H.A. (Harold Aubrey) Milton

The medal won by H.A. Milton in the London Charity Cup Final of 1902/03.
The medal won by H.A. Milton in the London Charity Cup Final of 1902/03.

Harold Aubrey Milton was born at Hackney, London, 15th January 1882. The amateur played for University College School & Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, New Crusaders, Tottenham Hotspur, Clapton and Casuals.

Milton originally played at outside right before switching to half back whilst at Cambridge University and twice played in the annual varsity match v Oxford. He signed amateur forms for Tottenham Hotspur in February, 1904

Milton made four first-team appearances for Tottenham Hotspur were April 5, 1904 v New Brompton (now Gillingham) home won 1-0 Southern League; April 18, 1904 v West Ham United away won 1-0 Western League; April 20, 1904 v Plymouth Argyle away drew 0-0 Western League February 27, 1905; and v Millwall Athletic home won 4-1 Western League.

Known familiarly as “”Toby””, Milton followed his father A.G. in playing for the Clapton club and helped them reach the 1905 FA Amateur Cup Final at Shepherds Bush where they were defeated 3-2 by West Hartlepool watched by a 4,000 crowd. Harold had moved on to the Casuals club by the time Clapton won the trophy two years later. In January, 1906 Harold played for the Amateurs of the South against their professional counterparts in an international trial match and was twice selected by the AFA (Amateur Football Association) to play for England during his time with the Casuals.

He faced Wales in a 4-3 win at Tufnell Park on January 6, 1910 and France (USFSA) in a 3-1 win at Paris on March 23, 1911. “”Men Famous in Football”” 1905 described him as “”A very strong bustling player””.

Harold Milton qualified as a solicitor on 1907 and practised from offices at 9 Staples Inn in London.  During the Great War he served with the London Regiment, in France, Palestine and Salonika, as a Lieut. Colonel.  He was twice mentioned in Dispatches and was awarded the Military Cross (MC) and the French Croix de Guerre.

He was an able cricketer as well playing for Southgate CC from 1909 and as captain between 1919 and 1924. He was later a Ground Trustee from 1932 to 1958 and the Club President between 1945 and 1952.  He played three first class matches for Middlesex as an amateur in 1907

Harold Milton died in Islington, on March 14 1970.

Stanley Briggs. A Principled Amateur Footballer

Sketch of Stanley Briggs in London FA colours which appeared in Lloyds Weekly Newspaper 25th October 1896
Sketch of Stanley Briggs in London FA colours which appeared in Lloyds Weekly Newspaper 25th October 1896

Born in Hackney, yet a pupil of Grove High School in Folkestone, Stanley Briggs played his intial football with Folkestone before he moved to Hermitage FC in 1890. He then moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 1892. By the age of 20 he was already considered one of the leading Amateur players in England. His ability was widely appreciated and his skills were constantly in demand by other clubs. Being an Amateur, Briggs could take advantage of this and, in 1893, he signed for Woolwich Arsenal but only stayed for 2 games before returning to Tottenham.

During his playing days Briggs was well known in and around London and also played for Corinthians, Friars, London Caledonians, Shepherds Bush, Millwall Athletic, Richmond, Upton Park and of course, Clapton.

A change in the direction football was taking at the time ended Briggs’ association with Tottenham. When, in December 1895, Tottenham held a meeting to discuss moving to the paid, professional ranks of the game, Briggs refused to even attend the meeting. Preferring to remain Amateur, at the end of that season he left the club and signed with Clapton.

Postcard of Stanley Briggs (Clapton). approx 1900

Briggs had been chosen to play for the South against the North in an International trial match, and had gone with the FA XI on a foreign of Bohemia and Germany in 1899. Many considered this an unofficial England tour.

In 1906, as a member of the Shepherds Bush club, he sought election as Division 9 representative on the Football Association Council.

He never got the chance to win a cap at the very highest level because he refused to accept the professional game.

By preferring to remain an Amateur, Stanley Briggs really was a man of true principal.

Following his retirement from football he was the Hotel manager of the General Havelock Hotel on High Street Ilford.  The building still stands today and is known as “The General”.  He later managed the Brook Green Hotel in Hammersmith before migrating to Canada.

