Aberdeen's ability to turn out the talent but failure to hold on to the gems they produced was highlighted by "Jinky" Smith's debut for Scotland as a substitute in Amsterdam on May 30, 1968. No fewer than five players out of the 12 Scots on show had been or were still with the Dons at the time, in addition to Jimmy Smith, West Brom's Doug Fraser featured at right back, Rangers' Dave Smith was left half, and Charlie Cooke was on the left wing. The fifth Don in the side was none other than goalkeeper Bobby Clark.
Bobby had made his full international debut prior to Jimmy Smith back in November, 1967, but his story was so different from the other Dark Blue Dons of the 1960s that his tale deserves some special attention. Born in Glasgow on September 26 1945 Bobby Clark was to some extent destined to find a life and career in sport. His father had been a director at Clyde before becoming treasurer of the SFA, and young Bobby developed as a goalkeeper with Queens Park while graduating as a PT instructor at Jordanhill. Dons fans got their first glimpse of Bobby on January 25, 1964, when the young keeper put on an impressive display as the Dons struggled to draw 1-1 at home to Queens Park in the 2nd round of the Scottish Cup. Indeed they needed extra time to dispose of their amateur opponents in the replay at Hampden.
A little over a year later, when the club was in the market for a manager Queens Park coach Eddie Turnbull was the choice, and the Don's boss wasted little time in bringing his young goalkeeper north with him. When incumbent John Ogston made the move to Liverpool in August 1965, Bobby Clark stepped in to become the Don's first choice keeper, still short of his 20th birthday. In his early days Bobby was more of a reaction type keeper, who brought off breathtaking saves but sometimes lacked concentration. Gradually though, he transformed himself into a solid, non-showy custodian, putting more emphasis on anticipation and positioning than the flamboyant approach.
His early displays for Turnbull's Tornadoes won him under 23 honours, and as Scotland manager Bobby Brown looked around for a replacement for the ageing Ronnie Simpson, Clark looked a good, if inexperienced choice. On November 22 1967, Bobby played for the full Scottish side for the first time in a 3-2 win over Wales at Hampden, and did nothing to harm his chances of re-selection. After sitting out the first international of 1968 against the Auld Enemy at Hampden, Bobby was back between the sticks for the aforementioned game against Holland in Amsterdam. From there one might have expected Bobby to embark on a long international career, but the following two seasons were something of a nightmare for the Aberdeen keeper.
The Dons suffered a poor start to the 1968-69 season and following a 5-1 loss at Dunfermline and then a 6-2 reverse at home to Hibs, Bobby Clark was dropped. Reserve keeper Ernie McGarr came in to fill Bobby's spot, and to add insult to injury did such an outstanding job that within a year he had equalled Clark's full cap haul of two. The Dons were thus in the unlikely position of having two full Scottish international keepers on their books at the same time! Faced with a long term future as reserve goalie, Clark became increasingly disillusioned with his chosen craft and turned to outfield play, at which he was no slouch. Indeed, Bobby's performances in defence in 1969 led to his appearance on two occasions in the first team, thereby creating history as the Dons became the first club to feature two Scottish international goalkeepers in the same starting line-up.
February 11, 1970 proved to be a big turning point for both the club and Bobby Clark, Turnbull moved to arrest a dismal run by reintroducing Bobby as first choice keeper and promoting Martin Buchan to skipper for a home second round Scottish Cup tie versus Clydebank. The performance on the night was well short of satisfactory, but the two moves were crucial, setting the dons on a roll which ended with the Scottish Cup in the Pittodrie boardroom for the first time in 23 years.
A week after the Dons memorable win over the mighty Celtic in the final at Hampden, Bobby Clark's remarkable comeback was capped by his return to the Scotland side that beat Northern Ireland in Belfast. Hearts goalie Jim Cruickshank was preferred to Bobby Clark at the back end of 1970, but the Aberdeen keeper did his reputation no harm setting a then world record of 20 hours 46 minutes playing time without conceding a goal as the Dons mounted an impressive League challenge. In 1971 Clark was recalled to the Scotland side to face Portugal in Lisbon and the subsequent Home International competition. In the final game of the series at Wembley, Bobby set a new record as the Dons most capped keeper, with seven caps. And on June 9 in Copenhagen he became the most capped Don of all time when he finally laid to rest Jock Hutton's 45 year old mark.
Over the next two years Clark went on to boost his caps total to 16, although Scotland boss Tommy Docherty never really seemed to settle on either Bobby, Ally Hunter, or David Harvey as his first choice. There can be no doubt that the Scottish management of the time favoured Anglos above home-based players and that might have been a factor in Bobby's flirt with a move to Stoke City in October 1972 but in the end he decided to stay put. On February 14, 1973 with new boss Willie Ormond at the helm, Scotland were humiliated 5-0 at Hampden by England in the Centenary International. Although cruelly exposed by an untried defensive combination, Bobby Clark was among the scapegoats and his international career was effectively over. He survived an attempt by new Dons boss Ally McLeod to replace him with Ally McLean in 1976 and when McLeod took over as national team manager he was recalled to the Scotland squad, without ever getting to play again.
Throughout the remainder of the 1970s Bobby continued to give sterling service to the Dons, and his patience was rewarded with a League Cup winner's medal in 1976, a testimonial in 1978 and ultimately a well deserved championship winner's medal in 1980. Following the Don's title triumph the now ageing keeper was sidelined by injury, and lost his place permanently to youngster Jim Leighton after making more than 700 first team appearances. Clark soon turned to coaching, spending time in Africa and the United States before taking managing the New Zealand national side. He is now coaching on the American college circuit.