TRUE CLAPTON LEGEND ANDRE THOMAS LEAVES TO STEP UP TO BOSTIK LEAGUE

Andre Thomas pictured at Takeley last month

Coach Andre Thomas has left Clapton after landing the assistant manager’s job at Bostik North side Barking.

A hugely popular figure with  players and fans, Andre spent two silverware-laden years with Clapton as coach, assistant manager and also as caretaker manager.

However, he had recently been shunted from assistant manager to first team coach as Jonny Fowell brought in Colin Reid as head coach and Wayne Seal as assistant manager.

Barking have moved quickly to offer Andre a step up a division as well as being restored to assistant manager level.

The Blues announced the news on Saturday night – in the wake of Clapton’s fine home win against high-flying Great Wakering.

Their statement described Andre as “a passionate and dedicated football man who’s a student of the game. He’s willing to learn and progress by developing his skills and obtain new ones in the process.”

He will be number two to manager Justin Gardner, formerly of Aveley and Billericay Town .

More details to follow…

 

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FORMER LONDON BARI MANAGER SWITCHES TO CLAPTON

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Chris Davis, back row far right, with his London Bari side before the club merged with Hackney Wick

Former London Bari and Hackney Wick manager Chris Davis is returning to the Old Spotted Dog, it is understood.

The Newham Recorder was first to report that Davis will become part of the coaching set-up at Clapton, a month after departing Hackney Wick.

He spent over three years in charge of London Bari before they merged with Wick, where he lasted just three games before departing by mutual consent.

The news comes in the wake of Tons’ first team coach Ray Bartlett quitting though it’s not clear what role Davis will take up.

One source confirmed to CFC News that Davis had joined but believes that he may be working with the academy set-up.

The Tons’ management and coaching team already includes manager Jonny Fowell, assistant manager Andre Thomas and head coach Colin Reid.

Fowell declined to confirm or deny Davis’ appointment but told Clapton FC News that an official announcement will be made on the club website next week.

The news about Davis, who has a UEFA B coaching licence, was revealed in this week’s Newham Recorder East London Football Podcast.

Sports editor Matt Withers said: “In non-league circles the only thing that caught my attention is Chris Davis, who left Hackney Wick, former manager at London Bari, is now back at the Old Spotted Dog. Is he coaching for Clapton?”

Football reporter George Sessions replied: “Apparently so. There seems a lot of comings and goings at Clapton at the moment…”

“There’s not many fans going!” quipped Withers.

Sessions added: “Yes, of course. Jon Fowell brought in another coach. He already had Andre Thomas and Ray Bartlett. Obviously Ray has left.

“You now have four coaches at Clapton. The thing is, only two people are allowed to stand in the technical area anyway. So you’ve got a lot of chefs at Clapton

“Chris is a lovely guy and good coach because of what he did at London Bari. He was doing a lot better at Hackney Wick than the current guy. So I’m pleased to see him back involved.”

Last week CFC News exclusively revealed Bartlett had quit after two years at Clapton, intending to take a break from football.

However, he was immediately tempted by the challenge of becoming Essex Senior League basement club Wadham Lodge’s assistant manager.

Watch our Facebook Live interview with Bartlett after the two clubs met in the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy on Wednesday night, the Tons running out 4-0 winners.

FA VASE DRAW ANNOUNCED AS CLAPTON ENTER COMPETITION AT FIRST ROUND PROPER

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Clapton will play London Lions or Malmesbury Victoria away in the FA Vase first round after the draw was announced at 1pm today.

The tie between London Lions and Malmesbury Victoria was abandoned due to a serious injury to a player and is being replayed this week.

Clapton will take on the winner of the rearranged game on Saturday, October 21st, which means that the away league game at Redbridge scheduled for that day will unfortunately be postponed.

The winner of the tie lands £825 in prize money while the loser pockets £275.

