NEW Argyle signing Billy Clarke comes to Home Park 13 years to the month that he made his first appearance at the Theatre of Greens.
Now a 31-year-old veteran of nearly 400 senior games, Billy was just 18 when he came on as a late substitute for Ipswich Town in their 1-1 Championship draw with the Pilgrims on October 31, 2006. A Paul Wotton header rescued a point for sixth-placed Argyle, who had gone behind to Sylvain Legwinski's first-minute goal.
In the intervening years, attacker Billy has played against the Greens on five more occasions, the most recent time coming last season when he was part of the Bradford City side that held out for a 0-0 draw at the Utilita Energy Stadium in February.
The former Irish Under-21 international’s previous match against Argyle, for Charlton Athletic in the Pilgrims’ opening home game of the 2017-18 Sky Bet League One season, was the only time that he has tasted defeat by the Greens, the Addicks going down 2-0 to a pair of Jake Jervis goals.
His other three games against Argyle were all comfortable wins – a 3-0 victory for Ipswich in the reverse fixture to his teenage Home Park debut – and a pair of 2-0 Championship triumphs with Ian Holloway’s Blackpool in the 2009-10 season.
Although he has a good record against the Pilgrims, Cork-born Billy has never scored, or assisted, in a match with Argyle. That despite supplying or scoring a goal at the rate of one in every three games throughout his career.
He graduated from the Ipswich Academy in 2005 after playing a major role in the Tractor Boys winning the FA Youth Cup.
Over the next four years, he made 55 appearances for Ipswich as well as being loaned out to Colchester United, Falkirk, Darlington, Northampton Town and Brentford, helping Brentford to win the League Two title.
After being released by Ipswich manager Roy Keane in 2009, Billy signed for Blackpool, for who he made his full league debut against Argyle at Bloomfield Road, and helped them win promotion to the Premier League.
However, the following pre-season, he ruptured his right-knee anterior cruciate ligament and missed the whole campaign.
He bounced back with League Two Crawley Town, helping the Red Devils to promotion to League One in 2011-12, and winning the West Sussex side’s Player of the Year award the following season.
In 2014, he joined Bradford City, re-uniting with manager Phil Parkinson, under whom he had played at Colchester United, and helped the Bantams to the 2016-17 play-off final, which they lost 1-0 to Millwall the day before Argyle’s League Two Wembley match against AFC Wimbledon.
After 122 appearances and being involved in a better-than-one-in-three-games 41 goals, Billy moved to Charlton Athletic in the summer of 2017 on a two-year deal which was interrupted by another anterior cruciate ligament rupture, this time of his left knee.
After 25 games for the Addicks, he returned to Bradford City on a short-term deal in January this year and, following the Bantams’ relegation to League Two in April, was released when his contract expired.
He was set to link up with Parkinson for a third time at Bolton Wanderers this season, only for the proposed move to fall through when Parkinson parted company with the Trotters.