Stanley Briggs died in 1931 and is buried at Shell Lake, Saskatchewan, Canada.  His grandson, Dr. Stanley Briggs III lives in Saskatchewan and is in regular correspondence with the real Clapton FC

Clapton FC Team Photo 1896. Stanley Briggs, seated front row, far right
Clapton FC Team Photo 1897-98.  Stanley Briggs, seated front row, far right

C.H. (Clyde Honeysett) Purnell – Olympic Gold Medallist

C.H. Purnell
C.H. Purnell

England Amateur International Clyde Honeysett Purnell was born on the 14 May 1877 and developed into one of the greatest all round sportsmen ever produced by the Isle of Wight.

He was the son of John and Emily Purnell, his father being an auctioneer and upholsterer in Ryde High Street. The family had sporting inclinations with his brother Jas. B, who was later an Alderman and Mayor of Ryde, playing for and later being on the committee of Ryde Football Club. Clyde’s sporting prowess extended to Water Polo, Athletics, Cricket, Lawn Tennis, Football, Cycling, Tobogganing, Ping-Pong and Billiards for all of which he gained awards. As a youth, Clyde played football for Ryde Rovers along with his brother before moving to work in London where he joined the Olympic Sporting Club. He was elected club captain when only 18. He was a keen cricketer and headed the batting averages of the Olympic Club for several seasons. If it had not been for business ties he would almost certainly have played county cricket. He was the winner of the club’s Pre-eminence Cup on every occasion it was competed for during his seven year membership. He was in the winning team in the City of London Lawn Tennis Shield competition for five successive years up to 1902 and was in the team which won the London Water Polo Shield, being vice-captain of the team. He was the club 100 yards champion for seven years.

Clyde picked up F.A. Amateur Cup runners up medal in 1905, at Shepherd’s Bush, where Clapton were beaten in the Final, 3-2 by West Hartlepool, Purnell scored both the Clapton goals that day.

Two years later in 1907 he won the F.A. Amateur Cup with Clapton and scored in the 6-0 thrashing of Eston United in the final. He went on later that year to gain his first international cap against Ireland.

However, the pinnacle of his football career was when he played for the gold medal winning Great Britain international amateur squad in the 1908 Olympic Games at inside left. The triumphant British team began their Olympic campaign with a 12 – 1 thrashing of Sweden, Clyde scoring four times, Holland were beaten 4 – 0 in the Semi – Final and Denmark 2 – 0 in the Final. Clyde Purnell won 4 England Amateur International caps and played representative football for Hampshire, Middlesex and London once scoring eight times for Middlesex against Berks and Bucks.

Fittingly for a sportsman Clyde Purnell, who worked as a traveller for a firm of sports outfitters, collapsed and died at Folkestone Racecourse on 14 August 1934 aged 57 leaving a widow and a son. The funeral was held at Golders Green Crematorium.

CH Purnell (front row, 3 from left) pictured with the Clapton team that won the Anmateur Cup in 1909.
CH Purnell (front row, 3 from left) pictured with the Clapton team that won the FA Amateur Cup in 1909.

Spencer Hornsey Remembers

Mr S.C. (Spencer) Hornsey
Mr S.C. (Spencer) Hornsey

The following article was lifted from the matchday programme – Clapton v Berkhamsted Town 29/04/1986. Mr S.C. (Spencer) Hornsey originally took the job of temporary Treasurer at Clapton FC, a job that lasted more than 30 years!.  Andrew Barr had the honour of being invited to meet him at his home in Buntingford shortly before he passed away and they discussed his love for Clapton and his wish for the club to continue and to thrive. Mr Hornsey, who was the brother in law of J.F. (Jim) Crussell, a Clapton player, England international and icon of the amateur game, was truly one of the greatest administrators in Amateur football.

I was born and lived many years within five minutes walk of ‘The Spotted Dog’ and my first schooldays were at Upton Lane School a few yards away from the ground. I have somewhat hazy memories of being taken to a game before the First World War (an Uncle of mine occasionally played for the reserves) and of Clapton winning the FA Amateur Cup, their third success, after the war had started. When I went to West Ham Secondary School, later Stratford Grammar School in 1918, the star footballer was Vivian Gibbins who soon joined Clapton and became an outstanding forward and local hero.

By 1922/23 I was a regular supporter and recall an Amateur Cup game with Ipswich Town, then cycling to Erith and Belvedere and being almost heartbroken at a 3-4 defeat in a later round. In this season Ralph Metcalfe (later Clapton FC president) scored five times in the mud at Barking FC in an FA Cup tie and this season was the last time that the Isthmian League Championship came to Forest Gate.

