This missive is being sent from my sick bed. I have finally succumbed to the dreaded flu and am currently dosed up on various linctii and Lemsip in the hope that I might be in some kind of condition to be able to travel on the Welwyn Garden express next week.
I know I keep going on about the years I have spent at the Old Spotted Dog, the change of managers and players along with the comings and goings of chairmen and bar staff etc. In all those years, I believe that I have witnessed, particularly over the past couple of seasons, a course of events that has changed my views as to what is the future for Clapton Football Club.
Three years ago it would be fair to say that 'Clapton Football Club' were going through the motions, both on and off the field. The mystery that is 'the club house and it's management' was functioning of sorts. The ground was being as extensively used, as ever (keeping the money rolling in) and a Clapton team was struggling to keep off the foot of the Essex Senior League. With no disrespect to the team manager Wilfred Thomas, who did as good a job as he was able in difficult circumstances, the whole shebang was shambolic. I also know that was a move, in which Vince was involved, to sell the lease on the ground which would certainly have undermined and probably spelt the death knell to the club.
But the new air of optimism at the ground and has come about primarily due to a group of men and women, now famously referred to as the 'Clapton Ultras', who rolled up, parked their bike and said, “we can have some good times here”. And so they have.
The support from the scaffold is unprecedented at this level of football. It is good humoured, witty and inoffensive even if an opposition player or a 'sexy lino' becomes the focus of attention. Sure, there is a bit of politics thrown in alongside the clear anti-fascist message, but the atmosphere is generally one of bon vivant and inclusivity. I am not a political animal so the politics do not worry or offend me, but having been born not so long after the second world war, I have a pretty good understanding of the consequences of allowing fascism to germinate and grow. Anyway, wasn't society celebrating the re-emergence of political awareness amongst the young in the recent Scottish independence campaign?
However, there is much more to this group. (who I previously called 'oiks', which I revoke unconditionally) Their obvious drive and enthusiasm for the club is punctuated by a clear social conscience which, I believe, will put help Clapton FC back in the heart of the Forest Gate community. Last season we saw food bank collections and the sale of bracelets to raise funds for Gaza children charities. Last Saturday they linked up with the Save the Spotted Dog group to clean around the old pub. Our little corner of East London is rapidly becoming a forgotten area of Newham. The tyre shop is an eyesore and the debris around the place appears to go unchecked. (although I am given to understand that the the tyre firm are subject of an expired eviction notice) So I very much hope that Saturday's clean up will be as widely publicised as was the re-decoration of Vince's private bar by 'Tesco volunteers'.
But going back to Clapton football matters, this group are undoubtedly very well versed into the situation at the Vince's club and, despite the quagmire behind the scenes, they are continuing to support the eleven or so lads that put on the famous red and white shirt. I am therefore surprised that Vince has not made any attempt to try to include or involve them 'his' club. However, I expect that he probably recognises that they do not share his 'vision' for the future of Clapton FC.
But the future is certainly bright. The Ultras are well up for the forthcoming FA Vase game at Welwyn match and I have no doubt that the team will be well supported on the day. Vince might even be there, he usually is if there is a sponsorship cheque to be contested.
However, the 'train poster' produced by the Ultras for the trip to Welwyn is prophetic in itself.
This Clapton FC train is undoubtedly moving forward. Not necessarily at full tilt yet, but it is an irresistable force and should not be ignored. I, for one, want to be aboard that train (both physically and metaphorically) as I see it taking my club to a place that it has not been for many many years. I want to be part of a club, as I was before, where I was able to vote to elect the Chairman and Secretary etc. I see these young men and women as being the future of Clapton FC. They are clearly well organised. They exhibit an enthusiasm and commitment to Clapton FC that is the envy of many clubs at our level and above. They are keen to get Clapton involved in local issues and to throw the doors of the club open to the community. They are far from naïve, and do not necessarily swallow Vince's various diatribes and statements. Most importantly, they are not going away.
It's my opinion that it is time for Vince to actively engage with them, many of whom are members of the Real Clapton FC, in order to resolve various inconsistencies and disputes that have been exposed at Clapton over recent years. For him to ignore them might be a very costly error indeed.
An irresistible force, such as the rolling stock that is Real Clapton FC (and the virus that is laying me low) should not be ignored. Is Vince an immovable object? Time will tell, but the cracks are certainly beginning to become apparent.
28th September 2014
email Lew Listz