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For the association footballer of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s for Arsenal, Oxford United, Los Angeles Aztecs, Plymouth Argyle, and Kettering Town, see Colin Clarke
For the rugby league footballer of the 1960s and '70s for Great Britain, and Wigan, see Colin Clarke


Colin John Clarke (born 30 October 1962 in Newrymarker, Northern Irelandmarker) is a former Northern Irishmarker football player. He is the head coach for the Puerto Rico Islanders of USL First Division and the Puerto Rican national football team.

Playing career

Clarke began his professional career in the Football League Fourth Division at Peterborough United in the 1981-82 season, scoring 18 goals in 84 games over the next three seasons (having a loan spell at Gillingham during his final season at London Road) before he signed for their Fourth Division rivals Tranmere Rovers. Along with fellow striker John Clayton, he formed one of the deadliest strikeforces in the Football League by scoring 22 goals that season, but the 1984-85 campaign ended in disappointment as Tranmere just missed out on promotion. He was then transferred to Third Division AFC Bournemouth and scored 26 goals, though again his goals were not enough to win his club promotion.

In the summer of 1986, Clarke made the big move of his career in a transfer to First Division club Southampton, and he was an instant success in his first campaign as a top division striker with 20 league goals. He enjoyed another successful campaign a year later by scoring 16 goals, but a sudden loss of form in 1988-89 restricted him to nine First Division games (in which he failed to score). He was loaned back to AFC Bournemouth (by then in the Second Division) during that campaign and scored twice in four games before a permanent exit from The Dell in March 1989, saw him resume his First Division career with QPR. He scored five goals in 12 games as QPR finished ninth, but his goalscoring rate slowed in 1989-90 as he managed just six goals in 34 games in a season where QPR finished lower and underwent a mid season managerial change when Trevor Francis was succeeded by Don Howe.

He was transferred to Portsmouth in June 1990, where he remained until the end of his playing career three years later. During his time at Fratton Parkmarker he was in the side that reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1992, only being eliminated by Liverpool after a replay and penalties, and narrowly missed out on promotion to the Premier League a year later. He retired at the end of the 1992-93 season due to a knee injury. [80641]

International Caps

Like many players from Northern Irelandmarker Colin Clarke's greatest playing days came in a Northern Ireland shirt, for whom he scored 13 goals (second behind David Healy) in 38 appearances. Clarke joined the National Team set up just as possibly the Greatest Northern Ireland team of all time was breaking up. He made his international debut in a pre-Mexico World Cup warm-up match against France in February 1986 and scored his first Northern Ireland goal against Morocco on his third appearance. In Mexico he appeared in all of Northern Ireland's matches, scoring a consolation against Spain, but the team where unable to match the heights they had reached at the 1982 World Cup.

After returning from the Mexico World Cup, many of Northern Ireland's star players retired or were at least in the veteran stage. Team manager Billy Bingham set about building a new team with Clarke as the spearhead. Although this new team failed to reach the heights of Bingham's first, Clarke did have some notable highlights. In September 1991, against the Faroe Isles he became the first Northern Ireland player to score a hattrick in international football since George Best in 1971. He scored his then record-breaking thirteenth Northern Ireland goal against Albania in September 1992 and played his final international match two months later against Denmark.

Coaching and management career

Clarke was appointed interim coach during the latter half of the 2003 MLS season as a replacement for Mike Jeffries, and was appointed full-time to the position for the 2004 season. Clarke went on to manage both the 2005 and 2006 seasons with great regular season form indeed FC Dallas won the Western Conference comfortably in 2006, but was eliminated in the play-offs in both years latterly after a penalty shoot out. This led to his sacking on 7 November 2006. Before being appointed head coach, Clarke was an assistant coach for the Burn, and the head coach of the Richmond Kickers of the United States' A-League from 1998-99, as well as one year as head coach of the San Diego Flash.

He was appointed head coach at Virginia Beach Mariners in January 2007. Within two months of Clarke's arrival, the club folded and Clarke was again without a job.

Puerto Rico Islanders

2007

On 22 May 2007 the Puerto Rico Islanders appointed Clarke to replace Toribio Rojas as head coach mid way through the team's worst season since their creation. During the last half of the 2007 season he turned the squad's fortunes around and managed to cling to the sixth spot in the table, guaranteeing a playoff berth. The squad would make it all the way to the semi-finals where they lost to the Seattle Sounders on penalty kicks. Late in 2007 he also took the Islanders to the CFU Club Championship semi-finals, the Caribbean qualifiers for the 2008 CONCACAF Champions Cup, where they lost 1–0 to Joe Public F.C. of Trinidad and Tobagomarker.

2008

Clarke, despite a bad start to the 2008 season, Clarke managed to lead the team into the CONCACAF Champions League by winning a two game series on 1:0 aggregate against fellow 2007 CFU Club Championship semi-finalist San Juan Jabloteh for the tournament's Caribbean third place spot. After several bad results at the start of the season, Clarke managed to push the Islanders into an undefeated run that would lead the team its first league trophy, Commissioner's Cup, after they ended the regular season in first place. The team would make it all the way to the finals, but lost to second seeds Vancouver Whitecaps 2:1.

Puerto Rico National Team

On January 2008, Clarke was chosen to lead the Puerto Rico national team. After two wins against Bermuda and a draw versus Trinidad and Tobago, he gained the trust of many Puerto Rican people. On 5 May, he led the national team to a disappointing 4-0 defeat against Honduras. However on 14 June, Puerto Rico played against Honduras in the second leg earning a 2-2 draw in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico he is known as "The General".

References


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