Wigan's David Clarke thanks his hometown following OBE honour

David Clarke thanked his hometown of Wigan after receiving the OBE in the King's Birthday Honours list.
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The 52-year-old from Hindley - now chief executive officer of the British Paralympic Association - was honoured for services to Paralympic Sport.

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Clarke enjoyed a remarkable 17-year career from 1995-2012, scoring 128 goals in 144 appearances for Great Britain's blind football team.

Wigan's David Clarke (far left), who was guest of honour at the 2013 FA Cup final, has been awarded an OBEWigan's David Clarke (far left), who was guest of honour at the 2013 FA Cup final, has been awarded an OBE
Wigan's David Clarke (far left), who was guest of honour at the 2013 FA Cup final, has been awarded an OBE
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He was a stadium torchbearer at 2012 Olympics, being the first person to receive the torch in the stadium.

Clarke was inducted into the English football Hall of Fame, and received a lifetime achievement award, in 2013.

That year he was also guest of honour at the FA Cup final, and handed over the trophy to victorious Wigan Athletic skipper Emmerson Boyce.

And although he now lives in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, Clarke says his OBE is as much for the people of Wigan as himself.

David Clarke scored a remarkable 128 goals in 144 appearances for the Great Britain blind football teamDavid Clarke scored a remarkable 128 goals in 144 appearances for the Great Britain blind football team
David Clarke scored a remarkable 128 goals in 144 appearances for the Great Britain blind football team
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"As you know, Wigan means the world to me, and it always will," he told Wigan Today.

"I was born in Hindley, and my mum still lives there, she's lived there with my dad since 1966, my two sisters are still there too.

"All of my eye operations were done at Wigan Infirmary, and I only left when I went to university and then moved down to London for work.

"I go back six or seven times a year, and we always have a curry at the Mahabharat in Hindley!

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"From the people at Wigan library, who helped me study for my university degree.

"To people like Chris Butler at Wigan Harriers - who was David Grindley's coach - who took me on when I was 18 to do athletics for three years.

"Funnily enough Trevor Painter - who's married to Jenny Meadows, and now coaches Keely Hodgkinson - used to train with me.

"It was just nice to be included in such an amazing way.

"And then there was that wonderful day in 2013 when I was part of Wigan Athletic greatest ever day.

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"I've got so much to thank Wigan for, I've followed the rugby team as well.

"I'm also an ambassador for the Joseph’s Goal charity, which I'm very proud of, and it's nice to be able to put something back into my home town."

Clarke says news of his gong came as a massive surprise.

"I was in total shock when I heard about it," he said. "I've said many times before, I only ever played football because I loved it, not to be rewarded in any way.

"But the biggest thing for me was about trying to create a role model to inspire others.

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"I was very fortunate to have role models to follow in the footsteps of.

"They meant so much to me, and gave me the confidence in education, in work and in sport.

"And I hope this award will also show what can be achieved, and inspire kids just as I was inspired at their age, to go and do this stuff."

He also needs no prompting to relive one of the great days of his life - May 11, 2013.

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"The serendipity of us being in the same place at the same time," he said, referencing Wembley Stadium on cup final day.

"I'd had my football career largely ignored, and I guess Dave Whelan had largely been failed by football after his injury.

"For both of us to come together in that incredible moment, let's be honest, for a triumph that never should have happened, given the odds...but at the same time was always meant to be.

"I'll never forget Paul Scharner shaking my hand before the game, and saying: 'You're from Wigan...we're definitely going to win now'.

"It's just one of those moments you just can't believe, and I always mention it whenever I do any public speaking.

"It sums up what Wigan is all about and I'll never forget my roots."