Clapton played in their second FA Amateur Cup Final on 30th March 1907, having two years earlier lost to West Hartlepool at Shepherds Bush. On this occasion the final venue was moved across West London to Stamford Bridge (Chelsea FC) where a crowd of 5,000 spectators saw the Tons lift the trophy for the first time in their history following a 2-1 victory over Stockton.
The match day programme, which also covered Chelsea’s Division Two home fixture with Hull City that was played the day before, was sold at auction in 2009 for £3000.
The victorious Clapton team were :
J. Wilding (goal); J.J. Bayley, R. Ewan (backs); H. Parkinson, F. Randall, J. Olley (half backs) H. Eastwood, C. Russell, C.S. Rance, C.H. Purnell, F. K. Harvey (forwards).
Scorers : Clapton – Russell, Rance. Stockton – Chambers
The report of the Essex Chronicle of the 5th April 1907
Of this team, Clyde Honeysett Purnell (Olympic gold medallist 1908) and Charles Rance, the scorer of the winning goal in the final, (turned pro with Tottenham 1909) are probably the best known.
Half back F. (Frank) Randall was one of five men tragically killed in an explosion, aged 42, at a munitions factory in Rainham Essex in September 1916 . The Essex County Chronicle described him as a hero. Newspaper cutting >
F.K. Harvey went on to become President of Clapton FC as did H. Parkinson, the team captain on that afternoon. Mr Parkinson (right) was instrumental in reviving the club after the first World War. In the first season, playing records were poor, public support had dwindled and due to the Old Spotted Dog being unavailable, the club was playing it’s home matches at the grounds of Ilford FC and Leytonstone FC. Following a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Ilford, Mr Parkinson confidentially declared that the club had engaged in building a team to re-capture the Amateur Cup. This was regarded as something of a joke at the time but it was, indeed a true prophesy, for two years later Clapton became Isthmian League Champions and shortly thereafter came two seasons of success in the FA Amateur Cup.
J.J. Bayley (left) was recruited by Clapton FC after he had given a magnificent display in a London Junior Cup Final that was played at the Old Spotted Dog. A striking personality, he was the renowned for his height and was the centre of the defence. J.J. Bayley was known as “Big Bill” as nickname that some fourteen years later was to be used to described Clapton England international centre half W.I. Bryant. Mr Bayley was President of the Clapton Football Club in 1920-21.
Clapton were to return to the Amateur Cup final just two years later and go on to win the trophy on five occasions in total.
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.
The recent announcement that a couple of Clapton pre-season friendlies will form a competition called the Walter Tull Cup is a credible attempt by Vincent McBean to align his ‘club’ with one of England’s most famous footballing sons. In recent years there have been numerous articles written, (our own included – link) as well as radio programmes, tv documentaries, a film and a stage show, all on Walter Tull. All such efforts can only be for good and, should they raise awareness of Tull, his achievements and bravery, then they are to be applauded and encouraged.
Unfortunately, in announcing the Walter Tull Cup on his website article, (see The Legend of Walter Tull,) Mr McBean is shockingly ill-informed as to Tull’s football career.
As most Clapton supporters will know, Walter Tull did not make his ‘professional’ debut with Clapton at the Old Spotted Dog ground.. Clapton were a staunchly amateur club and, it was only when he joined Tottenham Hotspur in 1909, that he joined the professional ranks in the Football League. Two years later, after less than 20 appearances for the Spurs, Tull was transferred to Northampton Town of the Southern League for a considerable fee. In 1914, he was lined up to play for Glasgow Rangers when the War was over. As we know, this never happened for Walter.
A further bizarre and erroneous statement on the website was that Clapton have “won the FA Cup five times more than many of today’s famous football clubs”. Those with any interest in Clapton FC, or football generally, will probably know that Clapton have never won the FA Cup. One suspects that the confusion may be with the Tons’ successes in the FA Amateur Cup, a very different competition altogether.
