Local lad, pioneer, captain, cup winner, manager, England International, war hero… Tommy Clare is well-deserving of a place in our Cult hall of fame.
Tom Clare played his football for the Valiants over a century ago and therefore his feats will are unlikely to be recalled even by the most knowledge of modern Vale fans. Nevertheless, his contribution to Potteries football are significant and worthy of wider recognition.
Clare was born in 1865 and after spells for local clubs Talke Rangers and Goldenhill Wanderers he joined Vale in 1883, aged just 18.
His return reportedly “inspired” the side and Vale won the Staffordshire Senior Cup in 1898…
However, he was quickly snapped up by neighbours Stoke City and in the process took the honour of becoming the city’s first professional footballer. Stoke’s faith was rewarded by Clare being capped four times by England during a fourteen year spell.
The veteran Clare (he was now 32) joined Vale for a second spell in 1897 before moving on to Manchester City.
However, that wasn’t to be the end of Clare’s Vale association as just a year later he returned to the Valiants for a third spell. Appointed as captain, his return reportedly “inspired” the side and Vale won the Staffordshire Senior Cup in 1898, beating then First Division side West Brom in the final. However, that triumph was overshadowed by a serious injury as Clare broke his leg later that year, effectively ending his playing career. He eventually retired in 1901.
Following his retirement, Clare moved into management, becoming Vale’s manager-secretary in July 1905. He stepped down in May 1911 after the club (going through another of its regular financial crises) could no longer afford his wages.
After his footballing career had finished, Clare emigrated to Canada and following the outbreak of World War One, he enlisted in the Canadian Army, taking part in the bloody battle of Passchendaele. However, Clare was at this time 51 years old, having successfully lied about his age (only men up to the age of 40 were accepted) to the recruiting office.
After such an eventful life, Clare died in Canada in 1929 at the age of 64.
Our top image shows Tommy Clare in the middle of the photo next to team mates Birchenhough and Spillsbury. It’s from 1898.
Thomas “Tommy” Clare
Three spells as player, also managed the club, cup winner, war hero, Potteries pioneer
Time at Port Vale:
1883, 1897, 1898-1901 (plus 1905 to 1911 as manager)
52 (maybe more)
Win percentage: 31.25%