London Lions, based at Rowley Lane, Arkley in the Barnet area, won the treble last year to clinch promotion to Spartan South Midlands, one step below Clapton in the pyramid.

Their highest ever attendance is 155 so if the tie comes off there’s a very good chance of breaking that record.

Malmesbury, a whopping two and a half hours away from East London, also play at Step 6 at the delightfully named Flying Monk Ground.

Clapton were handed a bye in the two qualifying rounds to the first round proper this season due to the club finishing in the top four last season.

The Tons were knocked out of the FA Vase in the first qualifying round in unusual circumstances last year. After a battling 0-0 draw at Hertford Town, it was found that goalkeeper Yakup Seyer’s registration had not been processed properly.

The FA ordered the replay to be played at Hertford’s Hertingfordbury Park, which saw captain Jerry Jairette forced to go in goal and despite scoring an early goal through Jamie Lyndon, the hosts won 2-1.

Watch the highlights of the first tie below.

 

ESSEX SENIOR LEAGUE ADMISSION PRICES 2017/8 SEASON – THE FULL LIST

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The turnstiles at Waltham Forest / Wadham Lodge. Prices at WF have been cut since their relegation to ESL. (Picture courtesy Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game)

How much does it cost to get into Essex Senior League games this season? You’d think it’d be simple to find out but many clubs seem to guard this information as if it were a state secret.

After a huge amount of chasing, however, we can finally bring you the full table, ranked by adult price ticket from highest (boo!) to lowest (yay!)…

Great Wakering Rovers

£9 adults
£5 concessions
Includes a programme

Wadham Lodge

£8 adults
£4 concessions

Southend Manor

£7 adults
£5 concessions
Free under 16s

Sawbridgeworth Town

£7 adults
£4 concessions

Waltham Forest

£7 adults
£4 concessions (students, unemployed, armed forces, pensioners, NHS staff)
Free under 16s

Takeley

£7 adults – includes a programme
£3 OAPs
Free under 16s

Clapton

£6.50 adults
£3 concessions (pensioners, students, unemployed, refugees)
£1 under 18s
Free under 10s
Free disabled

Clapton’s turnstiles. The ticket prices, at £6.50, are above average for the division

Basildon United

£6 adults
£5 seniors
Free under 16s

Burnham Ramblers

£6 adults
£4 concessions

Tower Hamlets

£6 adults
£3 concessions
Free under 16s

Everyone gains admission for £5 on Friday night games

Sporting Bengal United

£6 adults
£3 concessions

Enfield 1893

£6 adults
£3 concessions

Woodford Town

£6 adults
£3 concessions
£1 under 16s

Ilford

£6 adults
£3 concessions
Free under 16s

The home of two Essex Senior League clubs who charge decent prices (picture courtesy Two Men In Search Of The Beautiful Game)

 

Hullbridge Sports

£6 adults
£3 concessions
Free under 16s

Redbridge

£5 adults
£4 concessions
£2 under 16s
Free under 11s when accompanied

West Essex

£5 adults
£3 concessions
Free under 16s
Including programme

FC Romania

£5 adults
£1 under 16s

Hackney Wick

£5 adults

£3 students
Free over 60s
Free under 16s

Barkingside

£5 adults including programme
Free for kids

Stansted

£5 adults including programme
£3 concessions including programme
Free under 14s

 

