Clarke remembers happy days at Stevenage, Boyd and the FA Trophy final

Adrian Clarke. Picture: Michael Stephens/PA

Adrian Clarke. Picture: Michael Stephens/PA - Credit: PA

Former Stevenage winger Adrian Clarke spoke to CometSport about his time at the club, remembering the happiest spell of his career, the 2002 FA Trophy final, a young George Boyd and the sour end to his Boro career.

After leaving Southend United in 2000, former Arsenal man Clarke was looking to go semi-pro while finding a love for football again.

Boro came calling and the wide man was immediately impressed, recalling: “When I left Southend, my confidence was low and I wasn’t enjoying football.

“I had fallen out of favour there and it turned me off of wanting to stay in the game and it was awful.

“When my contract ended I had offers and trials, but I didn’t want to be a journeyman pro and it was time to go after the dream of wanting to be a football journalist.

“I also wanted to play at as high of a level as I could and Paul Fairclough spoke to me and sold Stevenage to me.

“I was excited to join the club as it was the start of a new adventure, but it was daunting as life was different.

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“Stevenage was a very professional club, run well by the chairman Phil Wallace and it didn’t feel like a big step down.”

Clarke would quickly establish himself as a favourite at Broadhall Way as Stevenage finished seventh in the Conference.

“I had a great time there and we had a really good side,” he said.

“I scored more goals there than I have anywhere else and I have some really memorable moments.

“I can’t speak highly enough of everyone at the club, it was a great time.

“I will always remember the happy times there and I think I enjoyed my football there more than at any other stage during my career under Paul Fairclough.”

Things turned sour though as Fairclough was dismissed with the side struggling and Wayne Turner took charge.

Clarke revealed how Turner made his life unbearable, saying: “He came in with the idea of changing Stevenage to a full-time club and it broke up the team.

“He started to put on sessions during the day that myself and others couldn’t make and it just caused problems.

“I found myself out of the team because I wasn’t there all week. It was a deeply unhappy spell under him and I asked to leave because he wouldn’t pick me.

“His response to that was to ban me from the club and make me train on my own.

“It was a sour way to leave Stevenage, but the fans were brilliant to me and they were telling Wayne Turner to play me.

“He wouldn’t let me join anyone else in the Conference so he banned me from matches.

“I had to check in at the gym and do these gruelling workouts which was horrible. I decided to cancel my contract so it was a sad way to leave, but it was unbearable under him.”

The club did reach the FA Trophy final under Turner, but they lost 2-0 to Yeovil Town in the final at Villa Park.

“It was tinged with sadness a bit because the final was under Wayne Turner rather Paul Fairclough who had left by that point,” added Clarke.

“The run to the final was fantastic. I’d been injured and I just about got fit for the final. It was a fantastic day, the final. Lots of fans went to Villa Park, but sadly we were beaten by Yeovil who were one of the best non-league teams around then. They were remarkable, so it was no shame losing to them.”

Clarke left in 2002 to join Margate and he remembers a young talent coming through the ranks at Stevenage who would ultimately go on to replace him.

“Towards the end of my time at Stevenage, there was a kid coming through who was 16, huge feet, tall, quick and played in my position,” said Clarke.

“That was George Boyd. You could tell straight away how good he was. He’s gone on to have a really good career in the Premier League as well.”

Clarke admitted that he still follows Stevenage’s results after enjoying his spell there.

“I still look at how they do because I had such a great time there,” he said.

“They aren’t doing very well this season, but I hope that they can turn it around if the season continues.”

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