CLAPTON FC’S DODGY DOSSIER ON THEIR OWN FANS WHICH COST NON-LEAGUE CLUBS THOUSANDS

Clapton fans watch the recent away game at Southend Manor from just outside the ground

The two clubs who banned Clapton fans from their games lost a four-figure sum, our calculations reveal. But was it it all based on outdated or misleading information?

To recap, Essex Senior League side Southend Manor banned away fans and groundhoppers twice in a month, with Met Police FC doing the same for a London Senior Cup tie.

Those decisions sparked a wave of negative publicity for Southend, Met Police and Clapton, with hundreds of critical tweets posted along with articles in newspapers and magazines and on blogs and podcasts.

Met Police FC have even taken the extraordinary step of locking their tweets, so the public can no longer view them.

As well as this loss of goodwill from across the footballing world, our calculations suggest there was a big financial hit.

But what really sparked it? Here we unpick the reasons behind those bans including whether a dodgy dossier provided by Clapton FC was to blame.

Southend Manor

Southend Manor announced their two bans, for a cup and league game, were due to fear of ‘fines being invoked against the home club should any pyrotechnics/flares be let off during a game’.

Perhaps that seems understandable, since two Essex Senior League clubs have been threatened with huge fines when ‘pyro’ (coloured smoke) was used by visiting Tons fans early on this season.

It’s documented that such ‘pyro’ was used at two Clapton games in the 30 played so far this season, though never while the game was in play.

However, it should be pointed out there have been no instances of ‘pyro’ at all – before, during or after games – since early October 2017.

This is because fans elected to call a halt due to the threat of fines being levied against cash-strapped clubs. All Essex Senior League clubs were made aware of that decision – including emails to Southend Manor on more than one occasion.

Incidentally, there have been no instances of ‘pyro’ during Clapton games since September 2015, more than two years, due to the threat that refs would stop the match.

In fact, there has been more ‘pyro’ used at Essex Senior League games not involving Clapton than at those involving Clapton.

Fans of five ESL clubs – which we are choosing not to name – have used ‘pyro’ over the last two seasons alone, completely unconnected to Clapton.

We have spoken to several of these clubs privately and they have revealed they were not fined for ‘pyro’ use, It seems the fines only apply when Clapton are involved.

Regardless, Southend Manor publicly announced they feared that Clapton fans would use ‘pyro’, despite being assured by fans it wouldn’t happen.

But why? Perhaps they just didn’t trust the information provided by Clapton Ultras. Or perhaps the conflicting briefing from Clapton FC officials had more sway.

An article posted on the Clapton FC website on December 8th provides a revealing insight into what sort of misinformation the club has been feeding opposition officials.

In an extraordinary and lengthy trashing of the club’s fans, chief executive Vince McBean craftily uses a screenshot of a tweet dated Nov 16th showing ‘pyro’ after a Clapton game.

The clear implication to anyone seeing that would be that it happened a few weeks ago. The truth is this was a tweet from November 16th 2016, over a year ago.

Met Police FC

Mr McBean also admitted in a dossier on the club’s website that Met Police FC’s ban came after discussions with ‘Clapton officials’.

Mr McBean insists Met Police FC phoned him, not the other way round as we suggested in a previous article. We are happy to clarify that, though we’re unsure why that’s significant.

Sometime soon after this discussion, Met Police FC reversed their previous welcome to fans and instead issued a ban and a statement slamming the Ultras’ behaviour as ‘unacceptable’.

In Mr McBean’s article about the Clapton Ultras on his website, he highlights three instances of bad behaviour over the last five years that Met Police FC were made aware of.

Two of these instances took place at away games, where neither Mr McBean nor any other Clapton officials were present.

Two of them also involved people attending one of their first games, so it is clear Mr McBean takes no responsibility for matchday issues himself, pinning everything entirely on the ‘Clapton Ultras’.

It was also extraordinary to read Mr McBean describe the organised attack on Clapton fans by far-right hooligans hurling racist abuse as ‘fights between supporters resulting in media coverage.’

Nevertheless, while 99% of games have been incident free, it is a fact that Mr McBean did manage to dredge up three unsavoury incidents from across the last five years.