Some observations

  • It was extraordinarily difficult to find the prices for many, perhaps most, clubs. If your prices aren’t on your website, Facebook or Twitter, and you don’t respond to emails or tweets, you can’t complain if you’re not attracting new or casual supporters.
  • The average price for an adult in the Essex Senior League is £6.11. However, take out the Great Wakering Rovers outlier of £9, and it’s comfortably under £6. Clapton has the seventh most expensive prices for adults though it does at least have a decent range of concessions.
  • A massive congratulations to Stansted, West Essex and Barkingside, who charge the minimum price possible set by the Essex Senior League of £5 AND throw in a free programme to boot.
  • Redbridge too should be singled out for cutting their prices to £5. Last season, their first back in the ESL following relegation, they kept prices at Isthmian levels. Happily they’ve adjusted that now.
  • The same predicament appears to have affected Great Wakering Rovers, who are charging an astonishing £9 in despite relegation. It’s a decision that’s seen active fan group Rovers Rebels first boycott their home games and now switch to following Southend Sports of the Essex Olympian League instead. A big loss to the ESL.
  • Four East London clubs are charging the minimum price of £5 – Redbridge, West Essex, Hackney Wick and Barkingside – of the six clubs in total. And nearly half of the clubs offer free entry to children, of varying age groups. So plenty of cheap football on our doorstep. Bravo.
  • One of those clubs (Hackney Wick) has publicly said it wants to charge less while another (Barkingside) offer a membership scheme as a way to knock £1 off. So hopefully the Essex Senior League will reconsider its £5 minimum charge. What purpose does it serve? We have contacted them to ask.
  • Former ESL club Haringey Borough, after promotion, now offer free season tickets to local residents and have grown a fan base accordingly. But they would presumably have to stop that if they were relegated back to the ESL.
  • The whole issue of concessions is a minefield. Most offer reduced prices to ‘senior citizens’ and ‘kids’, but unclear at what age that applies, and many others don’t specify who is covered by the word ‘concessions’. Why not just list who qualifies for concessions (Children? Disabled? Students? Unemployed? Pensioners?) to avoid embarrassment at the turnstile?
  • Please note we can’t take any responsibility for these prices being correct at the time of your visit. Clubs do change their prices during the season – such as Clapton infamously did last season.
  • Finally, just to emphasise that this list has taken HOURS of research over several weeks. If we have got something wrong, drop us an email claptonfcnews@gmail.com or tweet us and we’ll correct it. If you want to use our research in your own articles, feel free to do so but please give us a credit.

REASONS WHY CLAPTON MISSED OUT ON PROMOTION

The battered entrance to the Old Spotted Dog,  home of Clapton FC, where the charity which holds the lease has been placed in liquidation

Clapton’s chief executive put the blame squarely on the fans when he announced the club’s bid for promotion last season was being withdrawn at the last minute.

Vince McBean wrote on April 1. after the deadline to prove the club was fit for promotion had passed, to explain that the club had decided to scrap its bid anyway.

He blamed the unseemly incident at an away game at Sawbridgeworth (which ended up with a Sawbo player banned from football for life). Previously Mr McBean had warned in the Newham Recorder that stickers left by Clapton fans would bar the club from promoted.

Many Clapton fans felt guilty after being denounced twice as the reason for blocking the team’s promotion. However, Clapton FC News can reveal,…

  • None of the necessary ground improvements were made – and still haven’t been six months later
  • In fact no planning permission was lodged for those – and still hasn’t been
  • We understand FA assessors did not visit the OSD for the ground grading inspection
  • Among the problems, there is not enough seating as it stands for higher levels
  • The current dressing rooms would be too small for Step 4 football
  • The parking provision is unlikely to have been classed as “adequate”
  • There are no disabled toilets or paved walkway for those with mobility issues – though shamefully this ISN’T an FA obligation, just a recommendation
  • There are other minor additions needed, such as a working tannoy system
  • The club would have needed to fix all the above in a maximum of six days if it’s true the fans caused the promotion bid to be scrapped
  • Clapton also needed to prove it had a secure ground – but weeks earlier the same chief exec had just tried to liquidate the charity that runs the Old Spotted Dog
  • The ownership would have need to pass the Isthmian League’s ‘fit and proper’ governance test
  • And, last but not least, Barking were all but mathematically promoted at that time anyway

Want more details? Read on…

Ground improvements needed

In order to qualify for promotion, the Old Spotted Dog needs to be improved from the FA’s F grade to a minimum of the E grade.