In November 1922 I recall travelling to Champion Hill to see an FA Cup replay between Dulwich Hamlet and St Albans City. In this game W.H Minter, a brilliant centre forward scored seven times for St Albans and yet finished on the losing side (7-8!). My reason for going to the game was that Clapton were to play the winners in the next round and the Tons duly won the next game 2-0. In the next round Clapton lost to New Brighton, a club who were about to join the Football League. On Saturday afternoons, one would see streams of people making their way to the old Spotted Dog Ground by cycle, or on foot. There was a cycle rack under the stand and following Clapton became a way of life in the district.

The following two seasons produced some unforgettable games. In the 1923/24, the Amateur Cup was won convincingly – beginning with yet another win over Ipswich Town (4-0) and ending with an avenging 3-0 success in the final at New Cross against Erith and Belvedere, the team who had eliminated the Tons the previous year. The six cup games produced 23 goals and only three were conceded.

This same year came a great battle in the FA Cup against Queens Park Rangers. The first game at Shepherds Bush ended 4-4 (Clapton had led 4-2 a few minutes from time). However, Rangers won the replay at Spotted Dog 2-0. There was also some outstanding forward play in a London Senior Cup tie against Nunhead where Clapton won 9-0 and, in a league game at Tufnell Park, Vivian Gibbins headed five goals.

At the end of that season Stanley (S.G.J.) Earle, who was out of a job, took the drastic step of turning professional with West Ham United. (Wages £3 per week with bonuses – £2 win, £1 draw)

In 1924/25, Earle was replaced by H,E. Miller, and the Amateur Cup was retained with the outstanding game being a fourth round tie with Hall (Sheffield FC) at the Spotted Dog. The gates were closed long before the start and most of the 9,000 spectators saw a late penalty put us into the semi-final.

Clapton FC werenoted for their strict adherence to its amateur status and had several unwritten rules which would seem eccentric today. The team always walked onto the pitch(some with hands in pockets).  Referee’s decisions were always accepted without viable comment and there was no demonstration or back slapping when a goal was scored.  Tehe scorer would merely acknowledge, with a wave of the hand,the collegue who provided the centre or pass that produced the opening.  A sending off was almost unheard of.

The normal charge for admission to the ground was 4d (less than 2p in today’s terms) which included Entertainment Tax. There was a small extra charge for a transfer to the stand and league games normally attracted between 2,000 and 3,000 spectators. However when Leytonstone, Ilford, Dulwich or London Caledonians, the top teams of the day, came to the Spotted Dog or if there was an important cup tie, one could expect many more.

In 1925, Vivian Gibbins joined Stanley Earle at West Ham United (as an amateur) and Bill (W.I.) Bryant joined Millwall. Clapton recruited new players in R.H. McNeil at centre half and new forwards in R.L. Morgan, J.A. Massey and J.F. Crussell. It was in this season that saw our best ever run in the FA Cup. As Amateur Cup winners we were exempt from qualifying and entered in the first round proper. Norwich City were beaten 3-1 at the Dog with two brilliant goals from Massey and a penalty from Freddie Blake. Our neighbours Ilford were the only other surviving amateur club and the luck of the draw brought them to the Spotted Dog in the next round. Before a packed ground a fierce game ensued which the Tons won with the only goal and Clapton’s reward was a third round tie at home to Swindon Town.

The Hammers, who had been drawn away at Tottenham Hotspur, kindly allowed us to use their ground and after a thrilling cup tie before nearly 30,000 spectators, Swindon scraped home by the odd goal in five, aided by a most amazing decision of the referee. However, as there had been no score at half time we claimed that we gone further in the cup then West Ham as they were 3-0 down at half time and went on to lose 5-0.

The following year saw us play Brentford, whose team included the great Middlesex and England cricketer Patsy Hendren. The first game at the Spotted Dog ended in a 1-1 draw and in the replay, Clapton were three up in ten minutes thanks to a hat trick by George Osbourne. However, the Bees who were clearly the fitter professional team came back to win 7-3.

