Non-League isn’t just for Christmas

The Non League Day (NLD) initiative is to encourage folks to get down and see there their local nonleague team and support grassroots football on a day when there are no league football matches. That is pretty much the goal of NLD in a nutshell and has been widely supported across the country and has even taken off in other countries. 

Being a non-league fan I often look at what clubs have to offer on the day. Some have ‘pay what you like’, half priced tickets or even a box of mushrooms with every entry. But what I did notice happening a lot with these clubs is that they were offering a discount to those that come to the game with a season ticket from another league club. Embarrassingly, Clapton are offering this to season tickets holders of Premiership or Championship clubs. The admission will be £5 (instead of £6!) and this even excludes Orient fans down the road. Usually the offer from other clubs for season tickets holders are a lot better thought out. Although I would argue that the whole idea of offering discounts exclusively to season tickets holders is flawed.

At the moment the logic is that the non-league club will be the second team for season tickets holders of bigger league clubs who might fancy a trip down when their team are away to a fixture that they don’t make for whatever reason.  This seems sensible when you consider that these are people that already going to watch live football, they obviously have the finances and are free on Saturdays. For me, this is misguided.

The problem is that non-league clubs should be trying to sell the club on its own terms. Let me explain. When I first started coming to Clapton a group called Friends of Clapton put out the idea that we at the Old Spotted Dog change their kick off time to 12pm. This would proposed with the hope of attracting West Ham fans before going to the Boleyn Ground or for groundhoppers so they could tick off a couple of grounds in London on one day. The logic is solid, especially when our average attendance was 28.  However I argued then, as I do now, that you need to embrace non-league culture and sell it for the alternative that it is. This applies to those non-league clubs pandering to the league football season ticket holders.

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Harwich and Parkeston FC

What I mean by non league culture is that its grassroots, affordable, accessible and part of the community. Before you dismiss me as some lefty trying to bring my politics in to football, I would ask you to look at what makes non-league special. All I would like to see is clubs build on that, and measure success not just on the pitch but also by their value to the community and supporters. During my years I have visited many grounds, some with attendances below 15. What I do see as a reoccurring theme is that it attracts people that are often marginalised by the wider society, namely many older people and those with some kind of disability (be it physical or learning). You see things that you never see at a league game like people with dogs, prams, their own sandwiches or a cheeky can of beer. Staff (who are almost always volunteers) are generally friendly and approachable. All that, and the cheap entrance fee makes it attractive for many low income football fans.

The trick is that clubs need to be selling themselves on those terms to those that would get the most from this. At Clapton the fans have tried to embed the club in the community by running football tournaments for wide ranging groups in the community, doing foodbanks collections and even rocked up at a local festival with a stall selling the club to the locals. It would be disingenuous for me not to acknowledge that the rapid rise in support (from average of 28 in 2011/12 season to an average of over 300 last season) is also largely due to the atmosphere we create at games and our outwardly left wing position. But the point is that we did it on our terms. Not looking at bigger clubs to feed us scraps, hoping that season tickets holders of other clubs, who are invested in another club to pop in randomly because they don’t have to do any shopping that Saturday.

What NLD does is offer the clubs the opportunity to showcase what they offer and what they are about. This can bring in the disenfranchised, the poor and the marginalised, like it has at Clapton. Some of these clubs already do fantastic work, like training session for those with learning difficulties or offering the club bus to collect older people that were finding it difficult to get to games.  Non-league is quirky, interesting and personal. When clubs acknowledge and embrace this I believe they can really begin to attract support and volunteers that will put all the love and energy that we do at Clapton.

(Ed – Non League Day is taking place on Saturday 3rd of September this year)

 

Red Menace Issue 3 – NOW AVAILABLE

Red Menace is proud to announce that the long awaited, hotly anticipated, special, bumper, end-of-season issue of Red Menace will be on sale before the Waltham Forest match tonight, the Stansted game on the 23rd April and the cup final the following weekend.

This is our biggest zine yet – stretching to a whopping 24 pages of sizzling hot content, but is on sale for the low, low price of £1.

Featuring
– The Remains Of The Neil Day: musings on dignity, loyalty, banter and the souring relationship with the former Clapton assistant
– Growing Pains: retaining and promoting collective identity as a group expands
– Bail For Immigration Detainees
– Wool of the Season Award
– Those Were The Days: Beating Barking with David Beckham in goal.