So does that mean the Met Police FC had a point not to want such incidents at their ground?

Well, maybe. But no level of football takes place without incident, there are issues every week from the Premier League down to Sunday leagues and even parents watching kids’ football.

In all those instances, the individual/s responsible for any inappropriate behaviour are dealt with. They don’t punish every single person who happens to support the same team, like in the case of Southend Manor and Met Police FC.

And while you may assume that the Essex Senior League without Clapton fans is entirely incident-free, given attendances only average around 50, already this season there has been….

* An acid attack threat – reported widely in local and national newspapers
* A ‘huge melee’ of players leading to trouble breaking out among spectators’ – reported in a newspaper
* Anti-Semitic chanting – caught on video and reported to Kick It Out
* A ‘mass ruck’ involving players and fans – reported on social media

Quite a charge sheet in the space of a few months – and nothing at all to do with Clapton Ultras.

At the exact moment we published this article, a London FA official is reporting on Twitter that an Essex Senior League club’s match is abandoned due to a spitting incident sparking a mass disturbance.

Of course these are just incidents that have become public knowledge. Many ESL games are played in front of a mere handful of people, often without a single mention on social media, so who knows what else happens away from the glare.

In contrast, tens of thousands of spectators have seen Clapton play at these hundreds of games over the five-year period, with thousands of tweets covering the fans’ every move, and with virtually no incidents.

A near miss?

A similar situation threatened to develop for the FA Vase game at London Lions in October, we can reveal.

A Clapton Ultras source tells us that the home club were ‘unbelievably welcoming from the moment the draw was made’ but suddenly became nervous the day before the fixture.

It is understood the Lions had received communication from Mr McBean, who massively exaggerated the number of travelling supporters to expect and recommended to prepare for bad behaviour.

The fearful hosts duly drafted in at least six stewards to deal with an invasion of riotous hooligans – only to relax when a fiercely noisy and colourful but brilliantly behaved group turned up.

The home club in fact went so far as to publicly praise the fans, writing: “The ‘Ultras’ did not stop singing and provided a unique element to the day.”

Would anyone have been surprised, however, if London Lions had instead banned visiting supporters based on the similar misinformation they received as Southend Manor and Met Police FC?

Counting the cost

Whatever your opinion of the reasons behind the fan bans, we believe it has cost Southend Manor alone a four-figure sum.

The last two attendances for Southend Manor v Clapton games have been 98 and 93. In contrast, this season’s attendances have been 45 and 41 – a difference of 53 and 52.

Assuming similar numbers of Tons fans had turned up this season, an extra 105 people in total paying £7 admission, and buying just one drink at the bar on average, that’s well over a grand in lost income.

On top of that, the league game saw 6 stewards patrolling the edge of the ground for at least 3 hours. There were at least 3 at the cup game the month earlier too.

At least some of them were hired SIA accredited bouncers, we have been told. That would also have cost the club hundreds of pounds extra in wages.

In the end, around 50 Clapton fans across the two games watched from just outside the perimeter fence for free anyway (and didn’t let off any ‘pyro’ or otherwise behave badly).

Likewise, Met Police FC missed out on hundreds of pounds of gate receipts and shelled out for four stewards outside their Imber Court ground to ensure no visiting fans tried to gain access.

So how much did the outdated and misleading information posted on Clapton’s website sway the opposition clubs’ decisions to ban the club’s fans?

Unfortunately we may never know as Southend Manor and Met Police have declined to reply to any of our emails.

Last month Clapton FC announced a policy not to speak to this website and have not even replied to our last seven emails requesting comment.

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CLAPTON LEGEND JAIRETTE DEPARTS UNDER A CLOUD

Jerry

Club talisman, Jerry Jairette has today astonishingly been forced out of Clapton after over ten years’ service for refusing to delete a tweet.

Jerry, who was given a testimonial match by the Tons last summer, publicly criticised two recent opponents who had banned Tons supporters from their respective grounds earlier this month.

The outspoken support for fans by the Club captain seemingly sparked a row with manager Jonny Fowell and chief executive Vince McBean, who suggested Jerry would be fined by the FA and banned for five games if he did not delete the tweet.

