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We Should Not Be Here

By Ian Macdonald :  01/12/2008 :  Comments (0) :
AJ Clark

Those are the words from Father Connor at St Mathews church on Friday 4th of January this year that will live with me when I remember Anthony Clark, AJ to his many mates. It was a very sad day for not just  the Everton extended family but especially for AJ’s family and friends everywhere. This special person was taken away from us by  a unwarranted attack by low life’s in our City centre after a great day out for AJ’s family and friends last November.

It’s a year now since AJ’s untimely death so I thought I would write a small piece on this sad anniversary to give an insight to the lad so many miss. Whatever I write I fear will not be good enough to do him justice he was that kind of person

On the day of AJ’s funeral  hundreds turned up at the Church of St Matthews, Ronnie Goodlass came on behalf of our club and a few of the Everton staff at Finch Farm who knew AJ personally. Many in the congregation wore Everton scarf s  everyone gathered there their  hearts went out  for AJ’s family. A young family whom AJ adored. Like the Priest said we should not have been there, he went on to say that those who took AJ away  live in shadows, cowering away from decent people but those gathered at the mass live in the light and without shame.

I don’t really know AJ’s wife Janet and daughter Jessica but I know his son Anthony who is a lovely lad and a credit to Janet and AJ.I see Anthony at the match and you instantly think of his dad such are the similar looks. Father Connor gave a great speech on the life of AJ, his involvement in helping a local kids football team and his love of his family and Everton.

His nickname AJ came from his school days when there was three Alan Clarks in the same class. So Anthony James Clark was to be known as AJ. His job was a gravedigger for the local council. I remember meeting AJ at his work to give him tickets for an away match  where I noticed the hole he was digging for the next burial was unusually deep. I asked him why that was. AJ replied it was for a Liverpool fan and deep down their not so bad !

The following is from the Keep Everton In Our City site:

AJ Clarke's untimely passing on Wednesday the 28th November 2007 was a devastating blow for his family, friends and colleagues. AJ will be warmly remembered by Evertonians far and wide.

AJ was a founder member of the Keep Everton in Our City  a founder member of the  group he never sought praise or publicity, he quietly got on with doing what he did best, he worked tirelessly behind the scenes, leafleting, organising travel to away games, you name it he did it. His love for our football club and his family was unconditional. Our respect of him was also unconditional.

Having earlier watched his beloved blues deliver a resounding victory over Sunderland AJ headed into the city to meet his wife and friends, after leaving them to find a cash machine he was found unconscious at 3.50am on Sunday 25th November 2007 outside the McDonald’s restaurant at the junction of Church Street and Paradise Street in Liverpool’s city centre.

Detective Inspector Forrest explains: “As a result of CCTV inquiries and a post mortem examination we have now launched a murder investigation. I would appeal to anyone who was in the Church Street area between 3.30am and 3.50am on Monday morning to come forward. I hope that these two men in particular are able to help us piece together the events surrounding Mr Clarke’s death.”

Police detectives are trying to trace two men seen close to the city centre spot where "AJ" was found at 3.50am on Sunday 25th November 2007. Police are still keen to speak to the two men who were seen outside McDonald’s around the time Mr Clarke was found. Both men are described as 18-25 years old, white and of slim to medium build. They were both wearing dark clothing and one was wearing a short-sleeved, dark top.
Anyone with information on this incident should contact police on 0151 777 4065 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

The last time I spoke to AJ, except for a wave in the brick as AJ was collecting for a fellow Blue who had been diagnosed with cancer, Rory Colquohoun( who has since died), was the night before the Sunderland game. AJ was arranging a trip for his mates for the   UEFA cup tie at Alkmaar. He asked me to  book some of the lads into the hotel near Rembrandt Square. As usual with AJ tours he  sorted everything out including at times what to wear!

