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'He was a fantastic player and a very special man' - tributes are paid to Wisbech Town legend Bill Clarkson

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Tribute has been paid to former Wisbech Town Football Club legend Bill Clarkson who has died at the age of 80.

Born in Glasgow Bill was a proud Scot but he made Wisbech is home after moving to join the Fenmen from Oxford United in 1963.

Football was his first love and his dream had always been to play for Glasgow Rangers, but at 16 he was approached by Fulham, and after a bit of negotiating between the club and his dad over an apprenticeship he came south of the border.

Tribute has been paid to Bill Clarkson, who has died aged 80. (22277287)
Tribute has been paid to Bill Clarkson, who has died aged 80. (22277287)

Sadly his time at Fulham was cut short thanks to a broken leg, which saw him return to Scotland where he eventually joined Third Lanark - a club that is now gone. It was also during this time that Bill got the call-up to join the army for his National Service.

At first he was reluctant about going, but being an exceptional footballer and athlete he was soon having a great time, he was even allowed home at weekends to play football. He also represented the British Army on a tour of the Far East visiting Kuala Lumper, Singapore and Hong Kong.

But it was a fateful approach by former England player Jesse Pie, who was manager at Wisbech, while Bill was at Oxford Utd that would change his life forever.

Bill Clarkson in his playing days. (22277343)
Bill Clarkson in his playing days. (22277343)

Bill's wife of 54 years, Maggie, said: "He always told me how comfortable he found Wisbech. He arrived in the town along South Brink, and was impressed by the buildings along North Brink. He then got to the Clarkson Memorial on his way to the football ground and he then passed the Clarkson Arms pub at the top of Clarkson Avenue - and Bill Clarkson knew he had arrived."

It was meeting Maggie, at a 21st birthday party, that sealed Bill's fate to remain in Wisbech. The couple married in 1965 and had two sons Matthew and James, and two grandsons Jack and William.

Bill had originally signed a short term contract but went on to play over 600 games for Wisbech Town and the went onto become the club's manager between 1972 and 1977.

Bill Clarkson pictured in a team with Roy McManus, who has paid tribute to the Fenmen legend. (22277345)
Bill Clarkson pictured in a team with Roy McManus, who has paid tribute to the Fenmen legend. (22277345)

One of those who played alongside Bill, who was rated one of the best centre halfs of his generation, was fellow Fenmen legend Roy McManus.

He joined the team as a signing from March Town at the age of 16.

Roy said: "Bill was captain and I was the youngest player and we won the league and the league championship - it was fantastic to do the double. Bill was my favourite all time player and I never imagined I would get to play alongside him, it was a real privilege.

"We have been life-long friends since then. He was a fantastic player, but he was also a very special man. He was a real gentleman, and a lovely guy to be in company with. I shall really miss him. My thoughts are with Maggie and the boys."

Like many ex-footballers Bill took up golf and was a member of King's Lynn Golf Club for 44 years and he encouraged Maggie to play too.

She added: "He encouraged me to take up the sport and through golf and football we have made many lovely and very dear friends and we have had lots of great holidays.

"Bill told me that he had a great life."

Many people who remember Bill playing for Wisbech have posted comments on various Facebook pages in tribute to him and Maggie said: "The funeral is at Mintlyn crematorium in King's Lynn on November 29 at 10am, everyone is welcome and judging by the response there's been to Bill's death we expect it to be very packed."

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