Right sided striker Doug Clarke joined the Tigers in November 1955. A £2,000 fee was paid for Clarke, who had developed a strong reputation for goalscoring from the inside right position at Bury. The Tigers were struggling at the lower end of Division Two and Clarke’s signing, alongside fees paid for Bill Bradbury and Stan Mortensen, were designed to revamp Bob Brocklebank’s forward line and propel City back up the table. Clarke’s impact was immediate as scored on his debut in a 3-1 win against West Ham with Bradbury (on his fifth start) and Mortensen (also on his debut) contributing the other goals. And the new forward line continued to score, Bradbury in particular, but City remained too prone to conceding goals at the other end and defeats continued to come. The club remained rooted to the bottom of the table for the entire season and was relegated to Division Three North, with Doug’s seven goals for the season included an equaliser in a FA Cup Third Round tie against First Division Aston Villa.
In 1956/57, Clarke’s first full season, City briefly challenged at the top of the table after winning four of the first seven fixtures but drops in form during September (six defeats in seven games) and around Christmas (four consecutive draws) saw the challenge fade and the Tigers ended up eighth. Clarke missed six games in the early weeks of the season but he was soon established as first choice inside right thanks for four goals scored in five starts during October. He contnued to score regularly and ended the season with 20 goals in all competitions, the best season of his career in terms of goals scored. Spirits were high for the 1957/58 season amongst the Hull City squad and while strikers Clarke (16 league goals) and Bradbury (19 league goals) delivered, a poor away record and continued defensive frailties saw the Tigers fall short again, ending up in fifth place 13 points behind champions Scunthorpe United. In September 1957 Doug had his most productive day in football in front of goal, scoring four times in a 5-2 win over Halifax Town. In the second half of the season, especially once Welsh winger Johnny Stephens was sold, Doug was increasingly put on the right wing where his pace could be exploited more fully and his crossing ability developed, a move that led to him scoring fewer goals.
In the 1958/59 season the Tigers powered to promotion, albeit after failing to win any of the first four fixtures. New centre forward Colin Smith netted 26 times and Bill Bradbury struck 30 goals from inside right, while Clarke contributed a further 12 from the wing, missing only five games all season. Doug scored braces against Doncaster Rovers in December and Norwich City in March and for the 1959/60 season he returned to the Second Division, the level at which he joined the Tigers four years earlier. However the season was not a success as City again stumbled to relegation, Clarke scoring only three times and missing four matches in September, his first prolonged absence from the City first team – between his debut in November 1955 and a heavy 0-4 defeat at Charlton in early September 1959, Clarke missed only 8 of 182 senior fixtures in all competitions.
Returning to Division Three for the 1960/61 season, Doug scored in his first three starts after missing the season’s opener at Colchester and he became an important part of the supply line for newly introduced teenage centre forward Chris Chilton. Doug started all five of City’s FA Cup Second Round ties against Darlington during November and December, having also started City’s first ever League Cup tie against Bolton Wanderers. Doug was still a constant in the City first team – he was ever-present during the 1961/62 season and missed only five league games during the 1962/63 season – but the goals were increasingly coming from Chilton and from John McSeveney on the opposite wing, who struck 22 goals in 1962/63 season, many of which came from Doug Clarke crosses. In 1963/64 Clarke started as first choice on the right wing but lost his place in the second half of the season, and the same course of events happened in 1964/65 when Doug started the first eleven league games then was a support player for the rest of the season. The signing of Ken Wagstaff in November 1964 and Ken Houghton two months later put a further squeeze on Doug’s first team opportunities and he left City in the 1965 close season after nearly ten years’ service.
Douglas Clarke was born in Bolton and grew up during the World War Two years. In 1950 he joined the groundstaff at Bolton Wanderers and played for the Trotters’ A team and Reserves. However by the end of 1951 he had drifted out of favour at Bolton and assisted Lancashire Combination side Darwen for a few games before Bury signed him on professional terms in March 1952. A period of absence due to National Service meant that Clarke was not ready to make his debut for the Shakers until April 1954 and he scored on his debut against Second Division rivals Nottingham Forest. Doug established himself as first team regular at inside right during the 1954/55 season and despite missing four months of football in the middle of the season he hit 13 goals including an impressive hattrick in April 1955 against Hull City, a moment that evidently stuck in the mind of City manager Bob Brocklebank. Clarke started six games at the start of the 1955/56 season and when he left Bury for Hull City in November 1955 he had made 37 appearances and scored 15 goals for the Shakers.
Clarke joined Torquay United in July 1965 after his departure from Hull City, and while his old club had a landmark season and lifted the Third Division title in his absence, Clarke also had a fine season that ended his promotion from the Fourth Division at Plainmoor. He scored eleven goals in 46 starts for the Gulls in 1965/66 season and stayed with Torquay for two more years, ending his time with the club in the 1968 close season having made 132 senior appearances and scored 22 goals. This took his senior career total to 580 appearances and 125 goals in a fifteen year career.
Doug spent seasons at Bath City and Bridgwater Town in the late 1960s before joining the coaching staff at Torquay United. As late as 1976 he answered an emergency call to assist local side Bodmin Town, but fruity language led to the first and last sending off in his career. He remained in Devon and ran a carpets business, retiring in the Torquay area and occasionally attending Hull City matches. He died in August 2019, a sad passing that was marked by a minute’s applause at the beginning of Torquay United’s next home game.
Date/Place of Birth: 19 January 1934, Bolton
Hull City First Game: 12 November 1955, West Ham United H (Division Two), 21 years, 297 days old
Hull City Final Game: 28 December 1964, Port Vale H (Division Three), 30 years, 344 days old
Bolton Wanderers (1950-1952), Darwen (1952), Bury (1952-1955), Hull City (1955-1965), Torquay United (1965-1968), Bath City (1968-1969), Bridgwater Town (1969-1970)
Hull City Record
Career: 411 apps, 87 goalsDoug Clarke