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 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 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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


Metropolitan Police FC’s last-gasp ban on Clapton fans going to last night’s London Senior Cup tie sparked a wave of criticism far and wide.

In a statement, posted just before midnight less than two days before the game, The Met said that Clapton ‘suffers’ from having a fanbase who are ‘unacceptable’.

On Friday, Met Police FC had sent match information for Clapton fans travelling to the game. Just days later, they had changed their minds, revealing that came after ‘lengthy talks with Clapton’s officials’.

A strange move, for any club to brief against their own fanbase to ensure they can’t go to a game. Stranger still when Clapton officials have posted two anonymous ‘true supporter’ letters recently trying to appeal to fans to end their home game boycott.

Met Police FC declined repeated attempts to explain their reasons beyond their short statement, or even answer practical questions. However, Clapton chief executive Vince McBean suggested to a journalist the ban came after he discussed historic use of ‘pyro’ with them.

For background, there were two instances of ‘pyro’ at Clapton games early this season, out of 30 games so far. There have been no instances since early October, as fans elected to call a halt due to the threat of fines being levied against clubs.

Fan groups the Clapton Ultras and Real Clapton have both issued statements, with the clear suggestion that Mr McBean pushed for the ban in retaliation for fans blocking his attempt to liquidate the charity which runs the historic Old Spotted Dog ground (a case which is still ongoing in the High Court).

Whatever the reason, the police’s ‘presumption of guilt’ fan ban sparked an online backlash, with everyone from the Football Supporters Federation, to former Wales international goalkeeper Neville Southall, to Stand magazine, and even the UK’s deputy high commissioner in Hyderabad, India, wading in.

Clubs in the Essex Senior League and beyond who have hosted Clapton have also publicly stuck up for the fans, including Redbridge, Barkingside, FC Romania, Ilford, Sporting Bengal, Hullbridge Sports, Waltham Forest, West Essex and Welwyn Garden City.

In fact even the Met Police’s own manager Jim Cooper seemed to question the club’s decision, liking a tweet that said “Oh Met… you got this one badly wrong… Nothing wrong with the ‘Ultras’ at all! Sad” and followed it up with the cryptic message “#baffled’.

And Met Police FC’s own matchday programme – presumably printed before Monday’s decision – welcomed the Ultras and praised the atmosphere they create.

Other observers noted the social activities that the Clapton Ultras are involved in, including in the last few weeks organising foodbank collection, helping a soup kitchen, promoting and attending fundraising games for Waltham Forest, and arranging Christmas toy collection for kids who go without. Is that really ‘unacceptable’?

Some also pointed out that Clapton fans traditionally clean the terraces of every ground they visit, and sportingly applaud and cheer the opposition players at the end of every game. And others suggested there was an irony that a club called Met Police felt they were unable to police a low-profile cup game and had acted on poor intelligence.

The club originally consisted of serving police officers, but this rule was removed when the commissioner refused to sanction time off for the team and it has not had a serving officer play since 2011.

In the end, Met Police FC drafted in four stewards outside their Imber Court in East Molesey to prevent any travelling fans from entering the ground. A group of Clapton fans did make the two-hour journey from East London to sing their support from outside, but did not attempt to gain entry.

Metropolitan Police FC, who as a Bostik League side regularly host clubs with large fanbases such as Dulwich Hamlet and Wealdstone, eventually ran out 3-1 winners.

Pics on social media suggested the crowd barely reached double figures – it was eventually declared at 28.

But what was the ban really all about? We asked all the main bodies involved for their take in the last few days. Here’s what we found out.

Metropolitan Police FC

We made repeated attempts to find out some important logistical questions in the wake of the ban announcement, namely

  • Are you sticking by the decision to ban away fans?
  • How will you be enforcing the away fan ban?
  • What was the ‘unacceptable’ behaviour that prompted the action to be taken?

We did not receive a reply at all.

The only statement from the club remains the initial ban announcement from club chairman Des Flanders from Monday slamming the Ultras on the basis of information given by Clapton FC’s owners.

Mr Flanders said: “Following lengthy discussions with Clapton Football Club Officials and information received through Football Intelligence sources it has been decided that away fans will not be permitted entry to this game.

“Sadly for Clapton, they suffer from a group of ‘supporters’ who refer to themselves as Ultras and have established a pattern of unacceptable behaviour when visiting grounds for away matches in which Clapton are involved.”

