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Club News

BLACK HISTORY MONTH: WILLIE CLARKE

1 October 2021

When on the topic of black footballing pioneers to have represented Bradford City AFC, many supporters recall the likes of highest-ever appearance maker Ces Podd (#647) and former teammate Joe Cooke (#654), who were cult heroes at Valley Parade during the 1970s and 80s.

Not many, however, know the story of the first black player to ever turn out in City colours. William Gibb ‘Willie’ Clarke (#32) was one of the club’s original ‘History Makers’ - in more ways than one. 

Born in Mauchline, Scotland on 3 March 1878 and raised in a West Indian household, Clarke was not only the scorer of the Bantams’ first-ever goal in the first division - in September 1908 - but also the first black player to score in the EFL, when playing for Aston Villa seven years previous. 

An outside-right who became only the second-ever black player to represent Scotland in 1897, Clarke began his career at Kelburn, before going on to represent Crown Athletic, Third Lanark, Arthurlie and East Stirlingshire above the border, before spending time in England with Bristol Rovers and Villa. 

September 2nd 1905 saw Clarke make his debut for the Paraders, against Leeds City. He appeared 98 times in claret and amber, scoring 16 goals. 

After leaving West Yorkshire in 1909, he would make 35 league appearances for Lincoln City, before retiring at Croydon Common in 1912 and serving in World War I. 

Being among the first to sign up as a Private in the Middlesex Regiment in August 1914, Clarke then moved regiments to become a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. He served in the theatre of war and was awarded the 1914 Star, Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

So, while Joe Cooke and Ces Podd may have paved the way for change, growth and the breaking of barriers over the past 50 years, their work was in fact pioneered over 70 years previous by only the 32nd footballer to ever play for Bradford City: Mr William Gibb Clarke. 


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