Well fuck me, I didn’t expect that. I don’t think any of the six of us that made it out to Essex-on-Sea expected that to be honest. Following one of the most complete Clapton performances I’ve ever seen, we’re now second in the league.
The evening started pretty bizarrely for those of us that had gotten on the early train into Southend Central, as we noticed that there was a Spurs Megastore on the high street leading down to the beach. Dunno what that’s all about.
“You’d think they’d at least have one in Milton Keynes (cue endless laughter)”
After promises of a pub crawl down the front, the first drinking establishment. that looked like we wouldn’t get glassed turned out to be Southend’s Premier Rock/Indie Venue. Bands gracing the bill included Guns 2 Roses, Cast, and OPM (tickets still available for this one apparently). There was also the incredible moment where the playlist jumped sharply from System of a Down to Liberty X (ask yer da).
Four beers in and I still got battered by the high winds on the way to the ground. The three of us – possibly buoyed from the excitement of seeing Adventure Island up close – decided that the best way to spend our time getting to the ground would be to at least have a go on the claw machines that had looked so inviting before the pub.
“Lets win a Scottish Minion and use him as a mascot for the season”
Five goes later and we left the establishment gutted and minionless. On to the ground though with a portion of chips to try and warm us up. We spent the remaining 10 minutes of the walk trying to perfect the Southend accent in order to get served at the bar (only been open to locals on the previous two visits). As luck would have it, on arrival into the Southchurch *Arena* (three completely open sides plus two tiny stands does not an Arena make), the bar was closed to everyone. Brilliant. And we’d forgotten to buy beers for the ground. Double brilliant.
Something we’ve noticed this season since the two PE Teachers/Sporting Hackney coaches joined the backroom staff is how good the warm ups have been pre-match. Every player looked pumped and sharp while being barked at by the coaches, while Mike – the master tactician – observed and (probably) took notes. As the players ran in to get ready for kick-off, Pete Moore acknowledged us and thanked us for making the journey, he really is lovely.
“I didn’t expect you lot to come.”
“Well we fucking love it don’t we?”
As we kicked off late (obviously), this allowed time for the other half of our group to show up to give us a good round number of six Clapton fans in total. Trepidation set in, as this was our first proper test of character against top half opposition. The loss at Basildon on the first game of the season seemed a long time ago, and Mike seems to have settled on his best XI. With Tom Webb being back from America it looked to be the strongest starters available to him. We lined up looking like this:
Quinton Monville Kristian Haighton Tom Webb Pete Moore
Geoff Ocran Freddie Morris
Mendes Gomes Nathan Cook Khadean Campbell
I don’t want to gush, but I’m going to gush. Considering what pre-season has been like, it’s not been a surprise that we’ve taken time to click, but now we have what looks to be an established starting core, and things look very very promising going by last night. It’s telling that Mike allowed Nathan to play in the hole behind the striker last night, as it was a flat pitch, we got to see exactly how good this lad is.
The first half was pretty even from the start, the only difference being Clapton soaked up any pressure that came to them and turned it into goals. The first coming from a beautiful Cook pass which opened up the Southend defence to allow Roddy to finish very very coolly. Knowing what the ESL is like, we expected the home team to score about 4 in reply, but it wasn’t to be. A couple of minutes later, Nathan picked the ball up about 40 yards from goal, pirouetted past the Southend player who was trying to take man and ball and smashed it into the top corner, easy as you like. 2-0
Khadean Campbell has been touted as “the new Ninja” by some people, and going from last night’s performance, he might even be (whisper it) better. The third was all down to him, picking the ball up on the left wing, he took the piss out of Southend’s right back/captain and did him a kipper before finishing beautifully into the far corner. Three fucking nil and we’d played fifteen minutes.
“Can we play you every week lads?”
The fourth and fifth goals were scored before 40 minutes were up. But I can’t remember who scored because a lack of food and a load of drink combined with the delirium of following the Clapton meant I forgot to check, and the FA website isn’t telling me at the time of writing. Nathan had a hand in basically all that was good last night, everything he touched turned to gold/goals. This is not to denigrate the rest of the team though, every single player worked their fucking arses off for the shirt last night. It was great to see the Webb/Haighton centre-back pairing again. Quinton was his usual lively self on the right and Pete Moore was solid on the left. Geoff and Freddie swept up everything that came towards them in their deeper midfield roles, while the front three of Khadean/Roddy/Mendes looked fucking great. I really hope our chairman sees the potential in these lads and offers some kind of incentive for them to stay. We’ll do our best as fans, but there’s only so much we can do. Over to you, Vince.
I digress, as half-time came panic set in as we realised that no-one had any alcohol bar one tin of cider that had gotten past the stewards. K had 8 can taken off him which would be consumed on the train, but now it was time to refresh ourselves for the second half. As darkness had sunk in over Southend, in the distance we had spotted the one shining light, an offie. So me and F were dispatched to get beers in. As we sneaked round to the Curva du Playpark we realised the flaw in our plan, there was a massive fence between us and alcoholic release.
“My jeans are too tight to make the jump.”
“Just pull them right up for fuck sake”
A crate and some ciders bought, we sneaked back over just as the second half was starting. Realising that we’d have to get it past the army of stewards on the near corner of the pitch. We decided to take the long way round back to the stand, this meant that we got a perfect view of the only incident of note of the second half, where Haighton leant into the striker just as he took a shot, which the linesman somehow deemed to be a foul. Penalty to Southend. The striker managed to send Pete the wrong way and reduced the deficit very smartly, even though he was being distracted by some absolute wool behind the goal.
“You’re gonna miss pal, you’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss!!!”
Literally nothing happened in the second half, Southend’s comeback was short lived and Clapton dealt with everything else they tried. Considering this was the start of a few tough tests on the pitch for us, where we’re gonna start playing some top half teams, it was a very assured performance from everyone. It were great.
At the final whistle we had a mini singing sesh with the players, fair play to them, they were all very sweaty regardless of the cold so they’d clearly done a lot of running (although Kristian didn’t take his top off this time :(). We gave them some left over beers to share in the changing room and back to Southend East we went, intrepid explorers one and all.
The left over cans on the train led us into deep analytical discussions about Robot Wars and Nathan Blake (intrinsically linked, probably).
“Did you know Nathan Blake won a Welsh Language Soap award?”
“I didn’t even know he was Welsh”
But the final leg of the journey was filled with suggestions for Walk On Music at The Dog. Sunchyme by Dario G was mentioned along with Darude’s classic, Sandstorm. But our big idea came just as we all went our separate ways at Barking. Watch this space…..
All in all a fun night for those that went. Sawbo away on Saturday, a village/town that has more pubs than people and the possibility to crawl to and from the station without doing the same pub twice. We’ve now climbed above the Blue Shite (Barking) by winning our game in hand and now sit prettily in second! Sawbo are third so this will be another serious test for the lads but on last night’s performance we don’t have much to fear from other teams any more. It was fucking cracking.