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Feature

Albion in 100 objects - Episode Eight

15 November 2018

Many and varied are the pieces of memorabilia, art and paraphernalia that the football club has gathered about itself over the years. Over the next season or three, we are going to select some of these, in no particular order nor importance, to help tell a tale of Throstles down the years. It’s not a definitive history, might at times be apocryphal and at others completely fabricated, but these odd shafts of light will give you a sense of who we are and where we came from. Confused? You will be…

Episode Eight

DENNIS CLARKE’S FA CUP FINAL SHIRT 1968

In its own, quietly understated way, here we have one of the most iconic shirts in FA Cup history, maybe even up there with the Matthews shirt of ’53 or Gerrard’s from 2006. Why? Because this little fella is unique. 

It’s the shirt that adorned the back of Dennis Clarke on May 18th 1968, worn in anger for just on 30 minutes. Does that help? If not, I’ll tell you. This is the shirt worm by Clarke when he became the first man ever to come on as a substitute in an FA Cup final. Ok, it might not quite be a splinter of the cross, but come on, there’s not another one like it on earth.

There had only been two opportunities to field substitutes prior to that, it’s true, but in the finals of 1966 and 1967, those subs could only be used in the event of injury, not for tactical reasons. Ironically, given it was the “Wembley curse” of players getting badly injured in cup finals that had finally pushed the authorities into allowing a single sub, none had fallen in the games between Everton and Sheffield Wednesday and then Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. 

The regulations were relaxed in 1967/68 so that managers could change their sides as and when they wanted but, irony again, it was injury that brought Dennis Clarke into the fray at the beginning of the extra-time period with Albion and Everton locked at 0-0. 

John Kaye had injured his ankle in the early stages of the game: “I went to tackle Alan Ball early on in that game, after about 20 minutes. I mistimed it and I twisted my ankle and suffered for about an hour or so after that. When the game finished 0-0 at normal time and we were ready for extra time, I decided I’d had enough at that point and I just had to come off. If we’d carried on playing, it might have been ok, but the break at the final whistle made it impossible. When you stop on an injury, it stiffens up and it takes some getting going again and I decided it was best if I let Dennis Clarke come on instead.”

Clarke took to the field, necessitating a slight change in Albion’s set up, Doug Fraser moving inside to partner John Talbut in the centre, Clarke coming on and slotting in at right-back instead.

For Clarke, it was a second Wembley final in a row after he played in Albion’s defeat against Queens Park Rangers in the League Cup final of 1967. Two Wembley appearances is a pretty remarkable hit rate for Clarke given that much of his Albion career was spent in a supporting role. 

A six year stint at The Hawthorns began in April 1963 when he joined Albion as a junior, turning professional at 17 in February 1965 and making his Albion debut in a 3-0 win over Tottenham at The Hawthorns on Boxing Day 1966.

Predominantly a full-back, Clarke suffered from the fact that we had a positive glut of them at the football club at that time in the likes of Graham Williams, Doug Fraser, Bobby Cram, Ray Wilson and Ray Fairfax. 

A six year stint with the Throstles ended in January 1969 when he was transferred to Huddersfield Town. His Albion career extended to just 25 starts and a single substitute appearance across the whole period. But an FA Cup winner’s medal and an eternal place in the football history books is no mean achievement is it?


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