FANS’ FAVOURITE KRISTIAN HAIGHTON REVEALS WHY HE’S LEFT CLAPTON

Fans’ favourite Kristian Haighton announced this week that he was leaving Clapton after two seasons.

The utility man posted a Twitter message about the ‘hard decision’ he’d made while praising some ‘great people’ and ‘incredible fans’ at the club.

He arrived at Clapton the beginning of 2015/6 from the Swedish third division and quickly formed a reputation with the Tons as a solid and classy operator across the defence or midfield

Having been one of the most consistent picks in the last two years, even captaining the side many times, Haighton had been in and out of the side this time round.

So we asked him if lack of playing time was the reason why he was leaving the Tons.

Haighton told CFC News: “No, I’m not moving on due to lack of appearances. The lack of playing recently was due to myself and my availability.

“I’ve been looking to move back home to Felixstowe and commute into London for work therefore journey times etc wouldn’t be ideal for Saturday fixtures.

“Also, last season we finished second which was amazing! Obviously all the boys want to push and play for promotion but unfortunately due to the standards of our facilities even if we were to finish top this season we wouldn’t be able to go up! Unless a lot of changes happen at the club.

“So of course I’m hoping to work hard and get my head down and join a club with the ambitions to push for promotions and that has the same drive as myself.

“I’m not saying Clapton didn’t have this but there are a lot of things currently in the way that are stopping that from happening.

“All I know is there is a quality squad at Clapton that deserve to play higher and deserve this for their efforts especially for last season. I think the fans deserve this too!”

One of Kristian Haighton’s modelling shots

As well as being one of the most physically fit players, Haighton was one of Clapton’s Spice Boys, one of several easy-on-the-eye faces who also worked as a model.

We can’t pass up the opportunity to remind you he also made a TV appearance as ‘handsome man eating scotch egg’ in a furniture ad.

We also asked about his highlights with the Tons and unsurprisingly the discussion went straight to the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy final win in 2015.

He said: “It was a pleasure to play for Clapton and I feel lucky to have captained such a great team especially under your support. And with such a talented squad.

“My favourite moment was winning the cup final in the first season with the club, That day was just perfect, fans, the squad, even to the celebrations afterwards,

“Another personal moment that I’ll always cherish is hearing my chant from you amazing fans for the first time!

“I’d never had that before and from then on I felt welcomed as if I was part of the family.”

The reaction from fans and players showed he will be much missed – and manager Jonny Fowell said he’s welcome back any time.

 

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

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

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

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

Great Wakering Rovers

£9 adults
£5 concessions
Includes a programme

Wadham Lodge

£8 adults
£4 concessions

Southend Manor

£7 adults
£5 concessions
Free under 16s

Sawbridgeworth Town

£7 adults
£4 concessions

Waltham Forest

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

Takeley

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

Clapton

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

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

Basildon United

£6 adults
£5 seniors
Free under 16s

Burnham Ramblers

£6 adults
£4 concessions

Tower Hamlets

£6 adults
£3 concessions
Free under 16s

Everyone gains admission for £5 on Friday night games

Sporting Bengal United

£6 adults
£3 concessions

Enfield 1893

£6 adults
£3 concessions

Woodford Town

£6 adults
£3 concessions
£1 under 16s

Ilford

£6 adults
£3 concessions
Free under 16s

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

 

Hullbridge Sports

£6 adults
£3 concessions
Free under 16s

Redbridge

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

West Essex

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

FC Romania

£5 adults
£1 under 16s

Hackney Wick

£5 adults

£3 students
Free over 60s
Free under 16s

Barkingside

£5 adults including programme
Free for kids

Stansted

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

 

Some observations

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

REASONS WHY CLAPTON MISSED OUT ON PROMOTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

Want more details? Read on…

Ground improvements needed

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

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

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

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

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

Not enough seating

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

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

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

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

Overall appearance

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

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

Job lot of broken urinals dumped behind the Scaffold stand

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

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

The teeth of what appears to be a broken lawnmower.

Those urinals again and more dumped unwanted goods

Abandoned table gradually being consumed by nature

A big tyre propped up

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

Much of the fly-tipping, however, remains.

Parking

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

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

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

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

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

Dressing rooms

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

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

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

Certainly from this picture, they look quite small

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

Disabled access and accessible toilets

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

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

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

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

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

Terracing

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

Public address system

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

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

Security of lease

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

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

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

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

The ‘fit and proper persons’ test

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

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

Timings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barking nearly there

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

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

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

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

So what happens next season?

