Ian Clarkson

1996-1999 | 119 apps | 2 goals A member of both Ian Atkins' play-off final teams, Ian Clarkson talks to Danny and Neil 25 years on from the win at Wembley in 1997.
Ian Clarkson sits amongst other players wearing the claret, Lotto home shirt of 1996/97

Ian Clarkson played at right back for Ian Atkins’ Play Off winning side in 1997, arriving in the summer of 1996 from Division 1 side, Stoke City.

Named player of the year in his first season at Sixfields, Clarkson was an integral member of the team and in his second season, scored in the Play Off semi-final, 2nd leg against Bristol Rovers.

Clarkson played a total of 119 times for The Cobblers, scoring twice.

In this special episode of It’s All Cobblers To Me, as part of our Wembley 97 series to celebrate the 25th anniversary, Ian joins Danny and Neil to talk about his move from Stoke City to Sixfields, his teammates and that glorious game at Wembley.

How To Listen

transcript

Danny Brothers:

Hello and welcome to a bonus episode of the FSA award winning, It’s All Cobblers To Me. On the 24th of May 1997 The Cobblers’ history changed forever with victory over Swansea City at Wembley in our centenary year, Ian Atkins’ men had written themselves into Northampton town folklore. As the 25th anniversary of Wembley 97 approaches, we’ll be talking to some of the key people involved over the next few weeks. To help me do that today, Neil Egerton-Scott is here. How are you doing, Neil?

Neil Egerton-Scott:

I’m doing well, but let’s be honest, it’s not about me today is it Danny. 

Danny Brothers:

It’s not. Were you not one of the key people involved at that time?

Neil Egerton-Scott:

I mean I was there and I had face paint on yeah hell was there I sang along.

Good stuff. We’re gonna be kicking things off with the one and only Mr Ian Clarkson who’s with us today. How are you doing, Ian?

Ian Clarkson:

Very good thank you Danny.

Danny Brothers:

We just talk a little bit about what you’re up to now. You’re teaching at the moment, is that right?

Ian Clarkson:

That’s right. Yeah I teach at a school up in Derbyshire. Teaching PE to kids from the ages of 3 to 13. I’ve got 3 kids and 2 of them are there.

Danny Brothers:

Let’s go back to a little bit before Wembley to start off with. Summer of 96 just before you joined us. You played pretty much the entire season for Stoke in what’s now the Championship. Narrowly missed out in the playoffs, losing one nil to Leicester over two legs. How big a disappointment was that to miss out on Premier League? 

Ian Clarkson:

Oh yeah, obviously it was a huge disappointment. That’s the closest I got really to playing in the Premier League. I think I played 52 games that season with Stoke. We should have beaten Leicester away but to be fair to them, they deserved to beat us at Stoke. And there was me thinking, mistakenly, that I was gonna kick on again next season but you never quite know in football do you. It was a terrific season for me that one, ended in a bit of disappointment but onwards and upwards as they say.

Danny Brothers:

So to what happened at the end of it. Was it just that you were out of contract?

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah. They made an offer and I didn’t think it was very good and so I sort of dug my heels in and they said you can go if you want. So I did. That was the long and the short of it. In an era  pre-agents and chief executives, that was how it worked so I thought do you know what I will. I actually got paid more at Northampton than I did at Stoke.

Danny Brothers:

Oh really? So dropping down 2 divisions after missing out on the top flight, you must have had some offers from higher divisions. Did you at that point?

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah, I did yeah. I mean to be honest I didn’t have any intention of signing for Northampton really. I knew Ian Atkins from my time at Birmingham with him and he rang me up and said come down have a look and I thought well, I’ve not been to Sixfields before and I was impressed. And Atkins is probably the most persuasive man in Europe. And after a sort of hour long conversation he convinced me that this, this and this was gonna happen and I thought do you know what? I think I was 25 or 26 at the time and I thought this is your sort of prime time, I could come to Northampton and just fudge it for a couple of years, take it easy or could come and have a good go at a level I thought I could play well at. I chose the latter and that was that really.  Yes, I did have other offers but it just seemed that the right move and hindsight proved that to be the case.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

So when you joined Cobblers. Obviously lots of characters around and stuff, what players did you bond with first?

