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18 July 2012

Richard Day looks back on the career of the Gills defender

Having won Schoolboy honours with England, Paul first joined the Shrimpers as an apprentice and was to eventually turn professional at Roots Hall in July 1976.

In November 1977 Brighton & H.A splashed out £55,000 to take him to the Goldstone Ground where he was to score nine goals in 79 league games for the Seagulls.

He returned to the Essex club in the summer of 1982 and he had spells as caretaker manager, player-manager and assistant manager and was at the club as they had three successful promotion campaigns in 1986-87, 1989-90 and 1990-91.

In total he made 357 appearances for the Shrimpers, scoring seven times, but having become disillusioned with the happenings at Roots Hall he signed for Gills boss Damien Richardson in July 1991.

Clark featured in the club's pre-season tour of Ireland, where they played Waterford, Cobh Ramblers, Athlone Town, Ballinasloe and Kilkenny, and it was on the ferry to Rosslare that I was lucky enough to first meet him.

He made his Gills debut on the opening day of the season in a 4 - 0 hammering of Scunthorpe United and he went on to remain ever-present throughout the campaign. His outstanding performances saw him named as Player of the Year where fellow former Shrimper David Crown came second.

The first of his two goals for the club came in a 2 - 1 home defeat by Crewe Alexandra the following season when he only missed a couple of games.

He was released at the end of the 1993-94 season and had spells in various capacities at Chelmsford City, Cambridge United, Leyton Orient and Billericay.

Paul has had a varied life since ending his playing days, running a driving school and tiling business while he has also summarised for BBC Radio Essex and been found at both Roots Hall and Priestfield, amongst others, filing statistical reports for the Press Association and always enquires about the goings on here at Gillingham.

He even out took time out to help out long-time friend Joe Dunne, when he became caretaker manager of the U's last season following Paul Lambert's departure to Norwich City, and he was on the bench, next to the Irishman, when the Gills lost at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

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