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

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

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

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

Why don’t Clapton fans help?

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

Clapton fans forking the pitch to get a game playable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BATTLING CLAPTON SLIP UP IN SEVEN-GOAL THRILLER AS WEST ESSEX GO TOP

IMG_0395

Another quiet night at the Old Spotted Dog as Clapton slip to defeat

Battling Clapton were edged out in an end-to-end game but in truth impressive visitors West Essex deserved the 4-3 win that puts them top of the league.

Missing Nathan Cook, out for six weeks after breaking his collarbone, and Ryan Reed, who has twisted a knee in training, the Tons looked lighter up top.

However, winger Jeffrey Cobblah, Clapton’s top scorer this season after an Ilford hat-trick, returned to the line-up after recovering from injury of his own.

With first-choice goalkeeper Emmanuel Olajide also still out, summer signing Ignas Budvytis made his debut in goal.

While Clapton have started the season sluggishly, West Essex have improved massively since a decent debut Essex Senior season last year, and also boast the league’s highest scorer in Michael Mignot.

It was that man Mignot who scored a brilliant hat-trick to take his tally to 10, but Clapton stayed in the game with two Steven Sardinha penalties and a Jeffrey Cobblah goal straight from the restart.

1-1 – First Sardinha penalty

2-3 to West Essex

📹 | @lefley_87 bends one in from range to make it 3-2!

A post shared by West Essex Football Club (@westessex_fc) on

3-3 – Second Sardinha penalty

3-4 to West Essex

📹 | @midgemigs makes it 4-3!

A post shared by West Essex Football Club (@westessex_fc) on

No one can fault the effort of the patched-up Tons side right now, but they’re not looking like repeating last season’s second place finish.

That’s understandable as several key players from last season’s runners-up side have moved on to paid football, while the uncertainty over the future of the historic Old Spotted Dog ground and the absence of fans at home games hasn’t helped.

For West Essex, it was a historic night and an ’emotional’ Dan Reading told CFC News: “When we first decided to apply for promotion back in 14/15, I started watching a lot of ESL games and was something of a regular at the OSD.

“I’ve always loved the ground and its extraordinary history. The extra dimension the Ultras have added in recent years has turned it into one of the best non-league days out around.

“Playing in front of a crowd of that size is such a buzz for players and fans alike. Like a cup final without a trophy if you will.

“Winning there last night was a special moment, but doing so when only being able to see the tops of the majority of the supporters heads made it feel perhaps a little hollow.

“Anyone that was present inside or outside the ground would surely agree that it was a magnificent advert for grassroots football and the ESL.”

Match reports

Here’s what the Newham Recorder and the Unofficial ESL website made of the game.

CFC News man of the match: Steven Sardinha.

Attendance: Declared at 47, head count and these pics show 22. Seems that the official figure is routinely doubled now.

CLAPTON’S FIRST HOME WIN OF SEASON COMES AT A COST WITH SERIOUS NATHAN COOK INJURY

The Clapton players receive the applause after hanging on for a 1-0 win against Burnham Ramblers

Ten-man Clapton had to dig deep for a 1-0 win at home to Burnham Ramblers on Saturday courtesy of a first-half goal, some dogged defending and a debut penalty save.

But the first home league victory of the season was overshadowed by the news that playmaker Nathan Cook could be set for a lengthy lay-off after sustaining a broken collarbone.

Cook scored twice against Burnham in last season’s final-day 7-0 win against the Ramblers, and not unusually the midfielder had been Clapton’s greatest threat prior to his injury.

It’s ironic, then, that it was his replacement, striker Ikem Odeh, who struck the only goal of the game with virtually his first touch on 41 minutes.

And while Odeh seemed to pick up the baton in leading Clapton’s forward forays, the hosts never looked like repeating last season’s closing day demolition job.

And in the end, they were grateful to debutant goalkeeper Mark Kavanagh’s strong left hand as he repelled a Burnham penalty caught on video below:

From that point the red card shown to centreback Quincy Egbejale following the penalty incident gave the visitors a foothold they had barely merited up to that point.

And in the end the points were ground out thanks to Kavanagh’s heroics and a defence led by Dylan Ebengo on his first showing of the season following his dual registration with Cheshunt.

Yet as welcome as the points are, Cook’s injury took the shine of the day.

The severity of Cook’s injury was obvious as coach Ray Bartlett assisted a clearly uncomfortable Cook from the pitch.

