The recent 8-1 victory against Newham had many people, including myself, delving into the Clapton records as to whether this was a record victory in the history of our great old club.
Some seasons ago, Tons Manager Chris Wood lauded our 5-0 Essex Senior League victory over London Apsa as being the highest win in that competition since our leaving the Isthmian League in 2006. He had every reason to happy as our record in the ESL is littered with some pretty heavy defeats, including the 7-1 reverse in last season’s cup final. However I shall spare you the details.
Clapton’s record win in the Isthmian League was an 11-0 drubbing of Shepherds Bush at the Dog in 1909/10. It remains the highest score by a Clapton team in a senior League match. In that same season they also recorded an 8-1 victory over West Norwood which repeated an identical win over the South London outfit a couple of seasons previously.
Wycombe Wanderers are a professional club, now but they twice suffered heavy defeats to the boys from E7. In 1929/30 they went down 7-1 and in 1946/47 the Tons ran out 8-2 winners. However, the Choirboys wreaked their revenge on many an occasion in the post war Isthmian era. An 8-1 reverse at Loakes Park in 1959/60 among the numerous occasions in which Clapton were caned by heavy gunfire from the Buckinghamshire outfit.
Another club who regularly handed out beatings were Enfield. In the 60s and early 70s the ‘E’s were one of the kingpins of amateur football and on more than one occasion beat the Clapton goalkeeper seven times without reply. On one occasion in 1966/67, they put ten past the Clapton defence at Southbury Road. Other clubs who got into double figures against Clapton were Wimbledon in 1947/48 (won 10-3) and Walthamstow Avenue who bashed us 10-2 at Green Pond Road in 1971/72. Clapton, of course, hold the record for the record defeat in the FA Cup when Nottingham Forest hammered the Tons 14-0 at the Dog in 1891.
Unfortunately high scoring victories have not been the norm for our lads over the years. A 7-1 victory against St Albans in 1934/35 is the best result I can find away from the Dog. Other decent scores were a 7-1 home tonking of Romford in 1956/57 and an 8-1 victory over the Cardinals of Woking FC at the Dog on 30th August 1924. The Clapton side of the mid twenties are considered to be one of the best to have played for the club and included England internationals at both amateur and full level. The Woking game was an important match as the club had just been rocked by the news that club Captain, S.G.J.(Stanley) Earle, had turned professional with West Ham United. As a consequence, the honour of the captaincy was passed to W.I. (Bill) Bryant and he was replaced in the team by R.E. Potter. The new recruit did not disappoint as he bagged a hattrick, only to be bettered by by I.V.A. (Viv) Gibbins who scored four. Fittingly, the new club captain weighed in with the other.
It took over 60 years for the Surrey club to exact their revenge and in an AC Delco (Isthmian League) Cup fixture in 1989, they did just that. Clapton, then in Division Two North of the Vauxhall League, as it was then known, had won through to the second round at the expense of Hornchurch (the original club) and Heybridge Swifts. A midweek fixture across the other side of London beckoned and the opponents were challenging for the Division 1 title. As the club coach left the Dog and hit the M25 it became apparent that London was being enveloped by a bank of thick fog. As we arrived at Kingsfield, we were told that the chances of the fixture going ahead were, at best, doubtful.
In such circumstances, any self respecting Club Secretary has to weigh up the options. If the match were to have been postponed, we would have to bear the costs of our travel on the evening and then come back a couple of weeks later at additional expense. If, at least, the game kicked off and happened to be abandoned, then the costs would be split between the clubs as per the cup ties rules of the day.
The referee said he’d delay the kick off for 20 minutes to see if the fog would clear. In the meantime, he took his team of officials out onto the pitch and instructed one of his linesman to go to the far touchline and wave his flag. A few seconds later, all one could hear was ‘flap flap’ and a shout of “Can you see me?”. “Yep, lovely” came the reply from the Clapton representative, “I think I’ll tell our lot to get ready.” The referee said, “OK but if it gets any worse, I’ll have to call it off”. The Woking secretary stood by with a wry smile on his face.
A few minutes later the game kicked off and the Clapton contingent in the crowd breathed a sigh of relief. As the player battled for the ball, in and out of the Surrey haze (I told you it would get better), the Tons had the audacity to take the lead when the Woking goalkeeper failed to spot the ball emerging out of obscurity from the right boot of Clapton’s Jimmy Tibbs, son of the famous East End boxing trainer. As it nestled in the corner of the net, only half the crowd reacted, the other half couldn’t see what happened and it only became apparent to some when they saw their Woking heros kicking off for the second time.
That was as good as it got for Clapton that evening. In the ensuing seventy minutes, Mickey Cleaver’s men were left chasing shadows as the Cardinals scored eight times without reply. An 8-1 defeat, but we were not disgraced, Woking were very much in the ascendancy, a rise that saw them eventually achieve a place in the Football Conference and we could go back to the normality of playing the likes of Saffron Walden Town, Aveley, Heybridge Swifts, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted Town. How we’d like to do that now?
There was an interesting conversation in the Woking clubhouse after the game. When asked “what had happened?” by a Tons supporter, Clapton player Chris (Smike)Driscoll replied, “Well the fog cleared, and they could then see what they were doing”. Move over Chris Kamara.
Elsewhere in the clubhouse, the gentleman that was Phillip Ledger, the former Woking player, then secretary and later, Life President, shared a joke with the Clapton contingent. He knew exactly what we were trying to achieve/avoid by making sure the game kicked off, hence his not objecting to the referee deciding to ‘give it a go’ before the match. He said he would have done exactly the same. As for the referee, I have no doubt he will now claim it as his decision because it was a good one for all concerned.
The last time the Tons scored anything like eight was a 7-0 home victory over a very poor Royston Town team at the Dog in 1986/87. The Crows were, as are Newham FC today, going through an extremely tough patch, both on and off the field. Thankfully Royston Town FC recovered and are now playing at a higher standard of football than their conquerors that afternoon.
Nonetheless, to score eight at any level of senior football is a great achievement and its given everyone connected with Clapton a huge fillip. Are Cookey, Lemba and Cook the equivalent of Gibbins, Potter and Bryant? Probably not. However, what is unquestionable is the enthusiasm of today’s players, still amateurs, still giving of their best, just as did the stars of the 1920s and those Tons who took some of the the unfortunate hidings mentioned above. If we can add to that, a sprinkling of loyalty, and a wish to be indelibly identified and to be appreciated as a Clapton player, and, I’ll tell you what, we are onto something.