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

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BARKING SWOOP FOR TONS STARS REED AND OLAJIDE

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Ryan Reed with the runners-up shield and an award from the fans after last season’s performances

Barking have swooped for two of Clapton’s star players Ryan Reed and Eman Olajide just weeks after coach Andre Thomas switched to the Bostik North side.

Reed scored two, including a 25-yard wonder strike, last night to help the Tons win 3-2 at Barkingside and sign off in style.

Watch it from two angles here:

 

Reed later posted a farewell message to fans on Twitter, saying: “I’d just like too say thank you too every Clapton fan that has come to watch us boys last season and this season, Playing in front of a crowd has been a joy. Thanks guys #COYTons!!”

 

Winger Reed grabbed seven goals and 18 assists last season and was on course to do even better this season with nine goals and six assists already.

He is still registered with the Tons as well so it’s always possible that we could see him back at the Tons – as with Johnny Ashman’s surprise two-game return earlier this season.

However, it feels like he will go straight into the Barking team with the club official Twitter and first team coach Kiers Hughes-Mason both quick to welcome him to Mayesbrook Park.

 

 

Olajide meanwhile joined Barking on an emergency loan last week after an injury to their regular keeper Ollie Bowles and kept a clean sheet on his debut on Tuesday and again on Saturday.

Olajide is also still registered with the Tons although it’s understood it was agreed between the clubs he would not play on Friday night to keep him fresh for Barking.

It’s possible he will play for the Tons again when Bowles recovers from injury – though he may have become first choice by then.

Manager Jonny Fowell said of the departing players: “There two fantastic boys who really want to learn and play as high as they can.

“Just very surprised why other clubs didn’t take them but @barkingfc have them so well done and good luck.”

As well as Andre Thomas, Reed and Olajide join former Tons favourites, striker Jay Knight and defender Hussain Jaffa, at Barking.

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.

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…

 

EXTRAORDINARY SCENES BUT CLAPTON CAN’T DENT TAKELEY’S 100% RECORD

Linesman is held back by Takeley players after a flashpoint with the Clapton bench

Three red cards, two goals and one linesman being restrained – Clapton’s defeat at unbeaten Takeley was certainly packed with incident.

There were debuts for Wilkinson Boateng – our fifth different goalkeeper already this season – and experienced midfielder Lee Flavin as well as a first league start for midfielder Andy Greenslade.

Greenslade and Boateng, along with fellow new recruit Hassan Nalbani, are all former Hackney Wick players seemingly brought to the club by their former manager Chris Davis, who has recently joined Clapton’s ever-expanding coaching set-up.

The most eye-catching team news, however, was that last season’s player of the year, Johnny Ashman, was making his first appearance of the season. Johnny is dual registered between Cheshunt and Clapton but this was the first time he wasn’t needed for the Step 4 side.

A promising first half saw the Tons matching Takeley and Ashman making things tick, slotting back in as if he’d never been away.

Then with virtually the last move of the half, Takeley slung a free-kick to the back post and huge striker Stuart Zanone was lurking unmarked to head home.

As the players trudged off on the whistle, manager Jonny Fowell collared the officials, insisting that the free-kick should never have been awarded in the first.

The goal itself was captured on video below:

In the second half, Fowell was forced to watch from the main stand rather than the dugout apparently after being shown a red card for dissent at some stage.

Takeley sat back and protected their lead in the second half, allowing Clapton to press. Early on a glorious header was pushed just over the bar as the visiting Tons sensed an equaliser.

However, within minutes Takeley swept up the other end on a counter-attack, and a good ball threaded through to Mitchell Das was finished from close range.

Game over, essentially, though it became increasingly tetchy, with Takeley getting five yellow cards of their own. And then it boiled up into the extraordinary moment when a linesman had to be dragged away from an altercation.

In the last minutes Clapton centre-half Dylan Ebengo was sent off after a second yellow card. Our understanding is that subbed-off Aundre Spencer threw a water bottle against the dugout in frustration. Here some people claim the water squirted out and went on to or near to the linesman. Others claim the bottle itself bounced in his direction.

Whichever version is correct, it led to the young lino dashing over and standing eyeball-to-eyeball to Spencer. Several Takeley players stepped in to pull him away.

Spencer was shown the red card, the linesman calmed down and the last few moments ticked down without incident.

Match reports

Just a short report in the Newham Recorder for this one.

Reaction

Clapton FC News spoke to assistant manager Andre Thomas and midfielder Johnny Ashman straight after the game

Manager Jonny Fowell gave his reaction to Jacob Ranson of the Newham Recorder later.

Meanwhile captain Lanre Vigo – stepping in for the injured Jerry Jairette – spoke of his pride.

CFC News man of the match: Johnny Ashman.

Attendance: 145.

CLAPTON BLITZ WADHAM LODGE AWAY – VIDEO, PHOTOS, REACTION

Wadham Lodge 0 Clapton 4

Wadham Lodge vs Clapton FC #nonleague #vscofootball #e17 #claptonfc #claptonultras

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The Tons sauntered to a routine 4-0 away win against a new-look Wadham Lodge in the Errington Cup in torrential conditions up in Walthamstow.

Two first-half goals for Aundre Spencer were followed up with strikes from Hassan Nalbani and Jeffrey Cobblah after the interval.

Debutant Andy Greenslade in midfield caught the eye. Relished the flat, zippy pitch and had a Nathan Cook-style presence

It was the first game the Clapton Ultras had attended (inside the ground at least) for over a month after a run of five straight home games. So it made the fans even noisier and the celebrations even sweeter.

The Tons will play Basildon United at home in the next round. Date to be announced.

Match reports

The brilliant non-league blogger known as ‘the Cold End’ was there and wrote that “Wadham had a decent spell during the second half playing some good football but never really created any clear cut goal scoring opportunities.”

On the bond between Clapton players and Ultras, he added: “it really is something that just can’t be replicated further up the football pyramid. ”

Groundhopper Louis Maughan also wrote of his experience at the game, singling out one player for special praise: “Powerful number 9, Hassan Nalbani, in particular was a constant threat.”

Video and photos

The Cold End also uploaded a highlights package of the game – though only managed to catch two of the four goals due to the distraction of rain and the Ultras.

 

#claptonfc #vscofootball #vscosoccer #nonleague #essexseniorleague

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#claptonfc #nonleague #essexseniorleague #vscofootball #vscosoccer

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Wadham Lodge vs Clapton FC #nonleaguefootball #nonleague #claptonfc

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Wadham Lodge vs Clapton FC #nonleague #vscofootball #claptonfc #e17

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#claptonultras #claptonfc #ultras #claptonaway #groundhopping #thechickenbaltichronicles

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Reaction

After the game, we caught up with ex-Tons coach Ray Bartlett, who had just left Clapton and straight away been offered as job as assistant at Wadham Lodge.

He hadn’t started working with them yet but saw some grounds for optimism. He also went into more detail on his departure from Clapton.

Several other players tweeted their reaction after the game..

 

CFC News man of the match: Andrew Greenslade.

Attendance: 133.