Ian Clarkson:

I have to say it was a pretty good dressing room really. I used to drive in every day with Gary Thompson, I know he was more of a coach but he’s a highly amusing individual. I knew Dean Peer from our time at Birmingham and you can’t fail to be sucked in with Woodman and his humor. But yeah, there was just good solid what I’d call solid citizens like Ray Warburton, Ian Sampson, Lee Madison, Danny O’shea. I could just read them all off. Roy Hunter, Mark Cooper the striker who was a top lad as well. Jason White was there as well. So there was lots of people I kind of knew or knew on the scene as they’d say. It’s a bit like starting a new school when you start your new club but I was confident really. I could come and do quite well.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

And did you have any sense when you joined, obviously there’s all these big characters, did you have any sense pretty much immediately that this was a team and a club that could win promotion?

Ian Clarkson:

Probably not because I think we lost most of our pre-season games. I think we lost against Raunds, Telford, all these kind of teams. I think the only one we won was against Arsenal just prior to the start of the season. We beat them 3-1. And it was a reasonably strong Arsenal team. So I think you can never tell. I mean there was clearly something there. We could obviously score. So if you can score and keep it tight then you’ve always got half a chance.

Danny Brothers:

What went on on the opening day? I remember that was the season where we went to Wigan and did the coach break down or something? We had two players sent off.

Ian Clarkson:

Oh yeah. It was strange. I think we got there and the coach broke down. I got a phone call, I was in the car. I think it was Atkins who drove down. Bob Goall who was the Commercial Manager at the time and I think one of the Barry’s. Either Stonhill or Hancock or somebody like that. About 3 or 4 cars went down with 3 or 4 players in each car. I think we got there at about twenty past three on the M6 because it was it was chocker. We started, scored, played quite well and had 2 plays sent off. I think they had one player sent off and we ended up losing 2-1 in a game we probably should have got something out of.

Danny Brothers:

How did you get home? Did you just all go in the same cars again back home?

Ian Clarkson:

I think so though I’m not sure. Atkins driving was terrible so I probably tried to change cars if possible.

Danny Brothers:

Why doesn’t surprise me too much? Lets talk about away games. Did you have somebody you usually shared a room with or did they mix it up a little bit.

Ian Clarkson:

You know what? I really can’t quite remember that I mean I know we used to play cards. We used to play hearts. You know 13 cards each. 4 of you playing. That was a game that we played a lot. I’m trying to think who else was in there. Sean Parish, Mickey Warner. I’m not quite sure who my room mates were. I don’t think I necessarily had a set partner. I’m not sure we had that many overnight stops. We would more often than not, I think Atkins would ask us on a few occasions and we said we’d rather travel down in the morning.

Danny Brothers:

Different times isn’t it I guess. Do you look at football now, without trying to sound like an old man in the corner, do you look at the players now and think the reason that you bonded, the reason that you had that togetherness was because of those away trips where there wasn’t phones?

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah I mean look, it is so different now. My nephew plays for Coventry now. Callum O’Hare. So I speak to Callum a fair bit and he says the changing rooms are definitely different now because everyone goes in, gets their phones out and he’s, you know, scrolling through the phones whereas back in the late eighty‘s, early ninety’s you got in the dressing room for half an hour and you’d got to be on your toes. It was brutal. Maybe society is a nicer place now but it certainly sharpened you up a bit. Let’s say we start training at a quarter to 10 and you’ve got in the training room at 9 o’clock, for 45 minutes it would just be mickey taking of the highest order. No holds barred about any subject you could imagine. It was of its time wasn’t it. It was great fun, I wouldn’t swap it but it was of its time.

Danny Brothers:

Who was the main windup merchant in there?

Ian Clarkson:

There was loads there, absolutely loads. Nobody was safe. Everybody was at it all the time. Woody was probably the loudest but that didn’t necessarily mean you know, but he also got got his fair share as well. I can’t think of anybody who didn’t get involved really. Possibly some mornings if John Gayle was in you’d leave Gayley alone because he’s probably the hardest man I know! But aside from Gayle, everybody else was fair game I think.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

So moving on to the playoffs and the first leg away at Cardiff. Ninian Park, a bit of a cauldron. What was the atmosphere like playing in that game?