Despite this, the idea of a tournament recognising Walter Tull’s achievements can only be for good and one hopes that the idea might be expanded in future to include club in areas which were relevant to Tull’s life. Maybe matches with Folkestone (his birthplace) or Tower Hamlets (where he lived in an orphanage), Northampton or Tottenham. These are all possibilities for the future. However, in promoting the event, it would help that the accompanying information was correct. Credibility is so important, and Walter Tull’s memory deserves that.
Harold Meredith Lemoine (1877 – 1961) was the Clapton goalkeeper from 1909. He also represented England at Amateur level on two occasions and also played as a wicket keeper for Hertfordshire in Minor Counties cricket. Looking at his stats, he was certainly a better goalkeeper than cricketer!
Although born in Cambridgeshire, Harold Lemoine earned himself a reputation ‘up north’ as a good goalkeeper when playing for a very good Hunslet FC team at the turn of the century. This team famously held Blackburn Olympic to a goalless draw in Yorkshire.
In 1905 Lemoine moved south, and played for Shepherds Bush FC at Loftus Road. In 1909 he moved across London to the Old Spotted Dog to play for the Tons.
Just before his arrival at the Dog he toured Canada and the USA with the representative team ‘Pilgrims FC’. Pilgrims were somewhat similar to Middlesex Wanderers FC or rugby club ‘Barbarians’. They would embark on tours using players from various clubs. Clapton’s J.J. Bayley also was a member of that North American touring party.
His two amateur international caps came in 1908 against Belgium and, in 1910 in Copenhagen against Denmark when he replaced Horace Bailey of Leicester Fosse who was injured the previous week playing for Derby County!
In 1910 Harold Lemoine signed amateur forms to play for Southend United.
England‘s Amateur National Team 1910 in Copenhagen
Back, (LtoR) – Eastwood, Charles S. Rance (both in civvies), Harold Boardman, Harold Lemoine, William Martin, Robert “Bobby” Hawkes, John Goodall (in civil), Frederick Leonard Fayers, Ivan Gordon Sharpe, John Hargreaves Pearson (referee); Front, (LtoR) – William Henry Steer, Lionel Louch, Frederick Williams Chapman, Thomas Carter Wilson, George Barlow. 5th May 1910
C.S. Rance and T.C. Wilson were also Clapton players.
H.M. Lemoine is mentioned on the Clapton FC Commemorative Scroll which was given to the club by the Football Association in 1954. The real Clapton FC are selling high quality reproductions of the scroll in aid of the Clapton Supporters Action Fund. email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just over a mile from the Boleyn Ground, in Upton Lane Forest Gate, lies the Old Spotted Dog Ground, home to Clapton Football Club. Hidden behind what is the old, unfortunately abandoned, Spotted Dog pub, one can easily not have noticed it. Equally, fans of the Hammers may not realise that, on their doorstep, there is a football club with an unrivalled pedigree in non-league football and, who have indelible links with West Ham United.
Clapton FC have won the FA Amateur Cup on no less than five occasions and are recognised by the Football Association as being the first English club to play on the continent. They have had both full and amateur international player pass through their ranks, most notably Stanley Earle, who was later to sign professional forms with the Hammers in 1926 (278 app – 58 goals) and Vivian Gibbins, who played as an amateur with West Ham, (129 apps – 58 goals) as well as being an iconic figure for the ‘Tons’.
Since then, Clapton and West Ham United have met in both competitive and non competitive matches. In the early 1900s, the Hammers came to the Dog on two occasions to knock ‘the Tons’ out of the FA Cup, once after a reply.
West Ham have used the Old Spotted Dog Ground for their Boys and “A” teams, and many illustrious names have run out at “The Dog” before they made their mark. However, one remarkable game was an 11-0 victory for the Hammers at Upton Park in September 1957. John Lyall and Bobby Moore were among those who have played for West Ham Colts that night.
