THERE ARE THE ‘SUITS’ AND THEN THERE’S TOM CLARKE
And the Sporting Life!
I was watching racing today and the great David Elsworth name cropped up and after talking to Mike Cattermole the other day about the Sporting Life it brought back both happy and funny memories thinking about my editor, the most charming of men, Tom Clarke.
Now it’s no secret that l have a problem with those upstairs or as l call them the ‘suits’ but this was different indeed and it became more than I expected, as I only wanted to do some work for this newspaper and although I got it, I ended up with a big bonus – a friend!.
l was living in the east end of London at the time, which was only about 15 minutes on the monorail to Canary Wharf where l used to go and see Brian Madley who was a well known sports journalist on the Sunday People for a lunchtime drink, a man l had been very close to from the Fleet Street days of old. Brian and I were very close right up until I came out of my coma.
I mention David Elsworth because this was the highlight of my time with Tom and my funniest moment, but bear with me before l get to the great horse trainer and if you have never heard of the man, you’d must have heard of the horse – Desert Orchard. This all began for me on a normal day after going through the one thing that l honestly believe saved my life, especially that one last particular day on the morning of 15 December 1997, a training session.It was to become the day it not only saved my life but changed it completely, again l remind myself that some people win the lottery whereas l get so close to my greatest ‘happening’ and someone – as l pointed out in the Working Man’s Ballet – somewhere in my life had other ideas. It sounds as if l make excuses about certain things, bad injuries, bad people managing me and either a bad driver going so close to ending my life or someone behind what actually happening?
I often think about David Goodier walking out from the ITU and giving my loved ones the bad news, news that was far more likelier than me sitting here writing today.
I told you about David listening to a colleague in a weekly Trauma Meeting explain that they needed to ignore me and concentrate on a patient with a realistic chance of living.
David said nothing. He literally walked to where l was as one consultant put it: “Alan was among a forest of wires almost like a Christmas tree.”
After a consultation with himself he returned – much like a Waddington, Shankly, Stein, Clough or Ferguson – and then spoke: “I have looked at this particular patient and he needs stronger management” and l can relate to that much more than the initial doctor who had David had not been there, neither would l today.
This is why l try to get across the difference and importance between the coaching and managing side of football and life in general.
That one final decision by someone who not only is superior but has the knowledge to look and see the big picture, and there’s something to be said about some people talking, Mourinho springs to mind, while there are those who say nothing and fix the problem at hand.
Waddington and Goodier were my two examples of such things and l am certain that somewhere along your path through life you have a similar ‘someone’ or moment that changed your life.
The Tom Clarke story is similar because like with the two transfers where both Chelsea and Stoke City were cash strapped therefore having to sell me, when l came out if my coma to give me similar news by sitting next to my hospital bed – Ramsey called me about that three year ban, cowardly – telling me, “Welcome back Alan, but l have more bad news for you, you’re out of work, the Racing Post has bought us out.”
As if l cared for l was paralyzed from the waist down at that moment and l will forever wonder why Mr. Tom Clarke brought me a “welcome back to life present” in the shape of a neck tie?
I have asked him since and this incredibly smart man had absolutely no idea, l mean why would a man want a tie, a man who they said would never walk again, unless he thought l might want to hang myself?
He weren’t far off, but l had other ideas!
Anyhow, I was in my local The Rose of Denmark in the Roman Road one day studying the Sporting Life, known for years as the “Bible” in gambling terms.
As I read the football column it came across me, having written for the Sentinel in Stoke and was writing The Working Man’s Ballet that although l was not the brightest star from above l was capable of better than what l had been reading about – and nothing has changed – in the most famous gambling ‘rag’ in the world.
Had it been when l was a very young player, l would not have dreamed of writing in for a trial as nobody from Chelsea before me, and there was some great talent around in those days, had also not bothered.
