I’d been off the scene for a while but tempted out of retirement by the lure of the clash between Clapton Legends and their Sporting Bengal counterparts at Ilford FC's Cricklefields ground.
Glad to say what a fantastic evening I had, great to see so many old faces and the carnival atmosphere had to be seen and heard to be believed. I have heard a lot about this ‘pyro’ issue over the years and fair play to the fans who have not used it of late because of the fines which would apparently be credited to the home side. But here in a more relaxed setting, the pyro was in full flow and added to a visually fantastic occasion which the incredible photos of the game bear testimony to.
What a truly inclusive occasion it was as well both on and off the pitch and great to see so many old faces in the Clapton squad ranging from the full spectrum of the early days of Chris Wood’s team such to those who have graced the pitch and the dug out in more recent times. Whilst the players picked were certainly of mixed ability and fitness levels due to the passage of time, they all held a shared affinity with the Ultras through good times and bad and most importantly it was plain to see the respect and affection was a 2 way thing. Having gone to only a handful of games in recent years I found myself more drawn towards this mixed band of footballing ‘desperados’ than the teams I had seen of late which seemed to chop and change on a regular basis, I found myself really getting behind the players and appreciating their efforts whatever the outcome might be.
The game itself was probably more competitive than expected and had a moment of controversy and good humour when a Sporting goal was unceremoniously ruled offside, a giant Ultras flag mischievously cutting short the celebrations. The boys went on to win 3-1 but the night wasn’t about the result, it was all about the occasion and perhaps an insight of how enjoyable football could be with the right people at the helm and everyone unified.
Well done to everyone involved including our very good friends Sporting Bengal in making this a true Night to Remember. Credit and my respect to the Clapton fans, you have to admire the unity of purpose in carrying out an unflinching year long boycott , let’s hope the future bring resolution to the fantastic fight waged against the ‘owner’.