Ian Clarkson:

It was a cracking atmosphere and I fancied us because we’d beaten them in the League Cup and drawn with them in the league, so I thought we were favourites. I thought we were better than them. I mean as the game panned out I think they were probably on top in the first half. It was 0-0. It was nip and tuck and Cooper got sent off. He elbowed someone and Mark Cooper got sent off which made it difficult and then you could sense the atmosphere was rising and I’m sure he’s told you many many times before but Parish scores.

I saw this goal actually probably about two or three months ago for the first in years and I’d forgotten quite how good it was. It was an unbelievable goal. He started in his own half. Showed some pace I didn’t know he possessed, ran past about 3 or 4 people and then the finish was unbelievable isn’t it. It was the sort of goal that if you saw now, on the telly they’ll be replaying it time and time and time again.

Danny Brothers:

You’re his best mate now, Sean Parish! But you look at it now and you think Ninian Park, there’s over 11000 people there. How intimidating that was to go down to 10 men. You think you’re gonna just shut up shop. So to then pick out a winner and go and win there. 

Ian Clarkson:

Well I think when Atkins signs players like myself and John Frain and other people, you know we’ve got experience of things like that. We’ve played in these kind of games and you know obviously the season before I was playing against Leicester. So you’ve played in these intimidating atmospheres before when you’re up against it and as a footballer if you’re a defender, I used to like defending and actually if you’re under the kosh for half a night so quite quite good fun really. And I that was our approach. We were confident. We thought we could beat anybody in the division. And so it proved really.

Danny Brothers:

So the second leg at home. What’s the mentality going into that one then a goal up?

Ian Clarkson:

Classic in Atkins kiddology and mind games. So I think there was something called club call back in the day where you used to ring up and get club information and Atkins pulled me and John Frain into the office and said “Kenny’s been slagging you off all over Club Call. He says you’re finished, you’re past it” and obviously I took him at face value. Clearly Kenny haden’t said a word. So anyway that sort of got me and then I think we scored and I went over and got booked in the end because I was basically celebrating gesticulating at Kenny Hibbert who came out and took a swing got me! So yeah, but I mean that that game aside and actually they got it back to what 1-1 so it was 2-1 on an aggregate and for about ten fifteen minutes it was quite tight. I think it was Eckhart who got sent off for them and then once we scored the second one that was it. We sort of knew we were home and dry. I always fancied that we’d beat cardiff. You know, irrespective of the size of the clubs or the playing squads, etc, etc. I just thought we had the sign on them that year.

Danny Brothers:

So how did how did that feel once the whistle went in that second leg, especially considering what had happened the year before to you in the semi-finals. 

Ian Clarkson:

I think it was just an overwhelming sense of relief to be honest. I remember feeling tired and obviously excited that we’d got to the final but just in a sense of relief really I think.

Danny Brothers:

What was the dressing room like when you got back?

Ian Clarkson:

I would imagine if it was like any other time it was lively. And I suspect it was probably supplemented within an evening out in Chicago Rock Cafe afterwards.

Danny Brothers:

Haha. Neil, you were there, weren’t you?.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

I’m always there. Still wish it was there now. What about the buildup to the final, we remember it as fans but as players that must have been…

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah there was obviously the record, Sixfields Boys was it? 

Neil Egerton-Scott:

Yeah, you weren’t name dropped in it though? 

Ian Clarkson:

Was I not?! The supporters player of the season wasn’t name dropped in the song? Terrible.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

Yeah, it’s been an ongoing scandal. 

Danny Brothers:

Even David Rennie was named dropped, right? 

Neil Egerton-Scott:

Yeah, David Rennie got in there.

Ian Clarkson:

Renners got in ahead of me?! That’s it. The podcast is over! but ah now he’s a he was at a good labins. Obviously it was quite relaxed I think. I mean it was the first time the club had got to Wembley. Is that right? 

