Friday, 17 October 2014

The Be All And End All ?

I thought I’d look through a few old Clapton programmes of mine and I found two home matches from the 1968/69 season in which the visitors to the Dog were Enfield FC and Hendon FC.

The Enfield match was one of the first games of the season, taking place on Saturday 24th August.  Hopes were clearly high in the Clapton camp and here is talk in the programme notes of the Clapton’s intention to prove that they should force to be reckoned with at the Dog.  The Clapton side were not a bad side at all and included Bill McConnell in goal, the loyal Colin Watson at number six and the omnipresent Ken Pope at ‘right half’. (look that up if you are under 50)

However, looking across the page, the Enfield side were a virtual who’s who of amateur football of the day.  From Ian Wolstenholme between the sticks, to Roger Day, Joe Adams, Jimmy Quail, Phil Fry and the late John Payne.  All were all of the highest calibre of player in the Isthmian League.  In centre half, Alf D’Arcy, Enfield had probably the best Isthmian League player I have ever seen.  The E’s were then managed by former England Amateur International forward Tommy Lawrence.  They were, to use a modern London phrase ‘the Dogs’.

It is therefore little surprise therefore that the Tons were beaten 6-0 and I can recall leaving the ground thinking that I had seen a very good team in Enfield who were too strong for my favourites, but I had been royally entertained nonetheless.  For the record, this Enfield side repeated a 6-0 score line on their travels at Woking and then rattled in eight without replay at Dulwich Hamlet.  Unsurprisingly, Enfield finished the season as Champions.

Three months later on Saturday 2nd November the visitors to the Spotted Dog were Hendon FC.  The Tons were represented by a largely similar line up. Tommy Mahon had been drafted in and John Chivers continued to lead the line, supported by Alan Harris who was an opportunist goal scorer.

The Hendon team was, again, a formidable group.  England Amateur International goalkeeper John Swannell was arguably the best guardian of the day, David Hogwood, at full back, was another fine player, and at wing half, Rod Haider was only in his second season with the club.  Haider went on to play nearly 700 times for the Greens and remains the most capped England Amateur International, a record that can never be broken.  He further became synonymous with Hendon when he memorably scored their goal in an FA Cup 3rd round tie tie at Newcastle in the 1970s.

The game at the Dog proved to a lot less one-sided as was the Enfield affair and despite Haider opening the scoring in the first half, the Tons fought back through to lead 2-1 through two goals from Chris Ballard.  Haider then popped up again to level the scores at two each.  However, this Clapton team, under the management of Eddie Lewis, were a battling brood and the Jimmy Dormer’s winner sent the Clapton contingent home with a smile on their faces.  Once again they had been royally entertained, only, on this occasion, the result had been more pleasurable.

Finally, a quick look at the front of the programme lists the names of the Clapton club officers of the day.  Mr Jack Haynes, a former Clapton player of many years was now Hon Secretary and Bill Tingle the Chairman.  These were real, honourable, Clapton men.

So, what’s the significance of the above, save for a wander down memory lane?

In a recent ‘twitter exchange’ initiated by my Night of the Long Knives article, I was reminded by a chap of the results this season and the apparent success of the team on the pitch.  ‘What is more important is that Clapton are 2nd in the table, their best achievement on 15 seasons".  That is one way of looking at a club's success or achievement, but in my view, results are secondary.

I agree that so far this season the results have been good and I have invariably left the ground smiling, but not solely because of a Clapton victory on the pitch.  The recent match at Welwyn Garden City has shown that, despite a negative result or performance, real football people have give best when beaten and enjoy the game for the sport.

In the media, professional managers repeat a diatribe now mimicked by managers and coaches even at non league / amateur level; “The result is everything” and “it’s all about getting the points”.  Is it really?  Supporters of dissolved clubs such as Leyton, Rushden and Diamonds, Maidstone United might argue otherwise and let's face it, most players and managers move on, supporters tend to stay.

If results are to be the barometer of success, it is a little like extolling the virtues of a shack that has a front door that bought from Voysey and Jones.  The front door looks good, but if you open it and look inside, the place is a shambles and unfit for habitation.

In 1968/69 Clapton finished 15th in the Isthmian League and were playing at a standard vastly superior to that of the Essex Senior League today.  There were good and bad results during the season which included a 5-0 win at Ilford and a 5-1 drubbing by the aforesaid Maidstone United (RIP) at the Dog.

The 'front door' at Clapton FC in 1968 may not have been bespoke, but the quality of the structure was of the finest quality, and the calibre of those maintaining it, Messrs Tingle, Haynes and Co, unblemished.  Results are certainly not everything.

The Enfield club that achieved that excellent 6-0 result against Clapton in August 1968 went into liquidation in 2007.  Hendon FC, whilst still in the Isthmian League, are no longer playing at their famous old ground at Claremont Road and have been ground sharing since 2008.

17th October 2014
email Lew Listz

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