FRANK CLARK still recalls his thoughts on the flight home from Budapest after being part of the Newcastle side which won the Fairs Cup in 1969.
The Magpies beat crack Hungarian side Ujpest Dozsa and Clark said: “I honestly felt that win was just the start.
“The manager, Joe Harvey, had built a really good side and I believed there would be a few more winners’ medals along the way.”
Well, at least Clark was half-right!
There would be personal glory for him in the years ahead — but not with Newcastle.
Controversially handed a free transfer by the Toon board in 1975 after 13 years at St James’ Park, full-back Clark was rescued by Nottingham Forest boss Brian Clough and went on to enjoy a glittering finale to a distinguished career.
In four years at the City Ground, he won a Football League title, two League Cups and, most famously of all, was in the Forest side which lifted the 1979 European Cup with a 1-0 win over Malmo.
Of the team which beat Ujpest Dozsa 6-2 on aggregate, Clark was the only player to win further major honours.
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Even so, he never thought that, 52 years on, Newcastle would still be waiting to add to that particular achievement.
Durham-born Clark made almost 400 appearances for his home-town club — and insists he has black and white running through his veins.
And the former Forest, Leyton Orient and Manchester City manager said: “I’d have laughed if someone had said in 1969 that Fairs Cup would be the last piece of silverware we’d win.
“Joe Harvey used the profits from that cup run to buy Jimmy Smith for £100,000.
“He was a tremendously talented Scot who he felt would add quality to our midfield.
This is another exciting new era — though it won’t be quite as simple as some fans may think
“Now Jinky was a great talent but the team had to change its style to accommodate him and we couldn’t quite kick on.
“Then a year or two later, Malcolm Macdonald, John Tudor and Terry Hibbitt arrived and though we reached the 1974 FA Cup final, the less said about that day the better!”
But it is only now, following the £306million Saudi takeover, that the Geordies are once more being talked about as serial winners.
Clark added: “When you look at what billionaires have done for Manchester City and Chelsea, it’s not unreasonable to think that Newcastle will be next.
“Sir John Hall transformed the club 30 years ago but he didn’t have the kind of money we’re talking about now.
“This is another exciting new era — though it won’t be quite as simple as some fans may think.
“You can’t just flick a switch. A lot of investment is needed throughout the club, not just in terms of players.
“It will take time for Newcastle to compete with the elite but at least there’s now hope, which is a commodity in pretty short supply recently.
It’s a wonderful feeling to be hailed as the best team in the land by winning the league
“Maybe it is now a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ Newcastle win something but I’d just urge supporters to enjoy the journey.
“And when it eventually happens, the outbreak of joy will be quite incredible.
“It will provide such a boost not just for the fanbase but for the entire area.”
Clark talks from experience following Forest’s exploits under Clough but is reluctant to draw comparisons between then and now.
He said: “When Leicester won the Premier League, everyone was asking if that was a greater achievement than when we won the league under Cloughie.
“But I refused to get drawn. I don’t like those sort of things. Every title should be enjoyed for what it is without being compared to another club’s big day.
You can’t just flick a switch. A lot of investment is needed throughout the club
“I’ll tell you something, though. It’s a wonderful feeling to be hailed as the best team in the land by winning the league and the best team in Europe when you go on to win the biggest honour in club football.”
Clark’s greatest days as a footballer came in his mid-thirties and now, aged 78, he is hoping that there will be a few more highlights to enjoy as a fan.
Clark, who years ago was as much renowned for his musicianship as his defending, said: “I was lucky enough to have success as a player and had some great times as Forest manager, too.
“At my age, it would be lovely to sit back and watch the club where it all started for me do something similar.
“I’ve never been one to write my own songs but when the day arrives, I’ll be tempted to get the guitar out and blast out The Blaydon Races!”
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