Clive Woods the purveyor? Strange sort of a name to throw at a footballer. It’s a great sort of a name that you might see down local high streets. Tends to decorate butchers’ shops doesn’t it? But that community and local aspect to our subject and his team whilst not misplaced, is not the reason I have put it there. Most young players as you know come to teams by word of mouth, trials and scouting etc…that sort of thing. But there is just something that makes you feel that the Ipswich Star had this in their classifieds column –
‘WANTED – Purveyor of crosses for Ipswich Town football team for the 70s decade’
A simple ad answered by a certain Clive Woods from the city of Norwich who once the job was completed, broadly returned to the factory life he emerged from. Yes, a fanciful and romantic notion it certainly is. But there is a certain water-holding aspect to it, even though he did actually cross the footballing East Anglian River Styx that is the Norfolk border and ended up playing for Ipswich.
Clive Woods will be the most under the radar personality in our series, but then like the Ipswich Town team he played for that would go hand in hand. The team throughout the decade were a solid and respected outfit who gradually gathered serious moss under Bobby Robson’s tutelage. They won a memorable FA Cup final against favourites Arsenal in 1978 and by the time they won the UEFA Cup three years later, many will tell you they should have won the league that year instead of Aston Villa.
Throughout the 70s, one generally could find that son of Norwich, Clive Woods patrolling the flank for Suffolk’s premier club. Rescued from a shoe factory in 1970 for £2 more a week he was more than happy to catch the train and walk three miles to play with Ipswich. Two-footed, he tended to spend most of his life out on the left wing but was no stranger to the right side either. A good striker of the ball, he used to take the corners from both sides for Ipswich. His corners, straight onto the head of aerial Hercules Kevin Beattie were a massive part of the Ipswich set-piece arsenal.
He would be a natural fit for a Robson team. Robson, a fabled Geordie had always understood the relationship between winger and powerhouse centre-forward, be it at Newcastle or England from his own playing days. Watching and playing with the likes of Tom Finney, Jackie Milburn, Nat Lofthouse, Bobby Mitchell and Tommy Taylor left such a mark. To this end, Woods was never short of a rampaging centre-forward to aim at be it David Johnson, Trevor Whymark or Paul Mariner.
But what a great fit Woods was to that Robson team. But while he could swing a cross with the best of them he was a great workhorse too. His work ethic and constant movement meant he harried numerous opposing defenders into own half, mistakes which were invariably punished. Hugely fit, he confessed to being a daily runner and didn’t it show. Ipswich had two great midfields. History tends to always record the Wark/Thijssen/Muhren axis and rightly so. But the Woods/Wark/Talbot/Osborne one of a few years earlier is equally revered. Not least of course due to the part they played in that ‘78 Cup Final win.
Most of what they did went under the wire and this suited them all just fine. The London media, of course, dismissed them as pleasant country bumpkins but in amongst that side were some solid soldiers. Brian Talbot and John Wark were ultimate box-to-box players. Wark who looked like a warrior in ‘Braveheart’ possessed a shot and goals record second to none. Again, this was manna to Woods who was not just a straight down the touchline and cross merchant. He loved turning back inside and invariably Wark would be there to feed.
He was quite a distinctive player and as you might expect fairly low maintenance compared to some. Like Roger Osborne on the other side, they were local lads who did the simple things well and often. He had a high-stepping gait but was well built for the wide areas. The wild shock of fair hair completed the look. It really was a shock to the extent that from behind and at a distance it wouldn’t have been out of place on one of Les Dawson’s or Roy Barraclough’s harridan street characters. He didn’t play like one of them, but his crosses were as sharp as any of those head-scarfed caricatured caustic remarks.
He managed 267 appearances which is perhaps a tad on the low side for his time there and was not a prolific scorer but he certainly assisted. He worked particularly well with his full- back and captain Mick Mills. Mills was an intelligent player who liked to join the attack and allowed Woods many a time to be another man in the box. Many of Ipswich’s goals came from ‘numbers in the box’ and he was a hugely supportive link in that respect.
But for quite a time swathe in the 70s, an abiding memory was Anglia TV’s Gerry Harrison’s excited tenor voice exercising the cathode rays. It was always something like ‘Woods, past his man and it’s David Johnson/Whymark/Mariner’ followed by the roar. Metronomic Suffolk activity and Harrison always had this habit of giving the impression he had this great Ipswich team to himself and it was something the rest of the country were missing out on.
But if he purveyed, he also sought out and hunted the prey he needed to utilise. If the ball was unable to be fed to him he was always darting in and around midfield disrupting and denying. Unshowy but important stuff. There are several subjects in this series where we have touched on a specific match and whilst Roger Osborne was the unlikely hero in that Wembley final, it was Woods, that is easily forgotten, who was man of the match for many.
He cut loose at Wembley, forever attacking space and highlighted Arsenal right-back Pat Rice’s lack of mobility. That was when he was on the left side. He sent ball after ball into the Arsenal penalty area like slashing rapier cuts and was instrumental in most of anything that was good about Ipswich that day. Some felt that he found the Portman Road pitch at Ipswich somewhat limiting such was his hunger for running round Wembley. Of our selected 10 he was the only one not to gain an international cap.
England were never a sumptuous enough team to play with two wide men and again the size of the club seemed to determine who the media pushed forward. If there is substance in that argument, he was competing against the likes of Tueart, Barnes, Hill, Coppell, Thomas, Taylor and that was if the manager in question felt that the team could accommodate a wide man.
This was a decade, remember, that England failed to qualify for two World Cups in a row and wingers were considered a luxury. But with the media looking for big name and big club glamour his work ethic under the shadow of the touchline was missed. A lot of those wingers mentioned failed to get double figures in caps which highlights the general suspicion about them.
But more locally he fills another gap in this series. The lower profile and general imprint means he stretches this particular series’ canvas in yet another direction. I would wager that if you run the names in this series past your average Joe, Clive Woods might be the one that people may well forget. There should be little reason for that as he was clever and consistent as any of the rest of them in getting past his man. He was an integral part of a team who were an integral part of the decade. After football, well, he became a warehouse manager for an electrical firm. Of course he did. I would say he was a damn good warehouse manager as well.
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- Rings, Triangles and the Olympic Stadium, Munich - July 10, 2019
- Unappreciated but loved: Eddie McCreadie and Chelsea 1977 - July 5, 2019