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Albion mourn Clive 'Chippy' Clark

1 May 2014

Club pay tribute to former winger

ALBION are mourning the loss of former player Clive ‘Chippy’ Clark, who has passed away at the age of 73. 

The left winger was a loyal servant to the club, making 351 starts, two substitute appearances, and scoring 98 goals during eight years at The Hawthorns.

He became Albion’s record signing at the start of 1961 when manager Gordon Clark snapped him up from Queens Park Rangers for £20,000. 

His greatest moments in a Baggies shirt came between 1966 and 1968.

He scored and was instrumental in the 1966 League Cup Final victory over two legs against West Ham.

The following season he topped the Albion scoring chart with an incredible 29 goals.

And in 1968 he netted three times in the club’s run to lifting the FA Cup at Wembley.

Our thoughts are with Clive’s family and friends at this difficult time. 

The club will pay tribute to his career at Sunday week’s final home game of the season against Stoke.

Below is a tribute to Clive’s time at Albion, written by publications editor Dave Bowler.

CLIVE CLARK (1940-2014)

It is a peculiar thing but, while wingers of any kind are the sort of player that sets the pulses racing and the spirit soaring, it is the left winger who has traditionally captured the imagination most of all. Perhaps it is because the bulk of us favour our right side and find those who are of the southpaw – or southpeg – persuasion to be some kind of sorcerer. Whatever the reason, wearing the number 11 shirt in those pre-squad numbering days was always a badge of particular honour. 

Wingers have always been a focal point of Albion tradition, going all the way back to Billy Bassett, through the likes of Tommy Glidden and Stan Wood, then George Lee and Frank Griffin, FA Cup-winning combinations both. But those were from the days when all teams had wingers, two of them, by Act of Parliament. By the time Clive Clark was embarrassing defenders, the footballing world had turned, Alf Ramsey had won the World Cup with the ‘wingless wonders’ and a puritanical era of utilitarian midfielders was upon us.

Clark had of course been dazzling the Throstletariat before that 1966 watershed and was so deeply entrenched as a pivotal part of the Albion that no mere whim of fashion could see him out of the side.

Chippy had become Albion’s record signing at the start of 1961 when manager Gordon Clark snapped him up from Queens Park Rangers for £20,000. As befits a man on whom so much cash was expended, Clark went straight into the side, making his debut on 14th January 1961 in a 3-1 win over Preston North End, then on their way to relegation in the first season after the great Tom Finney had hung up those alchemic boots – that is the difference a great winger makes to a team.

If Clark was no Finney – who, barring Matthews, has been? – he repaid every penny of that fee a hundred times, a thousand times over during his stay at The Hawthorns for as outside lefts go, Clive was just a little bit different. Most of them during his era were creators of goals, belting to the by-line and smacking in crosses for the big centre-forward – in Albion’s case the likes of Derek Kevan, John Kaye and Jeff Astle – to get on the end of. But that was not enough for Chippy, because he liked to get involved in the goalscoring stakes as well. He might cut inside, blazing past the full-back on his wrong side before smashing a shot past the ‘keeper or, his speciality, come haring in from the wing to get on the end of a cross from the right. For a man who was anything but a giant, he was strong in the air, getting across the defender to get the crucial touch – of more recent vintage, Zoltan Gera is a reasonable comparison in that regard.

Clark’s contemporaries in the Albion team remained in awe of the man, not just for his talent but for his courage under what was withering fire. ‘Brave as a lion’ is Tony Brown’s assessment of his cup-winning colleague, for not only would he throw himself at the ball to win those decisive headers, he played in the day when the phrase ‘put it in row Z’ referred to the winger, not the ball. The tackle from behind was not outlawed, it was compulsory, while teams thought little of doubling up against the likes of Clark, happy to hack him down whenever he got the ball, willing to concede free-kicks rather than run the risk of him undressing them with a surging dart down the flank. But time and again, back would come Chippy to taunt and tease with his talent, skipping past lunge after lunge, digging the ball out of the cloying muddied fields of yesteryear, dribbling with it as though playing on a bowling green.

He formed a critical part of the Albion team that emerged from the shadow of the majestic team of the ‘50s to create their own slice of history. Clark was crucial to the balance, the more so once Jimmy Hagan came in and really began to get the best from him. With 17 goals from the wing – no penalties – Chippy top scored in 1963/64, a feat he repeated with 11 in 1964/65, by which time a couple of chaps called Astle and Brown were settling into the team and would go on to dominate those charts through the rest of the 1960s, a bit like The Beatles and the Stones. 

In 1966/67, a League Cup winner’s tankard already in the sideboard after helping the Throstles dismember West Ham United in the second leg of the final, Clark completed a quite extraordinary feat for an outside-left. Over that one campaign, he scored 29 goals. 29. Even Astle only exceeded that number in two seasons, Bomber just once. That in itself is a measure of Clark’s genuine greatness. Remember how people slavered over Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring exploits when he was only nominally a winger at Manchester United, often playing more centrally? That was the kind of prolific form Clark was in.

Ironically it came in a season that carried his greatest disappointment. Holders of the League Cup, the Throstles had destroyed all and sundry before them on the way to the first Wembley final in the competition’s history. There we met QPR, Chippy’s first club, then in the Third Division. A formality for Albion? It seemed that way when we led 2-0 at half-time, both goals from Clark. A controversial second half ensued with Rangers mounting one of the great Wembley comebacks to win 3-2, leaving Albion, Clive especially, stunned.

Recompense was gained twelve months later when Albion lifted the FA Cup after beating Everton, following a cup run where Clark had been immense again, not least in the punishing three games it took to overcome Shankly’s Liverpool in the sixth round, Clark getting the winner. After Wembley, the Throstles jetted off for an ill-starred tour of East Africa. Facing some, at best, rudimentary tackling from the local sides, Clark found himself on the wrong end of an appalling tackle that ended not only his tour but, to all intents and purposes, his top flight career. The zip, the devil had gone from his game when he returned and he was soon on his way, back to QPR after 351 starts, two substitute appearances and 98 goals.

Ill health scarred his later life but he remained an Albion man through and through until the last. Clark will be forever remembered at The Hawthorns, one of the finest of all the stars in stripes, an architect of our greatness, our history, our birthright.

Rest easy Clive.

(A full tribute to Clive ‘Chippy’ Clark will be published in the Stoke edition of 'Albion News’).



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