Danny Brothers:

Yeah, yeah.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

You Yep! absolutely.

Ian Clarkson:

Lots of interest that I think we ended up taking was it thirty odd thousand or more it might be even more I don’t know. And it just seemed great. I mean obviously I played there before with Birmingham. So I kind of knew what to expect, but the buildup was good. It just felt really fresh and exciting and there was like a momentum building and it just felt like it was going to be our year really.

Danny Brothers:

I know you said you didn’t splash out on away hotels and stuff but did the club get your hotel that day or was it all on the day again?

Ian Clarkson:

They must have done. There was a post match do at the Wembley Hilton and beforehand we got some great Churches shoes. It was terrific. We got the old white Wembley suits as well. And you know it was a fantastic day. We definitely had a function afterwards and actually as part of the reward for getting to the play off final we got a 4 day break in Magaluf believe it or not! 

Danny Brothers:

Haha! Was that just for getting there was that?

Ian Clarkson:

I mean Woody was our chief negotiator on that one and I’m pretty sure that was because obviously the club were going to make a fair bit of cash I think for getting to the final. So I think that Magaluf thing was booked in whether we win or lose.

Danny Brothers:

So the whole squad went over did they?

Ian Clarkson:

I think so yeah I think about 20 of them went to Magluf.

Danny Brothers:

Anything you can share from that trip?

Ian Clarkson:

Not really no. As I said before, it was of it’s time.

Laughter

Danny Brothers:

Now we’ve got that knowledge we can pitch it to everyone! In terms of on the day when you got there, are you as a group or an individual nervous or are you just feeling fairly strong that you’re gonna win it?

Ian Clarkson:

Everyone’s different aren’t they. So you know, some people are loud before games. Some people are quiet. Some people like to read, some people like to bounce around, some have lots of music on so there’s all kinds of different things going on. Me personally, I think I was always quite lively before a game and I think that was my sort of coping mechanism. So yeah I must have been nervous, but hopefully you can channel that into positive energy.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

Who was the dressing room dj?

Ian Clarkson:

Maybe Jason White liked to put a few tunes on if it had been Roy Hunter it would have been some sort of soft rock from the 80‘s so I don’t know. I’m not sure we had loads of tunes banging out all the time to be honest. There was plenty of banter flying about, it didn’t need it.

Danny Brothers:

You you went for a little walk around the pitch and stuff before didn’t you?

17:33.30

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah, yeah, it was fantastic and you get to see friends and family. There’s lots of people there and you can just sense this sort of build up. And then there was obviously the infamous tunnel ruck between Gayley and  [Carl] Heggs when Heggsy was at swansea as well.

Danny Brothers:

Yeah, yeah.

Ian Clarkson:

Swansea’s assistant, was it Billy Air? He sort of came to split it up. But that sort of set the tone nicely really 

Danny Brothers:

And. Yeah, yeah, yeah, was that as you were lining up was it that. 

Ian Clarkson:

So yeah, well, that’s just as we were in the tunnel, waiting to go out onto the pitch and it started kicking off there.

Danny Brothers:

Yeah, is that what persuaded him to sign for us the next year?  

Ian Clarkson:

Absolutely yeah.

Danny Brothers:

So when you’re walking out. What’s that feel like when you’ve got I think it’s 32000 more a little bit more maybe Cobblers fans right behind you did you expect that bigger turnout from us

Ian Clarkson:

Ackers were saying there’s gonna be loads there. You know it’s massive for the town and clearly you know it was just a great occasion and the game itself was a tight game. We lost against them twice in the league that year, so we were probably more cautious than we would have been. There wasn’t much in the game. They had that one shot from Heggsy, we had a couple of chances I think Grays [Neil Grayson] and [Sean] Parrish went through. But it looked like it was going to be nil nil didn’t it all day long until Frainy steps up.

Danny Brothers:

So what are you doing at that point when that ball hits the net. Do you remember what you did at that point?

Ian Clarkson:

Think I mean I used very often more often that I just sort of turn around get myself focus and get on with it. But I do vividly remember going and celebrating when we score that one Everyone, it was a bit of a pile on on Frainy really.  And then, did he not blow the whistle straight away? Was there even time to kick off I can’t remember.

