In February 1973, Allan Clarke was finally recalled by Alf Ramsey for a friendly with Scotland at Hampden Park. England destroyed the enemy 5-0 and all three strikers on show scored - Clarke bagged a brace as Chivers and Channon also got on the scoresheet. Ramsey cut his losses and kept all three in place for the Home Internationals, though Clarke was the only one of the three not to score in England's three comprehensive victories. However, he put away England's goal in a friendly against Czechoslovakia in Prague, prior to a vital qualifier for the 1974 World Cup against Poland in Chorzow. Clarke was marked out of the game - or, more accurately, kicked out of the game - and England succumbed to a 2-0 defeat. The return game at Wembley was therefore invaluable to England and Allan went into it on form, with Leeds going on an unbeaten start to the season which would ultimately extend to 29 games, while also bagging two splendid goals in a fabulous 7-0 win over Austria at Wembley (the photo above is during the game) three weeks before the visit of the Poles. But he and every other England attacker were denied in open play by Polish keeper Jan Tomaszewski and some outrageous good fortune which came his way, keeping out headers and shots with most parts of his anatomy. A goal down thanks to a defensive error and a quick Polish breakaway, England got a penalty shortly afterwards and Clarke had the presence of mind to put it away and hold off the pressure on his shoulders. But a 1-1 draw couldn't take England to the World Cup.
Allan played once more for Ramsey before the England coach was sacked, then missed a year's worth of internationals. Don Revie's appointment unsurprisingly brought a recall for Clarke in November 1974 as England prepared to capitalise on their winning start to their qualifying campaign for the 1976 European Championships, having already beaten Czechoslovakia. However, they could only draw 0-0 with Portugal at Wembley and, although Clarke was still scoring goals in a Leeds side which would later reach the European Cup final, Revie ditched his former favourite straightaway, instead giving a number of chances to a Channon/Macdonald combination. Allan got a last hurrah at the end of 1975 - even though Leeds were now visibly ageing and declining - when Revie picked him for the return game in Czechoslovakia, with England's campaign to qualify on the rack. It got worse as England lost 2-1 and then only drew with Portugal in their last qualifier a month later. Clarke came on as a sub in the latter but after 19 caps, his international career was over. With the right coaching and service, along with a far more settled international base which England blatantly lacked in the 1970s, Clarke's potential as a great club striker itching for the chance to show it to the world could have borne fruit. However, his early scoring record for his country - and the circumstances of his debut - remain highly enviable. (Matthew Rudd)