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Six degrees of separation: From Gardner to Clark

20 October 2015

Connecting Albion's midfielder to a cup winning winger

You’re all aware of the game I’m sure, the idea that by six simple steps, everyone on earth can be connected to everyone else – if you don’t believe us, wait until Christmas and all those irritating relatives suddenly turn up to drink your whisky. Today let us take the journey that leads from Craig Gardner all the way to FA Cup winning throstle Clive Clark…

Completing his tour of the local clubs, CRAIG GARDNER signed on here at The Hawthorns in 2014, ending his exile in the north-east of the country with Sunderland, Albion bringing him back home to the midlands. Since then, he has been a regular in the Albion midfield, with 47 games and a winner against the Villa to his name.

He’s not the only gardener to be associated with the Albion because the doyen of the greenhouse, the late, great PERCY THROWER himself, was widely reputed to be a Baggies fan, following our fortunes in between tending to his dahlias, fighting the good fight against aphids, constructing the legendary Blue Peter garden that Les Ferdinand later took exception to and whacking another heap of manure onto his compost heap which, rumour has it, he called Moli…ok, we made that bit up.

Percy was perhaps the best known horticulturist in the country for many, many years, presenting the BBC’s “Gardener’s World” programme for the thick end of a decade and being the resident gardener on “Blue Peter” for 13 years, right up until his death. Much of his broadcasting was done on home turf, from his home in SHREWSBURY, the town where he also had his own garden centre that is still doing brisk business to this day, just up the road from Shrewsbury Town’s new stadium.

Shrewsbury is also well known for its public school which has many celebrated former pupils among its alumni, not least the seasoned world traveller and former Monty Python man MICHAEL PALIN. Post-Python, he co-wrote the “Ripping Yarns” series, one of which was “Golden Gordon” about a long suffering football fan whose team, Barnstoneworth United were utterly useless, causing him to wreck his own house in frustration every Saturday night after another heavy defeat of “Eight one. Eight bloody one”.

Similarly frustrated was the team’s coach who, when confronted by a tearful player in an argument with another who had stolen his shorts, went off into a rant. “I don’t care if they’re long shorts, short shorts, three quarter length shorts or Billy Meredith signed shorts. They’re not important. Throw ‘em away! Goodbye shorts, hello football!” It was clearly a sentiment shared by STEPHANE MBIA of Cameroon who, at the last World Cup, swapped his shorts with Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic in the tunnel.

Mbia is, of course, now at Trabzonspor but we remember him as a player with QUEENS PARK RANGERS when his liking for a robust challenge had a habit of getting him into trouble with referees, including a straight red card for kicking Arsenal’s Thomas Vermaelen in only his fourth game at the club. QPR are, of course, a side that have long troubled the Albion over the years, inflicting some of the most miserable of our long history afternoons upon us.

The 1982 FA Cup semi-final was something of a catastrophe but nothing compares with the great sadness of 1967 when Albion were 2-0 up at half-time of the League Cup final at Wembley only to end up losing 3-2 to Third Division Rangers after 45 minutes of raging controversy and Rodney Marsh brilliance. It was a particularly heavy blow to one of the Throstles who had joined us from Loftus Road and who had knocked in those first two goals. From what had looked like a day to remember, it ended up one to most definitely forget for CLIVE CLARK.

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