Former Belvedere player Dave Clarke is the state director of coaching education in Connecticut U.S.A. and two years ago was promoted to the US National Staff.
In the first of a series of reports on former players and how their careers have progressed since they finished playing with Belvedere, Dave talks about his time with the club and his ambitions for the future.
I first played for Belvo in 1976 when we were in 12L of the DDSL with Vinnie 'Doc' Butler and Jimmy Robinson as managers. We used to train in the winter at the old Belvedere Youth Club on Gardiner Street and at Fairview we used to get dressed in the old black huts near where the new train station is located.
Vinnie Butler used to pick up myself, JJ and Martin Russell for practice and games. They were a year older than me so I eventually dropped down to my own age group with the likes of Mick Earley and John McCormack. John and myself were the only players to play with the team from U12 all the way through to U18.
I remember my first game with Belvo in 1976, we were away to Darndale and played in a field near the Ballymun flats, we were hammered 10-0. My last game was the 1986 final of the Pepsi Cup when we were outclassed by St. Malachys 3-0 at Tolka a night after winning the U18 title at Fairview which was our seventh game in 14 days.
The higlights of playing with Belvo included the away trips in the cup when we drew a country team or the pre-season weekends at Butlins or Gormanstown. It was also great to be the only team playing at home on Sundays and have Marty Farrell, Vinnie Butler, Peadar Bean, Gerry Smullen or Eddie Foy and the like attend your game. There was a great atmosphere around the club that seemed to be missing at the likes of the Farm and Stella.
My last season was 1985-86 when we won the U18 Premier title with Phil Manly and Fergus McCabe in charge of the team. In our senior years we were caught between two great teams, Noel O'Reilly and Eddie Foy's team a year ahead of us and Martin Cooke's a year behind us. In the end we proved to be as good as both of those teams without having the star players they did and certainly without the same level of recognition.
That year we won the U18 Premier, the only trophy we ever won and lost in the Pepsi and Leinster Youths finals while getting to the semis of the FAI. Donal O'Brien and myself scored most of the goals on the way to the U18 title while the likes of captain Gino Brazil, Maurice O'Driscoll, Ian Woods, Paul Keating and Tony Gorman ran the midfield and back four.
There are three games that I remember more than most in my time with Belvo. The first was our Pepsi Cup win against the U18 team when we were U17. Nobody gave us a chance against Noel's side but we won 2-1 with Donal scoring two goals and Jimmy Mooney having a blinder in goal. For some reason nobody celebrated our success in the game because we were not deemed good enough to beat such a quality team.
The second game was the following year at U18 when we were drawn away to Rivermount 17's in the cup. They had Derek Brazil (just signed by Man United) and Pat Fenlon in the their line up. Again we were the underdogs as our U17 team were better than us and they had never beaten Rivermount when it mattered. They were at home in the same cup at the same time against a U18 team and lost. Only Noel O'Reilly came to our game and myself and Donal both scored in the first two minutes and we cruised to a 2-0 win. Noel came into our container/dressing room and said it was one of the best Belvo performances he had seen.
The third game I remember the most is the night we won the U18 Premier title with a 1-1 draw at against Home Farm at Fairview. Donal had a header hit the bar but I scored the rebound to put us 1-0 up. The Farm equalized but we held on for the draw and won the league by a point from them. I think it was the only trophy the club won that year so there was a good old session in Molloys with Fergus bringing out his old guitar. I think he was singing Ossies's going to Wembley!
While I loved playing for Belvo I think the biggest impact it has had on me was the introduction to the coaching ranks. I was out injured for nearly two years at Under 15 and 16 and I started to spend time just watching the teams
train. The people I looked up to and respected were Frank Brereton, Noel O'Reilly, Noel White, Vinnie Butler and Pat Cleary who all helped me from a coaching perspective. Most people at the club remember me as 'Nobby,' as being an average forward or as a Spurs fan but I have managed to build on what I learned from great coaches and better players to become a better player and coach myself. I doubt that I would be where I am today without having played for Belvedere and being exposed to the above coaches.
After finishing with Belvo in 1986 I went and played with CYM in the Leinster Senior League while also training and playing with the Shamrock Rovers 'B' team. I went on trial to Crystal Palace and Oxford United during the 1986-87
season and played in a couple of reserve games with Palace and one first team friendly for Oxford. With Palace I played up front with Ian Wright who was just breaking into the first team and I got to partner John Aldridge up front at Oxford with Ray Houghton and Dave Langan both in the line up. That year I was also on Pat Clearys Coaching Course offered through the NCCCAP and at the end of it I accepted an offer to go to America on a scholarship. Mark Brereton and Paul Gillard had gone over the previous year and the opportunity to follow them was too good to turn down.
I did a degree in Physical Education while continuing to further my coaching qualifications. In the 1990-91 season I went to coach at Sheffield United when they were still in the old first division and worked with the School of
Excellence and the youth team. The highlight of my time there was sitting on the bench when Dave Bassett's first team beat Man United 2-1 at Bramall Lane to deny them the title. I had the chance to stay there and coach full time with
the possibility of a playing contract too but I decided to return to the US to finish my degree. One of the benefits of my time at United was completing my English FA coaching qualifications and the experience of working with quality
players and coaches.
I came back to America to complete my degree and finish my coaching qualifications while I also signed a professional contract with an A-League Club which is just below the MLS level in the US. In my first couple of seasons we played against the Dutch and Uruguayan Under 21's and we also played against the full Brazilian National team in 1993 when they were here on tour. By that time I was playing as a defender and had to mark Careca during the game which we lost 4-0. Romario, Bebeto, Dunga, Branco all played in the game which was a
fantastic experience. A couple of years later we played Galatasaray when they were on a US tour and were beaten 4-2 with Hagi and Ilie scoring for them. It would have been great to play at that level on a regular basis but just getting the chance to play against the likes of Brazil was a chance in a lifetime.
I tore my ACL in 1994 and came back to play in 1995 but was never able to regain the same level of fitness and a leg break a couple of years later finished any pretensions I had of make a living as a player. Luckily by then I had
finished my US 'A' Coaching License. I began coaching full time and now work at various levels of the game here. My primary job is coaching a university team, but I also run a club with 20 teams and a developmental program. I am the state director of coaching education in Connecticut a state similar in size to Ireland and two years ago I was promoted to the US National Staff.
Coaching full time has brought me into contact with many coaches and has allowed me to spend time observing teams here and abroad. I have had the opportunity to observe PSV Eindhoven, the Dutch National team, Tottenham, a couple of the US National teams and many other clubs. It has allowed me to work with coaches like Bobby Robson, Sammy Lee, Chris Hughton, Carlos Queiroz, Alex Ferguson, Glenn Hoddle, Dick Advocaat, David Williams, Erwin Koeman, Dave Bassett, Neil Warnock and Howard Wilkinson.
My goal now is to continue to coach full time at the college level and finish my UEFA 'A' License in the next year or two. Eventually I hope to progress to working with one of the US National teams and maybe at the professional
level. Someday I would like to coach at a major tournament and have the chance to coach against the Republic.