Tuesday 30 April 2019

Just The Six Goals Then - Clapton CFC Vs NW London FC, Middlesex County League Division 1, Wadham Lodge Stadium (03/04/19)

Excuse me for getting so excited about such a seemingly minor thing, but the fact my radio is picking up more than two stations is a miracle. I fully expect a visit from the Vatican in the coming weeks, to designate my VW Polo as a place of religious significance.The only downside mind, of it not just picking up Radio 4 and London Greek Radio anymore, is that what it is receiving is a mixture of Irish folk music, the kind of tunes you hear in a Taverna on holiday, and bloody Lewis Capaldi.

It’s like some kind of sick and twisted joke, giving me the impression that I had my pick of the commercial radio stations in the land at my fingertips, but then delivering absolute garbage.

Having made the eternal error of having a big lunch and now feeling sluggish, my body only working at half speed, I thankfully don’t have far to go. Just a hop skip and a jump around the north circular, past what is now Spurs new home, so that’s the last you'll hear from me about it, I promise, as they will be christening it tonight with their first competitive match.

Not far from home at all for me and even closer for Tom, he could probably walk if he fancies it, today's ground really shouldn't be proving to be as difficult to find, as it is. Cursing loudly at my Sat Nav, the absence of Tom means I’m really able go to town on her, as the course she has set just came to an end halfway down the narrow road of a sunburnt East London street, I really don't know quite what to do, and when I notice one of those daft, overly large cars in my rear view mirror, I panic, do I throw myself to the floor and cry or speed off home and tell Tom I got a flat tire.

When the aggressive beeping from the car behind me is not forthcoming, I am blocking the road after all, on closer inspection, I realise that the person driving with the face like a woodland creature, is your friend and mine, Mr Tommy Sparkles. I’d never realised until now, with them side by side just how huge his car is, and being the man about the town type that he is, he seems to have an answer to our joint dilemma. Taking the lead, he heads off, car number one in this two car convoy

I have to admit it very much feels like we are going around in circles, I do my best to keep up with his six litres behemoth, navigating around lumbering London buses and maniacs on scooters. When one clips my wing mirror, I’m ready to give up, but the determination in Tom’s eyes, reflecting in his rear view mirror, drives me on.

Finally arriving through the gates of the Wadham Lodge Stadium, the sights and sounds of those either about to start playing some five a side football or those who are panting and glistening with sweat having just finished on one of the enclosed pitches fills the air, and it dawns on me, quite how long it has been since we were last here, quite how much water has gone under the bridge. A few deaths, babies and impending marriages and in the case of the team who call it their semi permanent home, a complete rebirth.

As is normally the case with Tom, it's not hello, how are the kids, what you been up to, that are the first words to pass his lips, but an up to date weather forecast for our current location for the next few hours. “Double black” he says, in reference to the graphic on his met office app.

There's early, really early, us early and then are we sure we have turned up on the right day, because it's absolutely dead, early. The sound of the five a side games in full swing help mask the awkwardness between Tom and I, as I know he is hexing me under his breath that I’ve put all my trust in Google Maps again and we’ve got here long before we needed to

Like a shining ray of hope through the gloom of Tom’s bad mood, and the grey clouds which are getting more imposing, a man in a grey woolly hat and a red and white scarf, not only saves Tom and I from a tiff, but gives us a much needed insight into a club, who on one hand are very very familiar to us both. Their fans, ethos and level of support is something we’ve been fascinated by since early on in our adventure, but on the other hand, might just be the youngest football team we’ve ever encountered, having only been formed in 2018, Clapton CFC (CFC).

Formed by the fans of Clapton FC, who were playing here the last time we visited, who after an ongoing battle with the clubs owner, a battle too complex to explain in full, but in short the guy is a dick, decided enough was enough, and have set up on their own club in the image of how their beloved Clapton FC should be run, but at the moment that couldn't be further from the truth.

“Could be two hundred or five hundred” says the man with the CFC badge, a simple round design made up of the club colours of red and white, front and centre on the front of his hat. CFC “normally” he explains “play at the Stray Dog”, Clapton's famous old home being the Old Spotted Dog, he turns to point to the “other side of the five a sides” but that pitch doesn't have floodlights, and for their first ever league night match, a change of venue was required, which means they are playing on the slightly soggy surface before us, not that he seems all too bothered about that.

“We play better on grass” he tells us, “as fans we like a sliding tackle” he adds excitingly. He like many of us, appreciates a bit of blood and thunder on occasion, something that 4G doesn't quite cater for.

The weather is only getting worse, the clouds are getting more threatening by the minute and Tom informs me that its “snowing in Canary Wharf”. Rifling through his bag, he looks up at me with eyes full of dread, “it's gonna be cold isn't it, I'll put my gloves on”. All is not lost though, he is somewhat lifted by the sight of the man setting up his stall, who I am reliably informed is quite a well thought of local food vendor, “looking forward to my hot dog” says Tom, with a glint of happiness restored, his gloves now securely on.

It’s still taking some getting used to it not being dark after 18:30, and a new arrival is straight on the pitch, “it’s soft”. Tom’s assessment of it is that it's “dogged” but as he points out so was the pitch at the Old Spotted Dog, a certain ankle breaker of a surface if you had ever seen one, so there are even more similarities between old and the new.

Like as if someone had flicked a switch on, the ground around us has quickly gone from being graveyard quiet, only Tom and I and the bloke preparing his onions to a bustling hive of activity. All the paraphernalia required to transform the ground into their home, for tonight at least, is being erected and prepared. A multitude of banners are strung out across the three sided cage of a tunnel, it's like something from a hillbilly backyard MMA competition, that stretches from the changing rooms to the edge of the pitch. The best of the bunch has to be the Walter Tull one, if that is a name you’ve never heard before, please please please, endeavour to learn his story. Looking magnificent in his candy cane striped shirt, the former Clapton FC & Spurs player, is almost marshaling proceedings as the ground is frantically transformed.

