A Clamp Conundrum
New Evidence Unearthed About Legendary Hard-man
As we look forward to Wolves’ Monday night game at Burnley, the ever-resourceful Charles Bamforth – with access to dusty archives of newspapers from decades past – reveals a fascinating and surprising link between one of the Molineux legends and Turf Moor.
“I’d always supported Wolves, so when I got the chance to join them, I took it with both feet.” That is how the headline ran in an article in Charles Buchan’s Football Monthly in 1956-57. The subject was Eddie Clamp.
Fast forward a couple of seasons and the same magazine had an article penned by the legendary Wolves chief scout George Noakes. In it, he wrote: “Eddie Clamp came to Molineux after I had watched him play a game at Coalville in Leicestershire, where he gained England schoolboy honours.
“I lost track of him after the match and, as it was pouring with rain and I had some time to wait for my train, I went into a local hotel. Later in the evening, I bought a newspaper and there, helping the lad sell them, was Eddie Clamp! Well, that’s all in the game and I haven’t always been as lucky in tracking down my man.”
Thus we have the received wisdom about the origins of the Wolves and England legend, the infamous ‘Chopper’, who opponents knew not to tangle with. He was one of the many youngsters who came through the ranks at Molineux after leaving school.
It is well documented how the youngster from a small town mid-way between Burton and Leicester was good enough to represent his country alongside a man destined to skipper England, Johnny Haynes. The Leicester Mercury of April 14, 1950 has a photo of the 15-year-old leaning out of a train window as he left Leicester railway station on his way south to play against Scotland.
A month later, the same paper reported that Clamp was heading to Ibrox for the return fixture. The reporter said that the lad was approaching the end of his time at Bridge Road School and wanted to become a professional footballer. “He has already had a trial with Wolves” it stated, but pointed out that Albion, Derby, Sunderland and Leicester were interested.
What, then, are we to make of the Burnley Express and News of June 7, 1950? It reported: “Burnley FC yesterday signed Edwin Clamp, England Schools international left-half – an important capture in the face of competition. Aged 15½, Clamp is 5ft 10in and weighs 11½st. He has captained the Coalville and Leicestershire Boys teams and played for England against Wales, Scotland (twice) and Eire.”
Surely some mistake? But if we look at the same paper on September 22, 1951 (a good 15 months later), we read “Eddie Clamp, the young Burnley player, is taking part in a Lancashire Football Association youth trial game at Griffin Park, Blackburn today.” And in November of that year, we find a match report with Clamp at left-half in the Burnley A side who faced an Oldham team whose goalkeeper was Eddie Hopkinson, later to star for Bolton and England.
So…..Eddie Clamp, a Burnley player? What is all this about? The many books about Wolves make no such reference. Let’s turn to an article in the Nelson Leader from much later – May 16, 1958. The author mixed up his timings but wrote: “A season or so ago, a young man played for Rossendale United and may play for England against Russia this coming Sunday – Wolves right-half Eddie Clamp. The story…. brings Burnley directors close to tears. For they signed Clamp when he left school at the age of 15. The boy’s mother and grandfather came to live in Burnley……. but then it was found out he had also signed for Wolves. There had been a double registration. And the matter was put before the Football League. Clamp roughed it in the Lancashire Combination with Rossendale while the League bandied his future about. And although he wanted to stay with Burnley, Wolves ultimately won the day.”
Wanted to stay at Burnley!! Chopper Clamp!! How could he?
Clamp was still playing for the Lancashire youth team in February, 1952 but the Birmingham Gazette of April 9, 1952 had a short snippet under the headline: “Clamp Returns to Wolves”.
It read: “He signed as an amateur for Wolves when he left school. Later, he went on the books of Burnley, who were fined in respect of his registration. Now, Wolves and Burnley have come to an amicable arrangement and Clamp returns to Molineux but as a professional.”
Thank goodness for that. Not only did Wolves get their man but they got his mum, who was the legendary custodian of the club’s playing kit for countless years. It wouldn’t have been right for her to be messing about with claret and blue.