Jerry, who is currently injured after again playing in goal when his team found themselves without a recognised ‘keeper, declined to delete the tweet saying it was opinion, but agreed not to repeat it and to cover any fine himself that came the club’s way.

It then emerged that the punishment was being implemented by the club itself, not the FA, and the in-house five-game ban was being delayed until Jerry returned to fitness in January.

This was a particular bitter pill considering the utility man’s lay-off came after he was injured playing out of position in goal, as a favour to manager Fowell. The third time he had agreed to do so this season.

Jerry went public with the row today, announcing that ‘his time at Clapton has come to the end’ after asking to be released due to the club banning him

 

Eager to get the facts out there, Jerry took to Twitter again to publish his recent Whatsapp conversation with Jonny Fowell regarding the tweet and his future at the club.

 

 

There was a huge surge of support within minutes of Jerry’s announcement.

Former Clapton assistant manager Andre Thomas, now at Barking, backed Jerry, saying: “He would’ve never got a ‘fine’ or ban for those tweets. His opinion is his opinion and he hasn’t even mentioned a club.”

While Lizzy Matthews, another former member of the Clapton bench, commented: “As much as it angers me to see this happening that’s one loyal person away from the poison inside that club”.

A Clapton Ultras statement said: “We are stunned that McBean’s Clapton have forced out club captain and loyal servant, Jerry Jairette, after he tweeted his dismay with the recent bans imposed on Clapton supporters. This is a new low for this regime.

“We believe these bans on us are hostile and utterly without basis. That McBean’s regime has now made players (and one of its most loyal ever) pay for their sorry approach to running our football club is beyond the pale.”

Clapton FC News contacted the club for comment. They have yet to reply in keeping with their policy not to speak to us. There has also been no social media response or post on their website at the loss of the loyal club captain.

Fowell said he was unable to comment and also declined an opportunity to pay tribute to the departing club hero.

CLAPTON FANS PUZZLED OVER POSTPONEMENT

pitch2

The pitch photographed at 4pm on Friday. A few hours’ later the Takeley game was postponed 20 hours in advance

Clapton fans were left puzzled after the club postponed Saturday’s game a full 20 hours in advance – despite the pitch seemingly in excellent condition.

We took these pics at 4pm on Friday, and reported that the pitch looked in tiptop condition for the clash with promotion-chasing Takeley.

pitch

The pitch looked fine – albeit from a distance

However, just a few hours later, Clapton FC announced that the game was off due to a ‘waterlogged pitch’.

Since our photos were taken from outside the Old Spotted Dog, we at first thought perhaps there was water hidden among the long grass that we couldn’t see from a distance.

But the plot thickened as the  next morning, the club had changed their mind, saying it had been a ‘frozen pitch’.

To call off a game 20 hours in advance for a frozen pitch, when the forecast was a mild Friday night and a sunny Saturday day, seems curious.

In years gone by, the Tons struggled with multiple postponements each winter.

However, the pitch has been massively improved over last few seasons, and this turned out to be the first postponed Tons home game for over three years.

We asked Clapton FC for comment but they have not responded, in line with their policy not to speak to us.

CLAPTON FC FIXTURE UPDATE – CUTTING THROUGH THE CONFUSION

Supporters of top football clubs rightly get angry when games are switched for TV, sometimes with just weeks notice. However, at non-league level the situation can be, amazingly, even worse for fans.

Clapton FC had three games scheduled this week but with just a few days to go, all official sources had conflicting information on the dates, times, venues – or even if the games were happening at all.

Of the three opponents, two don’t have working websites and the other had no listing for the game. Clapton FC’s website, it turned out, had the wrong information for all three games.

Numerous attempts to get accurate information from the clubs went unanswered. However, thanks to a series of emails from the Essex Senior League we’ve finally received some official confirmation.

BASILDON UNITED (HOME)

The FA Full Time website had Clapton listed as playing Basildon United in the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy on Tuesday, December 6.

Manager Jonny Fowell even gave a full-page interview in this week’s Newham Recorder previewing the cup game against the high-flying Bees.

Confusingly, however, the Clapton FC website did not carry any mention of the game, and Basildon United do not have a website.

