ALLAN CLARKE celebrates his 69th birthday later this week – and that number is certainly a fateful one in terms of his goal-laden and glittering career with Leeds United.
The natural born goalscorer, arguably the most gifted marksman to have ever donned the white jersey of Leeds, will not forget the summer of ’69 in a hurry – with his first on-pitch introduction to United fans coming on August 2, 1969.
It arrived in what is now known as the FA Community Shield – or Charity Shield in old money – with Elland Road staging the seasonal curtain-raiser between reigning Division One champions Leeds and FA Cup holders Manchester City.
Clarke had come to Leeds in a British record transfer deal of £165,000 from Leicester City – just 12 months on from the Black Country assassin breaking the previous record after switching from Fulham to the Foxes for £150,000.
After making a name for himself on England’s summer tour of South Africa, Clarke, who came to be universally known as Sniffer, set about domestic business back home and while his debut ended without a goal – a winners’ medal was a nice compensation.
United ran out 2-1 winners over City in front of 39,835 at Elland Road, with the hosts going one better in a 3-1 victory the following Saturday on home soil against Tottenham Hotspur, with Clarke this time finding the net in Leeds’ Division One opener.
The bulk of the Elland Road crowd came to take their first look at star attraction Clarke against City, who beat the striker’s former club Leicester 1-0 in the 1969 FA Cup final at Wembley thanks to a Neil Young goal.
Clarke lined up alongside Mick Jones, the start of a legendary forward partnership at Leeds, although City were not without their stars of their own with their ranks including England internationals Colin Bell, Mike Summerbee and Francis Lee. Neither Clarke nor Jones found the net that afternoon, although their menace and intent was clear to see, with the former going close on three occasions.
Don Revie received the Manager of the Year trophy from representatives of Bell’s Scotch Whisky ahead of the kick-off and once the action got underway, some first-half flashes from Clarke were likely to have been as soothing to the United boss as a dram of two of the finest malt.
In particular, his link play with Jones, withdrawn at the interval due to a slight back strain, augured extremely well for the nine-month seasonal slog ahead in what was an epic, if ultimately disappointing, campaign of 1969-70.
Clarke, assigned with adding a clinical extra attacking dimension to what was already a prodigiously talented Leeds line-up, went close with a fierce shot and a header before the interval, despite being tightly marked by visiting duo Mike Doyle and Tommy Booth.
Unfortunately for Clarke, City custodian Joe Corrigan was on his mettle and made two fine saves and when he was not able to thwart the forward on the restart, the woodwork was on hand. With Leeds on the front foot, it was a case of gradually wearing down City’s defences and they were finally breached in the 54th minute when they took a deserved lead.
Clarke found Johnny Giles on the left and the Irishman’s raking long ball was latched onto by Billy Bremner, whose astute knock-down across the six-yard box found the unmarked Eddie Gray, who slotted the ball past Corrigan.
Three minutes later, Leeds doubled their tally following a free-kick on the left when substitute Peter Lorimer was fouled by Booth.
Giles’ floated centre found its way to the impressive Jack Charlton, who nodded home to make it 2-0 in trademark fashion.
That strike ended the game as a meaningful contest, although Joe Mercer’s visitors did go close to reducing the arrears following a goalmouth scramble with Lee going close.
City finally grabbed a consolation in the final minute when Gary Sprake misjudged a corner kick and Bell fired home. But it was the hosts’ afternoon with United president, the Earl of Harewood, presenting captain Bremner with the shield.
Leeds United 2
(Gray 55, Charlton 58)
Manchester City 1 (Bell 90)
FA Charity Shield, August 2, 1969, Elland Road.
Leeds United: Sprake, Reaney, Cooper, Bremner, Charlton, Hunter, Madeley, Clarke, Jones (Lorimer), Giles, Gray.
Manchester City: Corrigan, Book, Pardoe, Doyle, Booth, Oakes, Summerbee, Bell, Law, Young, Coleman.
Referee: KH Burns.