Danny Brothers:

I think they might have kicked off. 

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah and then he blew the whistle so that was it. I mean it was a fantastic finish wasn’t it. It was just the ultimate buzz. It just went on and on and on yeah. We were at the Wembley Hilton and it was a fantastic weekend. There was the open top bus tour around the town. It was great really.

Danny Brothers:

So you went to the Hilton after the game, did you all go as a squad? Were there any fans there or was it just you?

Ian Clarkson:

I’ll tell you what I have got a recollection of, Alan Brazil being there bizarrely. Obviously Ackers knew Alan from Ipswich.

Danny Brothers:

Right

Ian Clarkson:

I’m pretty sure that Alan Brazil came out, had a few then got up and was like “oh god I need to be somewhere the next morning”. Which is pure Alan Brazil really. But Brazil was definitely there. 

Neil Egerton-Scott:

And he’s not a man to avoid a drink is he, Alan Brazil.

Ian Clarkson:

No no no. He was keen to get stuck in I believe the phrase was. He was keen to celebrate with us but he was a really nice fellow.

Danny Brothers:

Good stuff. Um, do you go back on the same day or.

21:08.38

Ian Clarkson:

And now I think we ah went back the next day I’m sure we did I’m sure we all went back the next day I think it’s like an overnight stop at the Hilton and then we ah all got back on the um coach the next day.

21:17.44

Danny Brothers:

And when you get to the open top bus, I think it was on a bank holiday Monday if I remember rightly. 

Neil Egerton-Scott:

It was boiling as well wasn’t it.

Danny Brothers:

Yeah, what’s that like on the bus because it seemed like by the time you got to the town center everyone had had a bit of a good time already by the looks of it.

Ian Clarkson:

That was great. As I said I played football for 16 years as a professional really. I had some good times and you need to make sure that when it’s going well you enjoy it. 

And you know it was just great. So many happy people there and clearly it meant a lot to the town. It was relatively restrained I think by comparison. I think people wanted to soak up the atmosphere because as I said you know it doesn’t happen that often. 

Danny Brothers:

So when you’re moving on to next season does it almost just take you through, all the celebrations of that, the amazing second season as well almost going up again.

Ian Clarkson:

Isn’t that the highest the club has finished for a long time as well? 

Danny Brothers:

Yeah, definitely in our lifetime. Well, the time we’ve been supporting anyway. Does that actually carry through to the next season?

Ian Clarkson:

I guess so. I think we had some good players as well. I mean obviously there was lots of stuff spoken on you know, hard to beat. But actually we were well organized but we actually had some good players. We had people who could play, we had people who could mix it. We had people who could do different styles. You know that season we played back 5 back 4, you know we had different formations in front of us. We we were always well prepared for the opposition. But in all honesty. We had some good players who played at higher levels and weren’t at the end of their career and then we also had people who could score goals.

Danny Brothers:

Yes, talking of scoring goals, a year on from the playoffs, 3-1 down to Bristol Rovers in the away leg, did you, firstly did you hear the tannoy announcement?

Ian Clarkson:

No I hadn’t, no I hadn’t heard that I mean Ackers was telling us about it but I thought…

Danny Brothers:

You think it’s just one of his windups?

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah, yeah. I thought it was one of his wind ups again. But I mean it’s obviously gone down in folklore. Wasn’t he chanting Wembley, Wembley or something like that?

Danny Brothers:

Yeah yeah, he was um that Imean obviously you’re motivated enough already. But 1-0 up so 3-2 on aggregate, you pop up with a rare goal from what I can recall.

Ian Clarkson:

Oh,yeah, absolutely.

Danny Brothers:

How did that feel? But more importantly, we asked Sammo this when we talked about his goal at Peterborough, but what were you doing up there?

