Interview with former Arsenal and Southend player Adrian Clarke

Image courtesy of Adrian Clarke and Sport Media Solutions.

Soccerlens is very pleased to welcome a former footballer turned journalist. Adrian Clarke, who was born in Cambridge, began his football career with Arsenal in 1991 and went on to make nine first team appearances for the club. Previously he had represented England at Under-15 and Under-18 level. After six years with the Gunners, which included loan spells at Rotherham United and Southend United, Mr. Clarke, a midfielder, signed on a free transfer with Southend in 1997.

During three years with Southend United, he made 75 appearances and scored 9 goals. He then played two seasons for Stevenage Borough, and finished his career with Margate and Welling United. Mr. Clarke retired from full-time professional football in 2000, and decided to pursue a new career in sports journalism to run alongside his semi-pro career. Adrian retired from football in 2007.

Mr. Clarke, along with his business partner, Mr. Iain Spragg, own Sport Media Solutions (SMS). This company, which is based in London, has many different facets. One of them is content syndication for all sports, with a focus on Champions League football. Before SMS, Mr. Clarke was a deputy editor at

Adrian, please accept a warm welcome to Soccerlens.

Which team did you support during your youth?

I was originally an Ipswich Town fan, and subscribed to the Junior Blues between the ages of five and ten! The first ever professional match I saw was Ipswich v Wolves in 1980, with Ipswich winning 3-1 I believe. I was living in Suffolk and they were my nearest club, but they were also extremely successful during that period of my youth, winning the UEFA Cup in 1981. I still follow them today but can’t say I am still a proper fan.

How did you become affiliated with the Arsenal Football Club, and can you please describe how the experience at Highbury shaped your playing career?

I was spotted by Arsenal’s current chief scout Steve Rowley at the age of 10 playing for my club side Haverhill Echo. I then went for training with the club for several years before signing schoolboy forms at 14, and then eventually joining the club on a full-time basis when I left school at 16. Fortunately I enjoyed a successful time at Highbury and was lucky enough to make nine first team appearances, seven of which were in the Premier League. I learned a great deal with Arsenal, and will always feel grateful for the opportunity to play for them. Playing, and winning the man of the match award on my full debut against QPR in 1995 was unquestionably the highlight of my career. We won that day 3-0.

You played with David Beckham as a schoolboy and in the English youth ranks. What were your impressions of him back then, and what was it like to play with and against him as a professional?

Yes, I played against David at youth level many times in schools and club fixtures and then alongside him for England Under-18’s. As a youngster David was tiny and because of that he didn’t always make a big impression. He was very, very skilful and everyone rated him as a really talented boy, but few predicted he’d make it as an international superstar. When I met up with him at the age of 17, he’d grown into a tall, well built player — a real transformation! Off the pitch he is a very nice guy. He always made a point of meeting me for a chat whenever Arsenal played Manchester United, and our physio Gary Lewin often reported back from England duty saying that Becks had asked after me, which was nice. He is a brilliant professional and deserves every success he’s achieved in his career.

Earlier this year, you developed Sport Media Solutions with Iain Spragg. Would you be kind enough to describe the focus of your firm, along with the types of projects that you plan for the future?

Myself and Iain write for many different publications around the world from newspapers, magazines, books to websites. An added part of our business is content syndication, where we buy interviews with sports stars from our array of contacts, and then sell to newspapers and magazines around the world. If a media client needs an interview with a sports star they often come to us for help. We are also available to write columns and features, as well as providing interviews.

You and Iain co-authored, “The Jonny Wilkinson Story,” which was the unofficial biography about the English Rugby Union star. For those who haven’t read the book yet, what can you tell us about him that might surprise his supporters?

Jonny used to kick toilet rolls around his mum and dad’s living room as a kid! The start of a successful career in kicking! I’m afraid there is very little about Jonny Wilkinson that will surprise his fans. He is a consummate professional dedicated to his trade but we’d like to think that the story of his career is an enjoyable read. The book was written after England’s 2003 success, but will be re-released soon with two added chapters.

Which lessons from professional football have prepared you for a new career as a writer and journalist?

Knowing what it’s like to be a professional footballer has without doubt given me an advantage in the field of football journalism. I can easily relate to situations players find themselves in, and write with authority on the subjects. I am also fortunate to have the trust of many people within the game, as they know me, and my background. I’d like to think that people believe that I know what I am talking about when I am writing about football I guess!

Adrian, thank you very much for your commentaries and contribution to Soccerlens. All the best to you, Iain, and Sport Media Solutions.

Image courtesy of Adrian Clarke and Sport Media Solutions.

Steve Amoia is the author and editor of World Football Commentaries.

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