Steve Clark is one of those players whose record on the pitch is almost a throwback to another long-lost era. He stayed with St Albans for nine years, he scored goals seemingly at will and, to cap it all, has an easy-going manner off the pitch that further helped to cement his place in the hearts and minds of the Clarence Park faithful.
A schoolteacher who, at 27, was at his prime when John Mitchell signed him in the summer of 1991. His time at the Park was very much a family affair with his parents, Len and Gill, not only supporting him but the club too. His twin sister Sally was frequently in attendance as was family friend Stan Bissinger.
Steve’s goalscoring partnerships with the likes of Dean Williams and Brian Stein, albeit brief, were phenomenal, while the contribution of pinpoint crosses from the flanks by the irrepressible Jimmy King, at both Wivenhoe and St Albans, were a vital ingredient in the success of Steve Clark.
Following on from Freddie Collings, Phil Wood and Paul Mayles, Clarky became the fourth St Albans City player to be honoured with a Testimonial. Only Phil Wood made more appearances for the club while the remarkable exploits of Wilf ‘Billy’ Minter in the 1920s is all that denied Clarky the mantle of all time top goalscorer. This profile of one of our most favoured sons is quite lengthy, for which no apology is required.
Fact File: Born: 4 February 1964, Hull. Home Life: Married to Mim (Melanie). Children: Joshua, Benjamin, Harrison. Parents: Len & Gill. Twin sister, Sally.
Previous clubs: Stansted, Saffron Walden Town, Wivenhoe Town.
St. Albans City Playing Record:
Debut: 20-08-91, a 3-1 Isthmian League defeat at Enfield.
First Goal: 24-08-91, a 2-1 Isthmian League win at Carshalton Athletic.
Appearances: 488 (329 League). Goals: 322 (195 League).
Honours with St. Albans City:
Player of the Year 1993 & 1995. Top scorer for nine consecutive seasons. Highest total by an individual in one season, 56 in 1994-95. F.A. Cup 2nd Round 1996-97. F.A. Trophy Semi-Final 1998-99. Isthmian League Runners-up 1992-93. London Challenge Cup Winner 1994-95. East Anglian Cup Winner 1992-93. Herts Senior Cup Winner 1999-00. Herts Charity Cup Winner 1992-93, 1994-95, 1997-98. Herts Charity Cup Finalists 1995-96. Isthmian League Representative XI.
John Mitchell's return for a second spell as manager of St. Albans City in March 1991 had a touch of the saviour returns about it. During his first spell as manager between 1983-87, Mitch, a player with the City in 1971-72 prior to joining Fulham, gave the club back its pride with two promotions in three seasons and a safe position in the Premier Division of the Isthmian League. This time his sights were set higher. Since his departure four years earlier the club had done little more but hover just above the relegation zone, occasionally rising to the dizzy heights of 13th.
For the 1991-92 season Mitch brought in, amongst others, Steve Ketteridge and Steve Scott, while most of his shopping was done at financially stricken Wivenhoe Town. City signed Garry Brooke, Jimmy King, Paul Price and Steve Clark from the Essex club. It was a significant, and costly, haul. Clark had first come to City’s attention on 13th October 1990 when heading in Wivenhoe’s goal during a 1-1 draw between the two sides at Broad Lane. Mitchell spent a then club record fee of £4,000 to bring the Bishop’s Stortford school teacher to Clarence Park.
Above: Steve Clark, Roy Race, Jimmy King.
Top scorer for the first of nine seasons
Steve played in just one preseason game, against an Arsenal XI, and marked it by scoring with a diving header. Clarky pulled on a City shirt for the first time in a competitive fixture on Tuesday 20th August, but it was an inauspicious start as a 3-1 Isthmian League Premier Division defeat was endured at Enfield’s Southbury Road home. His performance that day was far from memorable but the dawning of a new era in the Saints history was loudly announced the following Saturday, 24th August, when he scored the second City goal during a 2-1 win at Carshalton Athletic (below). He was also hauled down by Robins goalkeeper Les Cleevely for the Saints first goal that Steve Cox stuck away from the penalty spot. It was a pass by Jimmy King that set Clark up for the penalty.
