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Once an Iron: Phil Clarkson

6 April 2020

After a frustrating few years at Crewe Alexandra, Phil Clarkson was given his first set of regular games at Scunthorpe United.

During the coming days, we'll republish past interviews with legendary former Iron players from our matchday programme.

The midfielder began his career with Fleetwood Town before joining the Alex in 1991 and went on to spend five years with the club.

But after failing to consistently hold down a place in the side, he was sent out on loan to United and joined the Iron permanently in February 1996.

Phil began by telling us how those two moves to the club came about.

“I was just coming back from injury so I wasn’t really getting into the team at Crewe and Dario Gradi (manager of Crewe at the time) had told me that Dave Moore had asked to take me on loan,” Phil explained.

“Obviously I wanted to go out and get some games so I agreed to the move and I had couple of months on loan at the club before signing permanently

“I really enjoyed playing again and I seemed to settle in quite well at Scunthorpe. I got on well with Dave and also with Mick Buxton when he came in as manager later on.

“I think that loan move really helped me to settle in when I came back again and I actually travelled in with Alan Knill and Mark Sertori as they were both from the Manchester area so that made things a lot easier for me as well.”

Whilst his permanent spell in claret and blue only lasted for a year, Clarkson rates his time at Scunthorpe very highly.

He was given the opportunity to play regular first team football in North Lincolnshire and repaid the faith shown in him by finishing as the club’s top goal scorer in the 1996-1997 season.

“I really enjoyed my time at Scunthorpe, it’s a nice little ground to play at and it’s a friendly club so I had a great time,” he continued.

“I’d been out injured for quite a long time and wasn’t getting much of a look in at Crewe so to go somewhere else and play as much as I did was like a breath of fresh air. It restarts you again so it was brilliant.

“If you’re not playing then you’re going to be a bit miserable because you’re there to play but luckily my fortunes changed at Scunthorpe.

“It was great to have been the club’s top scorer because not many midfielders can say they’ve done that but that was part of my game, getting forward, supporting the front players and trying to get on the end of things. It gives you confidence as well when you’re scoring goals.”

After excelling in the United midfield as well as contributing with his goals, it seemed like just a matter of time before Phil would be a target for other clubs.

He eventually joined Blackpool but stated how his transfer away from the Iron could have been very different.

He added: “Mick Buxton told me there’d been some interest from a couple of clubs and I actually went and spoke to Sam Allardyce, who was manager of Notts County back then.

“I was quite close to signing but there was interest from quite a few clubs, one being Blackpool.

“It was a great set up at Notts County but being from Blackpool, I always wanted to join them.

“I scored my first goal against Preston pretty early on which put me in a good place with the fans straight away so that was nice!”

Clarkson’s move to Bloomfield Road saw him experience similar success in front of goal and he topped their scoring charts in the 1998-1999 campaign.

He was also part of the Tangerines’ side that gained promotion via the Division Three Play-Offs in 2001 and admitted that it’s those type of occasions that make players want to play the game.

“As I’ve said, scoring goals was a big part of my game and I was always happy whenever I could get my name on the score sheet,” he said.

“I was part of a very good Blackpool side back then and we showed that when we gained promotion to Division Two through the Play-Offs at the end of the 2000-2001 season after beating Leyton Orient.

“It was a brilliant day. We went 1-0 down after the first minute so we didn’t start off too well but we managed to get going again and eventually won 4-2.

“Wembley was being redeveloped at the time so it was played at the Millennium Stadium in Wales and it was fantastic. It’s what you play the game for and I think we deserved to win on the day.”

Following his spell with the Pool, Clarkson spent some time in non-league football with Halifax Town and Lancaster City and also enjoyed a brief loan spell at Bury prior to that.

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