Sol Campbell, Carlos Tevez and Mo Johnston are all players who have played for football clubs who shared a rivalry in the relative recent past. Spurs to Arsenal, United to City and Celtic to Rangers are all difficult paths and certainly, in the case of Johnston, and the circumstances in which his deal was finally struck, it certainly takes some bottle to do so.
Even in the early days of Clapton FC, there was initial concern from local clubs such as Upton Park and Woodville that the new tenants of the Spotted Dog Enclosure would poach their best players. This was not the case but, as the Tons progressed towards becoming one of the leading lights in amateur football, a fierce but sporting rivalry with the Ilford Football Club developed and, for a player to change alligence from one to the other, was seen as treachery of the first water.
So enter Frederick James Carter Blake, as fine a full back as any that played in amateur football during the 1920s. He was captain of Essex FA representative team and of the Ilford team that won consecutive Isthmain League Championships in 1921 and 1922. So imagine the shock when, he did the amateur equivilent of crossing Stanley Park or swapping N17 for N7 by travelling 4 miles west of Lynn Road to Upton Lane in order to join Clapton at the start of the 1923-24.
Blake was a local lad, born in Walthamstow in 1892 and began his footballing career with the local Avenue Boys Club who were later to become Walthamstow Avenue FC. He later played for Deptford based club, Bronze Athletic.
In 1911 he moved to Newbury Park, the home of the ‘Foxes’, Ilford Football Club. Blake captained the first team during a most successful period in their history when they won two Isthmian League Chapionships. He served as a Major in the Essex Regiment during the Great War, and also played for, and was captain of, Clapton Orient’s war-time XI from 1916-18. After the War, he returned to Ilford and then, in 1923, became a Ton.
His first season at Clapton saw him replace S.W. Adams (who later signed for Ilford!) and join E.A. Penstone and W.I. Bryant at the heart of Clapton’s defence. Penstone had been recently recruited from West Norwood FC and this threesome was united throughout two successful FA Amateur Cup campaigns in 1924 and 1925. Blake also captained Essex FA.and also represented London FA.
The disappointment of his desertion from the Ilford ranks is fairly evident, but expressed in a most gentlemanly fashion by the Newbury Park club, through their correspondent ‘HayBee’ who wrote the editorial in their matchday programmes. Furthermore, the transfer did not automatically go through and, Blake was sidelined for over a month, before a meeting of the Isthmian League Committee can its approval to the move. Later that season, a begrudging compliment was paid to the Doggies by the Ilford club for their Amateur Cup success, although it was tempered by pointing out that ‘Claptons great season’ had been helped by their managing to secure home draws in the completition on the way to their achievement. The following season, HayBee’s editorial in the Ilford programme pre-empts potential problems or, possibly, re-acts to previous incidents when, having referred to ex Ilford stalwarts, Blake and Potter, who were now lining up for the Tons says “Anyway, we hope our supporters will cheer good play impartially and refrain from the barracking that spoils good sport and good felowship between players”.
Having enjoyed all the successes with that great Clapton team, F.C.J. Blake moved to Catford Wanderers in 1930.
After retiring from playing football he lived in Upminster but suffered injury in car accident at Ingatestone in 1944. During the second world war he bacame an ARP warden afterwards became the landord of the Three Cups public house in Chelmsford. He also served as the Vice President of the Essex Referee’s Association whose headquarters were at the Three Cups. He remained a prominant figure in Essex football and even found time to become the Chairman of the Chelmsford Licensed Victuallers Association.
F.J.C. Blake passed away in Romford in June 1960 but the rivalry between these two great old amateur clubs continues to this day, albeit on a gentler and friendlier basis. There is no doubt that F.J.C. Blake would have been delighted to have seen over 750 spectators at the Spotted Dog for last season’s match between the clubs, however, one is sure that he would possibly have preferred it to have taken place in the Isthmian League, the traditional home of both clubs.
One can but hope.