Ottery St Mary FC – In a recent Clapton FC programme I was astounded to see a reference to Ottery St Mary FC and the installation of their new floodlights.  When I retired to Ottery St Mary in 1967, I was soon talked into joining the football club Committee.  I persuaded them to enter the FA Amateur Cup for the first time in their history and when the Devon County Youth side entertained Somerset at the ground I was aksed toa ct as hosts for the visitors,

When the Somerset party alighted from their coach, their manager immediately said to me “What are you doing here?” He was George Burnham, a schoolmaster and played at right back for Clapton before and after the second World War. George used to partner Jim Crussell, who also lived in Ottery at the time, at the heart of the Clapton defence and I was able to get them together for a good chat about old times.

I went on to be a Vice Chairman of the Otters, so you can imagine my surprise to see a reference to them in a Clapton programme.

From the matchday programme – Clapton v Berkhamsted Town 29/04/1986

Spencer Horney pictured with Andrew Barr at Royston Town v Clapton in 1988.

English Wanderers 1913 & The Clapton Connection

This article is not so much about a Clapton Tour but a trip to Paris, taken by a sets of English players, where they played friendly matches against local opposition on 1st November 1913 (the French holiday ‘Toussaint’).

The ‘English Wanderers’ were described as a ‘team of English Amateurs’ and played their match against an USFSA (Union des Sociéties Françaises Athletiques) XI at Auteuil, near Paris.

USFSA were responsible for all sports, including amateur football in France. They famously had a run in with FIFA when the English Amateur Football Association was denied membership and, as a consequence resigned. Even more famously, they wore white shirts white red and blue interlocking rings on the front. It is thought that this design was the influence behind the Olympic five ringed emblem as their president, Pierre de Coubertin was one of the founders of the modern Olympic Games.

The shirts worn by the English Wanderers had the three lions badge on the left breast of the shirt and they wore blue shorts.

The Clapton players who represented the English Wanderers were :-

Harold Meredith Lemoine, despite his French sounding surname, was born in Cambridge in 1877 and came to prominence originally when playing for Hunslet FC in Yorkshire. He then came south to play for Shepherds Bush FC and in 1909 made the trip across London to sign for the Tons. A year later, he had signed amateur forms with Southend United. At the time of this tour (1913) he had returned to Loftus Road to play for Shepherds Bush FC.

J.E. Olley was a half back in two Clapton teams that won the FA  Amateur Cup in 1907 and then again in 1909. He won Amateur International caps for England against Sweden and Ireland.

H.M. Lemoine is the goalkeeper whereas J. E. Olley is on the back row, far right.
H.M. Lemoine is the goalkeeper whereas J. E. Olley is on the back row, far right.

The Amateur Question

This article appeared in the Matchday Programme for the match against Enfield 1893 FC on Saturday 22nd August 2015


In French, the word ‘amateur’ refers to one who likes or loves the activity in which they are engaged.  However, for some years in English it has become a term of derision, which is unfair. 

In the 1970s the Football Association did away with the distinction between amateur and professionals and deemed them all to be ‘players’. One of the arguments was that ‘shamateurism’ was rife and this new initiative created a level playing field for all. The FA Amateur Cup was discontinued to be replaced by the Vase and the Trophy, and a new era had begun.  Since then, the term ‘semi-professional’ is frequently used to indicate those playing below Football League level. Some non-league clubs are full time pros.  But there are many others who do not pay at all and I never fail to be amused at the twitter accounts of some players who describe themselves as ‘semi-professional’ when, its clearly apparent by who they play for that they are amateurs.

Recently it has been said that players have left Clapton because they could be paid at other clubs. It’s a shame but understandable if the player was taking a upward step on the football ladder to play at a better standard from which he could, possibly, carve out a professional career. However, when a player takes a sideways move for a paltry amount, it is not only sad for the club, but also makes one asks as to why Clapton are not competing financially to keep such players.

Let us forget, for the moment, the Corinthian ethos and look at the issues.  Clapton have the best attendances of any other club at this level and it is tempting to say, “Pay them from the gate money” or “Pay them a win bonus”. But no one knows anything about the financial situation, or actual legal identity, of Mr McBean’s ‘club’. One expects rent is being paid to the leaseholders, but there would be other expenses, such as kit washing and football equipment etc.

Without that information, or any transparency through membership or accounts, Clapton supporters are unable to realistically expect anything.  In some respects, let us be grateful that Clapton are not throwing money at players, as there have been innumerable clubs who did this, went to the wall, and left their supporters without a team to support.

