Rockwood soccer star Daniel Clarke drafted by Halifax Wanderers Football Club

ROCKWOOD – Local 20-year-old Daniel Clarke has been drafted by the Halifax Wanderers Football Club as a goalkeeper. 

Clarke is no stranger to success in the world of soccer – at just nine years old he signed his first contract with Northampton Town in England.

At that time he made a life-altering decision to focus on playing as a goalie.

Clarke said while most players want to score, he “gets an adrenaline rush from stopping a goal.” 

In 2023, he made 42 saves for the Cape Breton University Capers, allowing 10 goals in 10 matches. 

Growing up

Clarke moved to Rockwood from the U.K. with his parents and brothers when he was 12 years old. 

Here, he attended Rockwood Centennial Public School and John. F. Ross Collegiate Vocational Institute, commuting to Woodbridge to play on the soccer team there.

At 16, Clarke went back to the U.K. to play in a scholarship system, where he was with professional clubs “24 seven,” continuing his high school education with teachers brought in by the clubs. 

Clarke said during this scholarship program, “I was pretty successful at Port Vale, but decided I didn’t want to live away from family at such a young age,” so he returned to Canada for university. 

Premiere draft

And at 20 years old, on Dec. 14, Clarke was drafted to the Halifax Wanderers. 

Clarke said he felt ecstatic when he found out.

“It’s so hard to explain,” he said. “(It’s) such an incredible feeling … relief and pure happiness,” realizing his childhood dream was finally coming true.  

Clarke was the team’s first round pick and was selected 5th overall during the 2024 Canadian Premiere League draft. 

Family from near and far joined Clarke to watch the live draft – he sat on the sofa with his mom and dad while his grandparents, aunts and uncles joined them via Zoom from the U.K. and his brother Jack was allowed to miss class to join the Zoom call from John. F. Ross. 

At Rockwood Centennial, his brother Alex watched the live draft along with his whole Grade 7 class during their lunch break, Clarke said. 

Clarke signed a youth sport contract with the team, which means he will join the team in March and play with them throughout the spring and summer. 

Then, in the fall, he will  face the difficult decision of whether to stay with the team in Halifax, or return to Cape Breton to finish his studies.

Clarke is in his third year of a four-year bachelor’s degree. 

“I think as I’m so close to graduating it makes sense to stick it out,” he told the Advertiser. 

Graduating university is goal number one, he said. 

“Although I really want to pursue a professional career, its important to have a back-up plan,” he said. 

Clarke aims to “have a long happy career” playing soccer and to retire from the sport when he nears 40. 

“Football’s not around forever,” he said. “So really that degree is important.” 

One of Canada’s top goalies

According to Saltwire sports reporter Jeremy Fraser, Clarke is one of Canada’s best goalies. 

In 2020 Clarke signed with the Cape Breton University, where he studies business administration. 

According to an article on the team website, Capers head coach Dean Morley said Clarke is “one of the top young keepers in Canada.” 

Clarke said he has a “big presence” at the back of the pitch, as he’s very vocal and stands tall at six feet three inches.  

“That kind of sets me aside,” he said. 

His advice to aspiring goalkeepers is to “really try to nail down the fundamentals,” by constantly practicing catching the ball and using their feet. 

“All these simple things that maybe aren’t as fun” make a significant difference in the long term, he said.

Confidence is also key, he added – “If you have [confidence] you’re a completely different player.”

Clarke credits much of his success to family members, who have been his rock during highs and lows.