After almost three full seasons as manager of Clapton FC, Jonny Fowell has announced he will step down at the end of the current campaign.
The news was broken in an interview with the Newham Recorder’s Jacob Ranson with Fowell pointedly saying he was looking for a club that can challenge for promotion.
That the Tons finished second in his first season, but Fowell feels now it’s no longer possible to aim for a similar finish, is rather telling.
Taking Clapton FC to the runners-up spot in the Essex Senior League in the 2016/7 season will undoubtedly be seen as the high point of Fowell’s reign.
The form was spectacular – 10 wins in 11 away matches, 21 wins in the last 26 overall – and the points per game would have probably been enough to win the ESL title outright in many other seasons.
The Tons fans lapped up the talents of Johnny Ashman, Jay Knight, Ryan Reed, Steven Sardinha, Nathan Cook, Dylan Ebengo, Lanre Vigo, Tayo Awoderu, Emmanuel Olajide, and Jerry Jairette.
The season ended in the sunshine at the Old Spotted Dog with Jerry lifting the runners-up shield in front of 684 jubilant fans after a 7-0 thrashing of Burnham Ramblers.
Fast forward two years, and Clapton’s home game vs Hoddesdon Town last Saturday was apparently witnessed by just 10 people, 6 of whom were away fans. It shows just how much the club has been hollowed out since.
For chief executive Vince McBean chose that point in history, spring 2017, to liquidate the charity that runs the Old Spotted Dog, claiming it owes him almost £200,000 that he’d loaned it for unspecified reasons.
That, of course, sparked all fan groups into calling for a boycott of all home games that continues to this day, while Mr McBean’s liquidation is still being contested through the High Court.
Fowell has remained loyal to Mr McBean during this period – and indeed in his Newham Recorder interview stressed that ‘Vince has been a great chairman”. (A slip of the tongue, surely, as Mr McBean insists he is just chief exec, not the owner or chairman).
It’s fair to say in contrast that Tons fans never warmed to Fowell, and vice versa, But privately he must wonder what might have been achieved if Mr McBean hadn’t driven the supporters away.
From the highs of that first season – where Fowell showed he could build a decent team with no budget, with close to 400 people on average watching them – it’s been a steady decline on and off the field since.
The club sits in 14th place and is looking to fill vacancies for a chairman, manager, groundsman, kitman and matchday secretary. The youth teams and reserves are long gone.
And of course the supporters have re-established a members-owned Clapton side, competing in the Middlessex County League, which is going better than anyone dared to have dreamed.
Yet Mr McBean clings on, as even without any gate receipts on matchdays, there’s enough income from other sources to make it a tidy little earner.
Clapton FC has posted a statement on Twitter confirming the news, adding: “Clapton fc wishes to confirm that manager @jonnyfowell16 is leaving the the club at the end of the season.
“Clapton fc is grateful to @jonnyfowell16 for his contribution and efforts to stabilise the club and wish him all the best for the future – committee Clapton FC.”