By the time a groin injury put him out of action in late December, Clark had justified Mitchell's faith in him by finding the back of the net 20 times, this included a four-goal haul during a League Cup victory over Tilbury. His first hat-trick had come on 19th October as City romped to a 3-0 F.A. Trophy victory over Hitchin Town at Top Field. City finished the season a disappointing 13th with a run to the semi-final of the League Cup providing the high-point. Given that City were handed 17 penalties that season, of which just 11 were converted, one cannot help but think that Clark could have greatly increased his impressive tally of 29 goals had he possessed the confidence to try his luck from 12 yards.
1992-93: Cockram, Duffield, Clark and King – the City’s elite
By the time of Clark's second season at Clarence Park the club had made a significant move with chairman Bernard Tominey and Mitchell, who was also vice-chairman, deciding to disband the Reserve side and channel all the club’s resources into the First team. Clark's pre-season form, seldom a true guide as to a player’s quality, had been muted although he scored braces against both Bedworth United and Dunstable.
On paper City possessed a side as good as any in the league as Dulwich Hamlet, for whom Jon Daly was dismissed, discovered as the Saints kicked off the 1992-93 season on Sunday, 23rd August, with a 5-0 rout at Bromley's Hayes Lane ground. Decked out in their change kit of all white City looked formidable, certainly Clark did as he scored his first league hat-trick for the club, Dean Williams added the other two goals.
Right; Steve Clark outjumps Wayne Kerrins to head home a Jimmy King cross for City’s first league goal of the season.
One of the most gripping encounters of a season that spawned many memories was a 3-3 F.A. Cup draw at Stevenage Borough. Clarky scored the first of the Saints three equalisers that after-noon in front of a highly charged atmosphere at Broadhall Way. City won the replay and in the next round, the final qualifying round, it was his goal, deep into injury time, that clinched the scalp of Gerry Daly’s Conference side Telford United at the Bucks Head ground (below).
At the start of November, he notched his first away league hat-trick as Harrow Borough were turned over 6-3 at Earlsmead, Boro took their revenge by being the only visiting side to win a league match at Clarence Park that season. Having scored in all four of the Qualifying Rounds of the FA Cup, Clark's form deserted him during the 1st Round proper tie with Cheltenham Town at Clarence Park. Over 3,000 spectators saw the then Southern League side win 2-1. Before November was out Clarky had added a representative honour to his c.v. and marked the occasion by scoring for the Isthmian League XI during a 6-1 defeat to an F.A. XI at Clarence Park. Other City players also given a run out in the 16-man League squad – managed by John Mitchell - were Peter Risley, Paul Price, Allan Cockram and Bob Dowie.
Bumper crowds at Clarence Park
The first week of the new year saw Clark score his 50th goal for the Saints as Rainham Town were beaten 3-1 at Clarence Park in the East Anglian Cup. It was one of his more unusual goals as he simply headed the ball back into the goal after the visitor’s goalkeeper, Brian Smart, had placed a goalkick straight onto his head. As City gave chase to league leaders Chesham United, Clark continued to plunder the goals with hat-tricks at Wokingham Town and Bognor Regis Town. In between those matches came a significant tussle with Chesham at Clarence Park. City had whittled away Chesham's once seemingly impregnable 16-point lead and again around 3,000 spectators trundled through the turnstiles hoping to see a glorious City victory which would have taken them to the top of the table. Clark scored, as he had in the first meeting back in November, but on a misty afternoon Chesham collected the point required to stay clear of their closest challengers. Below: Clarky runs towards the York Road terrace to celebrate his equalising goal against eventual champions Chesham United.
Tons of success for City and Clark
Even so, City still took the race for championship to the final day of the season. There was, however, still a possibility of Enfield pipping City for the runners-up position and when Carshalton, courtesy of a Jimmy Bolton hat-trick, led 3-0 at half-time at Colston Avenue on Grand National Day, City's challenge looked to be fading. But, back came City, Clark led the way with a brace - he also had a third goal dubiously disallowed - and Athletic were humbled 5-3. Clark ended a memorable campaign with a flourish by scoring in all of the last five games including a triple blast against Marlow that saw him put away his first penalty for the club.