However, we can now confirm the tie has been postponed. Indeed it has already been rearranged for Tuesday, January 16th 2018.

MET POLICE FC (AWAY)

The situation over the London Senior Cup tie at Isthmian League Premier side Met Police FC was even more confusing.

The Clapton FC website had claimed the game was on Tuesday, December 5th. The FA Full Time website still claims it is taking place at AFC Wimbledon’s Kingsmeadow ground.

We can confirm, however, that the fixture is taking place on Wednesday, December 6th at Met Police FC’s Imber Court, kick-off 7.45pm.

However, two days before the game, Met Police FC have now said that away fans are NOT welcome. A Met club official said this was at the request of Clapton FC officials in collaboration with Metropolitan Police officers.

The Clapton Ultras blog has more details on this extraordinary decision. It is as yet unclear how this fan ban is going to be imposed.

SOUTHEND MANOR (AWAY)

Clapton’s next league game, away at Southend Manor, was listed on the Clapton website as having been switched to Old Spotted Dog with a 3.45pm kick-off. Southend Manor don’t have a functioning website this season.

However, we can confirmed the kick-off is a more traditional 3pm kick-off and it is still taking place at Southend Manor’s Southchurch Park.

FIXTURE LIST RECAP

As you can see, the Clapton FC website can’t be trusted with fixtures. Several fans have gone to the wrong venue on the basis of their duff information.
So where best for fixtures? CFC News has a fixture list here – but in fairness the Clapton Ultras’ website’s fixture list is the most reliable of all.
To recap, however, these are the fixtures for the rest of 2017…
  • 06/12 7.45pm Met Police v Clapton (London Senior Cup)
  • 09/12 3.00pm Southend Manor v Clapton
  • 16/12 3.00pm Clapton v Takeley
  • 23/12 3.00pm West Essex v Clapton
NOTE: We tweeted and emailed Clapton FC on numerous occasions regarding the fixtures and they did not reply – in line with their official policy not to communicate with us. However, they did correct the three inaccurate fixtures on their website on Friday in response, for which we are thankful.

WHAT VALUE FANS?

It was the immortal Jock Stein who famously said “football without fans is nothing”.

For many clubs in non-league though, football struggles on largely through its volunteers, with those giving their free time to a local club often outnumbering supporters in the stands.

A good set of dedicated volunteers backed by a healthy number of regular fans is the undoubted golden ratio for any aspiring non-league club.

In the fist half of its 140 year history, Clapton were no stranger to pulling in regular four-figure crowds and even the occasional five-figure. The Forest Gate side was once a prominent name in East London football, safely alongside its local professional counterparts.

Sadly though, as the club’s star fell over the years, along with the overall renown of amateur football, numbers through the turnstiles at The Dog started to fall off. Clapton appeared to be a club standing still as the game and the wider community changed around it.

Without ceremony, The Tons exited the Isthmian League after 100 years in 2006, with attendances mirroring the club’s fallen status – at an all time low. The reshuffle downwards might have felt unkind, but was perhaps not wholly unfair.

Clapton finished third bottom in their inaugural season in the Essex Senior League – 06/07, disappointingly consistent with their league form in the Isthmian since the Millennium.

Notably, during the McBean era, Clapton had only managed to escape a bottom-three finish twice between 2000/01 – 2012/13.

Attendance figures during this period also make for depressing statistics. Clapton recorded an average home attendance of just 31 in 2006/07, and that was with relatively well followed Romford, Brentwood Town and Concord Rangers in the division.

By 2011/12 Clapton had notched a further five bottom-three league placements, while numbers of spectators had fallen to an average of just 20 per game. During that whole season just 274 bodies in total passed through the gates at the Old Spotted Dog.

The following campaign, however, saw a sudden upswing in spectator numbers. In October 2012, the Clapton Ultras formed, with a key aim to raise attendances for the beleaguered Tons.

The Ultras’ efforts soon paid dividends.

By the end of 2013/14, Clapton recorded a crowd of 245 for a single match, at home to FC Romania; a figure nearly as many as the total number of attendees for the season just two years previous.

