The story of Clapton CFC’s double-winning season as told by the players

Five of the Clapton Community FC class of 2018/9 reflect on an unforgettable season…

Daniel Anfossy

It all started for me back in July, in the club’s first ever fixture against Holland FC. It’s safe to say it wasn’t my finest performance!

In fact, it was my first match playing in goal for several years. I’d stopped, after playing for a number of semi-pro clubs whose chairmen were putting so much pressure on the managers and players that it was no longer enjoyable.

We lost 5-0 that day, but at the end of the match the fans were celebrating like we’d won. At that moment I realised this was a very special club and I wanted to be part of it.

A few pre-season matches later, Geoff Ocran and the management team had put a half-decent squad together. Results were mixed but we were trying to play attractive football. Importantly, I was enjoying playing again.

The league campaign started off reasonably well with wins against Ealing Town and The Curve but  we started to stumble around Christmas.

We always knew it was going to be difficult building a team from scratch whilst at the same time learning to play together.

However something changed in January when we played against the league leaders, Stonewall. It was one of the strangest games I’ve ever played in. We dominated the game but ended up losing 4-0.

The performance made us realise we could compete and potentially beat anyone in our league. Confidence was up and spirits were high and I think this was the catalyst for our incredible league and cup run.

A personal highlight of our season was saving a penalty in the shoot-out against London Samurai in the league cup and being lifted up by the fans after the match. That is a moment I will never forget.

I can genuinely say I’ve never played with a nicer group of lads. Morale in the dressing room has been great all season and we are really beginning to gel as a team.

The aim for next season is to add to our silverware with back-to-back promotion and for me personally to keep significantly more clean sheets!

To play in front of over 1200 fans in our final league game against FC Roast was unreal. The support this season has been immense and there is no way we’d have achieved the league and cup double without the members and fans.

They make this club and I’m proud to call myself both a player, member and fan.

Andrew J. Lastic

This season has been a real cocktail of great fortune and emotions.

I think most will agree there has never been a dull moment for anyone involved with the club.

Nevertheless, as part of Clapton Community Football club, (players, staff, members and fans alike) we can now look back at our first season and be proud of the year we’ve had.

Receiving a call from Geoff to come and play was just a good excuse to play football again.

In truth, initially I didn’t have much expectations in terms of achievements, my primary concern was to participate. However, week by week, I managed to learn what it meant to be apart of this (as our team name states) community and what it means to those running and supporting this club – to have the support of such devoted and genuine people is everything.

That in itself made the honour of becoming a Clapton Community FC player even more special, giving me the desire to achieve as much as possible with this team. I also became a member as soon as possible, just so I could feel more involved. After all, this club is for you and me.

I remember in a conversation before the season that we would be happy to sell 100 shirts. Little did we know, that months later, we would have gone viral and form such a huge fan base in Spain for our away shirt.

Having that kind of exposure and increased support was an amazing feeling. To have the opportunity to then go to Barcelona and play against CE Júpiter was fantastic. To arrive in the stadium and see how many fans were in our colours was mind blowing and humbling to say the least.

As a squad we really appreciate the effort and time that goes into giving us these sort of experiences and we can’t even begin to express our gratitude.

Despite the frustrations of constantly battling with injuries and form throughout the season, for the most part it has been an unforgettable experience.

I am eager to repay the faith shown in me earlier this campaign, by performing consistently next season and hopefully help guide us to more silverware!

We were lucky that London Samurai had such massive point deduction, but I think since then we have shown a real sense character and determination to take the chance handed to us.

There is a growing sense of confidence and trust in our changing room, which I only see continuing to grow the longer we spend with each other.

To finish this season league winners, gaining promotion in front a record attendance of 1200+ Clapton supporters was truly special.

It has been an amazing journey so far and it’s unreal to think this is only the beginning.