Friendly matches have included a ‘Festival of Britain game in 1951 and, in 1966, a match to inaugurate Clapton’s new floodlights. The Hammers team was packed with stars, including Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst. In true Clapton style, these illustrious names had to wait for a late kick off due to floodlight failure. Oh well, it’s Clapton FC, Innit?
Matches have taken place since but, as the Old Spotted Dog aged, the ground became less a attractive place to bring your potential stars for friendly match, however during the 80s, West Ham were annual visitors during pre-season.
In addition, West Ham United have been good friends to Clapton for many years in that they have allowed Clapton play matches at Upton Park
An FA Cup 3rd Round match against Swindon Town in 1926 attracted a crowd of 27,100 and another, between Clapton and Barking FC in the Essex Thameside Trophy, was the first all amateur match to be played under floodlights.
The relationship between Clapton and West Ham United dates back to the 8th December 1900, the year the Thames Ironworks re-formed as West Ham United, when they met in the F.A. Cup 5th qualifying round. The first game was at West Ham’s home, the Memorial Ground in Canning Town, and ended in a 1-1 draw. West Ham ran out 3-2 victors in the replay played at the Old Spotted Dog. They met again at the ‘Dog’ in an F.A. Cup 4th qualifying round tie on 14th November 1903, when the professionals of West Ham were victorious again over the amateurs of Clapton three goals to nil in the tie played at the Old Spotted Dog.
The Thames Ironworks team won their very first trophy, the inaugural West Ham Charity Cup, when they beat Barking at the third attempt, at the Old Spotted Dog in 1896. The first match finished in a 2-2 draw on 21st March 1896, the second also finished even, this time 0-0 on 28th March 1896. The tie was eventually settled on 20th April 1896 in a second replay, when Thames Ironworks won the game by a score of 1-0. The competition was so named because of the county borough of West Ham, now Newham, not the football team itself. Clapton themselves were five times winners and four times runners up of the West Ham Charity Cup.
West Ham used to use the Old Spotted Dog grounds for their Boys and “A” teams, many illustrious names have run out at “The Dog” before they made their mark in the world, including, none other than, the current West Ham United Chairman, David Gold, it’s the ground where he made his West Ham United debut. Here is a link to a programme for a tie between West Ham United and Clapton Colts sides in the 1957 F.A. Youth Cup, held at the Boleyn Ground. Note some of the players in the line ups, for “Tons” is Stan Earl in goal and for the Hammers, Joe Kirkup, Harry Cripps John Lyall and Bobby Moore in defence. Unsurprisingly, West Ham won this game, they had reached the previous seasons final, however the 11-0 thumping that occurred was not expected.
The first friendly match between the two teams was in 1938. But it would take another 13 years before the two clubs would meet again. It was a 1951 Festival of Britain match that would re-unite the two close neighbours.
Then a further gap of 15 years passed before West Ham United brought their 3 World Cup Winners to “The Dog”, World Cup Winners at The Old Spotted Dog!!. The 1966 game was held to officially open Clapton’s new floodlights, which were installed just a few weeks earlier. West Ham arrived packed with stars, a full strength first team was sent, including Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, but even they had to wait as the game was interrupted, due to a floodlight failure!!.
As the 80’s arrived, the friendship between Clapton and West Ham United appeared stronger than ever with yearly friendlies taking place, some of which were played for the Lee Rackett Memorial Trophy.
The Lee Rackett Memorial Trophy was an annual match played in memory of a local young man who died in a car accident in 1967 at the age of just 19, . Lee was an all-round sportsman who played many outstanding games for representative teams and for Clyde A.O.B., Fairburn House and Red House Football Clubs. One time Clapton Manager, Bernie Dixson, was also involved in this accident, but escaped with serious leg and head injuries, which ended his promising playing career. The Inaugural Lee Rackett Memorial Trophy match took place in 1968.