Bartlett told Clapton FC News: “He got sandwiched between two guys, Nick [Loblack, another Clapton new boy] and one of their players, landed on his shoulder awkward and fractured it.

“I could tell it was broken when I ran on and looked. He said he didn’t have much feeling in his arm.

“I couldn’t take his top off so used it as a sling and pinned it up, till he got to hospital.”

Cook is expected to be out for 6-8 weeks and his injury seems likely to impact on his ability to do his job as a teacher for a while – a reminder of the risks players at this level of football face just for the joy of playing.

We wish Nathan a speedy recovery.

Match reports

With another tiny attendance, and bigger games elsewhere particularly in the FA Cup, there wasn’t much written about the game elsewhere.

Blogger John Fist visited but chose to watch the game outside with the Clapton fans. While he thought the game was “appalling”, he added that “the footballing experience was as much fun as John Fist has had in a long time.” Read his report here.

The Newham Recorder also wrote a short report which you can read here,

Photos

Players and coaches

Assistant manager Andre Thomas spoke to George Sessions of the Newham Recorder, admitting: “It was not one of the prettiest games for the fans who were watching through the gates or anyone else inside the ground and not for the players on both sides either, but it was all about the result.”

Debutant Mark Kavanagh was understandably delighted with his clean sheet and penalty save.

Aundre Spencer was also happy with his assist and the battling win.

CFC News man of the match: Ikem Odeh.

Attendance: Head count at 35, officially declared at 67.

ELEVEN INS AND OUTS AS CLAPTON LOOK TO KICKSTART LEAGUE CAMPAIGN

Jonny Fowell has brought in Colin Reid as head coach

Manager Jon Fowell has added four new players and seen seven depart in recent weeks as Clapton look to get their Essex Senior League campaign back on track.

The Tons sit in seventeenth spot, just one place above relegation zone, after an iffy start to the league campaign, though enjoyed two great wins in the FA Cup, including against higher level Norwich United.

Fowell has also appointed former Macclesfield Town and Bishops Stortford coach Colin Reid as his new head coach, alongside assistant manager Andre Thomas and Ray Bartlett, the first team coach.

Having drawn a blank in front of goal in four of the nine matches this season, much of the player changes have been up front.

As the Tons look for their first home win of the season against Burnham Ramblers on Saturday, here we run through the changes since our last article on arrivals and departures.

 

Outs

Attacking midfielder Raphael Duyile, a near ever-present since returning to the club last season, has joined Essex Senior League rivals Barkingside. Rafa scored once this season and three times last but now reunites with former Clapton manager Mike Walther and has already played twice for the ‘Side.

Striker Craig Heskey has rejoined his former club Burnham Ramblers, for whom he scored 4 in 10 games at the end of last season. What are the odds on a goal on his return to the Old Spotted Dog on Saturday? Heskey started just one game in his second spell at Clapton plus two sub appearances.

Another striker Anton Stephenson also departs after taking the assistant manager’s job at Barking. He reunites with Justin Gardner, with whom he worked at Tower Hamlets. Stephenson started one game – the FA Cup tie at FC Clacton where he scored the only goal – and made two sub appearances. He appears to have also signed as a player for Redbridge.

Grafting midfielder Dean Bouho, pacy wideman Mustafa Kahie, composed centre-back Jordan Meikle and young striker Caiden Imbert-Thomas have also left the club after just 1 start and 2 sub appearances between them this season.

Ins

Greg Akpele made his Clapton debut in the 3-0 FA Cup defeat against Needham Market after signing from Non-League Chance. Announcing the signing, Fowell said attacker Akpele “will be a sensation at this level.”

Akpele caught the eye of higher level clubs after scoring 11 goals in the Essex Senior League for Basildon United four seasons ago. After trials with professional clubs, including Leyton Orient, Dagenham & Redbridge, he then went on to short spells at Braintree Town, Hampton & Richmond. Kingstonian, Cheshunt, VCD Athletic, Barkingside and Burnham Ramblers. Last season he was at Romford in the Isthmian North, where he bagged 6 goals.

Tall striker Ikem Odeh enjoyed a dream debut for the Tons, scoring on his debut against Norwich United. Starting as a youth at St Albans City, he’s since played for Cockfosters and Berkhamsted, in the Spartan South Midlands League, the same level as the ESL, scoring 2 in 30 appearances,

Also newly registered are Nick LoBlack, a former Haringey & Waltham Development defender, and former Ilford player Scott Hill.