The final league game of the campaign, a 2-2 home draw with Sutton United, saw Clark score in his 100th game for the Saints, but the title went to Chesham. City at least had the satisfaction of picking up two cups. Clark played in the side that defeated Boreham Wood in the final of the Herts Charity Cup, he also scored during a 4-1 East Anglian Cup Final success over Cambridge City.
His 45 goals in 59 appearances earned him his first Player of the Year award. There was little doubt that he would win the award but he probably regretted taking just one of the 22 penalties City were awarded during the season, as he finished the season with 35 league goals, the second highest in the Saints history and just one short of the record set by Minter during the 1926-27 season.
Changing times for City
Business commitments, and bitter disappointment at club being denied promotion to the Football Conference, deemed that Mitchell would not be at the helm for the start of the 1993-94 season. Assistant manager Steve Ketteridge was promoted to manager.
Although stopping short of calling it a Reserve side, City did field a team for the Capital League that season, it was a spectacular flop and a hugely embarrassing venture as far as the Saints were concerned. Clark scored once in two appearances for that side which was meant to be a competition in which First teamers could regain fitness and form, but it ended up with supporters and club officials stepping to help fulfil fixtures.
His pre-season form had been phenomenal, in eight games he scored 13 goals including four against a Watford XI and hat-tricks against Tottenham and Arsenal sides. Steve showed no sign of slowing down once the season proper got underway, as he helped himself to five goals in two games against Baldock Town and Hitchin Town.
Following on from the immensely popular Mitchell was a far from enviable task but Ketts’ kept City in with the leading sides during the first half of the season. City’s first league win of the season came at Kingstonian where Clark, with a thundering header, scored one of the most spectacular goals of his career. By mid-January City had emerged as genuine title contenders but a run of seven defeats in 11 games led to the end of Ketteridge’s reign. The last league win of Ketts’ reign came on 11th January when Clark helped himself to his 10th hat-trick for the club and his second against Dulwich.
In an unexpected move, Tominey appointed Allan Cockram as manager and he in turn named Martin Duffield as joint manager. Although no trophies were to come his way, Clark ended the season in pretty good form by scoring in nine out of 14 games. One month from the end of the season he celebrated his 150th game by scoring an equaliser at Enfield.
Goals, goals and then ... more goals
The 1994-95 season was to be a memorable one in the Saints history not only for their achievements on the pitch but also for something that they didn't do. The Isthmian League agreed to partake in an experiment that allowed clubs to kick the ball in instead of using the traditional throw-in when the ball went out of play via the touchline. Cockram vowed that his side would not take a single Kick-In as the experiment did nothing but encourage teams to play the long ball game.
For the new season Steve had a serious threat to his position as top goal scorer with the former Luton Town and England striker Brian Stein joining St Albans. After just one competitive fixture, a Herts Charity Cup tie at Hemel Hempstead Town, Clark was under no illusion that he could no longer take for granted his position as the senior striker as his two goals against City's near neighbours were outshone by Stein's debut day hat-trick.
Right: Steve Clark and Shaun Brett (right) congratulate Brian Stein following his goal against Grays Athletic on 15th October 1994.
Six-goal spree in F.A. Cup glory
City, though, made a slow start to the season and neither player scored in either of the opening two league games. Clark opened his league account during a 4-4 draw at Marlow and a week later added two more at home to Carshalton but that game also saw him score his only own goal in nine years with the City.
After a run of scoring in six successive games Clarky went into the record books on 24th September as the second St Albans City player to score a double hat-trick in an F.A. Cup tie. Hillingdon Borough were his victims during an 11-1 rout at Clarence Park. It is quite likely that St Albans are the only club to have two players to score double hat-tricks in the F.A. Cup. Steve later admitted that he was unaware during the game that he was only one goal away from equalling Minter's record of scoring seven times in a single match.
City came down to earth three days later with a crushing 7-2 league defeat at Yeading but at least Clark had the consolation of scoring his 14th goal in eight matches. Another cup hat-trick came his way on 11th October as Hemel were routed for a second time, this time in the Herts Senior Cup.
