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  • ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: John Clark swaps Hoops

    ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: John Clark swaps Hoops

    By: Joe Sullivan on 12 Jun, 2019 11:59

  • IT was on this day 48 years ago, June 12, 1971 that John Clark left the Hoops after a glorious 13-year career that saw him and his team-mates reach the pinnacle of European football.

    The time to say goodbye had come and the 30-year-old defender made the short trip down the Clyde to Greenock, swapping the green and white Hoops of Celtic for the blue and white variety of Morton.

    However, he was bound to return, and he did so two years later as reserve coach and he would also be assistant manager under Billy McNeill, plus the Lisbon Lion has been a valued member of the backroom staff as Kit Controller for more than 20 years.

    Here we take a brief look at some Celtic snippets from a long and illustrious career in the Hoops.

    John Clark

    Born: March 13, 1941 in Bellshill.

    Joined: October 8, 1958 from Larkhall Thistle

    Left: June 12, 1971 to Morton

    FIRST GAME

    October 3, 1959, League, Arbroath 0-5 Celtic, Gayfield Park

    This was Celtic’s youngest ever side with an average age of 21 years and 113 days. The team was: John Fallon, John Curran, Neilly Mochan, Eric Smith, Billy McNeill, John Clark, Stevie Chalmers, Mike Jackson, Jim Conway, John Divers and Bertie Auld. It turned out to be Celtic’s biggest win of the 1959/60 season thanks to goals from Chalmers 2, Jackson 2 and Conway. There were no fewer than SIX teenagers in the side, with the youngest being John Clark who was 18-years-old. The five 19-year-olds were Fallon, Curran, McNeill, Divers and Conway. The older Lisbon Lions in the side, Auld and Chalmers were 21 and 24 respectively. The Daddy of the team was Mochan who was 32 while the second oldest was Smith at 26. With Bobby Evans and Bertie Peacock facing each other on international duty that day, the replacement pairing of McNeill and Clark for the first time ever was a portent of things to come.

    NICKNAME

    To his team-mates in the 1960s he was known as Luggy, thanks to having an outsized bandage on an ear injury picked up in a collision with Billy McNeill during training at Barrowfield. More commonly, though, he was known as The Brush thanks to his immaculate performances in his role as sweeper behind Billy McNeill throughout Celtic’s golden era. Big Billy knew that if he ever missed anything, Clark would be there to brush up and build yet another Celtic attack from the back. He does, though, answer to Clarky and that is the name by which he is still known at Paradise. He is one of the club’s longest ever serving Celts with an aggregate of around 42 years of service as a player and member of the backroom staff. And, during his years of service, Celtic have won 26 league titles, 17 Scottish Cups, 16 League Cups, 16 Glasgow Cups and, of course, the European Cup for a total of an amazing 76 trophies.

    HOOPS HIGHPOINT

    April 17, 1965, League, Celtic 1-2 Partick Thistle, Celtic Park to

    September 23, 1967, League, Celtic 1-1 St Johnstone, Celtic Park

    From the above Partick Thistle game near the end of the 1964/65 season through to the St Johnstone game in season 1967/68, John Clark never missed a single Celtic game – a run of 140 matches in all. During that run, Celtic won two league titles, two Scottish Cups, two League Cups, two Glasgow Cups and, of course the European Cup. During this time he also played four times for Scotland, and Celtic played 17 major friendlies including the North American tour, the Manchester United match and the Alfredo Di Stefano testimonial. Just three days after missing his first game, a League Cup quarter-final, second-leg match against Ayr United, he was back in the team for a 4-0 league win at Stirling Albion.

    LAST GAME

    May 1, 1971, League, Celtic 6-1 Clyde, Celtic Park

    John Clark did play on May 6, 1971 against Clyde at Shawfield in the Glasgow Cup but his last top level game came when the Lisbon Lions took a final bow in the last league game of 1970/71. Injured Ronnie Simpson ran out with the team and took part in the warm-up but Evan Williams took his place between the sticks. With Bertie Auld on his way to Hibernian, Jock Stein took the opportunity to field the Lions for the last time. However, by the start of the following season, John Clark and Steve Chalmers had also moved on, both to Morton, so this was their last game as well. The 35,000 crowd saw a Bobby Lennox hat-trick, a Willie Wallace double and a goal from Chalmers deliver a 6-1 win – maybe Ronnie could’ve played in goal after all.

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