1981’s meeting saw Ray Houghton grace the Old Spotted Dog pitch in a 3-1 victory for the Hammers, with Terry Sorenson scoring for the Tons. Whilst in 1982 Tony Mercer scored Clapton’s only goal in a 2-1 defeat. Clapton had former West Ham United and Leicester City keeper Colin Mackleworth between the sticks. Another ‘keeper who played for both clubs was Peter Grotier who was a youth player at the Dog and was later to make 50 appearances for the Hammers.
The 1983 match saw the first competitive appearance of Ray Stewart for West Ham, with George Parris and Bobby Barnes scoring for the Hammers and George Omaboe replying for the Tons. The match looked to be heading for a draw until a last minute winner for West Ham. The West Ham side that day also included Paul Brush, Alan Dickens and Tony Cottee.
West Ham’s visit in 1984 saw Clapton achieve off a 3-3 draw with Paul Davies, Alan Shirley and Chris Sharples scoring for the Tons. A year later West Ham left the Dog with a 3-1 victory. Billy Partridge scored Clapton’s only goal, from the penalty spot. West Ham’s side included Potts, Brush, Parris, Whitton, Dickens, Keen and Swindlehurst.
1986’s visit saw a more dominant 5-1 win for the Hammers. Jason Apps scored for Clapton, West Ham’s team included Steve Whitton, Paul Ince, Steve Potts, Geoff Pike, Paul Hilton and the legend that is Billy Bonds.
The visit of 1990 saw the likes of Alan McKnight, Tommy McQueen, Kevin Horlock, George Parris and Leroy Rosenior take to the pitch for West Ham.
Competitive matches between Clapton and West Ham United
West Ham U
FA Cup 5th Q
West Ham U
FA Cup 5th Q replay
West Ham U
FA Cup 4th Q
West Ham have been good neighbours to the Tons and have hosted several matches that Clapton have competed in, sometimes to create a spectacle and sometimes due to crowd concerns.
In December 1923 an FA Cup qualifying tie against Southend United was played at the Boleyn which ended in a 3-1 victory for the Essex club.
The match against Swindon Town, in 1926, attracted a crowd of 27,100, a crowd that the Old Spotted Dog just could not have held, although the Dog managed to host a crowd of over 7,000 for the second round tie against Ilford.
The Essex Thameside Trophy match between Clapton and Barking was making history, it was the first all amateur tie to be played under floodlights.
Equally historic was Clapton’s visit to Upton Park in March 1958. This tie, between Clapton and Ilford, was the first Isthmian League match to be played under lights
Friendly matches between Clapton and West Ham United
West Ham United
West Ham United
Festival of Britain
West Ham United
1st Floodlit game @The Dog
West Ham United
West Ham United
West Ham United
Lee Rackett Memorial Trophy
West Ham United
Lee Rackett Memorial Trophy
Clapton won 7-6 on penalties
West Ham United
Lee Rackett Memorial Trophy
West Ham United
Lee Rackett Memorial Trophy
West Ham United
Clapton matches held at West Ham United
F.A. Cup Third Round
Essex Senior Cup Final
Essex Senior Cup Final Replay
Essex Thameside Trophy 1st Round Replay
These days Clapton, still upholding their amateur policy, play in the Essex Senior League. Results have improved in recent seasons and spirits among the supporters are high. In the past season, Clapton have regularly played in front of home crowds that of over 300 and, in October 2016, over 700 people packed into the ground for the local derby against, traditional foes, Ilford FC. In a league where attendances rarely reach three figures, the indications are that Clapton are on the march once again.
Whilst Clapton FC cannot necessarily boast the best achievements on the field in recent years nor, for that matter, the best ground or facilities, it retains, as did the Boleyn Ground, a special place in football and in the hearts of football supporters.
The real Clapton FC would very much like to welcome any West Ham fans who cannot get to the Irons’ away games or who might be a bit strapped in these difficult times in affording to attend premier League games.