Since Monday they have maintained complete silence, on social media and in response to emails. Even the score hasn’t been mentioned.

Clapton FC

We asked three questions…

  • Is it correct that Clapton officials put pressure on Met Police FC to ban away fans, as their club statement suggests?
  • What did Clapton officials say to Met Police FC to make them change their minds about welcoming fans (on Friday to banning them (on Monday)?
  • Do you want fans to come back to the club (as the recent anonymous ‘fan’ letters on the website suggest) or do you find them ‘unacceptable’?

The club did not reply, in line with their policy not to communicate with this website.

However, Vince McBean did give quotes to reporter Chris Dyer chasing the story for news agency SWNS.

In that, Mr McBean astonishingly claimed ‘30 flares’ were let off in a game – they were actually Diwali night sparklers at Sporting Bengal’s game against the Tons.

Mr McBean’s quotes in full said: “There is an element of our fans that let off a lot of flares.

“We get fined £250 each time that happens and even if it’s the away fans the home side still get fined. We just can’t afford that level of fine.

“We have been fined already for their actions for ‘failing to control our supporters and officials’.

“Club’s like the Met don’t have the resources to constantly watch the crowd – although they are called the police they are not actually the police.

“Our fans are boycotting our ground, so they all go to away games. Thirty flares were let off at one away game.

“The FA get involved, the county get involved, the league get involved and people say what the Hell is happening? They are all fed up.

“Fans have got to look to behave themselves and just deal with football issues and not getting involved in other things.

“We are about football not politics. I would like to see fans stick to football matters.

“The fans are at the heart of a club and we rely on them so much, but unless they are supporting the club you have a problem.”

Metropolitan Police

A spokesman told CFC News: “Thanks for offering us the opportunity to comment but we won’t be adding anything to the club’s statement.”

Clapton players

Club captain Jerry Jairette tweeted: “Starting to really hate these people behind the scenes of clubs who have power to ban fans.

“Football is for everyone whether watching playing or dealing with the logistics. You are part of what’s wrong with the modern game. No good…. #footballisforeveryone #footballforall”

A message from another player said: “I just want to let you know we the players really feel for you guys and we are so sad about this outrageous situation, honestly you guys deserve better and I really hope it won’t be too late when they realise your importance. I will make sure the boys put in a performance.”

Clapton Ultras

A statement was posted on the Ultras’ blog as news of the ban first emerged, which concluded: “The current regime under Vincent McBean is showing once again that he is at war with Clapton’s fans.

“His lurid allegations against us led to a similar ban by Southend Manor this season but numerous other Essex Senior League clubs have had nothing but praise for our conduct and behaviour.

“McBean, however, is more concerned with driving supporters away. He is desperately trying to turn back the clock five years to a time when attendances were barely in double figures, when there was no public scrutiny of his financial irregularities and nobody challenging his mismanagement of the club.

“Clapton’s opponents on Wednesday appear to have bought into McBean’s bullshit. In some ways, this isn’t really a surprise.

“Using poorly fabricated but otherwise convenient evidence is, after all, something of a speciality for the Metropolitan Police.”

Read their statement in full here.

Real Clapton FC

The members’ club which has blocked the attempted liquidation of Clapton’s ground also suggested the move was part of the general battle between Clapton officials and fans.

A statement issued on Wednesday said: “It speaks volumes that ‘Clapton Football Club Officials’ have been consulted on, and presumably supported, this decision.

“We believe that these unnamed ‘officials’ are demonising Clapton Ultras and other Clapton supporters over their support for our boycott of home games at The Old Spotted Dog.

“This boycott is the fans’ response to the shocking decision by the same ‘officials’ to force Newham Community Leisure Trust, the charity that controls the ground, into voluntary liquidation in order to try and avoid an investigation by the Charity Commission.

“A High Court injunction obtained by us is still in place and we understand publication of the Charity Commission’s investigation report is now imminent.

“We support, appreciate and encourage the efforts of Clapton Ultras to both support the team and organise community projects including collecting donations for food banks and supporting local causes and charities.

“Their stance against racism, homophobia, sexism and fascism should also be applauded, not demonised.

“This certainly doesn’t strike us as ‘unacceptable behaviour’.”

Read their statement in full here.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.