Welcome back to #ClaptonCorner & #Strikerless folks and I have just finished season four with the mighty Tons. What a season, what a season.
When I last updated you we were only just top of the Vanarama South, the league was tighter than Mike Ashley in a miserly mood. I was worried that we might run out of steam considering our small squad, lack of experience at this level and the fact it didn’t feel like we were blowing teams away.
My fears were valid, through February and March we only won three out of nine, which had two heavy defeats and four consecutive draws. This meant we went into the final seven games seven points behind Braintree, but with a game in hand. We won the first four, and when the game in hand against Maidstone came up a victory would have put us a point ahead. We lost 4-3 having been 3-1 down, then 3-3 with a minute to go. Two games to go, two point behind. We beat Farnborough 1-0 and Braintree hammered Bath meaning that we needed to beat Whitehawk and hope that Margate could do us a favour by stopping Braintree winning.
I do love a bit of final day drama. It was all well and good winning the title with five games to go last season, but nothing beats potentially pinching it back on the last day. We did in my first season, in the Essex Senior League, needing to win and hoping FC Romania would slip up – and they did. Today against Whitehawk was the same, and when we saw Margate take a first minute lead against Braintree I knew we were on. We then went ahead too, and we were finally sitting back top of the table. Fair play to Whitehawk, they hit back with a vengeance, and we were very very lucky to come in 2-1 up at half time. Margate got a second mid-way through the second half and we were able to relax a little, and Jacob Cleaver hammered home two more to clinch the three points and the title. Yes, the title, the fourth in a row for Clapton FC. It’s an absolutely incredible achievement, especially given how many of the squad won the Essex Senior with me.
The final league table and league players stats are below:
We didn’t score as many as we normally do, probably due to playing better teams and some of the usual superstars in the side struggling a bit this season. Ronnie Green rotated a lot with Matthias Fousse and I think Greeny’s time is now over – he is 36 and doesn’t influence a game like he used to. The same for Rafa Nade, I dropped him very early on and he will leave in the summer. I hope Fousse, Palmer and Pearce all get released by their clubs at the end of the season and join us, they would be great additions – if not, I will trawl the big clubs for some loan signings again as I will need to keep the wages down. With an average gate of 221 or something we are not generating much cash, that’s for sure.
My aim is to get Clapton FC into the Football League, and I did not think we would be so close to doing it so soon. Next season is going to be tough, the Conference is one of the toughest divisions to get out of, but I think with a couple of sensible additions we will be able to do it. Each time we have played a Conference side in the FA Cup we have beaten them, so who knows.
The questions will be the same as this season really – can Heathy continue to be so damn awesome in goal? Will the centre backs cope with the next level of striker they are facing? Will Hennessy continue to be the best midfielder in the division? Will Gilfedder be our top-scorer for the fifth year running?
I’ve not been as excited for a new season since I took Jena into the Bundesliga last month. I hope this one turns out better!