“GUARANTEE OF GOALS”: OUR ARTICLE FOR SAWBRIDGEWORTH TOWN PROGRAMME

The Sawbridgeworth Town programme featuring an article we wrote

We wrote this piece for Sawbridgeworth Town’s match day programme on March 17th 2018, which was postponed but then played on March 20th. The home side won 4-0 as Clapton played a team full of trialists.

Good afternoon all and a big thanks to Sawbridgeworth Town for the invitation to contribute to today’s programme.

I think all Clapton supporters would agree that the spirit of friendship and cooperation extended by the majority of Essex Senior League clubs has really helped put a positive shine on what has otherwise been a gruelling season.

As an awayday, Sawbridgeworth has always been a stand out fixture for us. It’s an easy train ride up from Stratford and must be unique in its pubs to per head of the population ratio.

It’s also the sort of place that if it wasn’t for following non-league (or for those with an interest in antiques), many of us East Londoners may never have discovered.

Our hosts today might not thank us for saying this, but even with its leafy location, Crofters End definitely has a feel reminiscent of our much missed Old Spotted Dog.

That’s not to say, however, that Clapton have found this to be a home away from home, with just one league victory here in the last 5 years.

The article in the programme

Although we’ve often struggled on trips to Hertfordshire, there hasn’t been much to choose between Clapton & Sawbo in terms of league position in recent seasons.

Both clubs have been mainstays in the top half of the table, with 34 goals traded between us since 2012 – 17 apiece!

From a supporters’ point of view, it’s the guarantee of goals in a hard fought fixture that gets the blood pumping on a Saturday.

With our boycott of home matches now in its seventh month, we’ve missed our usual weekends, which makes fixtures like these all the more special.

Clapton Ultras started in 2012 and joined with existing fan group at the time, the Friends of Clapton, in trying to raise the profile of the club.

We have had some fantastic highs over this period, as our attendances went from single figures to the high hundreds, although we find ourselves now at a difficult point.

Clapton aren’t alone in going through a tough time off the field, with a number of non-league clubs from London and the South East struggling through this season.

It’s the community around non-league, however, that has shone through and has demonstrated to everyone how important it is to support each other.

We all wish Sawbridgeworth Town a good game this afternoon and the best of luck for the rest of the season. Expecting another close one.

The inexperienced line-up that played in the game at Sawbo

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CLAPTON GROUNDSHARERS HACKNEY WICK TO QUIT THE OLD SPOTTED DOG

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The Old Spotted Dog

Clapton’s ground share partners Hackney Wick have signalled their intent to move away from the Old Spotted Dog next season.

The club announced they are moving to the London Community Track Stadium, next to West Ham’s London Stadium, indicating it will be their home whatever league they are in next season.

The Wickers, who ‘merged’ with London Bari this season to move up to the Essex Senior League, are currently bottom of the table and heading for relegation to the new Step 6 League being set up for next season.

It is unclear who will be the second club to play at the athletics track, which was used as the marathon warm-up for the Olympics and has since been converted including a grass football pitch.

It is currently home to the Newham and Essex Beagles athletic club and, football wise on Saturdays. to Altis FC of the Amateur Football Combination.

However, CFC News understands that Sporting Hackney of the Middlesex League have also shown an interest in moving to the stadium.

It is not known if the ground meets current grading requirements for Step 5 or Step 6 football or if it needs work over the summer.

Sporting Hackney are one of two lower league clubs confirmed to have applied for promotion to the new Step 6 league for Essex, the other being Coggeshall United, a newly formed second team in the town, playing their first season in the Essex Border League.

It means little or nothing of Bari is left after the Hackney Wick merger, with name, management and players all gone and now vacating the Old Spotted Dog where they played since 2012.

So how will this move impact Clapton? At face value it will mean a loss of income of around £10,000 to £12,000 to the landlords, which we understand is the going rate for an ESL club groundshare agreement.

That’s where it gets confusing since the leaseholders Newham Leisure Trust. the charity which runs the Old Spotted Dog, is currently in the hands of a liquidator.

That came about because Clapton’s chief executive Vince McBean tried to put the charity (of which he was also an officer) in liquidation almost a year ago, a move blocked by fans group Real Clapton.

Confusing? Certainly. But even so, with few grounds available in East London after so many have been lost to property developers, it’s likely there will other clubs wanting to move in.