But in a season which the Saints scored and conceded more goals than during any other in the club’s history, Clark was not alone on the hat-trick trail. Stein scored three times against Uxbridge - four days before the Hillingdon massacre - and three more against Bishop's Stortford in the game following the trouncing at Yeading. For Clark though the party came to temporary halt on 10th December when, at Harrow Borough's Earlsmead ground, he was dismissed for the first time in what was his 188th game for the Saints.
As if spurred on by that setback he went on another spree a week later by scoring four times during an 8-3 slaughter of Kingstonian at Clarence Park. Not for the only time in his career he cheekily tried to claim another goal which had actually been stuck away by K's defender John Finch. That win gave City an almost Fantasy Football 13-6 double over the Kingsmeadow outfit, six of which had been scored by Clark.
City continued to score with gay abandon but Clarky was unable to add to his goal tally on what was his 200th game for the club, a 1-1 draw with Hayes at Church Road on 4th March. His position as top goalscorer had already been confirmed for another season due to Stein, after scoring 32 times in 42 appearances, heading off to aid the championship bid of Paul Fairclough's Stevenage. The month ended on a high though for Clarky as his goal against an Aylesbury side, containing eight players to have played for St. Albans at one time or another, meant that he became only the second player to score 20 or more league goals for the club on three separate occasions.
New individual goalscoring record set
Clark played in 11 of City’s dozen games during April but his failure to locate the target in any of the first seven looked to have put paid to his hopes of beating Charlie Bunce's all time club record of 54 goals by an individual in one season, achieved in 1934-35. Steve's next goal, on 22nd April, came against relegation bound Wokingham and two days later he scored again, this despite filling in at centre half as a ten-man City side went down 3-2 at Walton & Hersham. He needed seven goals from his final five games of the season if he was to overhaul Bunce's record. A single against Dulwich and a double at Purfleet kept the dream alive but team glory came first on 2nd May as Boreham Wood were seen off in the final of the Herts Charity Cup, achieved without him scoring.
The league season was rounded off with Steve netting the decider from the penalty spot at home to Harrow. It was a fitting way to celebrate becoming the first player to twice win the St Albans City Player of the Year award. City now faced an 11 day wait before taking on Fisher 93 in the final of the London Challenge Cup at Charlton Athletic's Valley Stadium on 15th May.
Steve’s target was now down to three goals from one game. With five minutes to go to half time City led through a Barry Blackman goal at The Valley. In those remaining minutes of the half Clark and Gurney extended the lead to 3-0. When a further 28 minutes of the second half had elapsed without addition to the score, time was running out. Suddenly, Fisher collapsed and in an unforgettable 15-minute spell City’s ace marksman not only completed his fifth hat-trick of the season but added a fourth in a 6-0 rout to set a new club record of 56 goals in a season by an individual player.
Below: City celebrate winning the London Challenge Cup.
Jude Monteath (Physio), Erskine Smart, Richard Watkiss, Barry Blackman, Kevin Mudd, Steve Clark, Martin Gurney, Trevor Wilkinson, Steve Scott.
Gareth Howells, Martin Duffield, Shaun Brett, Andy Driscoll, Peter Risley, Rob McKane.
Championship challenge before City self-destruct
The highlight of the summer games in the build-up to the 1995-96 season was a friendly in front of a packed Clarence Park against the full Arsenal first team. Clarky did not score that night but Dennis Bergkamp bagged a hat-trick for the Gunners. Steve began the new season in fine form and, after scoring against Ware in the Herts Charity Cup, he became the first City player to score in the opening three league games of a season since Walter Winsley 42 years earlier. Steve confirmed his good start with three goals in two cup ties against Worthing and Barton Rovers but it was already evident that City, with Alan Randall installed as assistant manager under Cockram following Duffield's departure from Clarence Park, were a less flamboyant outfit than the previous season. Randall, as assistant manager at Chesham United in 1992-93, had played a significant role in the Generals winning the league that season. Proof that City were a tighter unit with a greater emphasis on not conceding goals was provided by Clark himself, as he failed to score a single hat-trick in an entire season for the first time since joining the club. The honour of scoring City's only triple of the season fell to the enigmatic Mark Biggins during a 5-0 win over Bromley. Clark also saw his run of scoring 20 or more league goals in three consecutive seasons come to an end as he notched 19 in 37 outings.
