Billy Clarke: My magical derby memories as last Blackpool scorer against Preston North End

The last player to score for Blackpool against Preston North End has welcomed this weekend’s return of the West Lancashire derby.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 12:30 pm

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Billy Clarke took just 23 seconds to score for the Seasiders against the Lilywhites in 2009, when the sides played out a 1-1 draw at Bloomfield Road.

The teams haven’t met in Blackpool since, their last league meeting coming at Deepdale 11 years ago.

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Billy Clarke, still scoring goals last season in his last EFL campaign at Bradford City

Now 33, Clarke told The Gazette: “It was one of the most memorable evenings of my Blackpool career.

“Obviously it happened so quickly, literally, but the only disappointing thing is that we didn’t win because we dominated the game.

“I was a sub more often than not leading up to that game but I got into the team just before. I felt I was getting into the swing of things before the game and getting regular football.

“But it was just a great night and it couldn’t have started any better.

“I hit the post and crossbar as well after that, so it was just a shame we didn’t go on to win the game.”

Hailing from Ireland, Clarke, who scored twice in 32 appearances for the Seasiders, knew little about the ferocity of the derby prior to his move to the Fylde coast.

But he soon realised just what the game meant to both sets of supporters.

“It was unbelievable,” Clarke said. “It was my first experience of the derby and the atmosphere was great. I’ve got very fond memories of that evening.

“I had a four-month-old baby at the time when I moved up from Ipswich. We hadn’t really been anywhere other than Ipswich, so I probably didn’t realise the magnitude of the game until afterwards.

“Up until the build-up to the game, you don’t realise just how big it is. But I had fans coming up to me in the street saying how important it was to get a result, so I soon realised.

“Even now, I get people talking to me about that goal, so it’s really good.”

Clarke, now an academy coach at Hull City, still keeps a keen eye on his former club and has been impressed by their turnaround under Neil Critchley and the new ownership.

“They’ve been flying and have had some fantastic results, like their wins against Middlesbrough, Fulham and Blackburn,” he said.

“I’m good friends with James Husband, so I also watch out for him very closely. My old (Bradford City) manager Stuart McCall is there as well.

“It’s a very young squad but with a good mix of experience as well, so it’s fantastic to see the club back in the Championship after coming through such tough times.”

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