John Clarke has moved from the stands to the stage as the first person with Cerebral Palsy to coach at Burton Albion F.C.

Clarke, who is originally from Burton, said he has loved football ever since he was younger and could never imagine being where he is today. “I still have to pinch myself on a regular basis,” he said.

John has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, a condition which affects movement and coordination. Despite living with this condition his entire life, he doesn’t let it hold him back.

“this is the one place where my disability disappears”

John Clarke, Burton Albion F.C.

John joined the academy in July 2022 in a support role, working closely with players across all age groups and assisting in player care and life skills. He said, “It’s about making them good footballers as well as good human beings.”

Aaron Webster, a former player for Burton Albion and current player care representative, said, “John is a role model for our young players but also for people with disabilities as well – they can look at John as a shining light and think I can do something positive as well… Someone like John can change people’s lives.”

Despite his condition, John has continued to make strides to success.

John Clarke with the prestigious EFL award, pictured with Aaron Webster and former Burton Albion manager Dan Robinson. Photo credit – Burton Albion F.C.

John was named as the Club Employee Award Winner at the 2023 EFL awards ceremony which celebrates and recognises outstanding work. “It still feels like a dream,” he said.

Outside of football, Clarke presents a radio show on Micro Brew Radio called Wheels of Life, where he interviews a variety of guests about various topics such as music and human connection.

John requires the use of a wheelchair to get around and assistance from a carer for everyday tasks, but this does not stop him from reaching his dreams.

“Ironically, working at Burton and in professional football, this is the one place on Earth where my wheelchair and my limitations disappears,” he said.

Aaron Webster adds, “When I was younger, there weren’t many black players at the time. I wanted to look to see people like me – John is that person for our young players; he’s an inspiration.”

The next step for John will be to gain his UEFA C license and continue his upward trajectory on the professional football coaching ladder!