Steve Clarke (b. 1963) Saltcoats-born former professional footballer and currently is a football manager. He played for St Mirren and Chelsea and has gone on to manage Kilmarnock and the Scotland national team.
Steve Clarke, and he was born on 29th August 1963 in Saltcoats. He got his football upbringing in 1970s Ayrshire, saying “I was no different to any other kid of my generation. I played with my mates in the park every day, every spare minute I could”.
Clarke’s father, Eddie, was an amateur player in Ayrshire and Steve remembers going to his local park, Auchenharvie. “When I was little, I got to dribble the ball around while my older brother, Paul, who played for a long time for Kilmarnock, my dad and my uncle Jimmy, who was at Celtic as a kid and played with Morton and Cambridge City, kicked it hard and I got punted out the way. But gradually I got allowed into the game.”
Clarke’s introduction to organised football came at school when he went to St Mary’s Primary in Saltcoats followed by St Andrew’s Academy.
He got involved with his local boys’ club, Saltcoats Star, which was set up by local man Alex Tulloch to keep the local kids off the street. Steve’s dad, Eddie, also helped out.
“I remember playing a game at Largs where Alex squeezed six of us into his car and put six more on the train, then tried to beat the train to Largs station so that he could get all twelve of us there in time. That’s what these guys did. They gave up so much of their time to get a team on the pitch for the local kids.”
In 1979, when Clarke was fifteen years old, he found himself in the Beith Juniors squad in a friendly match against St Mirren, who had turned up a week early. Unprepared Beith Juniors scrambled together a team and threw a kit at the fifteen year old boy. The Paisley side offered him a schoolboy form there and then. Clarke’s father requested that he return to junior football and so he went back to Beith. When he did go back to St Mirren his dad refused to allow him to sign full time.
Clarke returned to the Paisley team in 1982 and made his debut with them against Ayr United. He was part of the Scotland Under 19 squad at the World Youth Cup in Mexico.
Clarke won eight caps for Scotland Under 21s between 1983 and 1985.
Despite interest from Celtic, Clarke signed for Chelsea in 1987, where he stayed until 1998, playing for them 421 times ( only seven players have played more), and becoming the FA cup winners in 1997. He made six appearances for the Scotland National Team.
Clarke then moved into a coaching career, joining Newcastle United in 1998 as assistant manager to Ruud Gullit, who had been his manager at Chelsea. He moved to Chelsea where he became assistant to Jose Mourinho.
He became a manager in his own right at West Bromwich Albion in 2012. Reading and Aston Villa followed, and then 2017 saw Clarke appointed as manager of Kilmarnock, a club he had supported as a child. When he arrived, the club was sitting at the bottom of the league table. Killie finished the season fifth and Clarke was awarded PFA Scotland Manager of the Year, after less than a full season at Kilmarnock.
Clarke left Kilmarnock at the end of the 2019 season to take up his role of manager of the Scotland National Team, a contract that will run to the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.