But here l was at the crossroads of my life, a 46-year-old former footballer with no money and living with a young woman of the same age with absolutely nothing going for me, as my past had told me l was going to be heading for that old saying: “You are most definitely going out with what you came in with” and although l got a few quid (that should have been £1.9million as my brief told me) l once again faced another dilemma with time against me – and l was a few months away from a second marriage and the most fantastic change of fortune a human can face, an automobile smashing me in the back as I put one foot on the pavement, I could easily say I remember my lights going out but I can’t, but what I can remember is reaching that pavement. The thing here is that it was around 9pm on the most beautiful of December evenings and the Mile End Road could not have been lit any brighter had it been that Christmas tree. The point is the driver could not blame the visibility, or could or did he?
Yeah, this really was a lot more serious than a failed relationship, missing FA Cup and World Cup finals and carrying a couple of injuries that held me back from getting closer to those all-time greats before me.
A stranger coming out of nowhere sucking me through his windscreen before throwing me into that tree which was responsible for absolutely smashing my pelvis which left me facing, did l say a dilemma?
It was something unimaginable when leaving the gymnasium some ten hours earlier.
Anyhow, that was to come, as l had thought things couldn’t in any way, shape or form get any worse l still kept up my spirits as l went home and wrote to the editor of the paper asking him for an interview regarding doing some work?
What l said was: ‘l can give you much more than what l have been reading’ and on the Monday of the upcoming Manchester United and Everton FA Cup final the editor called me and invited me to go and see him the following day, it really was fate being the big match coming up. Fate meaning my friend Joe Royle had not been the Everton manager too long and l based my opinion and potential column on his team upsetting the odds against Sir Alex.
When l arriving at Canary Wharf l recall my eyes meeting Pierce Morgan’s, with him supporting Arsenal recognizing me, as l walked across the floor to Tom’s office.
Morgan l think was editor of a national newspaper at that time.
From one editor to another as Tom Clarke greeted me like it was only yesterday that we had met in Fleet Street, and was so welcoming, apart from him grilling me – although he wasn’t – he was just catching up on the game almost as if testing me for what seemed like an eternity, but he could not have been any more nicer.
He said, “Alan, you’re very confident you can do better Alan” and l said, ‘given the opportunity?’
He then said get me your views on the match on Saturday by Thursday morning which l did, and followed it by ” and then we’ll take it from there?
It was a masterclass of running such a massive organization, by grilling me (Bull comes to mind) and then gently letting me know that he knew that l could play the game at the highest level, but could l translate that ability onto paper – his newspaper.
I say a masterclass because of the handling of those you meet along the way, the most inhumane folk who go into jobs of such huge importance, and if I told you I never had a conversation with Ramsey or Revie which weren’t argumentative, which I think it proves my point.
How can one person dislike another when never meeting them?
I simply don’t get it.
Tom was the opposite, and to be perfectly honest Fleet Street in 1970 was a long time ago, and I really only got on with those journalists who were in the local pubs around Fetter Lane, not that Jeff Powell was one, but Brian was, as was Ken Montgomery of the Sunday Mirror, Nigel Clarke of the Daily Mirror, Ian Gibb and Bon Driscoll of the Sun and then there was Ken Jones – who told me I would have played in Mexico – and the more upper-class Hugh McIlvaney, Hugh was a friend of Charlie Cooke and a man I admired as I do most writers, though Powell is my man. .
These were the people who chose who would become the Football Writers Footballer of the Year which made me laugh as when I began, before that incident on Easter Monday of 1970, picked me as runner-up to Billy Bremner.
I found this rather odd because I was even Chelsea’s Player of the Year.
I will get around to David Elsworth so forgive me because writing something like this, in Lockdown, is like turning a corner and the corners I turn always seems to add to my book, much like the simple task of crossing a rightly lit road, thinking about what kind of reception I would be getting from ‘Er Indoors’ and thinking of having such a brilliant day out with some famous and not so famous people – which really is of no interest to me. I also wondered what the chap wanted who fixed up a meeting the following morning which I hoped was for more work as my Sporting Life work was beginning to get me recognized as a writer in our game. Of course this was just another mystery, as the saying goes, “Tomorrow never comes?”
To say l was confident – for the position l was in – was quite something, as when l left the meeting and after l sat and wrote that my mate Joe Royle would turn over the red hot favourites by a score-line of 1-0.
