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Norman Clarke

Name: Norman Samson Clarke
Born: 1 April 1942, Ballyloughan (Ballymena)
Height: 5.10 ft
Weight: 11.00 st
Position: Outside-Left

Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 2 Under-23 Caps (1962-1963), 6 Amateur Caps (1959-1961), Youth; Irish League: 2 Caps (1960-1961).
Club Honours: (with Ballymena) Irish Cup Runner-Up 1958/59; Ulster Cup Winner 1960/61.

Club Career:
FA Cup
FL Cup
Ballymena United
4/ 0
Ballymena United
* all games.

Honoured at multiple representative levels while still with Ballymena, Norman Clarke is still regarded as one of the Braidmen's greatest players. A product of Boys' Brigade football, he was just two weeks past his seventeenth birthday when he played in the 1-1 Irish Cup Final draw with Glenavon in April 1959, and in the 2-0 replay defeat a week-and-a-half later. Indeed, many of his earliest mid-week appearances necessitated him leaving Ballymena Academy to make kick-off. Early in the 1960/61 season he got his hand on a first senior winner's medal in a 3-1 Ulster Cup Final win over Glenavon.

Described as a "magician" and compared to George Best, Clarke was still just eighteen when honoured for the first time by the Irish League. He shared wing duties at inter-league level with Linfield's Bobby Braithwaite and Distillery's Ken Hamilton, and was thus limited to just two appearances - 2-1 and 7-0 defeats by the Scottish League in 1960 and 1961. In February 1962 he added an Under-23 cap, in a 0-0 draw with Wales, to those he had already won at Youth and Amateur level.

Just a few weeks after his first Under-23 cap Clarke made a £6,000 transfer to Sunderland. He had to wait until August 1962 for his Black Cats' debut. In the heat of a north-east derby with Middlesbrough he put in an excellent performance in a 3-1 win. He held on to his place for the opening weeks of the season before being displaced by George Mulhall. Clarke remained understudy to Mulhall for the remainder of his time at Roker Park, playing just once after the arrival of his more expensive counterpart in a League Cup match against Portsmouth in November.

Clarke did add a second Under-23 cap to his collection while at Sunderland, in a 5-1 defeat by Wales. He remained a popular figure at Roker Park and when a knee injury forced him to retire at the age of just 23 he was sadly missed. He returned to Ballymena as a player and caretaker manager in the late-sixties.

Northern Ireland Under-23 Caps:
07-02-1962 Wales... H D 0-0 FR
27-02-1963 Wales... A L 1-5 FR

Summary: 2/0. Won 0, Drew 1, Lost 1.

Northern Ireland Amateur Caps:
17-01-1959 Wales... A W 4-3 
21-02-1959 Scotland H D 0-0
26-09-1959 England. H D 1-1
16-01-1960 Wales... H W 3-2
25-04-1960 Scotland A L 0-2
30-09-1961 England. H L 0-3

Summary 6/0. Won 2, Drew 2, Lost 2.

Ballymena stats from Neil Coleman - The Official History of Ballymena United FC.

Comments said…
Re Norman Clarke he cannot have played in a drawn Cup Final against Ards in 1958. Ballymena United's opponents in the 1958 final were Linfield. The drawn final was in 1959 and Ballymena United's opponents that year were Glenavon.

Good site but the information needs to be accurate.

Brian Weir
jcd said…
Thanks Brian,

Silly mistake on my part and I appreciate the feedback. Obviously I try to be accurate, but sometimes mistakes happen!