OBITUARY: Eddie Clamp

Sunday 23 October 2011 04:50

The name of Clamp was a byword for ferocity in British football during the late 1950s. In his ruthless pomp as a ball-winner for Wolverhampton Wanderers, and, briefly, for England, "Chopper Eddie" was accorded a lurid reputation akin to that enjoyed today by Vinnie Jones.

Indeed, had Eddie Clamp risen to prominence in the tabloid age, it is likely that he would have eclipsed the ostentatious Wimbledon bruiser in the notoriety stakes, for he was a more complete performer. Though renowned for his physical approach - it would be idly to deny his methods were crude at times - Clamp was no one-dimensional clogger, and, with all due respect to the not untalented Jones, the taciturn Midlander had considerably more to offer in terms of ball control and passing ability.

Having won international honours as a schoolboy, Clamp turned professional with Wolves in 1952, then developed rapidly under the aegis of Molineux's martinet manager, Stan Cullis. He made his senior debut as a 19-year-old wing-half, against Matt Busby's Manchester United at Old Trafford, as Wolves were closing in on the First Division title in the spring of 1954. And although he did not play enough games to earn a medal that season, there was to be no shortage of honours coming Clamp's way.

By 1955-56 he was a regular member of Cullis's all-action, but undeniably skilful team - a hard man in a hard side - and two years later his strength, stamina and all-round efficiency were an important factor in the club's championship triumph.

Clamp was rewarded by a full international call-up on the eve of the 1958 World Cup finals in Sweden, and he formed an all-Wolves half-back line with Billy Wright and Bill Slater. He performed creditably in four consecutive games for his country, all of which were drawn, but widespread disappointment at England's generally sketchy showing in the game's premier tournament cost him his place - which went to the more stylish Ronnie Clayton of Blackburn Rovers - and Clamp was shunted permanently from the international stage at the age of 23.

He continued to prosper at club level, though, helping Wolves to lift a second successive title in 1959 and missing out on a hat-trick when Burnley pipped them by a single point in 1960. That term, however, there was heady consolation in the FA Cup, with Wolves defeating Blackburn 3- 0 at Wembley. Sadly, it was a scrappy encounter, labelled the "dustbin final" in the Midlands press, a criticism which rankled with Clamp for the rest of his life.

Having distinguished himself in the famous old gold and black, Clamp accepted a new challenge in September 1961, joining Arsenal in a pounds 34,500 deal. He had been bought to instil steel into what was then a rather languid Gunners combination, but that very combativeness was to prove his undoing. Six months after Clamp's arrival in London, his former Molineux skipper Billy Wright became Arsenal manager and took exception to "Chopper Eddie's" aggressive style. The final straw was a brutal tackle on the gentlemanly Aston Villa full-back Charlie Aitken, perpetrated right under Wright's nose, and Clamp was on his way out.

Next stop was Stoke City, whom he joined for pounds 14,000 in September 1962, and that season he assisted a Stanley-Matthews-inspired team of veterans to top the Second Division. Two years on, by now aged 30, he served a short stint with Third Division Peterborough United before entering non- league circles, first with Worcester City and then with Lower Gornal.

Clamp retired from regular football in 1969 to run a building and decorating business in Wednesfield, Staffordshire, but continued to turn out in charity matches for the Wolves Old Stars. Opponents reported, often ruefully, that while he had lost his speed, he had retained that characteristic bite.

Ivan Ponting

Harold Edwin Clamp, footballer: born Coalville, Leicestershire 14 September 1934; played for Wolverhampton Wanderers 1952-61, Arsenal 1961-62, Stoke City 1962-64, Peterborough United 1964-65; capped four times by England 1958; died Wednesfield, Staffordshire 14 December 1995.

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