Saints rise to the top
Although 1995-96 may not have been one of Clark's most glorious seasons it was, in fact, close to being a memorable chapter in the club’s history. City held a decent league position for most of the season and, after six straight wins, went to the top of the table at the end of February with a scrappy draw at Molesey. Steve scored just once as City trounced Hitchin Town 5-1, gained an excellent, though dull, draw at Yeovil Town and crushed Dulwich Hamlet 4-1 to reinforce their position at the top. The chasing pack had plenty of games in hand and the title dream was shattered on 16th March when Hayes stormed to a 3-0 win at Clarence Park. Four days later Kingstonian also won at the Park. Not only had the bubble well and truly burst for City but also Clark's star had dimmed and he ended the season with just three goals from his final 20 league and cup appearances.
Cockram's reign came to an abrupt conclusion eight matches from the end of the season when he threw his shirt down in the centre of the pitch during an East Anglian Cup win over Soham Town Rangers - Clark scored a late winner. Cockram's outburst came following contract talks with the club chairman which looked to secure his long-term future with the Saints only for the club to withdraw the offer stating that the chairman’s deal was beyond the means of the club.
More milestones for Clark
For the 1996-97 season Alan Randall stepped up from assistant to manager but an indifferent start to the season saw the new manager quickly placed on the back foot. For Clark the new season was greeted with just one goal in five outings. At 32 were Clark's best days behind him; far from it, as he was soon to prove. After scoring his second league goal of the season during a 3-0 win over Staines Town, Steve ended his long wait for a hat-trick with a triple blast at Wingate & Finchley in mid-September. Following an embarrassing draw with London Colney at Clarence Park in the F.A. Cup he helped himself to a brace in the replay, also staged at the Park.
The visit of Croydon for a League Cup tie on 8th October was hardly one of the highlights of the City fixture list but for Clark it was a significant moment in his career, as his second goal of the night, during extra time, was his 200th for the club in 291 appearances. Those two goals really kicked his season into gear. A run of three matches between 29th October and 5th November saw him score trebles against Essex sides Collier Row & Romford and Aveley in cup matches either side of bagging a brace during a humbling 5-4 defeat at home to Cockram's new club, Chertsey Town.
When Dagenham & Redbridge visited the Park on 9th November Steve became the 10th player to reach the landmark of 300 games for the club. A 2-0 defeat to the Daggers left City floundering in mid-table but a good run in the F.A. Cup kept the season alive. The run included and win over his former club Stansted. Two goals by Greg Howell edged City past Wisbech Town in the 1st Round proper to set up a 2nd Round meeting with Bristol City at Ashton Gate. For Clarky personally, the Bristol match was a triumph as he stylishly headed home his 216th goal for St. Albans (below). Unfortunately, City were six-down at the time and eventually slithered to a 9-2 defeat with Jon Daly heading in the second St Albans goal.
New Neighbour in the City
Randall left the club in the aftermath of the defeat at Bristol to be replaced by the former Spurs winger and Enfield manager Jimmy Neighbour. City’s form had been erratic throughout the season but, with eleven games to play, Clarky needed a goal a game to reach the 50 mark for a second time. Unfortunately, he then endured his only ten-game spell without scoring whilst with the club and had to settle on 40 for the season, in 62 appearances, when scoring at Bromley in the final game of the campaign.
Slow start then Sutton blitzed
Following on from his lack of goals at the end of the previous season, Steve started the 1997-98 without a goal in four preseason games and opening three competitive matches. All that changed on 23rd August when he scored a 15-minue hat-trick against a hitherto unbeaten Sutton United. He stuck away another two goals three days later at Yeading. Sadly, though, that form was not maintained throughout the season and it was another campaign of promise but little delivery. The League Cup provided City with their best moments with a run through to the semi-final. City had not won back-to-back match since September and when Sutton, following a goalless draw at Gander Green Lane, won the semi-final 2nd Leg at Clarence Park 3-0, Neighbour called time on his reign at the Park.
