An FA Cup Semi Final special.
Regular readers of this article may remember my story about ‘Old Bob’ the elderly Gentleman who, in the days when times were hard and I was no taller than the average 12 year old used to rent our Front Room.
‘Old Bob’ claimed to have seen it all with Pompey and would spend hours telling me about all the great events he had witnessed and all great players he had seen.
One such player was Ike Clarke and as we approach what will surely be Pompey’s biggest occasion in more than a lifetime, the focus of this weeks ‘He played from them too’ turns to a player who despite being the oldest member of the squad scored the goals which took Pompey to glory.
Having scored 20 goals in 49 games for tomorrows Semi-Final opponents West Brom, Ike then 32, put pen to paper for Pompey in November 1947. The rumour at the time was that he was only signed as cover for Duggie ‘Thunderboots’ Reid, but Pompey Manager Bob Jackson had no such plans and a little less that 18 hours after signing, with the ink on the contract barely dry, Ike was thrust into action.
Every supporter of any club who signs a new forward wants instant success and the ‘Faithful’ certainly got it. Ike scored on his debut against Aston Villa and in that one game Fratton Park saw enough in his passing and the way he ‘led the line’ to know he was going to become an invaluable member of Pompey’s strike force.
It was during his second season (1948/49) however that Ike came into his own. With only a quarter of the campaign gone and with Pompey pushing for the title, Reid got injured and the mantle of chief goal scorer fell to Clarke. Ike did not shirk his responsibility.
Ike netted 14 goals in just 24 games that season, many of them crucial and some of them memorable, including the two (one in each half) against Derby in the FA Cup 6th Round tie in front of Pompey’s biggest ever crowd of 52,385, but it was the 21st goal of his Pompey career which was undoubtedly the most memorable as well as being the most crucial.
In April 1949 Pompey travelled to Bolton knowing that if they won and other results went their way the Title would go to Fratton. Having contributed to put Pompey 1-0 up, Clarke then headed in a Peter Harris cross to give Pompey a 2-0 cushion.
The match ended 2-1 and as the other results were confirmed it was apparent that no team could now catch Pompey and the League Championship had been won for the first time in the club’s history.
Pompey eventually ended the season five points ahead of Manchester United and were duly crowned ‘Champions of England’
To win the Title is one thing, to retain it is even harder but Ike’s contribution the next season was even greater. In all he played in 37 games and finished top scorer with 17 goals. His hustling style in Pompey’s No.9 shirt along with team mates Harris (16), Reid (16), and Froggatt (15) meant that Pompey scored 75 goals which when backed-up by a mean defence conceding just 38, meant the Blues held on to the championship, albeit on goal average. Wolverhampton Wanderers being the team who just missed out.
Ike went on to serve Pompey sporadically for a couple more seasons eventually leaving the club at the age of 36 to enter management at Yeovil & Canterbury before retiring to Kent where in 2002 at the age of 87 he died.
Ike Clarke’s Pompey League record is as impressive today as it was all those years ago, 116 appearances 49 goals. His goals, especially the one that ‘clinched the title’ will surely be remembered as long as there is a Portsmouth Football Club.
I doubt we will ever witness a striker with such an impressive goal scoring ratio grace Fratton in this day and age and although Jermain Defoe is doing his best to smash a few records as he goes, he has no chance of grabbing the glory on Saturday due to his ineligibility.
If only we had an aging striker who used to play for West Brom that could step forward and become, not necessarily the next Ike Clarke, but somebody who could steal a piece of Pompey folklore and fire us into the FA Cup Final for the first time in ‘our’ lives…
Can you think of anybody?
Written by Chix.
The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.