Everton’s pursuit of inside left Joe Clennell extended for more than three years at the start of the 1910s, but when they finally got their man his impact upon his new club was immediate.
Twice, in November 1910 and March 1911, Everton had been thwarted in their attempts to wrest the talented youngster from Blackpool, who were holding out for around double the £500 Everton put on the table. Clennell joined Blackburn Rovers instead, but after a good start he lost his place to Eddie Latheron. Everton’s third attempt to buy Clennell was successful but the price of £1500 was high. He soon started to pay it back. Two minutes into his Everton debut, at home to Aston Villa, Clennell scored; it was his first kick in a blue shirt and evidence that he was a lucky player.
Standing just 5ft 5in tall, the diminutive Clennell was, wrote the Liverpool Echo, ‘a popular player, [with] a magnificent fine shot, and an opportunist’. He was the Central League’s leading goalscorer at the time of his arrival and hopes were high. He did not let anyone down and earned a reputation for scoring crucial goals at crucial times.
Four goals in 12 games through to the end of the 1913/14 season gave a taste of his talent, but it was the following campaign Clennell made the most telling contribution. Everton lifted the League Championship and his goals were crucial to their success. A hat-trick on the opening day at Tottenham laid a marker and he scored a brace in the 5-0 hammering of Liverpool a month later. But a more crucial strike was to follow: the one that practically sealed Everton’s second title.
IN A CLOSE-FOUGHT away game at Manchester City – the penultimate match of the season: ‘Parker got in a strong drive, which Smith, with outstretched left arm, was unable to clear, with the result that Clennell, rushing up, met the ball, and it rolled into the net,’ reported ‘Rover’ in the Evening Express. It was the only goal of the game and sent Everton top. Nine days later their title victory was confirmed. Clennell was a regular in the regional leagues during the First World War and scored a phenomenal amount of goals: 128 in 124 games. But when the Football League restarted in 1919 his regular place came under threat and after losing it to Charlie Crossley he moved on, enjoying a lengthy Indian summer in the lower leagues.