By this time City were under new leadership with chairman Bernard Tominey having passed ownership of the club to Lee Harding, a former director at Enfield and owner of Queensway Press, the company responsible for printing the club’s matchday programme. Heybridge Swifts manager Garry Hill was the surprise choice as Neighbour’s replacement, it was an inspired appointment. Hill was manager for the final 13 games of the season during which time Clarky scored ten times including a hat-trick as Berkhamsted Town were hammered 6-0 in the Herts Charity Cup. The run took him past 250 goals for the club and left him with 28 goals to his name for the season from 57 games.
Memorable goal against Spurs
In the build up to the 1998-99 season Steve scored a classic headed goal against the full Tottenham Hotspur First team that he regards as one the high points of his career. He was 34 when the season started, yet it was another vintage year for him personally and, so nearly, a truly historic one for the club.
St Albans City 2-6 Tottenham Hotspur – 11th August 1998
Back row: Rob Haworth, Les Ferdinand, Mark Keen, Paul Newell, Espen Baardsen, Allan Neilsen, Darren Anderton, Andy Polston, Ramon Vaga, Chris Turner (Linesman), Norman Appleby (Referee), Chris Thorpe (Linesman), Neil Trebble, Paul Turner, Peter Risley, Ramon Vega, Sol Campbell, Scott Darton, Steve Blaney, Steve Clark.
Front row: Paolo Tramezzani, Dominic Gentle, David Ginola, Stephen Carr, Matt Jones, Rory Allen, Tom Meredith, John Pollard, Gary Caldon, Jose Dominguez.
The visit of Basingstoke Town on 12th September saw Clarky mark his 400th game for the club with another brace of goals. Ten days later City won 2-1 at Aldershot Town, it was the first in a run of 24 unbeaten games for the City striker (City actually played 25 games in that time but he was rested for the Full Members Cup tie with Enfield that St Albans lost). Included in that run he enjoyed a spell of 19 goals in 17 games and set a personal best of scoring in seven consecutive games.
Trophy dream keeps season alive
Throughout the season City were on the fringe of the championship race but were seldom serious contenders. If glory was to be found then it would be in the F.A. Trophy. City came in at the 2nd Round stage and Clark set Hill’s side on their way with two goals during a 3-0 win at Leyton Pennant. A frequently postponed 3rd Round tie with Hastings United was put to bed with Steve adding another goal during a 3-0 win at The Pilot Field. City were without the suspended Clark for a 4th Round tie away to Ashton United and required a Rob Haworth goal deep into injury time to stave off defeat. Steve was back for the replay two days later and struck twice to take City through to the last 16 for the first time. Isthmian League Premier Division rivals Dagenham & Redbridge were next to fall followed in the quarter-final by Boston United. Clarky missed the Boston game, again through suspension, but was back for the two-legged semi-final with Forest Green Rovers. A goal down inside the opening minute, City drew the first meeting 1-1 at Clarence Park courtesy of a stunning equaliser by Peter Risley.
In the 2nd Leg at The Lawn, City looked Wembley bound when Clark scored from close-in (below) to put the Saints two up just four minutes from the break, 3-1 on aggregate. A minute later it was nearly three but Rovers grabbed a lifeline with a scrambled goal just before half-time. During the final 17 minutes of the second half Rovers found fortune was their side with two more ugly, deflected, goals and City’s Wembley dream was over.
It was a bitter blow for Clark, as his goal appeared to have given him the opportunity to at last emulate the achievement of his father 35 years earlier when he played at Wembley for Hull Kingston Rovers in the Rugby League Final.
After the heartbreak of missing out on playing in the Trophy, City went unbeaten in their final seven games of the season with Clarky scoring his 40th goal of the campaign on the final day of the season. That goal was against Dagenham & Redbridge, the club that Garry Hill joined from City after the game.
Final season at The Park
Replacing Hill in the manager’s office at Clarence Park for the 1999-00 season was a former teammate of Clark’s, Bob Dowie. Steve’s preparations for the new season were hindered by a calf strain but he was able to take his place in the starting XI for a friendly against a youthful West Ham United side at the beginning of his testimonial year. Making his first appearance in the Hammers line up was England international Stuart Pearce who handed his shirt to Clarky after the game.
Despite losing the opening league game, City were quickly into their stride and did not suffer a second league defeat until late in October. Clark, though, made a slow start to the season with just one goal in nine games but it was a significant strike - at home to Hitchin Town - as he became the second City player to reach the 300 landmark.
