If you’re reading this, you’ll have probably already gathered that Clapton fans are at odds with club chief executive Vince McBean’s handling of the club and its ground, leading to the current gruelling but spectacularly successful boycott of home games.
But what of the management and coaches? What was it like working for him? We spoke to several people who have been part of the Clapton set-up in the McBean era, from 2000 onwards to find out.
The more people we talked to, the same stories kept on cropping up – and always about money. People being left seriously out of pocket. Promises that they would be reimbursed for things they’d bought, only to never receive it.
A typical quote from one person we spoke to: “He never paid for anything to do with the players, the coaches and the training, and never any petrol money – ever.”
Another said: “Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t about the money, Clapton to me in a sense was my life, and I learned to expect nothing from Vince.”
One former member of the coaching set-up claims to have been owed a five-figure sum but did not want to go public.
However, former manager Chris Wood, who was in his second spell in charge of the Tons when the Ultras formed, was happy to go on record on his time at the club.
Chris oversaw a golden period of fast-growing crowds, fan/management togetherness and the club’s best finish in decades after a long period of stagnation.
Woodsy, as he is known, still absolutely loves Clapton and its fans. But he told us that the period cost him a lot of money too.
He claimed: “Vince owes me well over £1,800 for things I bought for the club during my spell there.
“£400 for topsoil and £150 for seeding. Then bulbs for the floodlights capacitors to keep them going.
“Balls, balls, balls. I remember being in a shop and ringing him saying ‘I’ve found some match balls for £8 a go’. He said ‘get 10 and I’ll pay you Saturday’. He never paid.
“He never paid any of these things which were all agreed at the time with him. He would say ‘bring the receipts to our monthly meeting’ which I would do but that was the last I saw of the receipts. Or he would say the purchase wasn’t sanctioned by the club. Absolute rubbish.
“He even owed my missus that was battling cancer £180 for kit wash money. Upon leaving he eventually paid after many, many requests.
“We also had to pay for our own coach travel to cup games with players and supporters
paying towards the costs.
“As for cup games, he said we would get half of the prize money per win to go towards the team. It never happened.
“In my first spell at the club he said ‘get some end of season trophies for the boys presentation night’. Guess what? He never paid for them either.
“The final straw for me was my ride on mower which I used to use to cut the pitch. I went to collect it only to find it was in bits. I was left with another bill for £270 to repair it.”
Chris left the club in May 2014 ‘by mutual consent’, shortly after his assistant Neil Day had been sacked for ‘becoming too close to the fans’.
Chris, who has also managed Ilford, Basildon United and Mauritius Sports, added: “I’m not the first manager to have been short changed.
“Take the famous Scaffold stand and the old half-finished toilets, they were built by a then manager who was a scaffolder. Another thing done for nothing and another manager out of pocket.
“Vince comes across as a lovely bloke who can really suck you into liking him but he uses people to get as much out of them for free or any other means without him paying for things.”
Chris finished on a positive message, saying: “I love Clapton, love the place and miss it like hell. Just wish one day finally it can be run in an open and proper manner.
“Love the Tons, love the fans and love the ground. Don’t ever let Vince kill or develop on the famous Old Spotted Dog!”
We are unable to put Woodsy’s claims to Mr McBean, as the club have a policy of not speaking to us.