John Clarke

Why Blue?


Grew up in Shrewsbury, played rugby, but was taken by my dad to see an exhibition game at the Gay Meadow by the RAF Benevolent Fund. Included Mortensen, Lawton, Matthews and Trautmann, quite impressed. Joined the Fleet Air Arm in ’48, still played rugby. Leaving the RN in ’60, I worked at Harwell and still played rugby until ’62 when I found that too many injuries were interfering with my life! I joined Manchester University Physics Department in ’65 and moved to Cheadle. By this time I had two sons who were interested in football. We were taken to a United vs. Spurs match. It was OK but Old Trafford was Hell! So we started going to Maine Road.

Maine Road Days

We started off in the Platt Lane stand but soon moved to stand with “the lads” in the Kippax, much more fun! Our first match was towards the end of the ’65/66 season and we were at the top of the 2nd Division. We arrived late for a game vs. Middlesbrough, and we were already a goal behind. The game was fairly tame for the most part, but, towards the end, Johnny Crossan who hadn’t done much work up to then suddenly took charge, and we had three quick goals to win the match. It was typical of Crossan; he wouldn’t chase the ball often, but if someone gave him the ball in front he was very effective. We won the 2nd Division and you all know the rest; there were some real Glory Days to follow, we didn’t miss many home games and made it to quite a few away games too.

After those days I was True Blue and found that I had bred two very Blue sons! Bell was, of course, brilliant and I feel privileged to have watched him at his peak. FL scored some big blast volley goals that always reminded me of one I saw at the Gay Meadow by Tommy Lawton from a waist high cross from Stan Matthews, who had dribbled his way from just outside his own penalty area! Mike Summerbee was no slouch either. I still think that Mike Doyle was one of the best at a sliding tackle that I’ve ever seen. An Alan Oakes long range shot on goal was a thing of beauty. In those days TB was very solid and brave at the back too. When the World Cup came, we managed to see some great games, and I remember us driving over to Lymm to see the Brazilian training camp. By the way, I knew that area well from my days at HMS Ariel at Culcheth, and at HMS Blackcap at Stretton (Long gone now).

A Remote US Life

In mid-season of 70/71, I was “Brain Drained” to help build the Fermi National Accelerator Lab near Chicago, but the boys stayed in Cheadle and were then old enough to get to the games on their own. This helped me keep in touch with the feats of that great team.

Over the years I have kept in touch by reserving Saturday mornings to listen to the BBC overseas service which includes a 20 minute live commentary, on some occasions of a City match even. In ’75 I took an appointment at Princeton University, and found the BBC reception much easier here on the East Coast. Nowadays with the advent of cable, I get not only the wrap up of the Premier League goals etc. (a few days late, and with that terrible music!) but a complete tape of one of the big games too. Last season I managed to get the critical match at Blackburn on tape. That’s fun to watch on a hot summer evening in New Jersey. My two sons Simon and Roger live in London and Oxford respectively, and of course I come to the UK often; when possible we go to a game, my last was at West Ham last season.


I only recently got up on the net, and I can’t tell you how delighted I am to be in such close touch with the trials of us Blues “Via The Alps”. I’m sure I will be one of your most attentive readers.

First printed in: MCIVTA Newsletter #112 on


John Clarke