Mr McBean, when confirming the promotion application had been submitted in December, admitted that improvements were required to bring the Old Spotted Dog up to scratch.

He wrote: “Our application for promotion is in and additional works to the ground are needed to be done by March.”

However, no work was actually done in the four months from the application being lodged, sometime before November 30th. to the deadline set by the FA of March 31st. In fact no work has yet been done, a further five months later.

On the website Non-League Matters, it was reported that Clapton had in fact withdrawn their promotion without even arranging an inspection from the FA because there was no point since no work had been undertaken.

Not enough seating

Rule 2.1 says clubs at Step 4 must have at least 150 seats, no arguments, no exceptions. The current Old Spotted Dog main stand has just 100.

So the club would have had to get planning permission and install another stand with at least 50 seats before March 31st. Neither happened.

On August 15th, five months on, a club statement admitted they were now ‘in the process of applying for planning permission to build the new seating area.’

As yet, another month on, there is no record of this planning application on the Newham Council website. We’ll let you know of developments.

Overall appearance

The first sentence of the FA guidelines states: “The ground must give an overall appearance and impression of being a football ground suitable for the National League System”.

We will leave it up to you whether, if an FA assessor had ever been invited to visit the Old Spotted Dog at the end of March, these scenes convey such an impression:

Job lot of broken urinals dumped behind the Scaffold stand

Mounds of materials around the perimeter of the pitch – more of which has since been covered in tarpaulin

Abandoned shopping trolleys and assorted odds and ends yards from the pitch

The teeth of what appears to be a broken lawnmower.

Those urinals again and more dumped unwanted goods

Abandoned table gradually being consumed by nature

A big tyre propped up

Note: Some of these hazards – present for several years – have been covered in tarpaulin in the last month after a well-shared tweet by the Clapton Ultras happily spurred the club to finally act.

Much of the fly-tipping, however, remains.

Parking

Much of the Grade E requirements are vague and open to interpretation. A case in point is the parking rule (1.6), which says provision must be “adequate”, but doesn’t put any figures on it.

However, sources tell us that in practice “adequate” means being at least able to park the opposition team coach, something which would be impossible at the moment with space around the Old Spotted Dog at a premium.

It’s possible the club could enter into an agreement with the neighbouring block of flats or the owners of the disused Old Spotted Dog pub to use their car parks on a matchday as a temporary solution.

For the Needham Market FA Cup game, the visitors used the entrance to St Bons school, 100 yards down Upton Lane, which could possibly appease the FA inspectors.

A more permanent solution would be to knock down the breakers’ yard at the entrance to the ground and use that space for parking. That would of course require further planning permission.

Dressing rooms

We’re told that the dressing rooms are much improved since they were subject to frequent complaints – this was the state of the showers a few years ago.

However, while dressing rooms at Clapton’s current level, Grade F, must be a minimum 12 square metres, to step up to Grade E that increases to 18 square metres.

While we are unclear on the size of the dressing rooms, two sources have told us they believe they are too small and would need to be expanded or replaced.

Certainly from these pictures, they look quite small…

So either the dressing rooms are deceptively large, or the club would have need to again apply and receive planning permission, and build new dressing rooms.

Disabled access and accessible toilets

Disappointingly, there are no requirements, just a ‘strong recommendation.’ The wording is: “The Football Association strongly recommends that access is provided to both a covered viewing area and toilet and refreshment facilities.”

A few seasons ago, the club started and then abruptly stopped building some accessible toilets for disabled fans. The remnants of it still exist today. No planning permission was applied for then, which maybe why the works were abandoned.

The hazards and uneven surfaces around the Old Spotted Dog make it tricky for disabled supporters.

The club would ideally need to pave the walkways, or provide a flattened unblocked route around the ground.

The uneven path around the ground, littered with hazards, that fans need to navigate at the Old Spotted Dog. A challenge for those with mobility issues.

Terracing

Rule 2.3 states that: “All terracing must be in a sound condition. Terracing that is crumbling, has grass / weeds growing through it or has broken or loose concrete will not be accepted.”

