By Keith Brookman
Darrell Clarke’s playing career began at Mansfield Town, where he progressed through the youth system. After joining the pro ranks at Field Mill he went on to appear in 160 league games for the Stags, scoring 25 goals in the process.
He moved to Hartlepool in 2001, where he remained until the end of the 2006/07 season, scoring 19 goals in 127 league appearances. Whilst at Victoria Park he made loan appearances for Stockport, Port Vale and Rochdale.
He joined Salisbury as a player in 2007, becoming player manager in 2010.
During his first season in charge, the club won promotion from the Southern League Premier Division, via the play offs.
His second season saw Salisbury progress through to the third round of the FA Cup, for the first time in the club’s history.
In 2012/13 Clarke led the club to Conference football, after again gaining promotion through the play offs.
Darrell joined the Rovers in time for the start of pre-season training in the summer of 2013, as assistant to manager John Ward.
Following the appointment of Ward as Director of Football, in March 2014, Darrell took over as manager and oversaw a victory in his first game in charge as Rovers beat Morecambe 1-0 at the Memorial Stadium on 29th March.
He was in charge for the final eight games of the season but was unable to prevent the club dropping into non league football after an unbroken stint of 94 years as a Football League Club.
Over the course of the summer of 2014 he began assembling a squad capable of challenging for a return to the Football League at the first attempt.
Ultimately, he was successful, and even though his side finished a point behind Vanarama Conference Champions Barnet they triumphed in the play offs, beating Forest Green Rovers in the two legged semi final and overcoming Grimsby Town after a penalty shootout in a tense Promotion Final at Wembley.
He built on that success in 2015/16, by guiding the club to a second successive promotion thanks to a last day victory against Dagenham & Redbridge in front of a crowd of over 11,000 at The Memorial Stadium.
In doing that he became the first Bristol Rovers manager to achieve back to back promotions.
Head hunted by Leeds United in the summer of 2016 he accepted an offer of a new contract at The Memorial Stadium and led his side to a tenth placed finish in our first season back in League One.
He signed a new five year deal in the summer of 2017 and whilst pleased that his side avoided being dragged into a relegation battle, was disappointed with the final finishing position of 13th and that they were unable to better their previous season’s record.
He left Rovers ‘by mutual consent’ in December 2018 but will be remembered fondly by Gasheads for the manner in which he turned the club around following relegation into non league football.
After a period out of football, he was appointed of newly relegated Walsall in the summer of 2019 and will be looking to lead them back into League One at the first attempt in 2019/20.
Welcome aboard, DC!