CFC News has heard whispers of at least two other clubs who would be interested in moving to the OSD.

Who they would pay rent to, or even if anyone at all will be able to play at the ground next season, will depend on what happens when the current liquidation case is finally heard in the High Court.

We contacted Clapton FC before publication to see if they wanted to comment.

CLAPTON’S SEASON ON THE PITCH SO FAR

Visiting Clapton fans at Waltham Forest, helping the home side to their highest attendance in decades

We wrote this piece on the season on the pitch so far for Waltham Forest’s brilliant match day programme on January 6th 2018. The home side won 1-0 in front of their biggest crowd in 20 years.

After finishing second last season, 2017/18 was never going to be easy for Clapton.

Missing out on promotion and without a budget, runners-up at Step 5 are always prone to seeing the talent move on.

Sure enough the Tons have had a rotating door with key players and staff moving up the leagues since the summer.

In their place we have a brand new coaching set-up, as well as countless cameos by loanees and trialists.

The squad has also endured a rotten run of serious injuries, and a goalkeeping crisis that you could describe as biblical (six goalkeepers in three games, anyone?)

And yet despite all this, the new-look team has continued to grind out results.

Having overcome some obstacles of our own, Clapton’s supporters have enjoyed some great young talent, a spot of cup heroics and a long winning run.

We have been treated to one of the league’s topscorers in the Sterling-esque Jeff Cobblah – whose 16 goals are more than any of our older fans can remember a Tons striker notching in an entire season.

And through it all, the team is still doggedly, amazingly in touch with the promotion race.

Of course, there has been plenty of drama off the field as well (just visit claptonfcnews.wordpress.com if you need more info).

But you might say that there’s been enough happening on the pitch for this preview to take a leaf out of other ESL commentators’ books/tweets/podcasts and quietly skirt around all that.

That, though, would be a disservice to one man who seems to have paid the price of a conflict not of his making.

Club captain Jerry Jairette is the only player at Clapton to pre-date the Ultras.

Or we should say he was; out of nowhere on 18 December, with Tons awaiting news of Jerry’s return from a nasty injury sustained when deputising in goal, he announced he was leaving the club after 11 and a half years.

He never made a secret of his love for the fans, and the feeling is definitely mutual.

Even throughout the tensions that flared up between the fans and the club in the last 12 months or so, Jerry managed to do right by both parties, giving his all for the shirt and the fans.

When Tons fans were controversially told not to attend two away games within a week, Jairette stood unequivocally by the supporters.

Ultimately this seems to be what led to one of the club’s most loyal servants being a put in a position where he has had to leave the club he loves.

And to be honest, we are all still a bit numb.

As sad as this outcome is, it is amazing it has taken this long for the noise off the field to affect the field of play.

Now all we can say for sure is that, players and fans alike, Clapton will still be adjusting to the post-Jerry era at Wadham Lodge today.

As the man himself says on Twitter, #wewinnsing2geva

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.

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.

SHOCK AS SECOND FORMER CLAPTON YOUTH PLAYER STABBED TO DEATH

Ambitious: Albertini Jones was setting up his own food company

Albertini Jones died aged just 21 

A second former Clapton FC youth star has been stabbed to death in the space of a few months.

Albertini Jones,  21, died in hospital on Saturday night after being stabbed in Edmonton, north London.

Albertini had played for Clapton’s under 16s and 17s youth team and also had trials with Fulham and Oxford United.

He later studied business and wanted to set up his own food company, a friend told the Evening Standard.

The current Clapton youth set-up shared some photos of promising footballer ‘Albie’ and said they were ‘heartbroken’ at the loss.

 

It comes just four months after former Tons youth player Joshua Bwalya was stabbed to death in Barking.

16-year-old Joshua, known as JB, was found stabbed to death in the street on August 2nd following reports of a disturbance after a party at a community centre in Barking.

Mdr67-17Bwalya

JB was stabbed to death in East London on August 2nd

JB played for Clapton’s youth set-up at under 14 level, but had later transferred to Barking.

A crowd of around 150 people gathered at Barking FC’s crowd for a tribute game.

We have invited Clapton FC if they would like to pay tribute to Albertini.

 

CLAPTON FANS PUZZLED OVER POSTPONEMENT

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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.