The paying of players can have other effects.  It can create jealousy in the dressing room as well as fiduciary obligations on the club itself, not least to the Revenue.  The term ‘expenses’ is often used as an alternative conduit for remunerating players.  But expenses are expenses and are compensation for losses.  They are not a few bank notes stuffed into a brown envelope.  The ‘win bonus’ idea also makes no sense.  Why pay out win bonuses for an end of season victory whilst in mid table? Unless a club is prepared to ‘go pro’, in the true sense, with all its obligations and implications for the membership, then this are throwing money down the drain.

There is no shortage of players at our level, and above. Abilities vary, but these players love the game and want to play, primarily because they enjoy doing so.  One of the common reasons for a player leaving a club is that he is not getting enough ‘pitch time’ and this has been the case, even in the days of the great Clapton teams of the 1920s when Viv Gibbins, having been left out of the West Ham team, would turn out for the Tons.  Whether at the Boleyn or the Old Spotted Dog, he remained a true amateur, and he loved to play the game.

It is cleat that, at League and non-league level, money does not buy loyalty from any player.  Those who might leave Clapton for £20 will more than likely leave their new club if offered an extra fiver.  It’s their choice, and its part of the ‘modern game’.

So, what if, all of step 5 clubs decided not to pay players?  How many of the players, currently signed with the ESL clubs, would get ‘pitch time’ in the Ryman League, sign a contract and pick up the wages?  Would the standard of play in the ESL fall below that of today?  Would crowds dwindle?  Would these players refuse to play the game they love because they are not pocketing £20?  If it was the case that all they wanted to do was play, are they not really ‘amateurs’ in keeping with the French definition?

However, such a moratorium on payments is unlikely to happen in ‘Modern Football’ as there also many people, off the field, in the board/committee rooms, with ambitions of their own.  These ambitions are expensive to run and maintain.  Unfortunately, a lot of them don’t hang around when it becomes apparent that those ambitions might fail and that they are costing real money.  It has not been unknown for such ‘benefactors’ to depart, leaving the club in disarray and, invariably, in freefall.

If it’s the case that Clapton supporters are ‘against modern football’, then there has never been a better opportunity, given the growing fan base, community involvement and media interest, to consider how a club, like the Tons, can retain players in the face of ‘professional clubs’ offering inducements?

Putting aside the current state of affairs as regards finances and transparency, the first aim should be to establish a club in which the players are as much a part of it as the supporters.  The post match celebrations between the team and the fans at the Dog are legendary but would anyone in the Scaffold consider switching their allegiance to London Bari if their chairman was to throw in a half price season ticket?  It should be for the club to nurture the same allegiance from those players who may have one eye on ‘trousering’ a score a match.

There are many ways in which a club can show a player he is valued and appreciated, rather than in just hard cash.  This starts with membership and identity with Clapton FC.  You might think that our players should not be ferried to away games in cars like a Sunday football outfit or even embarrassed that the facilities at the Old Spotted Dog are regularly slaughtered on Twitter. However, there is a growing alumni of ex-Clapton players who retain an interest in the club and its fortunes, particularly at the moment.  “Once Clapton Always Clapton”

There is a solution, and Claptonites have to be brave enough to make it happen.

N.B.  The suggestion is not a return to handle bar moustaches with all the jolly good fellows having a ‘top-hole time’. (although some of the hipster beards and the ‘wizard prang’ in the scaffold would be in-keeping)

Clapton, The FA Vase Flops ?

This article was included in the Matchday programme for the Gordon Brasted match v Newham FC on Tuesday 6th October 2015


vaseThere was a recent comment on twitter from a Tons supporter who, rightly, pointed out that Clapton have a cup record littered with disappointing defeats.  These defeats, in more recent seasons, have come about in the FA Vase and new supporters will refer to our reversal at Welwyn Garden City last season as an example.  Let’s get that out of the way immediately.  WGC proved they are a very capable team, after comfortably dispatching the Tons 3-0, by going on to win a League and Cup double in the South Midlands League Division 1.

