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Clarke on wonder goal & England training


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

"I remember the great ball coming over from Ben Winterburn and I thought, 'I'm in here.'

From Peter Schmeichel to Jimmy Glass, goalscoring goalkeepers are a rare but well-known footballing phenomenon, though the list narrows even further when talking about ‘keepers being forced into action outfield.

That was the case for under-18s stopper Josh Clarke on Saturday, when he scored this outrageous goal to claim a late 1-1 draw in a friendly with Millwall.

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Watch: 'Keeper Clarke scores remarkable U18s goal

Clarke had played the first hour of the game between the sticks for the Cherries – keeping his sheet clean – before being replaced so under-16s ‘keeper Ollie Camis could get some valuable experience in the youth team.

However, 15 minutes later and with the home side down to ten men due to injuries, Clarke was reintroduced for the final 15 minutes at Canford Arena, this time as a makeshift striker.

Having gone 1-0 down and with a two-year unbeaten home record on the line, Clarke pointed to where he wanted the ball, made his run and produced a stunning touch and finish to send his team-mates and watching staff into incredulous celebrations.

Clarke picked up the story with afcb.co.uk: "Luckily I took a good first touch, then saw the 'keeper was 50-50 and just managed to dink the ball over him. Then I was off for my celebration in the corner with the knee slide.

"In our goalkeeping sessions we play a lot of two-touch games which are usually a bit of fun to start with, but they can also really help with your touch. That must have helped me a little bit.

"I had played in central midfield for school, as I didn't want to go in goal! I was always good with my feet and that helps me now and with the goal.”

The surreal moment came in an event-filled first season with AFC Bournemouth, Clarke having been released by Chelsea after eight years in the summer, with the 16-year-old also recently selected to train with England at St George’s Park for the first time.

"I walked in with my dad on the Sunday evening, thinking it was huge to be at the Buckingham Palace of football,” continued Clarke. “I had a Covid test and then got lost walking over to the hotel.

"The three-day camp was really enjoyable and a really good learning experience. I met some great coaches and some great lads as well.

"We all got split up into age groups, all goalkeepers from under-17s to under-20s, I was the youngest there with two others born in 2004, and trying to integrate with the lads, learning from players who are near the first team at their clubs.

"It was quite competitive at times, especially the shooting practices, but all the lads were really good, it was an experience I'll never forget.

"I was spotted earlier this season. There was a scout at our Cheltenham game this season, we won 10-0 but I made some important saves and kept a clean sheet, so I think I did alright.

"Going to that England camp I felt so well prepared because the Bournemouth goalkeeping department have been really good with me, helping me learn a lot especially in my first six months here.

"There will be more England camps coming up in the new year so all I'm doing at the moment is trying to do the best I can and hopefully if I do alright more international opportunities will come.”

A natural sportsperson, while a Chelsea academy player and attending St John’s School in Leatherhead, Clarke was also making his way in two other sports, playing rugby with Harlequins until under-16s level and cricket for Surrey up to under-14s before focusing on football.

His England experience was also not the ‘keeper’s first taste of international football, Clarke having represented Sweden already at under-16 level.

"My mum's Swedish and my first camp with Sweden was in August last year,” he said. “I played against Norway and Finland in two separate camps, I went to another one in November 2019 and was due to go to another one in March before Covid came in.

"Now this opportunity with England came up and it's something I just couldn't miss out on. In terms of choosing England or Sweden - I'll cross that bridge when I come to it!”

For now, Clarke has the early Christmas present of a unique place in Cherries youth team folklore – as well as a few added Twitter followers.

"My mind was buzzing overnight for sure,” he said. “I couldn't really sleep on Saturday. It's been nice to get some reaction and support from it, I’m very happy.

“We've had a pretty good season so far except for perhaps one game, especially in the league. On a personal note, it's nice to cap off 2020 with a goal!”

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