Cardiff City vs. Huddersfield Town | Player Focus: Brian Clark
Born in 1943 in Bristol, Brian Clark followed in the footsteps of his father – Don Clark, also a professional footballer who played as a striker – by joining Bristol City. Brian ended up making 195 league appearances for the Robins, which exceeded his father’s own record at the club, where he scored 83 goals between 1960-1967, before moving to Huddersfield Town.
The Division Two side recorded their best run in the Football League Cup to date in Brian’s sole season at the club, reaching the semi-final of the tournament, where they eventually lost 6-3 on aggregate against First Division club Arsenal. During his time with the Terriers, Clark made 32 league appearances, and scored 11 goals, as the side finished in 14th position in the Second Division.
Brian joined the Bluebirds the following season, who were also playing in the Second Division. Under the management of Jimmy Scoular and alongside teammates such as John Toshack and Don Murray, Clark made an instant impact with the Bluebirds, scoring twice on his debut against Derby County in a 4-3 victory.
Brian’s first season with the club ended with City finishing fifth on the league table and with another Welsh Cup under their belt, allowing them to compete in the European Cup Winner’s Cup for the following season.
At the turn of the decade in the 1969-70 season, Clark became City’s top goalscorer, finding the back of the net 28 times in all competitions. He earned this title once again the following season, despite the fact that his usual strike partner had left, as John Toshack joined Liverpool midway through the 1970-71 season.
Nonetheless, Clark’s most famous moment as a Bluebird - and arguably in his career as a whole – came following Toshack’s departure, in the home leg of City’s European Cup Winners’ Cup Quarter-Final against Real Madrid. On March 10th, 1971, the striker secured his place in Cardiff City FC’s history when he scored the only goal in the Bluebirds’ match against Los Blancos at a packed Ninian Park.
18-year-old winger Nigel Rees crossed the ball into the area just after the half hour mark, which Clark met with a powerful header that beat Madrid‘s ‘keeper, putting the Bluebirds ahead and sending Ninian Park into raptures.
Though City were beaten 2-0 at the Bernabéu in the return leg, being knocked out of the tournament on aggregate score, the now legendary home victory covered in the South Wales Echo, who proclaimed that "whatever happens in Madrid, nobody can take anything away from the players for their wonderful show."
City's run on the European stage may not have been the furthest point they had reached - the club made it to the semi-final of the tournament in 1968 - but to have beaten Spanish titans Real Madrid at home was arguably the Bluebirds' greatest moment whilst playing against European teams.
In the following season – which was Clark’s last of his initial four-year stint at the club – the striker was once again City’s top goalscorer, with 21 league goals and six more taken from matches in other competitions. One of his goals came once again in the European Cup Winner’s Cup, in the second leg of the first round against Dynamo Berlin, though the Bluebirds were subsequently knocked out on penalties.
Clark left Cardiff City in the summer of 1972 for AFC Bournemouth, who were playing in the Third Division. His first and only season at the club saw the striker score twelve goals from 30 league appearances, later moving back to Division Two by transferring to Millwall. In two seasons at The Den, Clark scored a further 17 goals in 71 league appearances.
Returning to Ninian Park in 1975, Clark was reaching the twilight of his professional footballing career. However, now under the management of Jimmy Andrews – who had joined the club in 1974 – the striker helped the recently-relegated Bluebirds back into Division Two following only one season in the Third Division.
Though he only scored one league goal in the 1975-76 season – City’s last in a 3-1 victory against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough – Brian’s 21 appearances contributed to the squad’s concerted efforts for immediate promotion, which they achieved by finishing in second position on the Third Division league table, behind only Hereford United and only one point ahead of Millwall.
Clark finished his career in Newport County, where he played for the Exiles between 1976-79, scoring 18 goals in 80 league appearances. He then continued as player-managerial roles at several Welsh League sides.
Passing away aged 67 on August 10th, 2010, Brian Clark is known today as the goalscoring striker who helped City to a return to Division Two, several Welsh Cup trophies and a now-legendary home victory against one of the biggest sides in Europe.