My guest for the latest edition of my Player Profile series is Clive Evans. He played for several clubs in the English Football League, before moving into the non-league game towards the end of his career.
Â Age:Â 64
Â Place of Birth:Â The Wirral, Merseyside
Â Previous Clubs:Â Tranmere Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Crewe Alexandra, Stockport County, Lincoln City
Â Position:Â Midfield/Defender
Â LifeÂ After Football: Spent 22 years at Adidas UK looking after football sponsorship which included players, clubs and national teams.Â Also had two years at Derby County Academy, scouting players for Under 12’s to Under 18’s teams and two years at Everton Academy with the same role.
Â GT: First of all Clive, thank you very much for agreeing to answer my questions, I am really looking forward to finding out about your time in football. For the first question, I would be interested to know where your love of football began, where did your journey in football start for you?
Â CE: My love for football began at school when I started playing for the school team. I can also remember my Dad taking me to watch my local club, Tranmere Rovers. Other strong memories I have are from when Liverpool won the FA Cup at Wembley in 1965 and when England won the 1966 World Cup.
Â GT: With Tranmere Rovers being your local club, did you always have an early ambition to play for them at some point? It was Tranmere Rovers who were to become the first professional football club of your career but how did you end up signing for them?
CE: My ambition was just to play professional football. I previously had trials at Liverpool and could have gone to Wolverhampton Wanderers at the age of 15 but eventually, Tranmere Rovers offered me the chance to sign as an apprentice pro after playing in their youth team. The Liverpool legend, Ron Yeats was the Player/Manager of Tranmere at the time and he came around to my parent’s house to sign me.
GT: After you signed for Tranmere Rovers, what was a typical week like for you at the club as an apprentice pro?
CE: As an apprentice pro in the early 1970’s it was hard work, you had to prepare the pro’s training kit before training and clean their boots after training. In addition to this, you had to clean the dressing rooms as well as collecting all of the kit for washing. After all of this was done you could then spend some time yourself out on the practice field. To be honest it provided good discipline and was a good experience for future work environments.
GT: Sounds a million miles away with regards to what young footballers are used to today and like you rightly say, what you had to do provided you with good life experience. How long were you at Tranmere Rovers for, before you made your first team debut, and could you describe the feeling you had when that day arrived?
CE: I signed for the club as a full time pro at the age of 16 and then progressed through the Youth and Reserve teams. I was drafted into the first team squad towards the end of the 1976/1977 season.Â
I had just turned 20 years old when the manager, Johnny King told me that I had been selected to play against Northampton Town. In those days teams used to blood young players towards the end of the season. I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it, to be honest, but I called my Dad from the ground so he could be there.
I had a decent game and we won 3-1, I managed to keep my place in the team for the following season and played in all 46 league games.
GT: How long did you stay at Tranmere before you signed for Wigan Athletic, and what are your fondest memories from your time at Prenton Park?
CE: I had four years in the first team at Tranmere Rovers before moving to Wigan Athletic for the sum of Â£25,000.
The best memories I have from playing for Tranmere are, firstly, scoring my first league goal in a game against Wrexham.
Secondly, playing against Liverpool in the second round of the League cup. Liverpool were the then reigning European Champions, the first leg was an amazing night at Prenton Park where we managed to draw 0-0 in front of 16,000 spectators! We lost the second leg 4-0 at Anfield, they fielded a full first XI against us, that wouldn’t happen nowadays!
GT: It sounds like you had a brilliant time at Tranmere Rovers, so this leads nicely onto my next question – what was the reason for your move to Wigan Athletic?
CE: The reason for the move to Wigan was really down to the fact that they came in for me and offered Â£25,000. Tranmere were desperate for cash and were struggling to pay players wages, etc.Â
Wigan were an ambitious club and had their eyes on promotion, also it was a better deal for me and I was still only 24 years old at the time.
GT: How did you find adjusting to playing for a new club after spending the best part of ten years at Tranmere Rovers?
CE: It was very difficult, to be honest! A new manager, new teammates, and a completely different environment. We managed to get promoted to the old third division but I didn’t get on with the manager and my confidence was low, I wasn’t enjoying it at all.Â
I was desperate to get away, Crewe Alexandra came in for me and I jumped at the chance to join them which was a bad decision in hindsight!
GT: What were the reasons behind the move to Crewe turning out to be a bad choice?
