The background to this article is a recent conversation I got into on Twitter. It all came about following the recent news of Graeme Souness being admitted to hospital, and a comment I made wishing him a quick recovery and stating I believed he was the best midfielder Britain has ever produced. A few other names were mentioned but I standby my first statement that I believe Souness is the best.
There has been many great midfielders from Britain in my lifetime, players such as Bryan Robson, Glenn Hoddle and in more recent years, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes and Frank Lampard. Truly magnificent players, who had vision, passing ability, had a burning desire to be a winner and also chipped in with more than the fair share of goals. It got me thinking about other midfielders I have enjoyed watching, and another midfielder’s name came into my mind, a player who also deserves to be ranked alongside those top names and is not always mentioned in those lists, his name is John Wark.
The Scottish midfielder, started out his professional career with Ipswich Town, he made his debut in 1975 as a defender. However the following season he was moved into midfield and in 30 matches for the club, he scored 10 goals not a bad return at all.
His goal scoring record from mainly central midfield is phenomenal. In the 1980-81 season with Ipswich he scored 14 goals in the UEFA Cup alone, which Ipswich won. Wark won the European Young Player Of The Year that season. Wark scored in total 36 goals that season in all competitions, an outstanding individual achievements, especially when you bear in mind he was the most defensively minded midfielder at the club! His team mates in midfield were Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen, who were allowed to express their technical abilities further forward without the restraints defensively that Wark was given.
Wark represented Scotland in the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain, in 3 appearances in that tournament, Wark scored 2 goals. He made 29 appearances in total for his country scoring 7 goals. In the 1982-83 season in 42 league matches, he scored 20 goals in a team that struggled that season.
John Wark joined Liverpool in 1984 for a transfer fee of £450,000, that season Wark was Liverpool’s top goalscorer, in 62 appearances in total, he scored 27 goals, including 3 hat tricks, from midfield! He topped the scoring charts for LFC, second that season was a certain Ian Rush, not a bad goalscorer himself in his own right. Wark played for Liverpool until 1988 making a total of 108 appearances for the club and scoring 42 goals. A goal ratio of a goal every 2.6 games, Wark was sold back to Ipswich Town for £100,000.
The player played out his career at Middelsborough and then back to Ipswich for a third spell. Last few years of his career he played mainly at centre back, but still chipped in with goals, he ended his league career at the age of 39, in November 1996, 21 years after making his debut for the very same club, Ipswich Town.
John Wark made 796 appearances in total and scored 223 goals, he is the third all time highest goalscorer in Ipswich’s history even though he hardly ever played upfront.
He was a fantastic footballer, his eye for a goal is clear from the numbers I have quoted in this article, however, he was good in the air, had a good passing range and was strong in the tackle. For me he is not given enough credit for how good he was, and I hope when people talk about top British midfielders the name of John Wark rightly comes up in those conversations.