We can assure you of a good atmosphere amongst the crowd, a truly loyal, determined and committed squad of players and a football club that is very much on the edge of moving forward despite difficult times in the recent past.
The aim is to change the inward looking, exclusivity of the present regime at Clapton into bringing about a fan owned, democratic club in which everybody has a voice and a contribution to make.
Read more here www.claptonfc.info or complete the form below and we will ensure that you receive a list of our fixtures and answer any enquiries that you may have.
Nearly eighty nine years ago, on the 21st May 1925, the full England team played an end of season friendly match against their French counterparts at the Olympic Stadium, in Colombes, Paris before 35,000 spectators. In the England team that afternoon were Clapton players W.I. (Bill) Bryant and W.V.T. (Viv) Gibbins.
The visitors triumphed by three goals to two with Gibbins scoring the opening goal after 24 minutes. Unfortunately, on the half hour, he had to withdraw from the game with a ‘wrenched knee’.
Just after half time England went further ahead when the French centre half, Jules Dewaquez, diverted a shot by England’s Arthur Dorrell, into his own net. Three minutes later, Dorrell, the Aston Villa winger, scored in his own right with a ‘fine high drive’.
However, the French team did not give up, for which they were to be praised in the Parisian newspapers the following morning. Their Captain James Nicolas of Red Star FC pegged one back before England keeper, Freddie Fox, was penalised for ‘handling’. From the restart Jean Boyer of Olympique de Marseille scored again for the hosts and set up a nervous finish for the visitors. Matters were to get even more tense when Fox had to retire having been injured following a ‘charge from Dewaquez’, and he was replaced in goal by inside right, Frank Roberts of Manchester City, for the remainder of the match.
In those days there were no substitutes and the English team clung onto to victory with just nine men.
The local press reaction was largely that the English team were superior throughout yet the French XI were never discouraged and suffered an “honourable defeat”.
The Stade Olympique de Colombes, as it was known then, is situated on the north west outskirts of Paris and had a capacity of 45,000. It had hosted a numbers of sports during the 1924 Paris Olympic Games including athletics, fencing, football and rugby. It continued to host French cup finals, was home to both the french Football and Rugby teams and, in 1938, was the venue for the World Cup final between Italy and Hungary. “Colombes”, as it is known locally, was the largest stadium in France until the Parc des Princes was renovated in the 1970s.
Today, now named “Stade Departmentale Yves-du Manoir” the stadium is still owned and maintained by the local authority (are you listening Newham?) and it is home to Racing 92 rugby club (92 denotes the French department/county and not year of formation). On my unannounced visit to the ground, and after explaining my connection to the ground along with the reason for my interest, I was directed to park my car in spaces reserved for ‘officials’.
The Stadium, now with a capacity of 14,000, is dominated by two large covered stands with sky blue seats, the colours of Racing 92. A tartan running track envelopes the pitch. But the pitch, wow. The pitch was an absolute green carpet, beautifully maintained (still there Newham?) and its quite incredible to think that it could be in such condition when subjected to a regular 80 minutes of egg chasing.
Both ends of the pitch were open but behind one goal I found three tents which were staffed by supporters of Racing 92. These tents were a makeshift ticket office, a bar/beer tent and a shop selling club merchandise. The supporters were very welcoming and again interested in the ‘Clapton link’ to their stadium. Incidentally, Racing 92 are no slouches, they currently include Kiwi international Dan Carter in their squad.
Very little remains of the old stadium. In the video below, at 26 seconds, one can make out an old concrete terrace, behind a floodlight pylon and a blue and white fence, which is probably the only part of the stadium that survives from the visit of Gibbins and Bryant in 1925.
Standing in the middle of the pitch, it was marvellous to think that two lads from our team in Forest Gate had played here, in what was, one of the most famous football grounds in the world of those days. For me, it ticked another box in my Clapton journey and reinforces my desire to see our famous old club recapture its true status and integrity.
Vive les Ciels, vive les Tons et vive l’entente cordiale !
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.