CE: We started well at Crewe the following season but results started to go badly after ten games or so. The manager was sacked and Peter Morris was appointed as the club’s new manager. He wanted his own team and brought in a lot of new players and for some reason he didn’t give me a chance to play. The other players couldn’t understand what his reasoning was for this.
Â I was on a free at the end of the season, I’d gone from one bad move to another in two years. Earlier in the season I had a good game against Stockport County and they offered me a contract, so I signed for them.Â
Looking back at those two bad moves, I could have done with a player agent to help me with negotiating contracts, etc. But in my day agents didn’t exist, it was just me, a young player sitting in front of an experienced manager, trying to negotiate a deal for myself.
GT: So, following those two bad experiences at Wigan and Crewe, I bet you couldn’t wait to get started at Stockport County! Tell me about your spell at the club, was it a more of an enjoyable time for you?
CE: Yes, I enjoyed my spell at Stockport County, I settled down much better and moved to Cheshire, we had some good players in our side at the time.
One particular highlight for me was again playing against Liverpool! We drew them in the 2nd Round of the League Cup in the 1984/1985 season and drew 0-0 against them in the first leg at Edgley Park in front of 11,000 spectators. We narrowly lost the second leg at Anfield by 2 goals to 0 after extra time.Â
Under the management of Colin Murphy, we narrowly avoided relegation on the last day of the 1986/1987 season at the expense of Lincoln City. This was the first time that a club had been automatically relegated into the Conference League!Â
Colin Murphy had two spells as manager at Stockport and at first, we didn’t like his style of play. Training was hard and good fitness was required to play his preferred style of route one football. We were all glad when he left to work in the Middle East. However, he returned for a second spell in charge, and to be fair he worked a miracle by keeping us up!
GT: More great memories Clive and thank you for sharing them – it was of course Lincoln City that was to the next club in your career. I see that Colin Murphy was the club’s manager when you signed for them, was this a factor in you joining them?
CE: Yes, Colin Murphy being the manager at Lincoln was a big influence on me signing for the club. As well as myself, he also took five or six players from Stockport County with him.Â
At first, I wasn’t sure about dropping down into the non-league game but Colin Murphy kept asking me to sign for Lincoln. Five games into the following season Lincoln paid a small fee for me and offered me an improved contract. With this in mind, I made the big decision to join the club in the top tier of non-league football.
Playing for Lincoln in the conference was the toughest season I had ever had! Every game was like a cup tie for us, all of the teams we came up against really wanted to beat Lincoln City! The club had stayed full time and spent money on players, we had big crowds at every game, especially local derby games against the likes of Boston United.Â
Winning the league on the last day of the season was unbelievable! There was a huge crowd at Sincil Bank to watch us play the final game of the season against Wycombe Wanderers. I played in 44 out of 46 league games but unfortunately in a game against Scunthorpe United the following season, I ruptured my Achilles tendon and that was the end of my professional football career. After I recovered from my injury I then went on to play for several semi-pro clubs before retiring.
GT: It sounds as if you had a great time at Lincoln City despite the fact that it was a tough but ultimately very successful campaign. I am really sorry to hear about the injury you sustained, if this hadn’t had happened what would have been your plan going forward?
CE: Yes, it was a great achievement in helping Lincoln get back into the football league.Â
I didn’t have a plan to be honest, I hadn’t prepared for life after football but I was very fortunate to find a job in sales and marketing. Then after this I had a fantastic job working for the Adidas sports brand in football, working with top elite England players and clubs.
GT: That leads me nicely onto the next question Clive – I am intrigued to know what your job with Adidas involved, which players did you come across whilst working for the company?
CE: I was responsible for sports marketing in the football industry which basically saw me looking after players who had Adidas UK sponsorship contracts. I had to ensure that sponsorship deals with player’s agents were negotiated properly, ensure that the correct footwear was being worn by our players on the pitch as well as other kit requirements.
Some of the players included the likes of Jamie Redknapp, Steven Gerrard, Neil Ruddock, and a bit of work with David Beckham!
GT: Clive, I have really enjoyed interviewing you, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. In closing, I would like to ask you the following – Who was the best player you played alongside, who was the best player you played against, and what was the best ground you played at?
CE: The best player I played with was probably Steve Coppell during my early days at Tranmere Rovers. He went to Manchester United in 1975 and went on to win 42 caps for England.
The best players I played against was probably Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, or Terry McDermott in the league cup ties against Liverpool. On a similar theme, the best ground I ever played at has got to be Anfield!