This massive increase in people through the turnstiles immediately corresponded with an improvement on the pitch, with 10th place that season Clapton’s first top half finish in 11 years.

After a decade of decline, Clapton suddenly became a decent performing team with crowds the envy of every club in the Essex Senior, and many others in divisions above.

By April 2015, Clapton averaged a gate of 183 per game, topping out with a crowd of 519. This while the team saw themselves to a consecutive top half finish and two cup finals. The reciprocal statistics between attendances and success on the pitch continued to climb together.

However, this turnaround in fortunes did not coincide with renewed investment. Despite Clapton having stumbled on a sizeable new source of revenue, the club did not provide its then manager, Mike Walther, with a playing budget or even players with travel expenses for away matches.

Despite regularly losing members of the squad to Isthmian and other ESL clubs willing to provide expenses, the team continued to improve year on year and this was reflected in The Tons’ ever growing home support.

A steady climb in the league table to 7th by the end of 2015/16 and a first trophy bagged since 1989, was witnessed by 6,017 recorded home supporters over the course of the season.

The same season, Clapton also reported the second-highest ever attendance in the history of the Essex Senior League; a 3 – 3 draw with historic rivals Ilford drew a crowd of 761 in October 2015.

The club hierarchy, however, still appeared reluctant to match the energy and commitment of Clapton players and their supporters, and that season made the extraordinary decision to cut back expenses by axing its reserve and youth teams.

Although not much had changed at the Spotted Dog operationally since 2011/12, a good team playing in front of full stands managed to preserve Clapton’s rejuvenated appeal.

The following season, Clapton’s home gate increased again, averaging 335 per game. Amazingly, this statistic survived a 6-week long walkout by supporters, after an unannounced increase to the price of entry, which brought home attendances crashing down to single figures.

An early season change in manager and an overhaul in the team also couldn’t derail The Tons’ growing stature on the pitch. Clapton’s first title challenge in 3 decades fell just short, with a highly respectable 92 points registered by the end of 2016/17.

Numbers paying in through the turnstiles at the Old Spotted Dog this season have since fallen back to pre-Ultras low double and single figures. This is due to a response by Clapton supporters to the Club Chief Exec placing the ground into voluntary liquidation.

The fear among fans is that cash taken at home matches could be used to fund the legal case to push the liquidation process through to completion.

However, with away attendances involving Tons fans this season having already broken two club records, it appears the strong support for the team has not diminished.

The hard work from Clapton’s players and coaches has seen them maintain the high standards set over the last few years, even after the loss of a number of key individuals in recent months.

The story of Clapton’s decade-long stagnation, fall and sudden rise reveals through its mirroring statistics the value of supporters to non-league football clubs.

Although Clapton supporters’ cash fails in most part to reach the team, the energy and support from the stands appears itself to be a tangible commodity in helping players get results on the pitch.

It seems Big Jock was right.

GEOFF

DON’T MENTION THE L WORD: THE QUESTIONS FROM CLAPTON FANS THE CLUB HAVE DECLINED TO ANSWER

Container inside the Old Spotted Dog

In early September, Clapton FC’s website launched a section called Tons Make Clear, pledging to answer fans’ questions about the current situation on ownership and the supporters’ boycott.

Thousands of words were posted, but one word was curiously absent – ‘liquidation.’ The whole reason that the fans group Real Clapton called for a boycott was because the chief exec of Clapton FC is trying to put the charity running the Old Spotted Dog into voluntary liquidation, putting the club’s historic home in huge peril. Yet this potential catastrophe wasn’t deemed worth a mention.

The section did encourage people to send in their own questions which the club would then answer, so we asked worried Clapton fans what they were concerned about and compiled a list. We submitted those questions by Twitter direct message seven weeks ago, by Facebook five weeks ago then via an online contact form four weeks ago.

In an exchange of emails over the last month, the club have acknowledged receipt and insisted they will answer our questions but have said they have been “too busy” so far. They have also yet to reply to several emails asking for a timescale as to when they may be able to answer any or all of the questions.

It may be the club never answer our questions, or they may be minutes away from posting a full and detailed response online, in which this article is fairly redundant. But for the record, and in case it helps push the process along, here are the questions we posed on behalf of committed Clapton supporters.

