Harpenden paralympic footballer looks back on remarkable career as Team GB captain
IT’S been a whirlwind few weeks for super striker David Clarke who ended his illustrious international football career in front of thousands at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
And what a finish it was, with the bank manager from Harpenden firing the ball into the back of the net during his last match of the competition against Turkey.
But it wouldn’t have been fitting for the 42 year old, who has scored more goals than Gary Lineker and Bobby Charlton combined, to bow out in any other way.
David is now settling back into family life and has little time to bask in his Paralympic memories as he has already gone back to work and is busy doing the school run.
The dad-of-two said: “It is very odd to be home though it has been great to see family and amazing coming back to work and hearing they were all watching it.
“It is incredible to think they were all huddled around TV screens.
“I have previously experienced a come-down after competitions but London achieved so much more that I have remained upbeat.”
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David should be feeling on top of the world after adding to an already impressive goal count during the games, and leading the British five-a-side blind football team to a top-10 finish.
While he admitted he would have loved to have brought home a medal, looking back David said being part of the Paralympic legacy was more important.
He is also confident the team will go forward and secure a place in the finals of the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The blind football veteran explained: “From a results point of view we proved we could compete against the rest of the world. We did the job we had to do, the boys were professional throughout and we worked hard to get to that position.
“It is great to score goals. The first goal was particularly special and one of the best from my repertoire over the years, and the second one was closure really.
“It was great fun but the best thing was to look behind me and see the guys coming up the ranks.”
David first learnt to play football while he was at school because at the time no-one offered professional blind football coaching.
It was not until 1996 when the sport, which uses a ball with a noise-making device inside, became officially recognised that he had the opportunity to attend trials for the Great Britain squad.
After he was picked to represent his country his career really took off and 144 international games and 128 goals later he has finally decided to hang up his boots.
He explained why he has called time on his career: “I was 42 on Tuesday, I have a very hectic job and the reality is my family has lost out.
“They by no means forced me to retire but I don’t want to miss out on my kids growing up.
“I am more useful to the game outside it. I never wanted to have that conversation when someone said to me it is time for you to walk away.
“I wanted to make that decision when I was at the top of my game.”
And as if inspiring a generation wasn’t enough of an accolade, David’s involvement in the sport is far from over as he intends to devote his spare time to promoting blind football through public speaking.
He will also continue to have a kick about with this two young sons, Edgar and George, and coach the under 7s Harpenden Colts.
Looking back on the summer of sport he said: “I think the Paralympics has changed the world’s outlook on disability. It was excellent to demonstrate what disabled people can do.
“There was no greater compliment than the fact there was people in pubs watching us like they would Manchester United.
“It was a brilliant experience and one you didn’t want to end.”