Motherwell have been blessed with a number of great full backs such as Stephen McMillan, Jim Griffin, Rab McKinnon, Steven Hammell and most recently Stephen O’Donnell but we’re focusing on the man who came before them and set the standard at the back, Joe Wark.
Signed from junior side Irvine Vics in 1968, Wark would make his claret and amber debut against Tranmere Rovers in what would be a bizarre first game as 3 minutes in goalie Keith MacRae picked up an injury meaning Wark would spend the remaining 87 minutes in goals, keeping a clean sheet and helping the well to a 2-0 victory.
In his first season, Joe would play as an inside forward and would score 8 goals helping Motherwell lift the Second Division title. This season would also include a hat trick against Montrose.
As football began to develop, so did Joe, as he was soon moved to left back to become one of the first of a new breed of overlapping defenders who would bomb up the pitch and whip crosses into the attackers in the box. As much as he was a threat down that left channel, he also possessed great awareness which saw him establish himself as one of the best full backs in the country.
Unfortunately it was tough competition to get into the national team with both Celtic’s Danny McGrain and Rangers’ Sandy Jardine being the preferred full backs to Wark. He did however gain one international honour when he represented the Scottish League XI when they played the Football League XI in 1976. Not only did Joe not get the international recognition his consistency deserved but he never actually won any major honours, not even reaching a final but don’t let that fool you into thinking that he wasn’t brilliant.
A total of 580 appearances over a 16 year career brings him up to third in Motherwell’s post war all time appearances with only George Stevenson and Bobby Ferrier playing more. During his time at Motherwell, he was part of the teams who beat Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City in the Texaco Cup.
After retiring in 1984, Joe got his coaching badges and spent time at the club as a coach and assistant manager but also took up a role as kitman for a small period of time. Knowing Joe, he would probably have taken on the job of groundsman if Andy Russell hadn’t already claimed it.
As for this top, what a beauty eh? Coming from all the way back in 1976, it got used until 1978 but was later reused as Motherwell weren’t keen on their kits for the next season. Made by Admiral, this top is more of a yellow than an amber but still looks just as good with the (slightly faded) claret MFC embroidery used for the badge. This jersey is a number 2, probably from a brief stint at right back, even though he was most notably known to wear the number 3 but this was given to us and signed by Joe before his death in 2015.
Mr Consistency and an absolute legend for the club.