Public address system

A minor point, perhaps, but there must also be a working public address (tannoy) system.

There are some speakers around the ground to suggest there has been a tannoy system at some point, though it is unclear if the system still works. Again this would have required purchase and installation.

Security of lease

The club must demonstrate security of tenure as required by The Football Association and the league of which it is a member.

Standardised rule 2.3.2 states clubs need to prove they have a “lease for the ground that extends for a minimum of the next full playing season”.

However, with an attempt being made to liquidate the charity which holds the lease, and the ground currently being controlled by the liquidator, it is unclear whether that assurance can be given.

The Essex Senior League allowed Clapton and fellow tenants Hackney Wick to kick off the season despite the uncertainty. It’s mere speculation as to whether the Isthmian League would have taken the same decision.

The ‘fit and proper persons’ test

The club’s owners would also have needed to pass a governance test set by the Isthmian League, the Owners’ and Directors’ Test. It’s unclear who actually owns the club, though it recently referred to investors who had put money into the club, All involved would need to pass the test.

Applying to the Isthmian would also require submitting a Financial Reporting Initiative form, including full disclosure of all creditors and an approved set of audited accounts.

Timings

The application for promotion was lodged before the deadline at the end of November, giving the club until March 31st to pass the improved ground standards on top of what the team needed to do on the pitch.

In the meantime, no planning was sought or ground improvements were made, though the club states that it was “gathering as much hard-core, soil, bricks, blocks and sand as possible” in order to build a new seated stand.

No progress is claimed to have been made in any other area where the ground is lacking.

Mr McBean wrote, on April 1st, that he pulled the application after an inquiry into an incident at an away game. which took place on March 25th.

Let’s assume he concluded his investigation on the same day – tricky as Mr McBean was not there, only attending a handful of away games.

But even if his inquiry and decision did take place on the evening on March 25th, he would only have had six days to apply for and receive planning permission, built a new stand and new dressing room, fix the other requirements including parking and terracing, then finally arrange and pass a ground inspection.

Planning permission alone takes an average of eight weeks to receive. Even this would have been simply impossible in the space of a few days.

Barking nearly there

Regardless of all this, Barking at the time needed just 1 win from 4 games to clinch the title and promotion.

They achieved this at the next opportunity with a thumping 5-0 win at Burnham Ramblers, on their way to 100 points and the title.

So whether Clapton passed the ground grading, failed it or withdrew at the last minute is an irrelevance.

Only one club could get promoted, and Barking had passed the ground grading and were all but mathematically promoted.

So what happens next season?

The club has said it will apply for promotion again this season so in theory all of the issues above would need to be resolved.

However, there are suggestion that the ground rules will be relaxed for one season only as part of the restructure of the non-league pyramid.

If this is true – and the FA website has removed the Grade E details, suggesting it is – then the top two clubs in the Essex Senior League would get promoted regardless of the state of their grounds.

But whether this season or next, at some point all the issues above need to be sorted if the club wants to operate at a higher level.

Why don’t Clapton fans help?

They have, as much as possible. From turning up at the Old Spotted Dog before anyone else, forking the pitch, to never leaving a scrap of litter at a ground, home or away.

Clapton fans forking the pitch to get a game playable

Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of pounds they’ve put into the club over the years at the turnstiles themselves, as well as promoting games and making Clapton one of the most talked about non-league teams in the country.

Clapton fans would be delighted to help more. However, the club, which is legally a members club, has blocked new members from joining for at least five years. There is also a need for transparency about where the money is going.

Given the long to-do list, it is a shame that Clapton fans were blamed for the club’s lack of promotion last season.

The fact there is simply no way for fans to get involved in the club goes some way to explaining why the impasse between the supporters and the club is now so entrenched.