The Tons did not enter the Vase regularly until 1986 (their previous entry was in 1982) After a defeat at Hounslow, two embarrassing reversals followed in 1987 and 1988.  Newport Pagnell Town played on a ground in the corner of a public park whilst Clapton were members of the Vauxhall Opel League (Isthmian).  It was supposed to be a formality. It wasn’t. NPT scored a goal midway through the first half and the rest of the game was spent in the home team’s half of the field. The woodwork was rattled, the home keeper was inspired (and should have been drug tested), whilst his defenders threw themselves at everything in order to defend their lead, and they succeeded.  It was not a happy coach home to Forest Gate that night.  The following season, history repeated itself, this time at Milton Keynes Borough FC.  Was is it about Buckinghamshire?

The list of those who have put Clapton out of the Vase reads like a ground hoppers diary of grounds I will get, eventually.  Sidley United, Brache Sparta, Long Buckby, Thrapston Town and North Leigh to name a few.  North Leigh is possibly most notable as the Tons were shaded 11 -0 (eleven – nil) on that occasion.

A match of note was in 1989 when Sudbury Town were the visitors at the Dog.  Sudbury Town were the losing finalists at Wembley the previous season and turned up with their players all spammed up in the Wembley suits, cheered on by at least two coach loads of fans.  A good match ensued and Clapton were very much in the game before a penalty was awarded to the visitors.  It was successfully converted, giving Sudbury a 2-1 lead, and from there it went Pete Tong for the home side.  Sudbury winger, Steve McGavin, who went on to play for Southend United and Colchester, was a persistent irritant all afternoon. So, imagine our surprise when he ran onto the fist of Clapton keeper Brian Balkwill following a race for the ball.  Inevitably, Balky went for an early bath and, as midfielder Mark Cutler pulled on the green jersey, our dreams of the twin towers were disappeared into the East London aether.  Just to make matters worse, the visitors slammed in another four goals.  Final fashion point, even making allowances for the fact Sudbury is in Suffolk – Sand / Beige suits are not only naff now, they were also naff in 1989.

FA Vase?  Not a patch on the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy. Come on you Tons !

Clapton and Southend United

This article first appeared in the matchday programme of Clapton v Greenhouse Sports on 12th September 2015

1The achievement of our team in reaching last season’s cup finals brought back memories of other finals enjoyed by the club in the 1980s when ‘giants were slayed’ and trophies were actually won.  Perhaps the finest achievement was by Fred Beaumont’s team when they recorded two cup final victories over Southend United.  The first in the 1982/3 final of the Essex Thames-Side trophy and then in the final of the Essex Senior Cup in 1983/4, a result which avenged a defeat by the Shrimpers the previous season’s final.

However, perhaps the biggest game between Clapton and Southend United took place on December 1st 1923 in the fifth qualifying round of the FA Cup.  Described as ‘Clapton’s Plucky Fight’ in the journals of the day, a crowd of 16,000 at West ham’s Upton Park, witnessed a fine match, in difficult conditions.

The professionals from Essex were much the better team in the first half and their excellent combination and accurate passing frequently had the Clapton defence guessing.  The Shrimpers scored twice before the interval.  It was not unusual in matches between professional and amateur teams that the fitness of the former would eventually be evident and that the second period would normally belong to the pros.  However, Clapton were commended for their ‘fine stamina’ and kept Southend going to the finish.  The second half was shared, a goal apiece, the Clapton effort coming from the penalty spot by Stanley Earle.

The reason for the move to Upton Park was for public safety and the decision was lauded in the press.  “Clapton are so true to the amateur traditions that their supporters will not need the assurance that the transfer was not made for material gain.” Doesn’t one love irony, even 92 years later?  Gate receipts for the match were £933.

The programme of the match was produced by West Ham United.  The team sheets reflect the difference between amateur and professional players in that the amateur players are listed with their initials where as the pros are referred to by their surnames only. The programme also makes kind references to some of the Clapton team :

     “Prominent players of the Clapton club are :- Stanley Earle, who has Captained Essex, and assists The Arsenal on various occasions; Fred Blake, the evergreen, who is a pal and a sport; T.A. Mason, once a London Caley; Charles Williams, brother of our boy international; Norman Riley, who played for the FA against the Army recently; Vivian Gibbins, whom we would gladly welcome as a regular player in the ‘Hammers’ colours.”

I cannot find any record of the Southend scorers, for which I apologise to Chris Wood and Brian Jeeves, both of whom are Shrimpers fans with indelible links to the Tons.


