan Clarke had top-scored with twenty-six goals for them. However, for several Leeds players, including Clarke, their season was still not at an end, as they went on to represent their countries in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Following on his caps for the England Under-Twenty-Three team, he had appeared for an England XI and scored twice in a 4-0 win over a Mexico XI in Guadalajara on 4th June 1969. He had followed this up in the prelude to the 1970 Mexico World Cup by playing for the England “B” team on 20th May 1970 in a 1-0 win over Columbia in Bogata and also against an Ecuador XI known as Liga Deportiva Universidad which they beat 4-1 in Quito on 24th May 1970, but an England full cap still eluded him. On 11th June 1970 this was rectified, when he made his 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. His second appearance, against East Germany at Wembley on 12th November 1970, brought his second goal and he kept up his International scoring record as he scored from the spot in an European Cup qualifier in a 5-0 win over Malta at Wembley on 12th May 1971. He brought his Cap collection to six as he played in all three Home Internationals in quick succession. He made it four goals in four games when he scored the only goal of the game against Northern Ireland in Belfast on 15th May 1971, but failed to score when he came on as a substitute in the 0-0 draw with Wales at Wembley on 19th May and in the 3-1 win over Scotland also at Wembley on 22nd May 1971. Those games came at the end of another long and once more frustrating and almost unrewarding season at Leeds. He led the Leeds scorers for the second successive season 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. United had suffered another season of disappointments robbed, this time, by referee Ray Tinkler against West Bromwich Albion in April 1971. Clarke scored for Leeds, but Leeds lost 2-1 due to Tinkler failing to spot a clear offside, flagged for by a linesman, but ignored by him. He allowed play to continue and Jeff Astle went on to score to win the game for his team. 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 indeluably into United folklore and their History, when his renowned diving header against Arsenal in the F.A. 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. However, 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 Wolves away on the following Monday to win the title. Lacking the services of an injured Mick Jones, a fatigued United lost 2-1 to Wolverhampton Wanderers 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 F.A. 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 goalscorers list, for the third time, with twenty-six goals. It was towards the end of that season, however, that Clarke was recalled to the England team when he scored twice in a 5-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park on 14th February 1973. He was also in the team at Wembley when England beat Wales 3-0 on 15th May 1973 and Scotland 1-0 on 19th May before scoring against Czechoslovakia in a 1-1 draw in Prague on 27th May. He then played in the World Cup qualifier in Chorzow when England went down to Poland 0-2 on 6th June, but four days later he played in a 2-1 win over USSR in Moscow before bringing his England Caps to thirteen on 14th June 1973 as England lost 0-2 to Italy in Turin and his goal tally remained at seven. From the ashes of the 1972-73 season rose the phoenix that saw United go twenty-nine games undefeated in the season that gave Clarke his only Football League Championship medal and one again saw him second to Mick Jones as United’s top goalscorer with sixteen goals. He also accumulated another three England Caps and scored three more goals, as he scored twice in a 7-0 rout of Austria at Wembley on 26th September 1973, then a penalty in England’s calamitous 1-1 defeat by Poland, which saw England eliminated from the World Cup in the qualifying game at Wembley on 17th October 1973 and he was also in the team beaten 0-2 by Italy at Wembley on 14th November 1973. 1974-75 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 cap to his collection when he played in England’s 0-0 draw at Wembley on 20th November 1974 in a European Cup qualifier. Clarke was second to Duncan McKenzie in United’s scoring list with thirteen goals as Leeds consolidated in fifth position of the First Division, and he added his two final England caps to bring his collection to sixteen with appearances in the European Cup qualifiers against Czechoslovakia in Bratislavia, which was lost 1-2, on 30th October 1974 and his final appearance, as a substitute in a 1-1 draw with Portugal in Lisbon on 19th November 1974. 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. He returned to become Manager of Scunthorpe United on 2nd February 1983 and guided them to promotion from the Fourth Division in fourth spot, at the end of the season. In the close season Clarke brought in several players to bolster the team for the fight to retain Third Division status. Despite eliminating Leeds United in a money-spinning three games in the Third Round of the F.A. Cup, and the purchase of more players as the season progressed, a poor away record meant that relegation ensued and, as the 1984-85 started, a boardroom power struggle saw Clarke and the club Chairman leave. Almost a year later Clarke came back to replace Bobby Collins as Manager of Barnsley in July 1985. His reign was severely restricted by lack of finance and having to sell his better players to balance the books. In his first season of 1985-86, he took them to a creditable twelfth in the Second Division, followed by an eleventh in 1986-87, but a good run in the Cup saw them reach the Fifth Round before being eliminated by Arsenal, 0-2 at Highbury . In 1987/88, they had some fine wins, one being in eliminating First Division West Ham United from the League Cup after winning 5-2 at Upton Park, but in the League they finished a disappointing fourteenth. 1988-89 saw his best season of his second reign at Barnsley, when a fine second half to the season, in which they only lost twice in the last sixteen games, saw the Tykes almost reach the play-offs, while in the F.A. Cup they again reached the Fifth Round of the F.A. Cup before being beaten 0-1 by Everton at Oakwell. Things turned sour the following season and with Barnsley firmly in the relegation places, Clarke was sacked on 8th November 1989. His final fling at Football Management lasted only five months and just eighteen games, when he took over at Lincoln City on 4th June 1990. A poor start to the season saw Clarke dismissed on 30th November 1990, just one hundred and seventy-nine days after his appointment. He still lives in Lincolnshire and has worked as a representative of a ventilation extractor business and is a frequent visitor to Elland Road and supporter of past players events