Last Saturday was a welcome day off for Clapton players and supporters after all the attention generated by the Ilford game and the incredible attendance.
I have been 'silver surfing' since then and the vast majority of the internet reaction has been extremely positive, not only towards the supporters (as usual) but also as to the quality of the entertainment served up by the players. One hopes that those who enjoyed the day will come back to a non league game, if not to Clapton, but to their local team.
Negatives? Well there was a complaint about the queues to get in and, to an extent, I understand that. However, in fairness to Vince McBean, I don't think even he could have imagined the size of the crowd. It might have been an idea to ask the referre to delay the kick off for 15 minutes or so, but I doubt whether there has ever been any reason for the Essex Senior League to have considered such a possibility so as to include it in their rules. Hindsight is wonderful thing.
Many of the new supporters appeared to enjoy the day. I have previously mentioned the buying of beer etc and will not repeat myself. However, there were a couple of other issues which have emerged that are worthy of comment.
The scaffold stand was clearly packed out, and it may have been the case that some of the 'originals' were pushed out or couldn't take up their usual places. Thats unfortunate, but it happens when you get such a large influx of people. But, from what I understand, and have seen when I ventured over at previous games to witness the 'Ultras vibe' (very 60s!), is that there appears to be kind of unwritten code or ethic by which everyone enjoys the game along with the 'Clapton experience'. The 'Scaffoldites' primarily watch the match, not themselves, or their neighbour, and they cheer, boo, heckle and sing along, dependant on and in response to, what is happening on the pitch.
On Saturday the vibe appeared to be more insular and the Scaffold seemed to be a prominent side show, on occasions, almost vying with the game itself. A couple of people (regulars) mentioned to me afterwards that they moved out of the Scaffold because they could not see the game. I know the Scaffold is a small space, and I am reminded of a quote from last season "we are going to need a bigger scaffold", but perhaps, in the short term, more consideration might be given to those unable to watch the game because they are obstructed by the melée or are smaller than the chaps at the front etc. I am reminded of the packed terraces of Football League grounds in the 1970s when kids etc were normally allowed to get to the front so they could see the game. Just a thought.
The word 'considerate' could be taken to mean "When a person actually gives a crap about you and/or other people". So lets recognise that we are all Clapton fans, give due consideration to others, treat everyone with respect, whilst trying to ensure that everyone has a great time whilst supporting the Tons.
Also it was also a shame to see the number of cans that were littered about the place after the game as I recall that the Ultras traditionally cleared up after themselves, most famously at Wooton, Welwyn and after last season's cup finals. I can only imagine that some of the new folks are not yet 'on message'.
An instance of someone clearly not 'on message' was the twerp who apparently offered to buy the Clapton shirt off a player's back after the game. This, on Non League Day, when the Ultras were ensuring that others without such disposible funds, could come along and enjoy a game of football ! To that chap, I don't think Clapton is the place for you. There are plenty of football clubs offering football with prawn sandwiches in London and elsewhere.
Despite this, I hope that many of the new supporters will continue to come to the Dog but, rather than view the Scaffold as some kind of circus act, they concentrate on the game, the state of the club, how it can be bettered, and what active contribution they can make. I will try to engage with the new people and explain to them what has been happening, why such progress has been made at Clapton over the past two or three years. It has been that progress that has brought these people to Clapton in the first place and, in order to be part of it, they should embrace it and the moral standards and values behind it, rather than flash the cash or, as was unfortunately overheard, view the outing as "a day out with the 'hoi polloi'."
Returning to the subject of food, although I cannot imagine prawn sandwiches were involved, I have seen an internet exchange over the post match events where our visitors, Ilford, complained that there were no showers, programmes or after match food. I obviously know Allan Fenn, the Ilford manager, who is a past Clapton player and captain. I also know that Clapton FC are very dear to his heart and that he would not complain unless he considered it was justified.
Admittedly there was a break-in at the ground some weeks ago but Vince did say in this article on his website that that the ground was ready for the 'big day' and therefore one assumes that this was fixed.
Allan's complaint, as regards the sandwiches was responded to by Shelley Williams, who appears to be Vince's assistant, and she said that food was available and it must have all gone. Ok, perhaps there it was all gone by the time Allan arrived, but there still hasn't been any response, or apology, as regards the showers. That is clearly inconsiderate, embarrassing and frankly not good enough. If Vince McBean or club officials knew the showers hadn't been repaired in the first place, then that is even worse. As for Vince's programme, its not missed as I picked up one of the real Clapton FC folded match sheets and it has all the information one could need. You can get these programmes on the real Clapton website at www.claptonfc.info/progs/index.htm
Subsequent 'tweets' have included reference to a comment made by a Clapton official that the complaints made by Ilford were merely because they were jealous that Clapton had made so much money from the large attendance. That is disgraceful and certainly not representative of the traditions of the Clapton Football Club that I have supported for many years. Whoever made this comment should be ashamed.
I could not imagine, in the 60s and 70s when we used to visit the likes of Wycombe Wanderers, Hendon or Woking, that any official from those clubs would have made such a comment. The majority of clubs in the Isthmian League, had infinitely better attendances, resources and facilities than Clapton, and we were reguarly royally tonked by them. However, despite our apparent inadequacies, we (the players and supporters) were treated equally well as any visitor to their ground and, when they came to the Dog they treated our ground and club with the requisite respect.
Forty of so years later I can see that a lot of progress has been made by the supporters and Ultras over a very short period of time. It would be a travesty to have it derailed. It can be difficult when a large influx of people come in but I think that inclusion and tolerence should remain paramount. Equally, those wishing to join the party, must be prepared to fit in with the ethic that has fulled that progress or find another club where cash is king.
FINAL NOTE : I thought the statement from Vince McBean was probably the biggest load of bull since his previous effort. What a liar he is. The fact he claims the credit for the day demonstrates his distain for the efforts of the Ultras and others in promoting the game so brilliantly. My message to the Ultras is "learn from this" and to the real Clapton FC, "Come on, get him out for the good of our great old club."