Stefan Nielsen

It’s difficult to put into words just how remarkable this season has been for everyone involved, but I’ll try my best to summarise this rollercoaster journey through my own personal experience.

Looking back to pre-season, when I was in a world of unknown having spent another frustrating year in football, I was concerned and unsure where to play football this year, or whether it was worth playing at all.

At this point, if you would have told me that I’d be part of this special team during the final game of the season with a title on the line, in front of 1200+ fans, I’d have laughed you out of the room, and rightly so, but we did, and the journey has been the most enjoyable experience I have ever had in football; It will likely never be topped.

I mentioned the fact that this season has been a rollercoaster, on and off the pitch we have been challenged by scenarios we couldn’t have pictured in our wildest dreams at the start of summer 2018, we’ve seen Clapton go viral across the world which led to a monumental amount of shirts being sold, and volunteers working tirelessly to keep up with demand and keep everyone happy, we’ve had games watched globally via streams, fans travelling 1000s of miles to attend games, Clapton CFC travelling 1000s of miles to PLAY games, and then we’ve had the reality check of our standard with kit-less teams, park football, and dogs attacking players (thanks for that, Pie).

The ups and downs continued on the pitch with Clapton’s league form both soaring and diving at different stages of the season, but after the New Year celebrations the team came into 2019 full of hope and desire which drove us on to a remarkable league and cup double.

There was never a shortage of emotion, whether it be 5-4 wins with last minute goals, or cup success via a penalty shootout, but this team backed by the Clapton support has never given up, and that is what has pushed the team and club onto the success its had today.

I mean this seriously, without our 12th man (the fans), we would never have achieved what we have this year, you are all as much responsible for what we have achieved as the players are on the pitch.

On the topic of the players I want to give each and every one of them a big shout out, never have I been a part of a team with such togetherness and support for one another.

Every single player has played their part this year, whether it be in the large majority of the games or on occasion where we have been short, every man has stood up when counted on. This is a fantastic bunch of players, supported by a fantastic management team who have built a team in complete harmony. It has been a joy to be a part of

Not one player gave up on the dream of winning the league this year, and it motivated us to keep pushing when others would have doubted us, but I know we did it for the dedicated supporters who travelling to our games regardless of the journey or weather week in week out.

To wrap it up on a personal note, this is very likely to be the end of my Clapton journey as my partner and I set up camp in Oxford for the foreseeable future.

If this is to be the end, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to say goodbye than to win the title and celebrate with you all.

Clapton has brought so much joy to my life (and my family’s life who have loved attending and meeting you all!), that I will take these memories with me forever.

I’ll be following the lads next year, and have no doubts that they will go on and achieve similar heights in the years to come.

Thank you for everything, your support is so unique and special to all of us, we’re so happy we could give these trophies back to you as a way of gratitude.

Have a wonderful summer and rest up well for another year of success!

Ben Kadler

With the news of the 3-0 and league winning game coming through as I am writing this I’m in amazement.

I don’t think anyone could have predicted the success this team would have at the start of the season: cups, tours, fundraising…T-shirt sales (!?).

It’s partly down to the players but I think we would all agree that the management, committee and the fans have played just as much if not more of a role in winning the league and cups than any of us have. Nothing drives the team forward more than the support (and occasional pampering) we receive.

Wanting to give that extra 10% and going to extra lengths to plan tactically so we can give back to those who put hours of their time, hours of their weekends into the club. That’s why everyone’s up for it and that’s why there will be a queue to get into that starting 11 next season.

Anyway, down to business. The season was a cucumber sandwich, where the bread was all tasty, locally and ethically made sourdough and the centre is a sort of flavourless and crunchy.

With a lot of preseason work and training we got off to a cracking start, looked promising and gained momentum.
I think the fact we hadn’t played together for long started to show as other teams warmed up.

We had to work hard on getting to know how everyone plays and thinks on the field – it counts for a lot. This paid off and the hype started to pick up, momentum was regained and wow, what an exhilarating end to the season.