When the Dutch trip came AJ had left us, it was weird and sad to follow into the footsteps AJ had arranged. I  had decided to go with AJ on this trip as the Independent Blues were going on the ferry and my sea legs have gone. The brains behind this trip had us flying into Belfast via Ryan Air then across the city to Easy jets airport and to the Dam. I can tell you AJ saved the lads a fortune doing this way as trips to Amsterdam from Speke where silly priced as Everton were on tour.

It goes without saying that AJ’s group had the lad in mind over the stay in Holland, he should have been there. But one of the lads said from the off that AJ would want us to enjoy it not mourn him. But you could not help thinking about this bubbly character who never ever seemed dull or boring always the life and soul of a party. Amsterdam was made for the likes of AJ the atmosphere and all night drinking. We were robbed of his company but not of our thoughts of him

As most Blues where staying at the Dam one of the lads had arranged four coaches to leave Amsterdam for the short  trip up to Alkmaar. After the match at Alkmaar which we won we arranged a collection for AJ’s family from those on board. I’d like to publicly thank those who contributed, it reinforced my extended family theory about Evertonians. There was some on the coaches who did not know AJ but no questions asked just a donation.

Reclaiming the Sandown

Because of AJ’s tragic death and the circumstances of a murder enquiry AJ could not be laid to rest for six terrible weeks for AJs family and friends.

When I was told that AJ’s send off after the funeral would be at the Sandown in Anfield I said are you sure it’s the right venue it’s the reds stronghold? But I was so wrong. The Sandown is recognized as the birthplace of Everton there is even a brass plaque on the wall to state this plus the birth of the other lot when we split from our landlord’s at the time. There is a great ceramic Everton picture found behind studded walls in the Sandown when redeveloped now relocated on the stairs going into the Alex Young suite. After the burial of AJ we all descended down to the Sandown, literally hundreds came.

Now you’ve heard of reclaiming the kop campaign by the red locals well we reclaimed the Sandown that Friday night. The DJ played a compilation of Everton songs which were belted out for AJ to hear in heaven even his red mates sang along. You see AJ had Liverpool fans as mates as well but not on derby day. Janet and her family laid on not one buffet but at least three I counted in every part of this big pub. I saw many of the older Evertonians that night I had not seen in years, what a turnout and what a great send off for the lad. I think the bar took more that night than any of the reds trophy celebration nights. It was a night to celebrate AJ’s life

CrimeWatch on BBC highlighted AJ’s murder and rein acted his last hours after the game. I could not help but think the actor who played AJ had him nearly to a T. From him standing up in the middle of his friends at the Grapes pub and making a speech about celebrating a special day, it was their anniversary. As Janet got ready to be embarrassed about AJ publically proclaiming his love for her  he went  on to punch the air for Everton’s emphatic win over Sunderland then spoke of his other love of his life Janet. You see AJ was a wind up merchant.

As AJ was separated from the group he was spotted along Paradise Street singing Everton on CCTV, that was AJ after a few drinks. He seemed to go missing all of a sudden when out for a drink, maybe he got hungry, we’ll never know on this occasion the full facts as to why AJ left his family and friends in the Grapes. What we do know is two cowards attacked him and left him for dead, why?

I hope the police get new leads on AJ’s assailants or should that be assassins as AJ was important to so many people.

Those terrible days as AJ lay in the Royal clinging on to life with so many people hoping and praying he would pull through but he never did. When his life support machine was switched off the Angels came to bring him to heaven.

America and the Hatton fight

I remember AJ being all excited for his trip to Las Vegas to see the Hatton versus Castillo fight. He had got a great deal for his flights from his Irish mates. When he told me the price I thought he was joking, £200 return! “You must be in the luggage compartment for that price AJ “I quipped “No I’m serving the ale and food with a bit of entertainment “was his reply. One of my mates was taking his Dad to the same fight for his 70th birthday he asked me about getting tickets and did I know anyone going. I gave him AJ’s number who had travelled earlier but in the Casinos my mate could not get in touch  and had never met AJ before. I told him to look for a short haired lad about five foot ten a big smile on his face with an Everton tattoo on his leg. Sure enough my mate walked into the New York New York which was packed with Hatton fans and there was AJ on top of a table dancing with a pint in his hand. AJ took my mate and his dad under his wing and they had a great time going on to the VIP bar in Paris, oh and Hatton won.