Ian Clarkson:

I think I’d scored about three or four weeks before, we played Chesterfield in the league game and had scored. So clearly I had the bug for scoring goals. We’d got to 3-2 on aggregate and there was probably about what 25 minutes to go I remember and so I was just gambling more than I probably would normally because 25 minutes to go, last game of the season potentially, we needed to score goals and it was just one of those moments. I can’t remember much but whoever was marking me, I’d sort of pulled off him and then I darted across him and just as it was darting across him, Heggsy crossed it. And it just fell and I was in the right place at the right time which I’ve not said very often in about 400 games but I was in front of goal and I didn’t have time to think about it and I slotteed it home. So yeah, the adrenaline was pumping by then. I had a chat with John Frain about two or three months ago and yeah between us, we probably played about nine hundred to a thousand games and we think that’s probably the most complete team performance that we’ve ever been part of. And Frainy’s played in the top flight a bit as well. We played in all the divisions and I think that that’s probably, to come back from the way we did and the performance levels that night we were almost unplayable I think.

Danny Brothers:

It’s a special night for sure. I don’t think it’s ever been matched at Sixfields since. We talk about it all the time when we talk about do we have anything close to it. It’s always the reference point to say: “was this better than Bristol Rovers”  and straight away we’re like: “No. No chance”.

Ian Clarkson:

I have to say full credit to Ian Holloway. So I remember him after the game being really magnanimous. He came into the changing rooms and was like “look boys, you deserved it, really well done” and I thought that showed a touch of class from him really.

Danny Brothers:

That’s interesting because he’s always said that he doesn’t like our fans. I don’t know if it’s a pantomine villain type thing but he’s always come out, I think he was managing QPR , he’s had a go at us. Called us animals and all sorts. But it’s probably a bit of hangover from that.

Wembley the second time and obviously disappointment, was there a sense that you could go again after that because it fell off a bit the following season.

Ian Clarkson:

I think the Grimsby game was similar to the Swansea one. It was very tight. There wasn’t much in it. You know the year before things fell our way and that year it sort of fell Grimsby’s way really So I think they deserved to win. They were the better team but we were always in it. Obviously the following season I broke my leg in the fourth game in didn’t I, so I didn’t really feel any sort of part of it. I mean not through anyone’s fault but you tend to be training on your own. You come in on Sunday. Do different times to anybody else. I don’t think I played again for the rest of the season. Ackers made quite a lot of changes in that summer and bought in lots of new players. And then some times it hooks for you or it doesn’t and on this occasion it didn’t did it. We probably had a bigger wage bill, a bigger squad and ended up getting relegated I think didn’t we.

Danny Brothers:

Yeah, yeah, it happens a fair bit doesn’t it in terms of playoff defeats. It’s just one of those things. Obviously you had that terrible injury that ended your league career as such against Lincoln, but then you bounced back and I think you still played over a hundred games for Kidderminster after that. Is that right?

Ian Clarkson:

I did yeah. I mean obviously I went there and I was struggling to train. I mean it was the training more with anything. I could play play games here and there. It was just that sort of couple of days afterwards and I was on a lot of painkillers. I went to Kiddie, they were in the Conference, they paid my insurance money back and I had an agreement with Jan that I wouldn’t train that often when I was at Kiddie so we sort of played and I didn’t train that often really. yeah yeah yeah I will be sorry yeah man the kiddding convince a manager sorry.

Danny Brothers:

Was that Jan… 

Ian Clarkson:

Jan Molby, sorry.

Danny Brothers:

Ah right. So that’s full circle then. That’s cool. So he’s obviously seen something in you at Wembley.

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah I’d have thought so, yeah that was often a good starting point for conversation. Yes he did and then I went to Kiddie and we won the Conference. But again h was good at managing my knee at the time. My knee, my ankle and my leg, which weren’t in great nick.

Danny Brothers:

Going back to ‘97 Wembley, I think you are coming down for the forum aren’t you?

Ian Clarkson:

Yes.

Danny Brothers:

Do you take anything from that squad in terms of the togetherness and what was built there, did you take it into your future clubs. Do you take into work now, that kind of mentality when you’re teaching kids football stuff?

