Five years in to what these days would be known as therealfacup ‘project’, we’ve been very London-centric and become big fans of dogs at football grounds. Despite these two things, we’ve never been to Clapton’s Old Spotted Dog Ground. We will rectify this shortly, for we have selected Clapton v Stanway Rovers as our go-to-game on Extra Preliminary Round Day in the FA Cup.
The Old Spotted Dog was not Clapton’s first ground but it has been since before even Justin Beiber was born (1888 to be scientific). Though now separated from the area that gave them their name by a massive shopping centre and some big new shiny sports behemoth, when they moved in it was nowt but fields (in fact a hunting lodge), if you consider the marshy swamp of the Lea Valley to be ‘fields’, which we do, ‘valleys’ are green yeah?
The club and the ground have had a Weymouth-esque pall of uncertainty hanging over them for a number of years, for a variety of reasons, most of them seemingly revolving around a chap called Vincent McBean. We won’t pretend to grasp the ins and outs and, as we don’t have a legal budget until the sponsorship comes in, a précis can be found on the always reliable non league wikipedia, 200%.
The locals have, however, mobilised. The Friends of Clapton FC have sprung up to fight the good fight and the Clapton Ultras have been making a concerted effort to boost attendances and bring some colour and energy to games, a colour exemplified by the sartorial elegance of ‘Captain Greenwood’
Clapton, the team, are acknowledged as the first English side to jump in a boat and steam off into Europe for a jolly, with their 1890 trip to Belgium. They were a consistent force in the Isthmian League and Amateur Cup between 1903 and 1928 before a rather elongated fallow period that has lasted, well, pretty much ever since then. That said, the 1925 FA Cup victory over Norwich City is fondly acknowledged in these parts and, in 1957, they managed a 1st Round 1-1 draw with QPR before losing the replay.
It’s eight years since Clapton won an FA Cup game, and four since they scored a goal, so it’s about time they had a trip on the Budweiser fun bus. Their journey this year is no simpler than the last eight. First up are regular top-half Thurlow Nunn side Stanway Rovers. If the ‘Ton’ make it through that they have a win-able home tie against fellow Essex Senior Leaguers Sawbridgeworth Town but, in the 1st Qualifying Round, it’s likely to be a very tough trip to Ryman North high-flyers Witham Town, in the likely event they don’t lose to Newmarket Town. Southend Manor proved recently it is possible, dare to dream.
Clapton 0-4 Stanway Rovers. No, your eyes do not deceive, the game hasn’t yet taken place and we are not-stradamus, that’s just the result when the clubs met at the same stage of the Cup three years ago.
Stanway, for their part, are relative newcomers to this level and the last six years have been the most successful in their history. This year they celebrate ten years of FA Cup participation and they’ve won more games than they’ve lost, so are plausibly slight favourites for this tie,
Your trip to Clapton, or rather the Old Spotted Dog ground in Forest Gate should include:
Ground: Old Spotted Dog, 212 Upton Lane, Forest Gate, London E7 9NP
Travel: Forest Gate BR station from Liverpool Street or Stratford or, if you fancy a walk through the park, Plaistow on the District Line is your destination.
Food& Drink: Home made jam sandwiches and a Twix or two. Or! The ‘Fox & Hounds’ opposite Forest Gate (which will also be populated by Happy Hammers getting primed for Cardiff on the same day) or the similarly located ‘Railway Tavern’, which has just had a revamp (apparently still closed having a revamp according to our Clapton friends) so who knows what to expect? ‘Coffee 7’ is an apparently incongruous local vegetarian cafe in a sea of greasy spoons on the high street. On the way to the ground you pass ‘Hudson Bay’ (Spoons) and ‘Live & Let Live’.
Attire: Smart/Casual, shape up you scruffy ‘erbets!
Dogs: If you bring a dog you are guaranteed to adorn the pages of this website, if you bring a spotted dog then you win the internet.
Clapton v Stanway Rovers
Old Spotted Dog Ground, 3pm 17 August 2013
Thanks to Andy and Robin at the Friends of Clapton FC for plenty of information, including copyright ownership of the images here.