…and much much more.

Profits from the sale of this issue will be donated to Right to Remain.

Also available online from our store.

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Stansted (h)

So buckle in as we have a practice run for the Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy final this Saturday. With us flying this season, reaching Mike’s plotted destination of 60 points, everyone will be hoping that there are no injuries to any of our key players, key players being pretty much the whole team. On a current form we will be going in to this game confident, however Stansted won’t have much baggage going in to this. They have won four and drawn one (scoring 15 goals in the process) since they knocked Hullbridge out of the cup. Stansted can also look at a good track record as they regularly wing it against the Tons, only losing once in the past seven games (four draws, two wins). So we will need to overcome our turbulent recent history.

The Airportmen took off in 1902 although there are records of them existing around 1892. The greatest highlight is that they have won the FA Vase, which is a feat that no other current ESL team has managed. One notable former player from recent years is of course is Dwight Gayle. I imagine every manager in the ESL uses this player as a point of reference to try and inspire young players to put a good shift for the second half. “You think Dwight Gayle would have ducked out of that tackle?”. (Maybe if Josh had done a bit of research for his blue-sky thinking talks he wouldn’t be our worst assistant manager in recent history. Never again (ed-harsh, but ultimately a fair opinion)). Anyway, he scored a whopping 57 goals in the 2009/10 season; so it was pretty clear skies when they cruised toward the league title that year. But I can’t see anywhere in their records of them having a friendly with Airbus FC?! That’s opportunity missed I reckon, surely attendances would rocket if that was to happen.

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a blurry picture of Dwight Gayle having got out of Craig Greenwoods pocket

It’s a bit up in the air what team is out this Saturday as it’s their third game in five days. I for one will be hoping Nathan Cook is doing the business again after impressing at Takeley on Tuesday. Spoke to Freddie Morris about him after a game and he describes him as a natural footballer who obviously loves to play. I would describe him as a Brighton hippy that needs to sort his hair out and get a jumper with less moth holes, but we are all entitled to our views. With Geoff Ocran being the engine jetting us forward we’re looking solid in midfield.

SG Player to watch: Who ever is creating and scoring those goals for Stansted in the last five games. Who are they? Why don’t you go on the FA website and find out for yourself? Want me to do every fucking thing?

SG Score prediction: Gotta be a draw with both teams ticking off the days until the trip to the Essex Riviera on bank holiday weekend. Probably got their heads in the clouds thinking about the upcoming final so don’t think the game will really take off.

RM Player to watch: Tony Cookey and Sherwin ‘have you met our mate’ Stanley have been excellent up top recently, expect them and Roddy Lemba to do some damage.

RM Score Prediction: A high scoring end of season encounter before everyone shits themselves in the final next week: 6-5 Clapton

 

 

Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy (n)

Second chances are a rarity in cup football, even more scarce is the right to an immediate reply to a cup final pasting. Clapton have had the last 27 years to discover how difficult silverware is to come by, but now seem to be rediscovering a cup pedigree that had once defined the club for the best part of a century. The intervening eleven months have flown since losing out to Barking in the final of the Gordon Brasted last May, the only reverse in an otherwise perfect run in the competition under Mike Walther.

The Tons were put to work by Wadham Lodge in the semi finals, after getting a pass through the quarters courtesy of Bowers’ FA Vase run. Wadham fought bitterly to get past Clapton, but couldn’t claw back our two goal. The game could’ve easily taken a completely different turn at 0 – 0 had the resulting first half penalty, following Charlie Georgiou’s trademark tumble, not cleared the houses on Margery Park Road; reminiscent of last year’s semi, Clapton again progressing to the Brasted final at the expense of a completely bottled spot kick.

On the other side of the draw Stansted were paired with Hullbridge, who’d just knocked out favourites, FC Romania the previous Saturday. Level on points in the league, it was the Airportmen who emerged from the semi, undoing Hullbridge’s surprise defeat of the free scoring league leaders. Stansted’s route the final also includes wins by the odd goal against Greenhouse and Sporting Bengal, an understated passing through the rounds almost as low key as our own.