After reaching the semi-final earlier in the year City fell at the first hurdle of the F.A. Trophy this time but enjoyed a good run in the F.A. Cup. The campaign opened with victory at Bedford Town before Clark claimed a hat-trick in the 3rd Round Qualifying at home to Nantwich Town. He added two more in a 3-3 draw at Canvey Island in the final Qualifying Round. City came from behind to win the replay but a defeat at home to Bamber Bridge the First Round was his last appearance for the club in that competition.
Steve put that disappointment behind him to score six times in his next three games, including a hat-trick at home to Dulwich Hamlet. Scoring three times that day meant that Clark’s first and last league hat-trick for St Albans had both come against the same opposition. But it would be another two months until his next Isthmian League goal as a hamstring injury put him on the sidelines.
By the time that Clarky returned to the side Dowie had been replaced as manager by Kevin Mudd, who had been promoted from Reserve team manager. Clark’s first game back was a 3-0 win at Slough. He scored with a header in the next game, a 3-1 defeat at home to Dagenham & Redbridge, but tweaked his hamstring in the process and was out of action for another six weeks. On his return he headed home a Peter Risley free kick during a win over Heybridge Swifts but City were now just hoping to secure a top three finish.
With three games remaining City appeared perfectly placed to achieve that aim but a goalless at home to Boreham Wood, a 4-0 defeat to Enfield (who were lodging at Boreham Wood at this time) and a last minute 3-2 defeat away to Dulwich Hamlet on the final day of the season, saw St Albans slip from third to sixth.
Before the season was over Clarky, who scored his last hat-trick for the club during a 5-1 semi-final win over Boreham Wood, added a Herts Senior Cup winners medal to his collection as City beat a Baldock Town side managed by Steve Cook and Gary Roberts.
Steve Clark left St Albans City at the end of the season having made the second highest number of appearances for the club, 488, and scored the second highest number of goals, 322. He also played in eight games for the City Reserves down the years, during which time he scored eight times including a hat-trick during a 4-1 win away to Aylesbury United on September 29th 1999.
The curtain came down on his final season with the City with a testimonial Saints v Legends match at Clarence Park on 9th May 2000. The game was played in three 30-minute segments with players from all of his time with the club taking part. Jimmy Bolton, who once pipped Steve to the Isthmian League Golden Boot Award by one goal, was amongst those to honour Clarky that evening.
Below: Peter Taylor, treasurer for Steve’s testimonial year, presents the cheque from the year’s proceeds at The Crown in Hatfield Road. Others pictured; Len Cark, Blanche Daulton, Jude Monteath, Gill Clark, David Tavener, Michael Melnyk, Terry Edwards and Mark White.
Steve joined Isthmian League Premier Division rivals Canvey Island during the close season. City’s first home game of the 2000-01 season saw us host Canvey on 22nd August. City went down to a 4-1 defeat with Clarky scoring twice for Jeff King’s side. He scored ten times for the Islanders during the rest of the season but was left out of the squad for their F.A. Trophy final victory over Forest Green Rovers at Villa Park.
The 2001-02 season saw him sign for Aylesbury United. It was a successful move as Clarky scored 21 times in 42 games as the Ducks won promotion to the Premier Division of the Isthmian League. Having scored six times in an F.A. Cup tie for St Albans, he added another five when Aylesbury beat Brentwood Town 10-1 in the same competition. Steve retired from football at the end of that season.
His days in competitive football may have been over but Steve returned to wear the City colours on 2nd October 2005 as part of a Mayor’s All Star XI (below) to face the crew of H.M.S. St Albans. The footballers won 6-1 with goals from Peter Risley, Jon Daly, Roy Edwards and, of course, Steve Clark 3.
Steve Clark, Barry Blackman, Jon Daly, Trevor Wilkinson, Mayor Malcolm MacMillan, Gareth Howells, Kevin Mudd, Alistair McMillin, Gary Phillips u/k.
Andy Polston, Roy Edwards, Allan Cockram, Peter Risley, John Colfer, u/k, u/k.
Photos by kind permission of John Sherwood. Apologies to any others for uncredited use.