Clapton FC and the FA Cup

This article was published in the matchday programme for the FA Cup tie between Clapton and Stanway Rovers on 15th August 2015.

Swindont has been many years since Clapton have been able to boast any success in the FA Cup.  The win at Stanway in 2013 was our only success in the competition in the last ten years.  The last time Clapton went beyond the 1st Qualifying round was 20 years ago, and our last match in the competition proper was a first round replay in 1957 away at Queens Park Rangers when we lost 3-1. (Scorer – R. Brewster)  In the Rangers team that day were England goalkeeper Ron Springett and former Orient manager George Petchey.

However, a recent tweet from @FACupFactfile cheered me up this week as, of all the teams in today’s extra preliminary round, we have the second best record, next to amateur giants, Bishop Auckland.  If all else fails, look to your history!

However, one of the more interesting episodes happened in 1985/86 when Clapton beat Leytonstone-Ilford 3-2 in the Preliminary Round tie (Scorers – Billy Partridge, Michael Collins and Chris Sharples).  The game had been played at Leytonstone’s Granleigh Road because, in the wake of the Taylor Report, the GLC had closed the Dog on Safety issues.  It was the first game of the season and some players were reluctant to sign Isthmian League forms given the inevitable travelling, should the requisite repairs not be carried out. Unfortunately, a rule of the FA Cup was that players had to be signed on with their club for at least seven days before they could play in the cup.  After the game it was mentioned, in a Committee Room conversation, that the Clapton players had only just signed League forms, following which, the boys from the badlands of E11 raised an objection and Clapton were disqualified.  Some history we would prefer to forget.

Are Clapton FC, Posh FC ?


In a recent internet exchange it was mentioned that Clapton FC had a reputation for being the ‘Posh, Amateur Club.  Whilst confident that no members of the Bullingdon Club have actually either played or have been members of the Tons, it is true that the club’s founder W.R. (Reg) Davies was a successful stockbroker.   When the club landed the lease on the Spotted Dog Enclosure in 1888 for £35 pa, it was a reasonably ambitious acquisition.

The two local teams were Upton Park FC and Woodville FC (now Barking FC) both of whom played in West Ham Park.  Both were undoubtedly posh.  Upton Park represented the FA on various tours abroad.  However Clapton also had some ‘chaps’ among their number and their trip to Belgium in 1890 would certainly been outside the budget of the local ‘oy polloy’.  Another Clapton notable was Stanley Briggs, the Tottenham captain.  He joined Clapton because he refused to turn professional.  He probably had the private resource to be able to do so.  A short time later,, the Clapton team included Walter Tull.  Tull was not posh.  He was an orphan from Bethnal Green and worked as a printer when he joined Clapton.  Teammate Clyde Purnell was one of 10 children and worked as a Commercial Traveller.  Clapton also had a supporters association, and the club’s 1934 accounts show that membership subscriptions totalled £47 and five shillings which suggests there were a considerable number of members.  They included Ian Simpson’s dad Bert, He wasn’t posh.

After the war, with the inevitable large scale displacement of people and communities, the club still managed to attract more local people to join and contribute, both on and off the field.  But, as other clubs embraced professionalism, and then sham-amateurism, the standard of the Clapton team, populated by less than posh locals, fell behind some of the other clubs in the Isthmian League which, ironically, was a competition founded on the basis of amateur values and the sufficiency of honour in playing the game.

Fortunately, Clapton remained strong off the field, aided by some hard work from the members in keeping the lease alive and facilities up to the mark.  It was not until the 1960s that the first pint was pulled in the Clapton clubhouse, and it was a pint of Watney’s Red Barrel.  That’s not Pimms, and that’s not Posh.

Since then the club has been populated from people from all walks of life and social strata.  Clapton has changed with the times as it should. Many football teams, of a similar age to Clapton, also have chaps with bowler hats as part of their history. At some clubs, those chaps have been replaced by financial benefactors and other ‘opportunists’, many of whom, have ultimately led the club to ruin and extinction.  I think ‘posh’ Reg Davies would have applauded the Ultras, as he viewed true support for the club as being paramount.  One doubts he would be happy with the debacle behind the scenes at Clapton.. That’s not being posh, that’s being principled.  Rather than ‘navel gazing’ at a ‘posh past’, perhaps we should acknowledge the history but, more importantly keep looking to the future.

Amateur?  That’s for another day.