The only meeting between Clapton and Stansted this season will be little use to either side in measuring up with the other. The Tons’ bizarre 4 – 3 defeat in Mountfichet last December was essentially decided on who could score more with a gale force headwind at their backs blowing in goals. Clapton, without a recognised ‘keeper on the day, gave up a three goal first half lead, with ‘Turbulent Gusts’ rightfully credited with the assists for all four Stansted goals. A goalkeeper and a neutral venue should even things up a bit, although Storm Katie is threatening to recreate those comedy conditions.

Clapton should go into the final feeling like favourites to lift the trophy. The 3 – 1 loss to Barking on Saturday won’t mean much given the much changed side put out by Mike. Tony Cookey and new signing Sherwin Stanley, already with a debut hat-trick to his name, are both cup tied, though. Miles Hunter will fancy a start after his goal in semis, while Roddy Lemba was given a rest toward the end of the game at Mayesbrook Park. The defence and midfield seem to be largely settled, with most sitting out the defeat to Barking.

More good news for Clapton is that Bradley Joseph, amazingly, looks likely to be on the bench for Easter Monday. Although Mike wasn’t able to confirm whether he’ll be among the substitutes, either way, Bradley making the squad will give a massive boost to everyone following his collapse in Mile End just 9 days previous. The team seems to have clicked lately around a consistent set of players. A winners medal would be a decent reward for all who’ve stuck with the team this season. It’s time for Clapton to start winning Trophies again.

RC’s Score Prediction– An convincing win for Clapton after an initial struggle. Stansted’s game seemed to rely heavily on moaning last December. An unsympathetic ref and The Tons are laughing. 3 – 1.

RC’s Player To Watch – Seth Bucket’s new book needs a punchy opening chapter. The Boy from Brazil coming off the bench to change the game. Think Henrik Larsson for Barcelona in the 2006 Champions League Final.

Red Menace Prediction – There’s nothing worse than going into a Clapton game with confidence, it’s too weird. 2-0 Tons

Red Menace Player To Watch – The tide is high but I’m holding on, PAUL BARRY YOU’RE MY FAVOURITE TON.

Bari Hate: London Bari and Racist Violence In Football

This article appeared in Issue 1 of Red Menace.

Newham Monitoring Project (NMP) is a grassroots, community-based anti-racism organisation based in Newham. It was set up to provide support against racial violence and discrimination and combat police misconduct and institutional racism.

The following are extracts from NMP annual reports detailing racist violence faced by players and fans of London Bari FC in the late ‘90s. For more information on NMP, visit www.nmp.org.uk

NMP Annual Report 1997

On 27th January 1997, Bari football club, a team made up predominantly of Asian youth that prides itself in supporting football initiatives within the local Asian community, experienced the ugly face of racism in only its first season in the South Essex Football League.

On arriving at Cottons Park, the ground of Romside FC, Bari became the target of continuous racial and physical abuse. Despite this hostile reception, the team decided to play in spite of the concerns of many of the players. Before the game, the Bari players were taunted by the Romside team, setting the tone for the racist abuse from both players and supporters in the following ninety minutes, as shouts of “pakis, brown shit and monkeys” echoed around the ground.

Despite this, Bari scored after only ten minutes but the goalscorer was soon informed that “if you win, you won’t get home alive”. Within 25 minutes, one Romside player who had attacked seven of the Bari team was sent off for headbutting an opponent but the treatment of the remainder of the Bari team continued, not only from the field. One Romside supporter threatened to set his Pit Bull terrier on a Bari player and the 17-year-old refused to participate any further in the game. Meanwhile, the Bari goalkeeper had coins thrown at him and, at the final whistle, was set upon by a number of the spectators and a Romside player. Having survived what one Romside player described as a “Paki-bashing spree”, the whole Bari team was set upon in the changing rooms. Only their willingness to fight back saved them from serious injury.

What followed will be all too familiar to those who have read NMP’s previous annual reports. First, the secretary of Bari FC was contacted by Romford police, who accused the team of attacking Romside players and threatened arrests if the names and addresses of the Bari team were not give. On top of this, Essex Football Association charged Bari with misconduct. It was at this stage that the team contacted NMP.

The Project arranged press coverage highlighting the experiences of racist violence that the Bari players had suffered, which attracted widespread local and national coverage and revealed the extent of racism within Sunday league football. We got the team a solicitor and within 72 hours, all charges against them had been dropped. We spoke with the boys and their families and accompanied them to the FA disciplinary hearing. Unfortunately, as one of the boys commented, the panel consisted of “five elderly white gentlemen, who had decided we were guilty before we arrived”.

