Book Review: Allan Clarke – His Fulham Years by Martin Plumb and Ken Coton
Let’s start with a question. What club did ex-England international Allan Clarke make his First Division debut with? Many people will automatically assume that it was with Leeds United. It was in fact Fulham, coincidentally against the Yorkshire club he would later join, as a second-half substitute on Good Friday, 08 April 1966 at Craven Cottage.
Clarke signed for Fulham from Third Division Walsall at the backend of the 1965/66 season and played for the London club until the end of the 1967/68 campaign, before moving to Leicester City. Allan Clarke – His Fulham Years by Martin Plumb and Ken Coton, details as the book title states his time playing down by the Thames.
This tribute to the striker who scored 57 goals in his 100 appearances for the club, (his strike rate of 0.57 goals per game remains the second highest in Fulham’s history), is recorded through the wonderfully evocative images of the former Fulham photographer, Ken Coton, and complimented by the words of Martin Plumb.
Format wise the book is dominated by a review of the time Clarke spent at the club on a season by season basis, which is added to with a useful breakdown of the players statistics whilst at Fulham and his career in total. In addition there are brief sections on his time after leaving Craven Cottage and even a Postscript from Clarke himself. This final piece from the man himself makes for interesting reading, in that despite its brevity, readers get the sense that the Clarke is not fan of the Premier League, with his view that “players can’t defend anymore, they really haven’t got a clue”, and was so confident in his abilities adding that, “if I was playing today’s game and hadn’t scored 30 to 40 goals, I would consider that I’d had a bad season.” With such forthright opinions, it would have been interesting to have the book contain more of Clarke’s thoughts on his playing career and football today.
As it is the narrative of the book is as much about Fulham’s battle to avoid relegation from the First Division as it is about Clarke’s goalscoring exploits. Whilst this is interesting, the real beauty comes from the lens of Ken Coton. Here black and white images capture the game from a very different time, with some grounds such as Bradford Park Avenue long since gone and Craven Cottage itself seen before the development of the Riverside Stand, with the long terrace in the 1960s only adorned by the television gantry, score board and various flag poles. Not every image in the book is perfect, but overall are of an excellent quality, testament to the skill of Ken Coton without the wizardry that digital cameras afford today.
It is once again another great addition to the Fulham based series of publications from Ashwater Press and a wonderful reminder of one of the club’s most deadly strikers.
(Ashwater Press. November 2020. Hardback 163 pages)
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