After the meet and greet, Mike Clark briefly returned to his room at the hotel. Minutes later, when the elevator doors parted, he walked into the lobby wearing an old Duncan Oughton game jersey.
“I have had this tucked away for a special occasion, and this is the perfect occasion,” he said after making his triumphant lobby entrance. “I’m representing Oughton tonight!”
As we walked through the streets of Columbus with “Oughton 8” emblazoned across Clark’s back, the former defender was surprised at how well the jersey fit.
“This guy was always a little overweight when he played,” Clark said. “I’ve grown into it since I’ve retired, so it’s nice. Usually, center midfielders run during the game. If they had those tracking systems back then like they do now, he probably averaged about a mile and a half per game. I had to work twice as hard because of Oughton!”
Brian Dunseth seconded Clarkie’s comment, and marveled at the thought of an Opta heat map during Oughton’s playing days.
“In terms of the movement of Duncan, once that right knee went down, he was tearing up the middle of the field,” Dunseth said. “He was the unintentional Carlos Valderrama from 1996. His perimeter of play was pretty much the center circle. Could you imagine him on the Opta heat map? It would have been him running around in circles inside the center circle, then going over to the sideline to pee in a water bottle on the bench when nobody was looking. It would have been just that circle with a line going sideways.”
Oughton had a more plausible explanation as to why his game jersey would fit Mike Clark a dozen years after the defender retired.
“I’m going to put that down to being an ambassador of the game and giving my jerseys away during the season, and then running out of my size jerseys, and then at the end of the year, being given XXL jerseys because they don’t have anything left,” he said. “I want to know how he got it. He must have stolen it because I’ve never given him a jersey.”
Regardless of how Clark acquired the jersey, Oughton was proud to see his former teammate sporting his shirt.
“I respect it,” Oughton said. “It’s the best he’s ever looked. I felt quite honored that he did that. Some people thought he lost a bet, but I think he won a bet and he got to choose what to wear after winning the bet, and that was a good choice.”
At the end of the night, Clark was happy with how it all played out.
“People got a kick out of it,” Clark said. “Duncan and I obviously go at each other non-stop, but I love Duncan more than anybody I have every played with. When I knew about this reunion, I have literally had that Oughton jersey sitting in my closet ever since I moved from Columbus. I knew I had to wear it this weekend. I know deep down that Duncan was pretty pumped that his name was out there. He needs all the publicity he can get. I just told fans he was paying me $500 to wear his jersey. They figured that was probably the case.”
If Oughton paid Clark, it was certainly for altruistic reasons. After Saturday night, Oughton seemed happiest of all for the jersey itself.
“I’ll tell you what,” he said, “it’s probably never been sweated in as much as it was on Saturday, especially after that run to the Nordecke. Good for the jersey. It finally got a proper sweat going.”