Christian James remembers the hotshot who fired Boston United into the Football League...
Daryl Clare.Daryl Clare.
Daryl Clare.

This series has already featured memorable goalscorers Ricky Miller, Spencer Weir-Daley, Jason Lee, Leroy Chambers, Chris Cook and Jim Kabia - and today it’s the turn of 2001-2002’s Conference top goalscorer.

A Jersey boy with an eye for goal, his United career spanned four seasons, but it was his debut year exploits that secured his status as a legend of the noughties.

Today’s Pilgrim in Profile is Daryl Clare.

Clare’s career began at Football League Grimsby Town, debuting in 1996 at the age of 17 in a Division One game with Sheffield United.

After a handful of appearances across the next season, he won the Mariners’ Young Player of the Year award in 1997-98 as Town won promotion back out of Division Two via the play-offs, beating Fulham then Northampton Town.

They’d also won the Auto Windscreens Shield at Wembley - a game which Clare started - with a golden goal 2-1 win over Bournemouth, Clare also named the Republic of Ireland Young Player of the Year.

Clare spent the early 2000s on loan at Northampton and Cheltenham before being released by boyhood Grimsby in 2001.

Clare won the Conference with United. Photo: GettyIMagesClare won the Conference with United. Photo: GettyIMages
Clare won the Conference with United. Photo: GettyIMages

After spending time on trial at Boston the under 21 International agreed terms and moved to York Street on a free contract.

He opened his Boston account just two games into the season with the United’s second at Woking in August 2001 and added four in three games with efforts against Stalybridge and at Northwich before a memorable home double against Doncaster Rovers.

Those Rovers strikes saw Clare recover United from 2-0 down in added-time, the second a disputed penalty he won then converted.

Clare went on a second game barren-spell (the longest he would endure in 2001-02), the overhead kick against Scarborough in October bringing that to a remarkable end.

Clare returned to United for a second stint under Steve Evans. Photo: GettyImagesClare returned to United for a second stint under Steve Evans. Photo: GettyImages
Clare returned to United for a second stint under Steve Evans. Photo: GettyImages

He was on hand with another late penalty to secure another 2-2 home draw, and four days later scored the opener in a 2-1 win against Morecambe.

Clare scored his ninth and 10th goals of the campaign in mid-November, bagging openers against Stevenage and Leigh in a pair of 2-1 wins (David Town scoring United’s second in both).

Having reached double figures pre-Christmas, Clare would add 15 after the festive period, beginning with the final goal of a 6-1 win over Forest Green Rovers.

United had kept their cup involvement to a minimum, having lost 1-0 to Brigg in their only FA Cup tie that season, and Clare scored the Pilgrims’ only FA Trophy goal as Northwich Victoria knocked them out with a 3-1 win at Drill Field in January’s third round.

In action for Boston Town.In action for Boston Town.
In action for Boston Town.

Boston made their live television debut with a Monday night game against Hereford, Clare scoring after six and 12 minutes to race the hosts into a 2-0 lead. However, the lowly Bulls hit back and claimed a 4-3 win, that game United’s only fixture in February.

The Pilgrims’ next game turned out to be an early March trip to Dagenham, again in front of the Sky cameras, and United’s deficit of four points (with a game in hand) became seven after a 1-0 defeat in Essex.

No Boston player has scored four goals in a game since March 2002, Clare the man on target with all the United goals in a 4-2 home win over Neville Southall's Dover.

The following Tuesday he scored the only goal, from the spot, in a 1-0 win at title outsiders Doncaster Rovers - a week later Boston were back on top.

Clare didn’t strike against Telford (3-1) but returned to the scoresheet in a rearranged midweek win 4-1 win over Nuneaton, watched by more than 4,000, taking advantage of the free admission on offer (the original game had been abandoned a minute before half-time on New Year's Day).

A shock home defeat to Chester preceded another midweek away win at title outsiders as Clare opened and closed the scoring after four minutes in a 1-0 win at Yeovil’s Huish Park.

