The proud history of Clapton FC is well chronicled and, with the growth of the internet it has become easier to access and research.
However, the biggest mystery is this; how have Clapton FC continue to survive whilst remaining at its traditional home at the Old Spotted Dog Ground when so many other famous names have merged, moved on or ceased to exist?
Non league / amateur football in East London and Essex has been decimated for a number of reasons, primarily the misplaced ambitions of clubs, or individuals at those clubs, to climb football’s pyramid. The club that now calls itself Dagenham and Redbridge is an amalgamation of four former Isthmian league clubs. To get to the ‘heady heights’ of League Two, they sold three football grounds in prime developments sites and at the same time, destroyed a generation’s worth of football history and tradition.
So, how has Clapton managed to not succumb to this? Through the years, many different people, from many different walks of life, have passed though the gates of the Old Spotted Dog and in some way have left an indelible mark on the club, the ground, and the history of Clapton.
The first group of people without who there would be no Clapton FC are the players. After the war and into the 60s, the growth of ‘shamateurism’ was rife in most amateur leagues. Enfield, Wycombe Wanderers and Hendon were paying some serious money to players, whereas the likes of Corinthian Casuals, Dulwich Hamlet and Clapton remained Amateur. Whilst it meant that the likes of Clapton, more often than not, occupied the lower berths of the League table, the camaraderie at those clubs was special. Even now, one must always respect the wish to of a player to further a career or play at a higher standard of football and, in recent years, we have watched and been proud of the likes of Miguel De Souza, Tarkan Mustafa and Gary Charles enjoy marvellous careers in the professional game.
However, it would be unfair to pick out individual players for loyalty to the club. Every player who has pulled on the famous red and white striped shirt of Clapton through the years, has played his part, purely for sport, and has done so in the best traditions of their predecessors, going back over 100 years. This tradition continues today. This equally applies to those who have managed the teams through the years.
Behind the scenes, the administrators, officials and supporters at the club have also played their part in keeping the Clapton name alive in football today. This group includes some who have been members of the House of Lords and other, just local, ordinary folk. All their contributions have been invaluable. One example, and I will name him, was ‘Fred’ the deaf and dumb tea-man from the 1970s-90s. Clapton continues to exist because of the efforts and help from the likes of Fred.
At the moment, the Friends of Clapton FC are looking for people, like Fred, who will make a positive contribution to Clapton Football Club. It is easy to criticise the club, the players, the management and those that have been part of the club over the years. Despite the apparent errors, the failure to keep pace with the modern semi-professional football and the apparent decline in the club’s status, the Tons are still alive and kicking today, although probably not in the manner in which the club’s forefathers would approve.
However, if you want to make a positive contribution in helping Clapton FC to not only survive, but also thrive, in non-league football, then join the Friends of Clapton FC. Our first intention is to re-establish a membership from which committee and officers can be democratically elected. If this were to be achieved then the Tons can move forward.
Clapton FC may no longer the force they were in the 1920s and, let’s be honest, never will reach those heights again. However, we don’t want to go the same way as the Avenue, Leyton, Leytonstone, Ilford, Romford, Grays, etc etc.
So, instead of criticising and bemoaning Clapton FC’s decline, this is a great opportunity to be part of its resurgence.
Find out more and join the Friends of Clapton FC here