UPDATE: Ilford FC announced via Twitter on Thursday, September 1st that Clapton have withdrawn from the competition.
Well, this is curious. Clapton controversially pulled the plug on every team except the first team.
The reserve, U18s and U15s were all axed at the end of last season. In previous seasons the club had also fielded u13s, U14s, U16s and U17s but they were chopped before.
So without any youth or reserve teams, it’s unclear who will play for Clapton U18s in the Preliminary Round of the FA Youth Cup, or who will be managing them. Hopefully last season’s very talented team have stayed together even if they are not playing in a league.
Despite the question marks, it’s a prestigious competition and drew a reasonable crowd to the Old Spotted Dog last season where our very talented youth team of the time ran Hornchurch close. Some of our play was truly a joy.
Ilford certainly seem organised and up for it, with their youth team manager tweeting: “Come and support us, get in early going to be a big crowd.”
A First Round Qualifying tie at FC Broxbourne Borough awaits the winner and the professional teams start to enter in the next round. It’s not unheard of for teams at our level to land a big name – in fact Waltham Forest reached the last 16 a decade ago, beating West Brom among others. Fingers crossed for a similar run then.
* Incidentally the axing of the youth teams led to a group of Clapton fans forming Downs FC, debuting in the Essex Corinthian League this season on Sundays, to give some more playing opportunities to local youth.