From a personal perspective I really enjoyed the start of the season, getting stuck into training and some appearances. Upset I couldn’t take part in the final furlong but the boys did a good job!

The new league will bring new battles and better opponents but I think all the players and members are up to the challenge.

Come on you Tons!

Liam Smyth

The season started for me in mid-July when I attended the first open trials at Wadham Lodge.

I couldn’t even envisage lasting 90 minutes then as I was so unfit, never mind envisaging I would have played most of the games throughout the season and been part of such an amazing year, being crowned champions in front of 1200 fans.

But I really had to work hard and get fit quickly as competition for places grew week on week throughout a packed pre-season.

I was lucky enough to start our first league game against Ealing Town in September and I remember us going 1-0 down and gasping for air most of the first half and thinking ‘am I really up to this’?

But in the second half I got the equaliser and played quite well and I hoped I could continue to play each week as I knew this was going to be a special year as the fans were incredible.

The next few weeks we had some ups and down, losing narrowly to Hutton in the cup who were a couple of divisions above us, winning a couple of cup games and getting bigger and bigger attendances but then losing a 4-1 lead against FC Roast in the league.

The weather turned and we had some tough battles in the wind and rain but the win away against Letchworth Garden City Eagles was a great team performance where we battled well, showed desire and skill and I thought this would be the turning point where we would go on a long unbeaten run.

It was the end of November and I had played about 15 matches for Clapton, mainly at left back and I felt fit and confidence in keeping my place in the team. I was surrounded by great players who I needed to give the ball to in front of me and then be as solid as I could in defence.

However, the away loss to Samurai was a big blow to my confidence and to the team. It was a 5-1 defeat and it was humiliating in the second half.

We had always battled, adapted, played well and been each game until the very end until then and I think that put a dent in our confidence as we went on to get 4 points from the next 5 games.

When Eliot Crosbie scored in the 90th minute away to the Curve on the worst pitch we’d played on after dominating them for the whole first half I thought again that we back to winning ways and celebrating with the fans was amazing afterwards.

However, losing 4-0 to Stonewall a couple of weeks later was a bitter blow. They were top of the table and after about 30 minutes I couldn’t believe how easy the game was going. We were putting in wave after wave of attack and getting closer and closer without them really threatening our goal.

Then we suddenly crumbled in the second half and I remember feeling so sick because of the way we lost and also because of the fans who had travelled and given us so much support.

However, revenge against Stonewall was sweet at the Stray Dog.

The run of games we had after that Stonewall loss was amazing. I think we only dropped points in the next 12 games to NW London on a ridiculously windy away match and drew to them at home.

The training I was doing for the marathon wasn’t effecting me too much. I would do a long run on Monday or Tuesday before work, train on Wednesday and then rest up before each match on a Saturday.

I really didn’t want to lose my place on the team so I was trying not to push myself too much with the running so I didn’t get injured for the Saturday.

A holiday I booked with my girlfriend back in October for the Easter holidays meant I couldn’t play in Barcelona, our first ever cup final or the nail biting wins over the Curve and Samurai. Who would have thought that we would have been in that position at Easter back in October…

Although the cup final loss to Catholic United was a tough blow, especially after a decent first half display the scenes on the final game of the season were incredible.

Watching the fan base grow week on week has been incredible, and because I play left back I’m right next to the fans for each first half at home.

At the beginning of the season I was really nervous receiving the ball in front of 150 fans, after a few games I thrived on the atmosphere and in that last game it was so loud I could not hear anything from the players on the pitch.

What an incredible journey this year has been and I’ve been lucky to play in a lot of games and met some amazing players and friends.

Hats off to Geoff and the management who have been amazing keeping such a big squad together, keeping us competitive and creating a great bond between the players, coaches and most importantly the fans.

Hopefully I can push on next season and improve down the left so that I can contribute to another successful season for Clapton.

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