This Saturday we travel up the A13 to the delightful park that Southend Manor, among the duck ponds and flower beds, happen to have a football pitch in. It’s a bizarre open-plan ground, vulnerable to the winds off the English Channel. How it met the requirements for the league is beyond me, but you can have a go on the swings behind the goal and watch the game from there.
All the talk this week has been of the FA investigation into the alleged late registration of goalkeeper, Yakup Seyer for last Saturday’s FA Vase clash with Hertford Town. Although our Vase opponents claim that ESL and FA initiated the proceedings, the resulting decision is that the replay has been switched back to Hertingfordbury Park, with the home side keeping all gate money and travel expenses. Clapton will just be relieved to have the opportunity to settle matters on the field.
Saturday will be new manager, John Fowell’s first game in charge. He must be under no illusion of how a big of a task his job at Clapton is. His hands will be tied in more ways than one, with huge financial constraints and the short amount of time he will have to spend with his players (compared to where he’s worked previously). He will no doubt be relying on the input of player favourite, Andre Thomas to help push the team forward in the early stages. It’s not clear whether Andre applied for the manager’s post, but there’s little question that this short period of upheaval will have any effect his commitment to the Clapton side.
Southend Manor, in years gone past, were once a force in the ESL, finishing second in 2011/12 and a respectable 7th in 2012/13 season. However, in recent years Manor have struggled to maintain that standard, finishing 16th last season and 18th and 19th the two prior. This season has been very much a mixed bag for the seasiders as they look to find some consistency; recording a remarkable 7-0 in the FA Vase against ESL new comers West Essex, while losing 8-0 at home to Stanway in the Essex Senior Cup. League games have seen more sensible scorelines, in the last 3 league games they have lost at home to FC Romania 0-1, while beating them away 1-2 and losing at home to big spending Takeley.
Fans of great hair will be pleased to see former Clapton favourite Eamon Payne out in yellow and black. The graceful, hard working and classy defender (and sometimes midfielder) will likely be a handful wherever he plays. We’ll also be reunited with ex-Ton, Aundre Spencer, whose brief but eventful spell at the club ended after the former Luton and Hornchurch winger fell out with then manager Mike Walther. The other familiar (fresh) face is the young Ryan Creed, the former Barking trainee was only at The Dog for short period before quietly moving on with hardly an notch on the teamsheet.
Head to head:
Clapton have enjoyed a very impressive recent run against Southend – the last two visits to Southchurch Park have seen respective 5-1 wins on each occasion. Check out last seasons great write up from Red Menace on the glorious trip. Almost as impressive at home, Clapton won comfortably 3-1 in 2014/15 season and a more modest 1-0 win last term, with Nathan Cook tucking away a spectacular winner. Both sides have struggled with consistency so far this time out, but Clapton players should be confident going in to this one.
Player to watch:
Tony Stokes – On loan from Canvey Island while he regains fitness. He was reportedly wanted by Ryman League, Great Wakering Rovers before opting to join Scott Marshall’s side, where he will undoubtedly add goals and experience. The name will also be familiar to West Ham fans as a one time product of the youth system, as well as Championship/Football Manager veterans as go to bargain (although he was no Cherno Samba). Stokes hasn’t played for Manor in the last couple of games, but we’ll hopefully get to see the real thing come 3pm on Saturday.