The questions the club have declined to answer

Who controls the ground at the moment – the liquidator or yourselves?

How long will the ground be in liquidation for? Is there any end in sight to the court case?

The Charity allegedly has over £200,000 debts, according to your court documents. How has that been accrued, who is it owed to, and will the charity be able to pay that debt back?

Were you pleased that the Clapton fans successfully secured Asset of Community Value on the ground from Newham Council recently to give it some protection from being sold?

What are the targets for the team this season? Is promotion an aim?

What ground improvements need to be completed to meet Isthmian League grading? What is the timescale for putting in planning permission?

Have the enforcement notices on the ground served by Newham Council regarding safety and planning dealt with?

Clapton Football Club is a members club but membership has been closed for restructuring for at least four years. When will it reopen?

How many members of Clapton FC are there? Are the Life Members still members of Clapton Football Club?

What do you like and dislike about the Clapton Ultras? What can and should they do to become the ‘real fans’ you speak about on the website?

Note: we have not included some questions that are no longer valid, including about the coaching set-up which has changed four times since we first submitted the questions.

We will update this article when, or if, our questions are answered.

ANDRE THOMAS PICKS HIS CLAPTON XI AS TONS LEGEND PAYS EMOTIONAL FAREWELL

Andre Thomas said farewell to the Clapton fans on an emotional night at the Mile End Stadium.

He’s been coach, he’s been assistant manager, he’s been caretaker manager, but for one night only Andre also became the Ultras’ capo, leading some of the songs himself.

On the pitch, the Tons bounced back from going 1-0 down to a Sporting Bengal side who often prove to be a thorn in our side.

Ryan Reed scored the first two, including the pearler of a free-kick below, before Jeffrey Cobblah sealed the points with perhaps an even lovelier run and shot.

So club legend Andre departed with a 3-1 win, leaving the Tons in sixth place, and in the celebrations afterwards he turned the tables by singing one of the Ultras’ songs back at them.

We couldn’t let him leave us without asking him to compile his best ever Clapton XI from his two years at the club.

So, as Andre jumps on the District Line to Upney, to take up the assistant manager’s job with ambitious Bostik League side Barking, here’s his team in a 3-4-1-2 formation.

Goalkeeper

It’s a position that we have always had issues filling after Pape Diagne.

As you know, “there’s only one king Pepe, he keeps the ball out the netty,” but recently we’ve been blessed with the talents of Richie Robins, Emmanuel Olajide, Ignas Budvytis and Mark Kavanagh.

Even when Pape was around we had Alex Biddle and Yakup Seyer who also make credible bids.

However the keeper I’m going to go with is a leader, who talks as much as me, has great reactions, good feet, great kicking and in my opinion is a complete GK who is always trying to get better.

My goalkeeper is Emmanuel Olajide.

Right-sided centre-back

In a back three I’ve gone for someone who’s comfortable playing in a few positions just in case we need to change it during the game.

There’s other natural centre-backs I could have gone with but I know that this guy would give me his all then go get some from the opposition and then give me that too.

He’ll probably complain about playing here telling me this isn’t his position but he’ll stop sulking as soon as the whistle has blown and probably end up getting the Man of The Match Award.

It was a flip of the coin between he and Lanre Vigo but my right-sided centre-back is Kristian Haighton.

Centre back

So many names come to mind. I think of Euan Taylor-Reid, the cup final penalty specialist; Idu Bogdan, who is as hard as a rock; Pete Moore, the coach on the pitch who always talks; Quincy Egbejale, legs long enough to cover the back four; Eamon Payne, goalscoring centre-back; Jamie Lyndon, Mr No Nonsense.

There’s also Zach Miller, Jesse Mckenzie, Nick Loblack, Hussain Jaffa and even Freddie Morris who wouldn’t wanna play there but could.

However, I’ve gone with a centre back who is strong, fast, aggressive, technically sound, understands what I require and he’s a funny guy.

Great character in the dressing room, always has his teammates backs and is the first one swinging his handbag. I’m going with Dylan Ebengo.

