"On a night we got beaten in the Cup by Luton, the staff came in and said ‘Clive Clarke has had a heart attack at Leicester’. I said ‘Is he OK? I’m shocked they found one. You could never tell by the way he plays'," former Sunderland manager Roy Keane said upon hearing the news that his former player, Clive Clarke, had suffered a heart attack following a game between his loan club, Leicester City, and Nottingham Forest.
As harsh as that sounds, it was indicative of just how Keane felt about a player that he had inherited upon taking over the reins of the shambles that was Sunderland AFC in 2006. Niall Quinn might have been a superb manager and a lovely bloke but a football manager he was not, and as a result of his inexperience we signed a number of players that we should never have gone anywhere near, with Clive Clarke being one of them.
When we re-signed George McCartney in 2008 it was a reminder that we had virtually given McCartney to West Ham just two years earlier in exchange for Clarke, with the Hammers happily laughing all the way to the bank having made mugs out of us when conducting business back in 2006. For West Ham, they got one of Sunderland's best players and our captain, whilst in exchange we got Clarke, a player who only played three times in his one year at Upton Park. It wasn't exactly a great deal.
Regardless, Clive Clarke was our player, and just a day after joining the club he was thrust straight into action after an injury to Steve Caldwell in the home defeat by Birmingham City meant that Clarke was needed. Sunderland were poor and lost 1-0 in a match that was the beginning of the end for Niall Quinn as manager, who blundered from one defeat to another throughout the August of 2006.
Clarke started the next game, at home against Plymouth, and lasted only twenty minutes before succumbing to injury. It was a theme that followed him throughout his short Sunderland career.
Because of injury Clarke found himself out of the Sunderland side as Roy Keane dramatically improved our form in his first few months as manager, and it wasn't until played a game for Keane, away at Preston in a game we shipped four goals and lost rather embarrassingly. Clarke was absolutely appalling that day and we were 3-0 down at half time - it could have been more and it was a wonder that Clarke managed to make it through the whole game without being substituted.
He was dropped for the next game against Stoke, where Robbie Elliott was preferred at left back, but his replacement was injured and as a result Clarke entered the pitch at half time in his place. He was absolutely abysmal once more and it was the final straw for Keane, who shipped the Irish full-back out to Coventry City almost instantly and Clarke was never to play for Sunderland again.
So yeah, Clive Clarke. Apparently these days he's an agent. If he learned anything from the bloke that managed to wrangle him a move to Sunderland at the expense of our then captain then he'll do a very fine job of offloading shite players to teams that think they're getting the next Paolo Maldini.