Lethal Clarke proving his critics wrong one goal at a time
Once again out on loan, this time at Scunthorpe United, the 27-year-old heads the League One goalscoring charts with ten goals in his 12 appearances at Glanford Park.
The loan-move to North Lincolnshire is his tenth of a wayward and frustrating career that demonstrated such early promise but has tailed off in recent years mainly due to a poor attitude on and off the pitch.
Clarke began his career at Wolves as a trainee before spending time on-loan at Kidderminister. Featuring in the Championship at the tender age of 18, the imposing striker scored on his debut and went onto net another seven times in 12 starts for the Black Country outfit.
However after falling out of favour at Molineux a series of loan moves followed. Firstly at QPR where a change in management saw him return after the solo appearance, then to Plymouth where another five matches passed without a goal. His opportunities at Wolves were limited and Sheffield Wednesday, under Brian Laws, came calling in 2007.
His time at Hillsborough was suitably mixed, restricted to substitute appearances as Wednesday struggled in the Championship. He was loaned out to Oldham and then Southend where he finally hit some form scoring eight times in his 16 starts at Roots Hall.
After returning to Wednesday, he soon signed for QPR but 13 starts yielded no goals and instead he sent back out on loan again this time to Preston. However he only contributed the one goal for Phil Brown’s strugglers and in the summer signed for Swindon Town.
It didn’t get much better for Clarke and after a very public falling out with Robins boss Di Canio he only featured in two matches at the County Ground and was back out on loan again. Chesterfield was his next point of call. Nine goals in 14 starts revealed his potential and encouraged Charlton to sign him in January of this year.
However another frustrating spell followed as Charlton romped to the League One title and therefore another loan move, this time to Crawley where he scored only once in his three starts.
A career full of failed moves, false dawns and loan spells, is it finally time for Leon Clarke to realise his potential?
Well given his fantastic period at the Iron it is entirely conceivable. The much maligned Alan Knill signed him for Scunthorpe in September and since the goal on his debut against Sheffield United he hasn’t looked back. Working under former boss Brian Laws, Clarke ensured Scunny secured all three points away at Coventry yesterday with two more goals to add to his growing collection.
‘Scunthorpe United’s greatest ever loan signing.’ It’s a big statement but he’s certainly up there with the best of them. The problem for the Iron is that they do not have the financial clout to sign him on a permanent deal in January and instead he’ll return to Charlton in December.
For now it is safe to say that Clarke is in the form of his career and he could well prove to the bargain signing of the January window.
Only time will tell…
Photo courtesy of Phil Cook: @photophilcook