CLAPTON FC FIRST TEAM COACH QUITS: ‘IT WAS SUCH A HARD DECISION’

Ray Bartlett has stepped down from his role as coach at Clapton

Ray Bartlett has quit as Clapton FC’s first team coach after two years at the club.

Former Takeley coach Ray unearthed many star players for the Tons, bringing in Ryan Reed, Steven Sardinha, Jay Knight, Aundre Spencer, Quincy Egbajale, Yusuf Bello, Jay Morris, Scott Hill, Mark Kavanagh, Nick Loblack, Josh Flynn and Mustafa Kahie among others.

However, Ray is now taking time out from football, meaning the Clapton management team is a trio with Jonny Fowell as manager, Andre Thomas as assistant, and Colin Reid as head coach. 

His decision to quit adds to the dark clouds hanging over the Clapton, with the attempt by the chief executive Vince McBean to liquidate the Old Spotted Dog ground, the subsequent fans’ boycott, and a disappointing start to the season.

In a message to the squad today, seen by CFC News, Ray wrote: “Guys I just wanted to let you know that I’m taking time out of football.

“Not sure whether I’ll be back in football or not, be that at Clapton or another club.

“There’s too many problems and politics going on behind the scenes, nothing is changing and it will start effecting things on the pitch soon.

“I feel really bad leaving Dre to do this all on his own, so he needs you guys to back and support him more than ever.

“I’ll never forget what a great season we had together last year and the memories that come with that.

“Just make sure you do everything the Clapton way and give 110% for Dre and the supporters.”

Speaking about his decision to quit, Ray told CFC News: “I’m so sad to be leaving, it was such a hard decision.

“The time and effort me and Dre have put into this club over the past year and a half feels like a full-time job.”

Ray praised Clapton assistant manager Andre Thomas as ‘like a brother’, which made his decision to quit even harder.

He said: “Dre has been like a brother to me, we clicked the first time we met. I was also very close with Mike Walther and when he asked me to join I could never say no.

“Which is why it makes it very hard to leave Clapton.”

Everyone at CFC News wishes Ray well and offers thanks for his magnificent efforts at the club, including helping propel the Tons to last season’s runners-up spot.

NEEDHAM MARKET CHAIRMAN ON CLAPTON VISIT: ‘SOMETHING HAPPENED THAT I’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE’

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Needham Market chairman Mark Morsley has praised the Clapton fans for their non-stop singing from outside the ground during the recent FA Cup clash.

Members of Real Clapton FC called for a boycott of games while chief executive Vince McBean tries to liquidate the club’s historic Old Spotted Dog in the high court. The Clapton Ultras fan group are respecting the decision, meaning games are being played in front of very sparse attendances.

But around 100 Tons supporters gathered outside to watch the game over the fence and sing in support of the team in their third FA Cup tie of the season.

Vastly experienced Morsley, who moved upstairs at the end of last season after a 19-year management career, admits he’d never seen anything like it before.

Speaking on the Mid Kent Mental Isthmian Show, Morsley said: “It was quite an experience, I have to say.

“Something happened that I’ve never seen before. Basically in previous games they’ve had a lot of supporters there. They’ve had a row with the owner now and all sorts.

“I was sitting in the stands and this guy who’s been watching them 30 years, really nice fella, tells us the story about these young people.

It’s a banana skin as well. Not the greatest pitch in the world.

“We’ve been playing for 15 minutes and all this noise breaks out. I’m thinking, is it a riot or something?

“At the far end, there’s this wall, with a big fence in front, and there must have been 100 supporters popping up, climbing up and all sorts.

“And they sing the whole game. I thought, fair play to them. The owner was walking by and he was getting a bit of grief.

“This guy in the stands says he thinks there is some skulduggery going on.

“Once we got the first goal it was fairly comfortable. To be fair, when our team went off, we
won 3-0… all these lads are cheering us, clapping us and saying well played.

“They played Clacton away in the FA Cup and they brought about 150. And they had the atmosphere, no trouble, just a right good craic.”