NMP Annual Report 1998

However, this was not an isolated incident, for there were further serious racist assaults on Bari during a match against Wanstead Holly in November 1998, in which a number of players were severely injured. The police were called and arrested four Wanstead Holly players. The following extracts from a letter to the Sunday and District Football League set out what happened.

“One Wanstead Holly player was booked for violent conduct and another sent off after he stepped on our goalkeeper’s arm purposefully and then hit one of our players in the face. During a minor scuffle… which the referee was dealing with, the sent-off player and his team mates attacked our goalkeeper and one of the defenders… The Wanstead Holly team and these supporters (who invaded the pitch)… stamping, kicking and flogging the two Bari players with a corner flag, hitting the linesman over the head with the same object, as well as racist jibes and taunts throughout.

Of the Bari players attacked, one was knocked unconscious with injuries to his back, ribs, head and face, another had large cuts above his eye and severe bruising and a third had concussion from the beating. All had to be taken to by ambulance to hospital.

As a player in a predominantly Asian team I find it difficult to understand and accept that the racist violence, taunts and thuggery that go on in these matches will go on unpunished by the League and local Football Associations. Bari joined this league on the information that this was a ‘friendly’ league and that we would not be subjected to the same form of racial abuse and violence encountered in the South Essex League. It seems that we were misled and/or teams are aware they shall go unpunished”.

Wadham Lodge (h) – Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy

CLAPTON reached the 50 point mark on Saturday with a 1 – 0 win at home to Southend Manor and look good to reach Mike Walther’s target of 60, with eight league games remaining. Nathan Cook’s latest belter was enough to see us get the win against Manor and very much leaves open the chance of a top six finish – steady progress, building on Chris Wood’s hauling of the club away from being the perennial bottom of the table points fodder we were three years ago.

Turning attentions to the cup, The Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy semi has us paired up with our new pals from E17, Wadham Lodge. Taking their name from a collection of 6-a-side pitches in Walthamstow, this’ll be only Wadham’s second ever visit to The Old Spotted Dog, in a creditable first season in senior football. Sitting four points ahead of Clapton in the table (having played two games more) a cup final for either club would be enough to turn a decent season into a memorable one.

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Wadham Lodge – taking Clapton’s handmedowns since 2014. Photo Credit: Two Men In Search of The Beautiful Game

 

Going out at the quarters in the ESL Challenge Cup to Takeley, Tuesday’s visit to Clapton will be Wadham’s second crack at a cup in a week. While the Tons have been on a decent run lately, winning three out of the last five matches, drawing one, the Wad Army have won just once in the same amount of games. The form going into this one appears to be firmly in Forest Gate, however, head to head, there’s only a goal between us, and three out of the five of those were penalties.

Controversial decisions seem yet to have evened themselves out for Wadham this season, who’re still firmly in credit against Clapton. ‘Philosophical’ in the local paper, the resulting Twitter bants involving an aggrieved Wadham camp escalated into peak cringe* following a Clapton penalty in our last encounter. There has been plenty said on social media since, although the importance of a place in the final should hopefully override any personal axe grinding between the dugouts.

For all the talk of Wadham’s good fortune this season, it’s Clapton who’ve had the easier ride to this stage of the competition, with Bowers & Pitsea withdrawing in the last round. Their march to Wembley in the FA Vase and general vulnerability of their pitch to drizzle meant they couldn’t squeeze in another game into their already overloaded schedule. The winner of our side of the draw will face one of Stansted, Hullbridge or the prolific, FC Romania in Burnham on Easter weekend.

The Tons should be confident going into this one having scored 13 in 5, with the blip against Bowers, in a ridiculous last minute venue rearrangement, the only blot in a near perfect run. A settled midfield and a devastatingly good Nathan Cook has given the whole team a reason to feel confident. The Clapton squad have just taken the handsome metre up another notch as well, having brought in our second professional model, Christopher Zinga. Wadham appear to be still training in the tired old blue ‘BEW’ sweatshirts Clapton were wearing in 2012.

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Nathan Cook: Magic Man

 

Rubin’s Player To Watch: Nathan Cook is grabbing the headlines at the moment, but it’s the recent form of captain, Geoff Ocran that is quietly driving Clapton forward.