Ian Clarkson:

It taught me a lot. You know it’s I just think if you’ve got a belief and an ability I think it’s good to be organized it taught me that. It’s good to have an awareness of what your opposition is going to do, you don’t necessarily have to be worried by them. But certainly have an awareness about them. And to be fair to Ackers, because he was ahead of his time, we had psychology coaches and all sorts. You know, dietitians which in 96, 97 for you know a Division 4 clubs was fairly ahead of it’s time. I mean I’m not saying it was always well received. I’m not saying people were always on board with it but it was there for you if you wanted it. I mean those two seasons at Northampton I think, you know we won a lot of games. It was a great time to be part of the club because yeah, the atmosphere was good. It always felt like it was progressive. We were moving forward and it was just good fun. I mean I was in a car school with four people from Birmingham so that was, it was just constant really now. I’d sort of wake up in the morning. It’s like going into school with a group of mates and having a laugh every day and it just happens that you play football as well. 

Danny Brothers:

And when that’s happening off the pitch it just translates doesn’t it?

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah it does. There were some good characters there and there were some good people who weren’t necessarily playing every week but were good characters to have around. Would come in and do a job but were funny, got the sort of spirit of the club and joined in well really. him. So you know, and particularly with the strikers, Ackers liked to rotate his strikers a lot. Even things like, you know Jason Dozzell. What a great lad he was. A terrific signing. Played at Tottenham you know Ipswich. He was an England youth international and just for those 2 seasons Ian seemed to have that knack of signing players just when we needed them just the right time and they were just the right sort of characters really.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

Did it frustrate people. So I think one of the things that comes up a lot when discussing that era, certainly in fan forums and message boards and all that sort of thing like the nostalgia element of it. One of the things you see bandied about a lot of the time is that that squad and that team wasn’t particularly that talented but they got by on kind of a camaraderie and team spirit and that sort of thing is that frustrating?

Ian Clarkson:

People say what they want but you know the proof of the pudding is we must have had some good players. It wasn’t just hard work and camaraderie. I think we were hardworking but so were Manchester City hardworking. I’m not going to suggest for one minute we were anything like them but you know just think in terms of we had players with good quality on the ball. We had players who could defend properly. We had midfielders who could control it, receive it and pass it. We had all these things so it’s difficult. We didn’t necessarily always, you know Woody didn’t always roll it out from the back. I can certainly concede that point of view but in 96, 97 not that many teams were. So look, what I would say is we were certainly competitive and we had an edge and we were hard to beat which I think is a great sign. But you’re not telling me people like Matthew Rush weren’t a good player. Sean Parish didn’t have good quality. As defenders I’d suggest me and Frainy had reasonable quality on the ball because we played at a decent level. You know you had center halves who were proper center halves, strikers who made good runs and held it up. So there was lots of people in there who had good quality. But also an overwhelming desire to win which sometimes trumps quality. 

Neil Egerton-Scott:

I look back and I’ve seen numerous different squads of teams playing for Northampton, some that I don’t wish to remember, but I look back at the squad in that era and my overarching memory was, you were men right? That sounds silly but it was a team of men and you look at the characters and the people in there.

Ian Clarkson:

There were some strong, as I said as a changing room, there were just strong characters. So you know if you couldn’t handle yourself, I don’t mean you’re gonna have a fight, I mean if you just couldn’t handle the sort of conversations or the banter or people telling you you weren’t pulling your weight, I’m afraid you’d just buckle and go under and you probably wouldn’t be there and that’s just life in a football dressing room. That is the brutal reality of it and and I think as I said you know  we had people in there who were I would say in between I don’t know 22 and 29, something like that, we had quite a strong crew of players at that age who were experienced from other clubs as well and certainly,as you’d say, good strong characters,  men. Yeah people who would go toe to toe with somebody who wanted to have a fight and then if you wanted to have a game of football. We’d have a game of football with you as well. I’m trying to think of some games that stand out that year. Fulham away stood out for me when we won, 1-0 I think and Fulham had got promoted on the Thursday or Wednesday or Thursday and then you know, Ian Atkins mind games: “Get out, get ready. Give them a guard of honour then run to the end they always warm up at which is what we did and then we were 1-0 up within 25 minutes and he brought Terry Angus and somebody else off after half an hour, Mickey Adams so we were… And just things like that. But you know, you don’t go there and win one nil. And we did play some good stuff I have to say. Just good times really and just good characters as you say, but characters who could play. I think sometimes there’s urban myths aren’t there over time and people say: “yeah but they weren’t a particularly good footballing side” and well I’m not sure you know. Define me what a good footballing team is.

