Signed from Birmingham City for £300,000 in March 1987 as Everton edged towards their ninth League Championship, Clarke was instrumental in the season’s run-in, scoring several vital goals that pushed the club towards glory. The youngest of five footballing brothers – the most famous of whom was Allan, Leeds and England’s goal-poaching talisman in the early 1970s – Clarke was brought in to relieve the striking burden, enforced after injury to Graeme Sharp. Clarke immediately repaid his modest price tag. An outstanding 25-yard lob over Arsenal goalkeeper John Lukic was the only goal of Everton’s visit to Highbury and he coolly dispatched a hat-trick against Newcastle United on Easter Monday that put Everton into a virtually unassailable lead at the top of the First Division. A few weeks later Everton were crowned champions, and Clarke, who had spent his early career ambling around the lower reaches of the division with Wolves and Birmingham, was a winner for the first time. ‘It probably took a while to sink in,’ he told the Evertonian in 2008. ‘I’d gone from Birmingham to winning the Championship in the space of a few months.’
FURTHER brushes with glory were not far away. Clarke scored the only goal of the Charity Shield match, against Coventry City at Wembley the following August. Although Everton’s 1987/88 season was largely disappointing, his strike against Liverpool in the Goodison derby in March – a cool tap home after Bruce Grobbelaar flapped at a corner – was memorable. Unbeaten since the start of the season, had Everton failed to beat Liverpool it would have seen their rivals surpass Leeds United’s record 29-game unbeaten start to a season; a record set in 1974, in part because of the efforts of Clarke’s older brother Allan.
With the British record signing of Tony Cottee the following August, opportunities for Clarke were rarer in the 1988/89 season, although he did score a penalty in the 1-1 league draw with Liverpool in December. Disappointed to be left out of the 1989 FA Cup Final squad, he joined Leicester City that summer, a makeweight in the deal that brought Mike Newell to Goodison. Clarke was later reunited with Howard Kendall at Manchester City, before embarking on a lower-league tour in the early 1990s, including a brief spell as Telford United manager. Now living back in his native Midlands, Clarke works as a travelling rep for Coca-Cola.