Rubin’s Score Prediction: 2 – 1. Wadham sat deep to stifle Clapton in the previous game at The Dog and are yet to score against us in open play. Tons to eventually wear them down, with at least one dodgy goal for either side.

RM Player To Watch: It’s the other man in midfield, Freddie Morris that has been capturing the imagination, and my heart recently. Looked assured against Newham and was badly missed at Bowers last week.

RM Score Prediction: This one might go to the wire, but I fully expect Charlie Georgiou to do a massive shocking dive. Tons on pens.

 

Redbridge (a)

Cringe-banter and ungracious gestures from the touchline aside, Saturday was good. Clapton bossed and dictated the game throughout against a boisterous Wadham Lodge. They weathered a jittery, quick-draw lino and another disallowed goal, kept focussed until they finally broke through and won the game comfortably. James Briggs and the unsung Roddy Lemba were both positive, scoring subs from Mike, suggesting a confidence in the team to go on and finish off an opponent they have on the back foot.

It’s been talking points aplenty on Twitter since the game finished and it would be churlish (although they’ve done it anyway) for Wadham to deny that Briggs’ second half penalty was due. The most positive thing about Saturday, though, was that the win always felt in our hands. Unlike the reverse fixture in November where after a strong first half, a few decisions going against us, Clapton shrank, subbed off influential players and sat back. This time, the players continued to grow into the game for the full 90.

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James Briggs celebrated his birthday with a goal on the weekend.

It’s going to have to be more of the same for Clapton for our trip up the Central Line in the London Senior Cup. We haven’t been to Oakside since 2012, although could’ve been league visitors this season had it not been for a last minute convoluted happening. As the printer ink dried on the fixtures in June, Ware had to move across to the Southern League, replacing Clevedon, who suddenly failed the ground standards test. So saving Redbridge who’d finished in the relegation places in the Ryman North. Still reading?

It looks as though The Motormen are going to need another administrative escape plan this season. They’re currently second from bottom, having just lost four on the bounce, the most recent to our old pals, Great Wakering Rovers. Redbridge’s troubles arguably started when they decided their route up the table was to raid half of London Bari’s first team in 2013, as well as early Clapton Ultras’ cult hero, Saiid Jaffa. Bari have just now about stabilized themselves, Jaffa never returned from an injury he picked up there, Redbridge are still struggling.

For all their recent losing habits, it wasn’t long ago that Redbridge FC made the 1st round proper of the FA Cup. In 2011, still one step above Clapton, they knocked out Ebbsfleet & Oxford City before going out to then runaway League Two leading moneybags, Crawley Town, after six preliminary rounds. Anyone’s who’s bored of playing Stanway Rovers will know how difficult that is to achieve. Redbridge finished sixth in the Ryman North that season, although have scrapped at the bottom of the league since that peak.

 

Given Redbridge’s league form, Clapton should fancy a go at an upset. There is still a sizeable gap in budgets between the Ryman and the Essex Senior League, although Burnham Ramblers haven’t imposed much since their relegation. New ‘keeper Yakup Seyer, arrived from Billericay Town, impressed on his debut, gives us healthy options in goal. Freddie Morris seemed to enjoy playing back in his favoured holding midfield position on Saturday, while Warren Mfula appears to be on his way back to full speed up front.

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The Old Spotted Dog was rammed when Clapton played in the London Senior Cup in 1956.

The prize for Clapton, getting through this round, is a bit of a glamour game, a Quarter Final away to Wingate & Finchley. The Tons haven’t won this competition since 1911, Redbridge (before their rebrand from Ford United) won it in 2001. As we saw with VCD in the last round, though, priorities are often elsewhere for teams struggling to cling on in divisions fast moving away from them. Redbridge minds could be elsewhere, although I reckon it’s unlikely their bench will flip us the middle finger if things don’t go their way.

Red Menace Player To Watch: Abdul Abdeen; has impressed a lot since being given his chance in the first team, after catching the coaching staff’s eye with his blistering pace in training. He nabbed the winner against London Bari at the turn of the year from Left-Back

Red Menace Score Prediction: 1-1, Clapton to win on penalties; Will definitely be a tight game, both teams have similar strength squads and I see it going all the way to the death.