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Past Masters #3 – Stevie Clarke

Perhaps the 90s didn’t produce as many heroes as previous decades, but there were still some cult figures to emerge during this period, and Stevie Clarke was undoubtedly one of them. Website users were in agreement that the talented but sadly injury prone midfielder should be featured next.

Below is an interview done with Stevie just over a year ago for the excellent “Past Masters” series, by Clyde View contributor Paul Pettigrew.

#3 – Stevie Clarke (1990s)

Can you please give a potted history of your career with dates? – I started out with Bellshill YM when I was 18 in 1981 and I played there for three years before joining Bellshill Athletic. I only played about 11 games for them before Hamilton Accies came in for me. I was with the Accies for about 3 years and made over 100 appearances before being transferred to Forfar Athletic in 1987. John Lambie took me aside after a game against Dundee United when I had played really well and said that a team from the north-east was in for me. Naturally I thought it was United or maybe Aberdeen, but then he said it was Forfar and in his view I should go! So, it’s not true I just went there for the bridies… there were other reasons as well! Anyway, I played for them for a couple of years before joining Clyde. John Clark phoned me and asked me to meet him in Uddingston, so I thought “right, I’ll at least get a meal out of this”, but no, he wanted me to meet outside a hairdressers in Uddingston High Street where his wife was getting a hair-do, and that’s where I signed for Clyde! I was a slim, waif-like chap at that point, but suddenly I put on a wee bit of weight, became slightly more rotund, and became worth a million pounds! I stayed as long as I could before my knees gave out on me. I played a season for Blantyre Vics as player/coach, and then back with Blantyre YM in the same capacity where we won the Scottish Amateur Cup and I personally won the ‘man of the match’ award! I then helped Gardner Speirs in a voluntary capacity for a couple of years, but left when he was shown the door.

What are you doing now? – I am still selling pies for a living… big traditional greasy Scotch pies. They’re really good, so they tell me! I am also busy with my three sons who are all playing football. They are 14, 12 and 11, and I am often out 4 nights a week coaching and encouraging them. They are doing really well, and who knows one day they may wear the famous black, red and white like their Dad.

What was the highlight of your career with the Bully Wee? – Winning the Second Division Championship in 92/93 at Dumfries takes some beating! What a day that was. Before the game I went to Tesco next door and bought a £150 carry out for the trip home! Actually, John McBeth gave me the money afterwards, which was good of him. However, there were a couple of moments that took a wee bit off the shine off the day for me. The first was the fact that the Sportscene cameraman fell asleep and missed my goal, although it was on the stroke of half-time and I forgive him if he was off for a pie! The other was when Frank McGarvey shoved me off the ball at the end for the final goal. Mind you, I’m glad he did!

And the worst moment? – Having to give up the senior game because of my knees was a bitter pill. I remember Alex Smith sent me to Bon Secour Hospital to see a specialist. After he carried out a few tests I asked him what my chances were, and he replied: “Do you like golf?” So that was it, end of senior career, and although normal wear and tear was to blame, I still think training on Astroturf hastened my demise.

Any ambitions unrealised? – Well, clearly the management of Celtic missed a great local talent. Mind you, it was their loss! But no, I loved my time playing and wouldn’t have missed the experience. I have a First Division Winners Medal with Hamilton and a Second Division medal with Clyde. I played at every senior ground in Scotland at the time apart from East End Park, so my geographical knowledge increased as my knees declined! I still have ambitions to coach at senior level again once the boys have gown up. So we’ll see.

Who was the best player you played with at Clyde, and why? – There were some smashing players, but I suppose I would have to plump for Frank McGarvey, who was a hero of mine anyway. But Ross McFarlane was really good, and Knoxy was Mr Clyde; they were both so committed and consistent.

Who was your most difficult opponent and why? – Oh, Tommy Burns, without question. I had to mark him against Killie at Rugby Park in a cup-tie and I told the manager at half-time I couldn’t do it. He was just too good. I had the same experience playing against him for the Accies. He was a smashing player.

Do you still look out for the Clyde result on Saturdays, or perhaps even come to watch our games? – Yes, I always want to know how the team got on. John Watson used to keep me posted with the news, and I’ve been back a couple of times. But I have to admit that the abuse I suffered when I was helping Gardner in difficult circumstances shocked me as I had always been used to a fair amount of respect from the Clyde fans. That disappointed me and put me off coaching for a while, but football can be fickle and I learned from the experience.

Would you rather be playing today compared to your day and why? – Financially I would be better off, but I doubt psychologically. It was more sociable when I played. I played more for the fun than the money. Getting paid was a bonus for me, as I had a good steady job already. It wasn’t a necessity to play, although I don’t think anyone could say I didn’t always give 110% for the Clyde. We had a great team spirit, great fun, and I got on great with John Clark and Alex Smith, as well as John Lambie at Hamilton and Henry Hall at Forfar. Anyway, I wouldn’t fancy these special dietary regimes these days. I owe all my success to the power of pies!

Do you still keep in touch with any of your former teammates, and if so, who? – I keep in touch with Paul Tierney and I see Billy Reid and Stevie Tennant now and again, but that is about it, I am afraid.

X-Files: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us? – I’m a jigsaw fanatic, believe it or not. It may surprise people to know that one of my virtues is patience. Nothing gets me flustered, and I think that helps a lot in working with or coaching kids, and perhaps a lot of adults too!

What was the funniest incident you experienced with Clyde? – Lossiemouth pre-season springs to mind! Knoxy and I were in a card school with Jim Thomson, and a few beers were being sunk. Thommo fell asleep and so we shaved off an eyebrow and one of his long side burns! Knoxy wanted to shave his head too, so Jim, you’ve got me to thank you weren’t scalped!

Which former team-mate was the funniest or oddest character and why? – Stevie Tennant. He was really quite eccentric. He had a strange demeanour and would wear a top hat and long coat on nights out. His mannerisms were odd, and although very proper spoken, he was as mad as a hatter. Do you remember the tie! Definitely mental! Mind you McGarvey used always to wear his sheepskin on every night out, but we thought that was because he could always sleep in it if his wife wouldn’t let him back in after one of our swallies!

Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked? – It was great to play for Clyde and achieve cult hero status, so you tell me. I enjoyed my time at Clyde enormously and wish the team every success in the future.

After the “summer shutdown”, we’ll be revisiting the 80s again to reveal all about a former star!

Thanks to Paul Pettigrew for his co-operation.