In March 1948 Tommy Clinton signed for Everton under some of the most unusual circumstances in the club’s history. Manager Theo Kelly had been tipped off about the young Irish defender and arranged to meet him to discuss a transfer at Dundalk station. During the meeting, Clinton’s train arrived and he signed the papers agreeing to a £2000 move to Goodison from Dundalk through the window of the train as it pulled away.
The right back had been spotted a year earlier by the director, Dick Searle, and after serving an apprenticeship in the Central League was given his debut against Burnley in February 1949. Over seven years with the club he made just 80 appearances, often finding himself overlooked in favour of more polished colleagues.
Alas, the moment for which Clinton is most synonymous marked the nadir of his career. Playing in the 1953 FA Cup semi-final against Bolton Wanderers, Everton were 4-0 down when, minutes before half-time, they were given a glimmer of hope when a penalty was awarded in their favour. Clinton boldly stepped up to take it, but could only send it wide of the Bolton goal. The enormity of his mistake was only realised later, after Everton brought the score back to 4-3 – but could not manage an equaliser. Clinton never seemed to recover from his error and scarcely featured for Everton again.
ALWAYS A PLAYER who relied on his physical strength rather than any great natural ability, Clinton justifiably earned a reputation as a hard man. ‘I liked to make contact,’ he once said.
I suppose I was one of those full backs who would have kicked their grandfather over the stand if they had been asked to.
He played the majority of his Everton career outside the First Division – or during the 1950/51 campaign when the
club were careering out of it – but was nevertheless good enough to be picked for his country on three occasions.
Having made just six appearances in the promotion-winning1953/54 season, when Blackburn Rovers made a £3000 bid for the defender in April 1955, the Everton board accepted it.
The deal was structured so that Blackburn would make £1000 payments for each ten games Clinton played for them up to the £3000 threshold. Clinton, however, played just six games for Rovers before joining Tranmere a year later. Here his career fizzled out and he retired in 1957.
POST-FOOTBALL, Clinton made Liverpool his home, continuing to live in his old club house on Goodison Road and working as a superintendent with the Pioneer Life Assurance company. ‘It’s a great city,’ he said in an interview in 1969, ‘and they serve draught Guinness here, so why move?’