Another memory of AJ was the time he arranged a trip to the pre-season at Celtic a couple of years ago. I think it started as a mini bus then a 32 seater coach then a 52 seater and ended up a Jumbo double decker bus specially imported from Germany I think with accommodation arranged in Glasgow  and  loads of lemonade.

Mick Potter remembers their trip to Munich in '85

We started off this AJ tour by having Scouse for breakfast in the Cannon Pub in Breck Road that was the last food we had for the next 36 hours. It was all liquid refreshments from then on.

On the night we arrived in Munich there must have been 300 toffees in the beer Keller, AJ started and then conducted (as usual) one of our favourite and long lasting pub songs ‘OH EVERTON, OH WE LOVE EVERTON’.

Anyway we got up to our beloved match winner, ‘And we love our Derek Mountfield, Derek Mountfield’, Everyone standing up with two fingers under yer nose with the other hand raised with a friendly Sieq Hiel to our Kraut friends doing a little turn so as not to offend anyone, by missing anyone out. The more they got annoyed the more we sang and couldn’t stop laughing.

But the hardest part of the night was trying to mine sweep them bloody four pint Steiner’s when you’re pissed
The night of the match. what a great performance by the Blues deserving a pat on the back from some of the travelling Blues was well in order.

Gray    Ratcliffe
Sharp    Lineker

So we thought it was only right that we trot on the pitch at the end of the game to congratulate them. So off we went into the eight foot moat waving too the Bizzies and their furry Alsatians. Were now on the pitch where, (whoops), AJ’s having a bit of trouble scaling the wall with all that beer and his large backside. AJ was paranoid always asking “Does me bum look big in this”? No AJ yer arse looks big in everything!

Hurry up AJ, a couple of us manage to drag him up the wall nearly bringing the bizzy’s dog with him. Well good job his jeans where intact yer know how conscious he was about looking dapper. Bloody Hell AJ what kept yer ? Yer didn’t think it was your round next did yer “Very funny” he said with that look that he had, you know the one like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

I would and I know everyone who knew AJ would give anything to see that expression again ……We all miss you mates.

Mick Potter

The fundraising do at the Edinburgh

Many of AJ’s friends formed a committee to organise a celebration of AJ’s life. It was to be held at the Dockers club Edinburgh Park last April. Tickets where at a premium as the club could only hold three hundred people, it was easier to get a cup final ticket. On the night AJ’s friends came from far as London and Dublin. There was pictures of AJ all around the club at various stages in his life predominately with Everton themes. Two lots of singers and a DJ took centre stage to give a great night had by all, AJ would have been proud of his bash.  There were lots of donated prizes for the auction and raffle on the night including a stay at a villa in Orlando, a fitted fire and a fire surround worth a grand, signed shirts and boots from the likes of Yakubu and even Peter Crouch. Special mention for a  signed Roberto Duran boxing glove donation I’m sure the capacity doubled during the night.

At the end of the night Janet and  her mum came onto the stage to thank everyone she was overwhelmed at the turnout yet again and the help her family was brought.

There is something about the likes of AJ, Rory, Stan Tyrell, Paul Mac, Linda Harkin, Bernard Murphy, Brian Callaghan, Billy Brennan, Mick Fearon, Charlie Hengler too name but a few not just great Evertonian’s who lived for the match and their families but they are special people who touch so many in their relatively short lives. They say the good die young and that is true of these fellow Blues. I noticed a common theme amongst these Blues, they helped people and enjoyed it. It was never a chore but a way of life for them. We are poorer for their departure in this life they have gone but never forgotten. All have accomplished one thing they have left a mark and a host of memories and will be looked back on with sadness but also joy in that we knew them. You cannot help but smile when you think back on these Evertonians. Last Friday a mass was held for AJ and for the Villa home game many of his friends will gather to raise another glass to this popular Blue.

