Please send us your views on sport and our coverage to the Sports Editor, The Daily Telegraph, 111 Buckingham Palace Rd, SWIW 0DT. Or email sportletters@ telegraph.co.uk. Please include your postal address. We will publish the best each week. aimed at the American market – apparently they cannot get enough of Clarke’s pictures and Williams’s text. There is sizeable appetite for the quotidian rhythm of the English game. It is the authenticity of it, the way the connection between fan and game blooms organically, without contrivance, Williams reckons. There is nothing to match it in American sport or, indeed, American life.
Clarke is about to set off again round Britain to revisit the sites he brought to life so vividly in
He will spend this season back at old haunts. Much will have changed. Decaying city-centre grounds have gone, replaced by grand, comfortable, customer-friendly stadiums.
“I am fascinated by what has changed,” Clarke told me when I caught up with him ahead of his trip. “My guess is everything will have changed, but in one way nothing will have changed: my belief is football is still at the heart of the community.”
He does, however, set off at a time when the pictures he took have never been more pertinent and yet more poignant. Because, as he journeys round the country, he is going to find a central part of his material missing. The pandemic has stripped the game of, for him, its most vivid ingredient: the people. As we have seen on television with behind-closeddoors encounters, without a crowd a stadium becomes just a building, empty of point and purpose.
“I think the one thing all this has taught us is that, in football, crowds are everything,” he said.
The good news is, as the crowds slowly return over the next year, as cautious as they are celebratory, Clarke will be there with his camera to record the moment. It would not be the same without him.