whatever happened to the likely lads?
Like most real Clapton FC fans I do admit to missing Woodsy and Neil Day and I was delighted when they agreed to meet me for a couple of beers to chat about the club. During an evening punctuated by lager and cheese and onion crisps I managed to ask them a couple of questions. The following is an edited transcript of what I recorded, leaving out Neil's account of his 'best bits' at the Orient match last May
|Lew||Right, we're recording. Please do not swear, Mrs Listz has a low tolerance of blasphemy, profanity, nudity, bu**ery and alliteration. (all laugh) OK Gents, nice to see you both again. How's life without Clapton FC?|
|Chris||Well I can't say it's been easy. I certainly miss the day to day involvement along with the players and fans, but life goes on I've been keeping myself busy.|
|Lew||I've noticed you've been involved in David Fallah playing for Boston, how did that come about?|
|Chris||Dave's a player I really rated last year and I've always thought he could fulfil more of his potential (as a ex England School International). As I'm near Boston regularly I recommended him to the Manager and the rest is history. To be fair to Dave he's made the most of the opportunity so good luck to him.|
And you Neil, how are you doing?
|Neil||Like Chris said, true to say I've really missed life at Clapton but I had plenty of time away from the changing room last year so it should be a little easier for me. Supporting Chris and the team last year at least kept me involved, things are a little different this season. May not be the most popular view but the team isn't mine and Chris's anymore although it does exist almost entirely of the players we brought on over the last 2 seasons. As a result I just can't support it, however much I like the players. A number of players made a stand not to play for current regime so it's not a straightforward situation. To get back to your question as Chris said, at the end of the day you just have to get on with things. I've played a full cricket season for the first time in many years although the team might have wished I hadn’t. (all laugh) And I've had more time for my scouting work at Leyton Orient, so some good things have come out of it.|
|Lew||I'm surprised you're not both at a club this year, have others clubs approached you?|
|Chris||I won't go into details but fair to say we've both had offers individually and as a pair. I've spoken to Neil about this and trouble is due to the fantastic support it's really hard for anything at this level to compare with the buzz the fans created last year. It's a bit of a two edged sword as where else below the Ryman Prem can you experience some of the great moments we've had in the last 2 seasons.|
|Neil||I think Chris has got it spot on, personally I've had quite a few offers and I've kept my hand in coaching a couple of Junior teams as well as one from the Olympian. In a nutshell, it's been pretty enjoyable but it's not Clapton, maybe we've been spoilt but even went to went to watch Orient the other day the atmosphere seemed sterile in comparison to a Clapton game. I left at half time and caught the second half at Mile End - it was buzzing.|
|Lew||I was at that game and commented on the great reception you received. That mist have been nice for you in that the fans have continued to voice their support for you and Chris.|
|Neil||It's fair to say the fans never fail to amaze me. It's nice to know that they never fail to let the current regime know we're not forgotten even in victory.|
|Lew||(sings) ’Chris and Neil’s Red and White Army’ (much to the bemusement of Chris and Neil. Everyone creases up.).|
|Neil||The reception at Mile End was great, but altogether the support they have shown to both me and Chris collectively and individually over the last couple of years has been top drawer. To play in front of them at Brisbane Road was a fantastic feeling, if I'd scored I think I'd still be celebrating today (all laugh again)|
|Lew||I was going to make a comeback in that game but to my shame I bottled it at the last moment. I think you two surprised a few of us that day, do you get to play much yourselves nowadays?|
|Chris||(smiling fondly at the memory of the Orient game), We both set out with one aim and that was not to disgrace ourselves. Out of pride we didn't want the fans to laugh at us running around like headless chickens and I think, by and large, we achieved that. All joking aside it might not have been too noticeable ,we both made some sort of effort to get in shape (more laughter). Neil started to play for my Sunday team for about 6 weeks beforehand, when I first saw him play he literally couldn't move in the warm up, he's the same immediately after the game-in between he doesn't stop running and can still put in a tackle so the old boy’s got something about him still . I must admit he surprised me a bit. I suppose it's a case of don't judge a book by it's cover.|
|- Neil responds by being equally appreciative of Chris's efforts on the pitch, clearly there is a mutual respect which transcends the Spotted Dog dug out.|
|Neil||It was quite surprising bearing in mind I first played with Chris when I was 49. They put us both in centre midfield together, probably the one place I wouldn't have chosen given the choice. It was a bit uncanny but we seemed to have an instant bond, maybe it was all those team talks telling players what we thought they should be doing, either way every time I got the ball Chris seemed to be available to receive it and visa versa, if one of us went forward the other would cover and so on so on, I've played with a lot of better players than Chris but I don't think I've enjoyed playing with any other player as much-I think it surprised both of us without getting him too big headed.|
|Lew||The disharmony within the club has been well documented, are you surprised at how well the team are doing so far this season?|
|Chris||I've got to say I'm not surprised as the current management have assembled a good group of players, as Neil touched upon, it’s a bit ironic that the team is essentially a combination of the sides we had for the last 2 seasons but they've done well so it's hard to knock the results. Rumours that there is some sort of wage budget at the club this season and that's not something me and Neil experienced, so they do have advantages but there you go.|
|Neil||If you look at the players they've got and the momentum built up, the recipe is there for success. Add the fantastic support they receive then it really should be no surprise they are doing well, true to say if the fans did actually support the regime we could see even more extraordinary results. To give the current team management regime a little credit they have played some players in different positions and it's worked so far, but it’s a long season. So its fair to say the jury’s out (both figuratively and literally-Ed), I have said before that to me the results are by and large irrelevant, the fans are a pretty ethical bunch and have long memories. They gave us brilliant support when losing regularly in our first season and will judge what happened behind the scenes when a fans takeover hopefully becomes a reality. As Bananarama said ' It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it" and the current management need to have a long think about that-a long hard think. (everyone laughs)|
|Lew||Didn't Bananarama also sing "Na na, Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye"? (More laughter).|
|Neil||No kissing though ! (even more laughter)|
Chris, Neil. It's been a pleasure to talk to you both as always. I wish you both luck in whatever you decide to do and hopefully we might see you back at the OSD some time in the future.
As I sat down to write this piece I could not help thinking what a really nice pair of guys they are who, despite being disgustingly treated, are able to share honest and objective opinions about a club which they obviously care about.
I have no doubt that our paths will continue to cross.
5th September 2014
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