FA Cup

Finally I’d like to show the tribute Mick Potter wrote for AJ’s funeral:

AJ, 1962 – 2007: A Tribute to ‘AJ’

We all know why we are here, for Anthony ‘AJ’ Clarke
Always laughing and joking, he could never be called a nark
Bad things happen to good people, of that there’s no doubt
None of us thought we’d end up here after what was just
a night out

He would be so proud to see this turn out, to celebrate his life
He’d be amazed for all the support being given to his
Dad, his sister, his children and Janet, his wife
But we’re here because we know and love him, knowing
him was such a joy

Whether you knew him as the man he had become, or
from when he was a baby faced cheeky boy
He was always the organiser for us all, sorting things
out to keep people together
If you became a friend of AJs then he would be your
friend forever

He was a very proud family man, he loved his family
much more than words can say
His hardest time, in his too short life, was when his
Mother ALICE passed away

To some he was know as the ‘Colonel Clarke’ or the
‘Travel Agent’, arranging every coach trip or any other
jolly
But he would never do things by half, he had more trips
than Lunn Polly
If you were lucky enough to get a seat on AJs trips

There was FUN from start to end – NO BORES
But you really had to book early to be sure of a place
with AJs Tours
AJ did things for others, for charity he’d ran
Marathons - done a 2 mile swim
He’d never tell people about it, people asked why, well
that was just him

He had many great qualities and features, he even
thought he was quite a dish
But one thing I can always remember was Uncle Alec
saying our AJ can swim like a fish
Speaking to Janet one day, she said ‘did he mean drink
like a fish!’

I remember from our early teens, he loved a party, a
knees up. a bash.
He was too young for the Grafton Sunday night disco,
and he had already been knocked back
Till our Elaine cut off some of his hair and glued on
some sidey’s and tache

So we swaggered back before the same bouncer, AJ
thinking his new found growth was the real thing
The bouncer cracked up laughing, but still let us in
saying AJ looked more like Jason King

He would always start off the sing -songs in the pub, on
the coach or at the game
He really adored his beloved blues, and the banter
with all the red noses just the same

AJ was always involved in running football teams, he
got this from his dad
But I know he loved nothing more than all the football
discussions he had every week with Anthony – his lad

Look around the people here, who all have a story they
could tell about AJ, and love and miss him so much – and
you wouldn’t have to look far.
But some things can never change, we will never find him
at the bar.

Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum – never was a motto more apt
It was how AJ lived his life,
full of fun and filled with passion, but nothing was more
important to him than his family, children and Janet his
wife

People will have their theories of why in the many days to
come
That’s fine. I would like to take a second or two to
share mine.
AJ was, young fit and strong, in no way sick He only went
to the Royal that night to see poor Davy Hick
He couldn’t believe his luck when he found himself in the
next bed
As AJ saw an angel come to one of his idols, he heard what
the angel said,

Davy your needed to deliver a message to
some of your departed club mates, they’ll all be there to
greet you when you reach the Pearly Gates
I’m not ready said Davy Hickson, they cant see the pain on
my face without hesitation or thought AJ piped up ‘ Hey I
can take his place?

Here was a chance to speak to his idols, a number of Everton
greats, this was a story that would always be
remembered and forever told by all of his mates
He pleaded with the angel I’ll get to see Bally and Dixie
and I’ll have such great fun - And while there I think
its about time I saw my dear old mum!

God bless you  Janet, Anthony and Jessica and all of AJ’s family and friends

Ian Macdonald

PS I have not named the many people who helped AJ’s family in their hours of need but we and you know who you are. Well done you never shyed away when needed. I could fill a book with stories about AJ maybe one day someone will.

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