He then bagged a brace in the memorable comeback win at Southport on Easter Monday, United coming from another two-goal deficit to equalise then take all three points in injury time.

The result saw Boston maintain their top spot despite having dropped points in another live TV disappointment against Barnet three days before.

United fought out a goalless home draw with Stevenage before Clare opened the scoring (again with a penalty) in a 2-1 away win at Leigh RMI, before a defeat at Scarborough left United ahead on goal difference with three games to play.

Clare scored the last of four in a comfortable home win over Farnborough, his last goal of the season, in United’s final home game.

With Dagenham having drawn at Scarborough, the Pilgrims left York Street for the season knowing four points away at Morecambe and Hayes would be enough.

A 0-0 draw at Christie Park preceded the famous 2-0 win at Hayes (Boston’s only TV triumph to date), with Simon Weatherstone and Ray Warburton scoring the all-important goals.

Clare’s 24 league efforts (plus one in the FA Trophy) saw him finish top of the league charts as United reached the Football League, Clare’s 'gamble' to drop into non-league paying off.

Staying on for United’s Football League debut in 2002-03, Clare started the Pilgrims’ first seven games, scoring once, doubling the lead late on against Lincoln in a 2-0 victory at York Street.

After spending a brief spell out injured Clare returned to fitness but was placed on the transfer list by Neil Thompson.

"Daryl was injured last week. He had one half-training session on Friday. He came through that and I named him on the bench," Thompson told the BBC.

"Daryl asked for a word in the dressing room. He said he didn't want to be substitute, so I said he'd better disappear. If anyone thinks he has a divine right to be in the team, that is being totally disrespectful to supporters of the club and the players, especially."

Thompson didn’t quite stick to that, naming Clare in the side once more in an away defeat at Macclesfield, but let the number nine leave for Chester City in November 2002.

Reports suggested the fee could rise to £100,000 if Clare helped the Seals back into the Football League - which he did in 2004.

Chester had lost in a play-off semi-final tie on penalties to eventual winners Doncaster Rovers in 2003 (the first year of Conference play-offs) and Clare added to his 17 goals that campaign with a further 30 in 2003-04 to once again finish league top scorer on the way to a Champions medal.

Boston fought off attention from Conference Carlisle to re-sign Clare in November 2004, re-instated boss Steve Evans turning to his former front man as the Pilgrims chased a play-off place.

Despite scoring in his second start, a 3-1 home win over Darlington, Clare failed to rediscover his previous goalscoring form under Evans, finding the net three times in 20 appearances (his other goals coming against Grimsby and Rushden & Diamonds).

He made one substitute appearance on Bank Holiday Monday in 2005-06 before leaving for Conference Crawley for a club record fee in September.

By March cash-strapped Crawley had moved Clare on to Burton Albion, the forward scoring twice in a losing cause during the play-off semi-finals.

He left after 93 games for Burton, joining Rushden & Diamonds, but requested a transfer in January 2009.

Mansfield Town signed him on loan and handed him a contract at the end of the season.

From there, Clare spent time on-loan at Gateshead before making that move permanent, before starting the next season with Cambridge, the Heed banking a £10,000 fee.

Clare’s Cambridge days saw him score once, against Gateshead, and he ended the season with loan spells at Gainsborough and Alfreton, with whom he faced Boston in a 3-2 memorable comeback win for the hosts at York Street.

His career ended with time at Louth Town and Boston Town, where he acted as the White Wolves' manager and the Poachers' number two.

Across two-spells and four seasons Clare made 71 Boston appearances, scoring 29 goals- the bulk of them (24) in Conference league games - including nine penalties.

A proven goalscorer at Conference level, winning two Golden Boots and two winners' medals (2002 and 2004), Clare struggled to make his mark in the Football League, enjoying a senior career spanning 20 years.

His 25 goals in 2001-2002 makes him one of only four men to reach a quarter-century in a season for Boston since the mid-90s, alongside Ricky Miller (28), Marc Newsham (29 and 30) and Dayle Southwell (30).