(First posted on Facebook March 13th, 2016)
John will be 75 today. I think ‘Wikipedia’ got it right on his page as they suggested he was one of the more unheralded players from the Lisbon Lions, as the defensive partner to Billy McNeill. John gained four Scotland caps and all were won before Celtic won the European Cup and came in an 11 month period and remarkably under 3 different managers.
John Prentice took over from Jock Stein in 1966 after Scotland had failed to qualify for the World Cup for that year. Jock had always taken the job on a temporary basis and so Clyde boss John Prentice was then given the post.
Scotland had already lost the three games that Prentice had been in charge for and were facing Brazil at Hampden in June 1966 as they prepared for the World Cup. John was given his debut as was Peter Cormack, then of Hibs. Stevie Chalmers had scored for Scotland within a minute of the start but a Servilio equaliser in the 16th minute ensured it finished 1-1.
By the time of Scotland’s next game John Prentice had left to manage Dundee and in his place came Kilmarnock manager Malky MacDonald in a caretaker basis for Scotland’s opening games in the Home international series of 1966 – ’67. These were away to Wales in October and home to Northern Ireland in November. These games also doubled up a qualifiers for the European Nations Cup of 1968.
Scotland snatched a late draw in Wales at Ninian Park with Denis Law grabbing the goal in the 86th minute. Footage of this game was posted on the Facebook page about a fortnight ago, it is well worth watching and lasts about 45 minutes. John’s teammate Joe McBride made his Scotland debut in this game.
Next up, were the Irish at home, with another Celtic player making his debut; Bobby Lennox. Although Ireland would lead after nine minutes, first half goals form Bobby Murdoch and Lennox would seal the win.
Scotland’s next game saw Bobby Brown of St. Johnstone take up the managerial position on a permanent basis. He would not include John for his first game in charge, which was the 3-2 win at Wembley over England but would choose him for the following game.
There is some controversy over Brown’s team for the John’s final game which was against the USSR at Hampden. With both Celtic and Rangers both having qualified for European finals, Brown started with six Celts in his line up and augmented it with Willie Wallace at half time. Rangers had played the previous Wednesday to qualify for the European Cup Winners Cup Final, whilst Celtic had done so a fortnight before. However, with the Celtic final two weeks away and the Rangers one three weeks, Brown chose no Rangers players.
The game itself saw Scotland get beat 2-0 with Tommy Gemmell lobbing Ronnie Simpson 17 minutes into the game to give the Russians the lead.
So that was it for Clark, as Brown would favour other players over him during the rest of his tenure, however his place in Scottish football history is assured and he is still part of the Celtic backroom staff as he has been for many a year.
Happy Birthday John and all the best