Danny Brothers:

Yeah, exactly that Fulham game in particular, to go there with 3 games left afterwards for us to be in the position. It was tight and you’ve gone and beat the Champions of the league who are run away leaders. You’ve gone and beat them on their own patch. You’ve been brave and you’ve been bold and that took you through the last little bit of the season, of the playoffs sort of as well.

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely and I think the following season. Again I think we had Fulham at home in the penultimate game didn’t we and I remember Peter Beardsley playing. Peschisolido, that might be the year after I don’t know but they had some money spent and we beat them 1-0 again. So there’s ways and means of winning games of football against teams, who on paper have got a lot better players than you and you might need to play a different way against them. But I would suggest that that season, most of the teams we played, we probably thought we could beat them anyway. And we could beat them on the floor, we could beat them in the air, we could, we had that sort of air of confidence about us really.

Danny Brothers:

Have you seen much of the Cobblers recently?

Ian Clarkson:

I went to the first game of this season against Port Vale when we won 1-0. Beyond that no I’ve not seen a lot of them and it looks like you’re sort of in almost in automatic promotion. You know on the sort of edges of it really. It would be great because it’s a club I’m really fond of, you know. I’d love that. It looks like, is that East Stand going to be sorted out finally do you know? 

Danny Brothers:

Don’t say that.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

Who knows.

Danny Brothers:

There’s many other podcasts to do about that.

Ian Clarkson:

Okay,so look you know for me, it’s a club that obviously you’ve got the Saints but I think Northampton Town could have a Championship football club and I think some of the people who are watching the Saints would come across and watch the Cobblers as well. And I think you could sustain a 15,000 crowd in the Championship. Which would be you know, no less than a Barnsley or a Peterborough or a Luton or other clubs that are up there..

Danny Brothers:

Do you think you could beat the current team? I know the answer to this.

Ian Clarkson:

I think it would be and it’s that classic gag isn’t it. Yeah, we’d win 1-0. The reason being we’re all in our fifty’s. But I don’t know, yeah times changed don’t they. But look I do think that team, that season was a team that was very hard to beat and had some good quality and some good characters as as you saw in some of the games. I remember beating Cardiff 4-0, that was brilliant. Sort of around New Year’s day as ours was the only game on wasn’t it. There was loads of them cancelled because it was snow and frost and all that but we beat Cardiff 4-0 that sticks in my mind as a good game. And didn’t we beat someone 5-1? Was it Chester we beat 5-1?

Danny Brothers:

Yeah it was Chester we beat 5-1. There was a big run, we beat Barnet, Cardiff, Chester, Hartlepool, we just demolished them.

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah, Grayson was on fire at that time, he was scoring goals left, right and center. 

Danny Brothers:

Yeah, it might be when Matthew Rush was in as well.

Ian Clarkson:

Yeah, Rushy was playing with me. So yeah, looking, there was lots of good things really to sort of remember about that season. And yeah, we had some good times.

Danny Brothers:

Ian, that was a genuine pleasure. Thank you so much for joining us. I was saying earlier how I was 12 I think, coming up to 13 at the time of Wembley, so to be talking to you, looking back on the memories now is a special thing. So thank you so much for doing that. And Neil, thank you as well.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

Yes, no thank you. Yeah, thank you very much Ian. Like Danny, an absolute pleasure. Thank you.

Ian Clarkson:

Much appreciate it.

Danny Brothers:

We’ll be back with more from the class of ‘97 in the coming weeks. Don’t forget to book your place at the anniversary event on the 20th of May. Ian will be there.You can book a place for our forum that I think we’re gonna be hosting, Neil.

Neil Egerton-Scott:

Are we?!

Danny Brothers:

Yes! With some of the club legends involved for just, you can book for just a fiver by getting in touch with the club or going via the website. Thank you all for listening. We’ll be back again very soon. Goodbye.

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