The history of Leeds United has been one of many successes, but part of what makes Leeds so great is the clubs history for developing stars. Unlike other clubs, Leeds do not sign big names – they make them. Through development and improvement, many players walk through the doors at Elland Road a simple player and leave a true star. For Leeds fans of the 1960s and 1970s, few players meet that criteria quite like Allan ‘Sniffer’ Clarke.
A quick glance at the usual Allan Clarke stats shows you a prolific goal scorer who achieved great things in white. What, though, made him tick? What is the story behind one of the great heroes of Leeds in the 1970s?
Early Life And Background
Clarke was born in Short Heath, Staffordshire, and began his playing career at Walsall. Seen as an interesting prospect, Clarke soon impressed big-time for Walsall and earned himself a move to Fulham – a step-up from Walsall, but not quite the big time. After scoring an impressive 45 goals in the league alone in just two seasons for Fulham, Leicester City made a move for Clarke and he moved over to the Midlands.
At this time, his promising displays for Walsall and Fulham had marked Clarke as one of the best young players in England. So much so that when Leicester signed him, they paid £150,000 – a British record for a transfer fee back in 1968.
His time at Leicester was impressive, though the fact he scored the winner against boyhood club West Bromwich Albion in an FA Cup semi-final might have stung a little. The Foxes lost the Final in the end-up, 1-0 to Manchester City, but Clarke had picked up some very impressive reports from the biggest clubs in the country.
Including, of course, Leeds.
Allan Clarke At Leeds United
Clarke signed for £165,000 to join the Don Revie era in June 1969. This was again a British record, meaning Clarke held the distinction of both setting and then breaking his own record. His first season at Leeds seen Clarke score a whopping 26 goals. A pure poacher, Clarke began as he meant to go on and continued to score goals with regularity.
Clarke endured a fine personal debut season, but Leeds missed out on winning anything despite in contention for the European Cup, the league title, and the FA Cup. The Whites lost the Cup final, despite the best efforts of Clarke. Losing out to Celtic in a tight semi-final in Europe was seen as a disappointment, too.
However, success was to come in future years. A Fairs Cup victory in 1971 against Juventus was a landmark moment for the club. However, missing out on the league on the last day of the season left a tinge of regret. The FA Cup that year, though, was a victorious campaign as Clarke scored the winner in what was the centenary season of this famous old trophy.
Clarke continued to cement his legend as he finished top scorer in the 1973-74 season, as Leeds finally lifted the title after so many years of trying. They also reached the European Cup final in 1975, losing to FC Bayern 2-0 in what might be the most controversial match in the history of the club.
Clarke stayed at Leeds until 1978, enjoying a tough period to the end of his career as injury began to blight his ability to play at the top level. A quick spell at Barnsley from 1978 until 1980 seen Clarke retire.
Where Did The Sniffer Nickname Come From?
The name, as you might imagine, was brought about by his predatory instincts in front of goal. Clarke was famous for scoring goals that were ‘sniffed’ out – finding space in the box, putting away chances others would not anticipate. He was an excellent penalty box player, able to find a yard of space where previously none existed.
As an accurate finisher, too, it meant that ‘Sniffer’ became the most suitable nickname for the player. The nickname was bestowed to Clarke in his debut season at Leeds, and stuck with him until this day. Ask any older Leeds fan, and they’ll tell you about ‘Sniffer’ with affection.
Allan Clarke’s Leeds & Career Stats
Across his career, Clarke enjoyed a prolific life in front of goal. He scored 286 goals across 647 club games, including a hugely impressive 151 in 366 for Leeds United. He played 19 games for England, too, scoring a whopping 10 goals in just 19 caps. Most would argue that the cap amount Clarke got was far too small for what was one of the best finishers in the country – especially during his days at Elland +Road.Want to show your historical knowledge of this great football club? Then make sure you take a look at our Allan Sniffer Clarke merchandise such as our Sniffer range. We’ve got some great products, from t-shirts commemorating the great man and his biggest moments to other memorabilia that will have Leeds historians and Elland Road veterans nodding in approval