Wingers were a curious concept.
 
Capable of magic one moment, anonymous the next. Yet, as fans, our relationship with them is one of lust and desire. A step over, a glide past a right-back or a simple swerve of the body is enough to win our hearts.

There was a time it was almost a legal obligation of English football for each club to have at least one wide man marauding down the flank with intent.

Sir Alf Ramsey did his best to kill the concept with his width-free wingless wonders (a 4-3-3 formation, to you and I) in the 1966 World Cup, but thankfully sanity prevailed elsewhere.

And Albion managers of their time knew a thing or two about wingers.

If it wasn’t Laurie Cunningham drifting past defenders, it was Willie Johnston leaving disorientated full-backs on their backside.

And there were others. George Lee, Tommy Glidden, Frank Griffin, Bobby Robson, Peter Barnes, Kevin Kilbane, Zoltan Gera, Chris Brunt. Wide men or wingers – call them what you will – we do them well at West Bromwich Albion. And good ones at that.

Yet those of a certain age will pick Clive Clark as the greatest ever. And who are we to argue?

Never the strongest, certainly not the tallest, and definitely the quietest member of that 1968 FA Cup team. 

Yet there was something devilish about the man they called ‘Chippy’. For instance, he scored 29 goals in the 1966/67 season. So that’s twenty nine – often on bad pitches, with defenders kicking bits out of him. Eat that Mo Salah.

His team-mate John Kaye had been a beneficiary of Clark’s wing play during his period as a centre forward. By the time of the 68 final, Kaye had settled into a defensive role – which is where he really got to appreciate watching ‘Chippy’ shuffling down the wing.

In a side boasting Bobby Hope, Jeff Astle and Tony Brown, Kaye admits Chippy was frequently the forgotten man. And that, claims Kaye, suited Clark down to the ground.

“He was a really quiet lad,” said Kaye.

“He was very quick and mobile. He looked as if he could beat anyone in the division as a winger. But mainly he was a good goalscorer. You don’t get many wingers who can also finish as well as he did. Imagine what he’d be worth now with those attributes?

“His pace got him there – he was very quick and mobile. But Chippy was one of these players who would intimidate the full-back. He loved them to try to tackle him because he was so quick he’d get away. He would bad mouth them to get them annoyed. He was immensely brave for a little fella.

“Chippy is actually the forgotten man. He didn’t have the personality of Jeff. Bomber became loved by so many, but I don’t think Chippy got the recognition he deserved. He fell under the radar.

“Not only was a fantastic goalscorer, but a provider of goals too. Without Clive being there, Jeff wouldn’t have got half the goals he did. None of us would.”

Sadly, not even Clark could claim perfection.

For every defender left trailing, Clark’s nickname of Chippy certainly didn’t owe anything to his woodwork skills.

Kaye spoke of a man, a neighbour, who wasn’t renowned for his home improvement skills.

“Chippy actually lived over the road from me in Great Barr and the one thing I remember is that he was hopeless at DIY,” continued Kaye. 

“He’d always ask me to do things for him. The once he asked me to put a wall fire in. I left the wire out for the plug while I put my tools away. I asked him just to cut a bit of the wire away so I could attach a plug…I returned to find he had left me with about six inches. I had to take the whole bloody lot apart and rebuild it. I could have throttled him!”

 
Wembley 1968 was to be as good as it got for Chippy.

After the cup win, the Throstles jetted off for a tour of East Africa that was change his career for the worse. 

It was there that Clark was to be the victim of some fairly robust and rudimentary challenges.

His top flight career was all but over. The fire, the pace, the spring-footed acceleration was gone. He left for QPR in 1969.

Kaye added: “He was phenomenal in 68. Probably one of our better players, although we had some great players to start with.

“He played well in the final. Tommy Wright couldn’t do much with him because Clive could go past him so easily. It wasn’t the easiest game for him to play in because it was a 0-0 and not exactly a classic – more attritional.

“Sadly that awful injury in East Africa finished him- someone did him and he never recovered from that.

“I have such fond memories of him. He was such an important part of our team. He did his talking on the pitch for us.

“Albion always had a fine tradition of wingers. He was possibly the finest of all – he was that good.”