Desborough linesman who reached 1,000-game milestone forced to retire after suffering stroke

John Clark of Desborough
John Clark of Desborough

A Desborough football official who was recently a linesman for the 1,000th time has flagged offside for the last time after suffering a minor stroke.

62-year-old John Clark reached the milestone in September when he ran the line at Desborough Town’s home clash with Harborough Town in the United Counties League.

But now after a whopping 1,009 games John – known as Ceefax because of his encyclopedic knowledge – will no longer be raising his flag.

He suffered a minor stroke on his 62nd birthday on November 19 which has affected his speech, and was taken to Kettering General Hospital.

As a result he has had to retire from officiating, having first run the line at a fierce derby between Stamford and Spalding in 1974 which saw him attacked by a spectator.

He recalled: “I remember the game well as I got a phone call on the Saturday morning because a linesman had dropped out.

“It was a really hair-raising experience but the referee on that day was Brian Hill, who went on to officiate an FA Cup final, and he helped me through it.

“Spalding won 3-1 and as we walked off the pitch, an elderly lady started attacking us with an umbrella.”

John’s last completed game was Bugbrooke St Michaels’ 2-1 win over Burton Park Wanderers on November 14.

And he says he is sad that it has come to an end, having officiated for 41 years.

He said: “I’m very sad that my football days have come to an end but I’m hoping I might still be able to umpire in the cricket season next year.

“I’m not sure what’s next as it’s all dependent on scans but ideally I’ll be home in time to watch Desborough against Wisbech on Saturday.

“191 turned out when I officiated my 1000th game at Desborough which was their highest attendance this season by over one hundred.”