Left-sided centre-back

As I said earlier, in a back three I’ve gone for someone who’s comfortable playing in a few positions just in case we need to change it during the game.

On this side I’ve gone with a player who I feel can play this position as I’ve simply not seen a man take him on one-on-one and beat him. That will always give the team confidence.

Again Pete Moore, Francis Best-Ebanks and Yusuf Bello make solid claims as they’re all naturally left footed, strong and good defenders.

However, I’ve gone with the super impressive, super hero Tayo Awoderu. He’ll have to come training though, lol.

Central midfielders x 2

I think the two midfield positions, along with the two forwards, will be the hardest decision.
With the options available to me, it’s very difficult.

Steven Sardinha, Freddie Morris, Bradley Joseph, Paul Oshin, Geoff Ocran, Paul Barry, Reece Hewitt, Louis Rene, Scott Hill, Siao Blackwood and JoJo DeGraft are a few of the many midfield generals I’ve worked with, all packed with experience, quality, pace, power, packed with lungs of a V8 engine, skill, trickery, goals and unreal technique.

The only reason I’ve selected these two to be the midfielders holding for me is because they’ve got everything I’ve listed above and they both ‘get it’. I’m not saying the rest don’t because they definitely do.

The reason they do is because of the levels these two midfielders have set.
When the going gets tough I want someone who’ll put their body on the line, even if it means broken limbs.

In addition to that if we need a 90th minute goal and we have a free kick I wanna make sure he’s on them.

The two midfielders I’ve gone with are the Clapton legends Jerry Jairette and James Briggs.

Left-wing (back)

This player has improved so so much, was under the radar.

He dedicated himself to his craft and got fit and then caused havoc for opposition full backs.

He’s got two great feet, skills in abundance, great first touch and beautiful hair.

Another set piece specialist with the world going crazy for Messi and CR7, I’m glad to have RR7.

To play on the left wing is Ryan Reed.

Centre attacking midfield

Again many, many players who can play in this role. Raphael Duyile who is technically sublime as well as very versatile and intelligent was also an option.

So was Tom ‘goal machine’ Webb and even Stefan Nielsen.

But it’s got to go to a player that had Tons from the 2014-15 season in awe.

I won’t ever forget my first pre-season game when we played a Harold Hill XI and he had never played with these guys.

He had never played any level higher than this one and was playing with the likes of Billy Wise (who actually ran this guy very close for the vote), James Briggs, Shomari Barnwell, Troy Ricketts and JoJo Degraft yet looked superb, like he had been there for years and knew how to create magic.

Funnily enough he has now been here for 3 seasons and he does know how to create magic. He gets it from his hat.

Playing in the CAM role is Nathan Cook.

Right-wing (back)

Khadz Campbell, Aundre Spencer, Johnny Ashman, Raphael Duyile, Paul Barry and Jeffrey Cobblah. Players that come to mind when I think of stars that can play on that right hand side.

I’ve gone with a guy whose name rings bells but only rang the bells of his college colleagues before this.

He came to the club and played over 40 games in his first season only being on the bench once and this was due to his quality on the pitch, his attitude and attendance to training and the game, his hunger to fight off all that tried to take his spot and he’s done it once more.

To play on the right is none other than Johnny Ashman.

Centre forwards x 2

Clapton have been blessed with tremendous forwards and I’ve been lucky to work with the likes of Fahad Nyanja, Warren Mfula, Jay Knight, Ike Nzurba, Miles Hunter, Roddy Lemba, Sherwin Stanley, Tony Cookey and Ajani Domingo-Carrington to name a few.

However, I’ve gone with one of the most natural finishers I’ve worked with.

Top top forwards score with both feet and their head, this guy is able to do that and also score with his junk.

One of my two centre forwards is Jay Knight.

The reason I’ve selected the second guy is because for me he epitomises what a striker should be for me.

Hard-working, relentless, gives 100% effort for his team and the shirt he wears.

He’s a nightmare when you’re against him but a dream when he’s on your team.

I’ve seen him get into the heads of opposition players warming up on the side, he already gains the edge on them before they even get subbed on.

I call him my Non-League Diego Costa.

My forward to join Jay is none other than Mr Warren Mfula.