Scholar Green, Cheshire born goalkeeper George Clawley started his professional career with Crewe Alexandra in August 1893. He made three appearances for Crewe in the Second Division in 1893-94 making his Football League debut against Grimsby Town in January 1894 before being recruited by their First Division neighbours Stoke in September 1894. He soon displaced Bill Rowley in goal as Stoke struggled throughout the 1894-95 season finishing third from bottom and only avoiding relegation via the end of season Test match. The following season Stoke were more successful finishing in sixth place. They also enjoyed an exciting FA Cup run to the quarter finals where they were defeated 3-0 by eventual finalists Wolverhampton Wanderers.
In the summer of 1896 he was persuaded to move south to join Southern League Southampton St Mary’s after 56 appearances for The Potters, with The Saints about to embark on their third season in the Southern League. In his first two-year spell with The Saints he was ever-present, captaining the south coast club to the Southern League Championship titles in both 1896-97 and 1897-98. According to Holley & Chalk’s “The Alphabet of the Saints” Clawley was “one of the finest uncapped goalkeepers ever to grace the football field of England”. He “possessed the physical requirements of height and reach that were to make him one of the greats around the turn of the century”.
In addition to their League success, Southampton reached the FA Cup semi finals where they took Nottingham Forest to a replay. The replay at Crystal Palace was played in a blizzard. After a scoreless first half (in which Joe Turner missed a penalty for Southampton), in the second half Saints were on top when, with ten minutes left to play, referee John Lewis stopped the match for a time and the players left the pitch. No sooner had the game restarted than the weather worsened but the referee decided that the match should continue. Clawley had his eyes “choked with snow” and conceded two goals in the final minutes of the game. Despite Southampton’s protests the F.A. decided that the result should stand – this was perhaps not surprising as Lewis was an eminent member of the F.A. Board.
In May 1898 Clawley returned to the Midlands, re-joining Stoke for the 1898-99 season. He took over the captaincy playing all 40 matches as Stoke finished the League season in 12th place. Renowned for his ability to leave his line to catch crosses and corners, or clear through-balls from the feet of onrushing attackers at a time when goalkeepers usually left such duties to their defenders, Clawley became an early exponent of recovering quickly from making an initial save to block a follow up. Once again Stoke had some success in the FA Cup, reaching the semi finals where they were defeated 3-1 by a Steve Bloomer hat-trick for Derby County.
In 1899 he moved to London to join Tottenham Hotspur, then in the Southern League. He broke his leg shortly after joining Spurs, thus missing an entire season, but he returned in 1900 to play his part in Spurs’ FA Cup winning run. In the first match of the 1901 FA Cup Final against Sheffield United, Spurs were 2-1 up (both goals from Sandy Brown) when in a goalmouth scramble Clawley turned the ball around the post for what should have been a corner. However, the referee Arthur Kingscott (despite being some way from the goalmouth) awarded a goal and the match went to a replay. In the replay at Burnden Park, Bolton Spurs triumphed 3-1 on a wet and windy afternoon, and brought the Cup back to the south at last after eighteen years, thus becoming the first (and only) non-League team to win the FA Cup.
Clawley returned to Southampton in 1903 after 94 appearances for Spurs, replacing England international Jack Robinson. Once again he helped the Saints to the Southern League title in 1903-04. He remained at The Dell until he retired in 1907. In his second, four year, spell with The Saints he made 131 appearances.