It was the only time, at that time, l had ever predicted a correct score, l did some years later after backing Stoke City and Wolves as a 0-0 and heard the result from a prison cell in Stoke-on-Trent, but that’s a story for a different book.
This was just another injustice in the Life of Alan Hudson. To cut that short l was sitting in that pub in Kidsgrove when two coppers came in and arrested me for the day, nice, even the female police officer who dropped me off left me with the words: “99 per-cent of these cases, in my experience, are caused the other way round so do yourself a favour and stay away.”
Great advice miss!
I’m still not telling you as l am embarrassed for the other party?
l simply emailed Tom with something l still have in my wall, well, the result and the goal-scorer.
I was that confident that after sending this off l told my girlfriend to ‘sort some food out and l will get the booze, we’re having a celebratory FA Cup final party, something quite normal in my Seattle days. But here Ann could not understand that l was celebrating being back in work, something l told her that would happen after the final whistle.
Fast forward and my relationship with Mr. Tom Clarke, who like my professor (Williams) In the time to come, he reminded me of that man Waddington. This was a great start. I like a man who you cant work out immediately. Someone who you wait for that initial meeting to disappear and the problems begin, but in all of my time knowing both Waddington and Clarke they never came.
David Elsworth: I did my usual column for the Friday and after it was edited and published Tom called me into his office. I would be lying if I told you what he said or even began his conversation but all I can remember is him saying is “Alan, you’ll get me locked up” which disturbed me if only for not knowing what he meant. I had written a column and in the column I wrote about Alan Ball as a manager and think I told the story of the people of the Potteries telling me, “He might be your mate and been brilliant alongside you against the Germans, but had he been the captain of the Titanic he would have gone down much earlier,” which I found incredibly amusing, although at that time I wasn’t aware that Captain Smith was from Hanley not far from where Stanley Matthews was born and bred.
I thought it a great line, plus it amused me because AB, as I call him, promised me the job as his assistant and had he been true to his word, that saying would never have reared its head. I was the perfect foil for AB, as I knew the folk from the Potteries whereas his sidekick Graham Paddon who he turned to instead (for reasons unacceptable to me) did not.
Anyhow, Tom said, “We have rather disturbing letter from David Elsworth taking offence to your talking of Alan Ball the way you did in your column,” which rather delighted me as he took time to read it number one and number two, it gave me the opportunity to the following, “Tom, I hope that you’re printing his letter” something he had already un hand. You have heard that saying: “There’s nothing mightier than the pen” well, as dumb as I am I got excited about it. David’s spread was brilliant absolutely castrating me like I was some kind of terrorist.
He had just written my next column for me. I spoke to Tom, as I didn’t want him hanging himself with that tie, and of course he agreed. You simply couldn’t write the script almost as if it was something I rarely get, a gift from above.
Well, you know exactly how I went about it, obviously, sitting on my laptop and grinning like the cat that got the cream wrote:
Many thanks for your reply in letter form and firstly may I say I love my horse racing and have great respect for the likes of yourself, Henry Cecil, Richard Hannon and Michael Stoute on the flat, and the David The Duke Nicholson, never forgetting the man I had a horse with Reg Hollinshead and all of his family in Upper Longsdown not far from where I was living in Uttoxeter.
I also respect your love of our game where I mentioned your friend, and mine, Alan Ball as a manager. The most important factor here is, was it a coincidence that you trained Desert Orchard to those magnificent triumphs the same it is a coincidence Alan Ball keeps getting football clubs relegated?
I think Sir Alex might reiterate that.
More important, Tom had now put away the tie and after leaving my hospital bedside without that tie I have had the pleasure to have lunch with him, although it was too long ago, but my respect remains and always will. Like being around the likes of Goodier, Professor Norman Williams, Frank Cross – who said I’d never walk again – Otto Chan and Claire Strickland in their field, respect sticks.
I have told a couple of Professors the difference between them and those that run our game, be it a manager or director, these magnificent medical people who looked after me knew exactly what they were doing.
I can only finish by saying if they were in our field, we would not still be waiting since 1966 to show those football followers over here some kind of silverware.