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Website last updated: 15 Dec, 2014 @ 12:01
BRIAN CLARK THE £28 MILLION POUND MAN
The man who discovered Paul Gascoigne, Lee Clark, Robbie Elliott and the Ameobi brothers is hoping that new facilities at the boys club he runs will help to unearth even more gems for Newcastle United.
In 1988, Brian Clark helped to found Walker Central Boys Club and it has been a veritable conveyor belt of talent for the Magpies ever since. Last week work started there on a new all-weather pitch and boxing club which should open in time for the start of next season.
And Clark, known as Newcastle's '£28 million scout' because of the players he has already found, hopes even more youngsters from the East End of the city will flourish in their improved surroundings.
Now 70 years old, Clark has been associated with United for almost four decades, helping to recommend Redheugh Boys Club talent Gascoigne to the club and then spotting his namesake Lee as a child.
A further 21 players scouted by this self-proclaimed "dream-maker" have gone on to play for Newcastle's first-team while others, like 19-year-old midfielder Michael Richardson and Academy left-back Michael Riley, could yet follow in their footsteps.
"The proudest thing I've had for a long time is to see the two brothers, the Ameobi brothers, play on the same pitch together," Clark told nufc.co.uk over a cup of coffee in the Walker Central clubhouse.
"The Ameobis come from the West End. I found Shola as a little boy, 11 years old. He was in the schoolyard; I saw him and I said to my wife 'look at the skills of the big fella here'. I still call him the big fella now.
"Nobody fancied Shola then. A lot of people still don't, but it doesn't bother me, I'm proud of the big man. Nobody can take it away from him. He's made a good living and he's a lovely fella.
"Sammy came down five or six years after Shola. It was amazing because Sammy had never played football before. He had never, ever kicked a ball before and he went on the field. Billy Johnson, his coach, put him on and Sammy was running up and down for five or ten minutes, nowhere near the ball.
"I said 'Sammy, the ball's there son!'. And as soon as he got hold of the ball, you could see that he could play.
"I hope Sam goes a long way further than he already has. I am proud of what they've done and I hope they keep on doing it.
"My aim is to help the kids of Walker and my best day is when they walk out onto that pitch with the black and white on."
Walker, for anyone who is not familiar with it, is what the Government calls a 'deprived area.' It once had a large shipbuilding industry, but when that declined so did job prospects in the area.
But youngsters can dream of becoming professional footballers, like others have before them, and Clark is always scouring the local park pitches for the best talent.
"The best thing you can do for a kid is try to fulfill their dreams - which I have been successful in the 38 years I've been with Newcastle United," he said. "I've been very successful. I've put 47 kids in, and out of those 47 kids I've had 23 in the first-team at Newcastle.
"I'm proud of that. I'm bragging, but that's my bragging rights. It is a great thing when you see Shola Ameobi, Sammy Ameobi, David Beherall, Paul Brayson... those bairns came here at 11 and went to Newcastle, and some onto other clubs, and made a life for themselves. That's the proud thing.
"I'm a dreamer but I'm a dream-maker too because what I'm trying to do is fulfil the dreams of kids -Shola Ameobi, Lee Clark, Paul Stephenson, all Walker kids. And although Paul Gascoigne is from Dunston, I recommended him too.
"A few years ago, the directors used to call me 'the £28 million scout.' Gascoigne would have been worth a few bob, Clarkie, Stephenson, (Ian) Bogie, Tony Nesbitt. Tony only had one game but he was a good little player. They would have been worth a few quid so they might be right in saying £28 million, I don't know. It could be more now, but that's what they used to say in those days.
"But it isn't in my mind, really, because I love being involved, I love helping kids. Walker is a poor area but the people are good. I've been very lucky to be able to help give the kids of Walker a chance of being footballers."
Clark founded Walker Central together with Brian Simpson, Eddie Hammill and Lee Clark, who by then was an apprentice at Newcastle. At present, when the weather is bad the club has to shell out to rent an artificial pitch but soon they will have their own.
Shola and Sammy Ameobi, along with Michael Richardson, attended the groundbreaking ceremony ahead of work beginning - all of them acknowledging the part Walker Central and Brian Clark have played in their careers.
Money has been provided by, among others, Newcastle City Council, Pearson Engineering and Robert McAlphine and Clark said: "This is what I've been waiting for for a long, long time.
"It's been a hard struggle, a hard fight, but we've rolled our sleeves up and that artificial pitch will hopefully be the start of getting more kids onto the field.
"Kids like the Ameobis, Michael Richardson, Paul Stephenson, Ian Bogie, Lee Clark, Anthony Lormor, Jeff Wrightson, Robbie Elliott and many, many more."
8 - Bailey Netherton