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CLUB: An old-fashioned centre forward

Farewell to a well liked man

4 June 2022

Carlisle United were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Blue Frank Clarke, who was a key member of the squad which took the club into the top-flight for the only time in their history back in the mid-70s.

Clarke, one of five footballing brothers, was a top transfer target for manager Alan Ashman, who had seen the team struggle in Division Two through the 1972/73 season.

A formidable, strong forward, he had an immediate impact as he netted on his debut in a 1-1 home draw with Cardiff.

He led the line with aplomb as United defied the odds to clinch promotion to Division One, with 16 of the goals coming from the bustling target man along the way.

His finest hour in a Carlisle shirt came at the end of March 1974 when he scored four (one from the spot) in a 5-1 home win over relegation doomed Swindon Town.

It was fitting that he bagged the last goal of that season when United took the points from Aston Villa here at Brunton Park in front of 12,494 expectant fans, setting up a nail-biting finale with everyone in Cumbria camped in front of their radios for the Orient game that followed, on the night that promotion was confirmed.

Frank scored over 30 goals in just over 150 appearances for the Blues between 1973 and 1978, and also represented Shrewsbury Town, Ipswich Town and QPR over a career that spanned 17 years in the sixties and seventies.

Chairman Andrew Jenkins said: “He’s what you would describe as an old-fashioned centre forward.

“Alan [Ashman] thought really highly of him and he was a striker who could finish with his left or right boot, and with his head.

“He held it up, he flicked it on, and he made a real nuisance of himself. He was our top scorer during the promotion season to Division One and he was a really good man to have around the place.

“I remember him being a real character, and he came to us at a time when having a moustache was the fashion.

“Out of nowhere he decided to shave it off one day, and nobody recognised him. He looked at least 10 years younger.

“Obviously he took a bit of a ribbing, but he enjoyed that kind of thing and it was probably why he decided to have it removed.

“We all knew what a good player he was, and the pedigree he came from, and we felt that it was great that we managed to get him up to Carlisle.

“It’s a sad loss and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.”

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