Harry Clarke, the Darlington forward who had three spells at the club and was nicknamed the “Comeback King” has died at the age of 94.
Harry, who was born in 1921, started playing football at Darlington RA and then Gateshead, and he first joined Darlington during the war, playing in the Regional Leagues which were running at that time.
Records are hard to come by for that period, but Harry scored his first goal for Quakers at Huddersfield on September 30th 1944, and just a fortnight later he banged in four against Hull City at Feethams in front of a crowd of 6,704, In total he grabbed 25 for the season, against clubs like Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle.
That wasn’t bad going, but in season 1945-46 in Football League Division Three North East, he was positively prolific, with 43 goals in all matches, including five against Rotherham on October 13th 1945, two of them penalties. The Echo report said that “The centre forward’s dash and skill had the Rotherham defence in difficulties.” On another occasion, Harry scored four against Halifax on October 27th 1945 – and still finished on the losing side.
And that was the key to his success, and why the bigger clubs tracked him, even in those war years.
After the war finished, Harry kept on popping in the goals, and in season 1946-47, he scored 19 goals in 21 games before Leeds made an offer for him.
Harry, who was also a draughtsman at LNER, played against Hull City on February 15th 1947 – he didn’t score for a change – and a week later he went to Elland Road for £2400 to help Leeds’ fight against relegation. He averaged nearly a goal a game in his first Darlington spell, scoring 91 goals in 93 games.
He didn’t stay long at Leeds, because he returned on December 5th 1947 for a four figure fee, although it is understood much less than his original transfer fee.
Harry’s first home game was remarkable. He scored in the first half against Carlisle, who then led 3-1 with six minutes left, until Quakers stormed back to win 4-3 in the last six minutes.
Harry scored 14 goals in 22 games that season, including a well taken hat trick against Stockport on March 20th 1948, two first time shots and a left foot drive.
He left the club again after scoring 25 goals in 37 games, this time for Hartlepool – he actually scored against Quakers – before he returned again from North Eastern League club Stockton in September 1952.
And in his third spell at the club over nine years, Harry scored two on his home debut against Chesterfield on September 24th 1952. Harry scored 6 goals in 14 games in this spell, bringing his tally in total to 122 goals in 144 games, an unofficial club record.
Harry was also a keen cricketer, and represented Durham County on 46 occasions.
There was also an ode penned in tribute to Harry:
This is the tale of the man who came back
When everyone said he was finished
He was getting too old and getting too fat
And the force of his football diminished.
Yes, now he’s come home, let’s welcome him back
He’s always a fine opportunist
With the wave in his hair and a bend in his nose
He was ideal to draw for cartoonists.
’The Quakers are back to their best once again’
A director was heard to remark
They’ve got cash in the bank and the man they can thank
Is the man who came back, Harry Clarke.”
source http://www.darlingtonfootballclub.co.uk Ray Simpson