The clubs very own scoreboard, something that most teams far higher up the pyramid don't even have, which is red and white of course, is humped into place. A white gazebo is being unfolded, and a man down on his haunches battles with the now falling sleet, to amend the chalkboard to tonight's fixture. A second chalkboard, a much smaller one, has also been put in place, this one needs no such attention, the message on it loud and clear, “no dickheads”.

One of the newly arrived players of CFC opponents, NW London FC (NWL) is being scolded by his manager for not having any studs, and if he thinks he is going to have any joy on that pitch without any, then he is very much mistaken. Kneeling in the half closed red door of the changing rooms, our welcome from earlier still in his hat and scarf is scribbling down the starting eleven on a scrap of paper, an unlit rollie hanging from his mouth, copying it off the smallest whiteboard I’ve ever seen.

“Stealing your gazebo, if that's OK?” asks Tom and not waiting to find out if it is, we scurry for cover, the rain slapping against its opaque roof and someone is talking about “hailstones” being reported at Spurs game just up the road. I do my best not to trip over the sticker covered drum at my feet, and with my health and safety glasses on, the pile of red and white flags lying on the floor, look like a potential tripping hazard to me, for any of those coming and going, arms full with boxes. “It's hard work doing this mid week” says one of those flying all over the place, I’m sure having just arrived from a full day at work, “sorry boss, I can’t work late tonight, I’ve got a football club to run”.

Humming the tune to the Weather Girls 1982 hit, 'It’s Raining Men', seems apt, one CFC player is doing just that as he tentatively steps outside for the warm up. The underneath of the gazebo, where an Italian man with a rather impressive beard is sorting out the petty cash for a club shop, where the standard of merchandise, that is so much more than mouse mats and key fobs, but the kind of thing you might see it on the shelves of a Shoreditch boutique.

NWL are out what feels like very late, maybe a few more of them had forgotten they were playing on
grass tonight. The CFC goalkeeping coach, taking the home stopper through his passes in front of a stand littered with ultra stickers, which includes of course a St Pauli one, is in booming “good hands".

The floodlights are on, the rain has gone and the weather for now is the best it has been since we arrived. When the goalkeeping coach is not yelling at the number one, it's actually quite serene here, with the gentle sound of bird song and only the odd yell from the five a sides. For a brief moment, just when I thought that things were on the up, the heavens open, but they close again just as quickly as they had opened and I’m sure it’s not actually that cold, but Tom’s still got his gloves on like a bit or a prima donna.

Although the club ‘shop’ is ace, the bar, well the bar could do with some work, a shed with a table outside selling cans is hardly Harry's, but it's got Tyskie, so I doubt anyone is that bothered.

What might be the quickest outfit change in the history of football, NWL are in their dressing room for just a matter of seconds, before they are back out again, to the odd shout from some of their fans, “come on North West”. Their time in the tunnel though is short lived, and forced back perhaps by the rain rearing its soggy head again, they retreat to the safety of the inside.

Once both teams emerge, the rain still falling, the home fans offer up a few shouts of their own, “come on you Tons” and while the referee leads them through their handshake the first song of the night breaks out, “we love, we love, and that is why we follow, we follow”.

Drums occupy not just one, but both ends behind each goal. One group of fans are singing in what I think is Italian, as they wave large red and white check flags from the front of the covered terrace. The hoardings at both ends are taking a kicking, the bulk of the supporters are awaiting the coin toss, before making their move. Those singing in Italian, look to have very much set out their stall early, having not stopped since the players walked out, they stand fast behind their antifa flags and set scene for what is to come for the rest of the match.

With the ends decided, the teams both gather in a huddle as the migration commences, and like some kind of Ultra T-1000, all the pieces combine to form a multi drum, multi flag, multi banner monster, that despite one of the most insane games we will see all season, hold my attention for the entirety of the night.

Kick off, a late kick off at that and NWL are awarded an early free kick, but their attempt is well over, but who cares. Now united the person leading what I think is the Italian portion of the fans, is still going and already sounds a little hoarse, how could anyone care less about the football with what's going on off the pitch and its not taken long for the songs to start about the reason the Clapton fans have had to start this breakaway club in the first place, “nobody's gonna take this away from me”.

It’s sounds like a full percussion section is under the corrugated iron roof of the terrace, more and more banners are stretched out over the railing around the pitch, one late comer has just sauntered by us coolly, with a red brolly in one and a red and white flag in the other, draped over his left shoulder and quite rightly he is looking very pleased with himself. He arrives in the throng just about in time to see CFC take the lead, in or around the tenth minute ish, but don’t hold me to that. We started late and if I'm honest I'm struggling to keep up with the game.

A close range finishing ignites ecstatic scenes from the fans behind the goal, the flag bearers go into overdrive, and for the first time they show their might as a united force, with a few lines of “oh east London is wonderful”. It might be far fetched to suggest this, but the ill fitting metal sheeting that makes up the stand, makes the perfect noise when whacked, I honestly think that might have been considered when deciding to play here.

The only other thing I can hear other than the fans, only intermittently mind, is the sizzle of the nearby hot dog stand, which I know for sure has caught Tom’s attention, the steam from the hot plate visibly rising up through the single white light behind the grill. “Hot dogs look good” says Tom, having caught a glimpse of someones passing, however his attention is soon back on the game, when a cry of “ohhhh” rings out from the home fans, having just watched NWL go close to equalising.

“I bet the neighbours love this” laughs Tom as anyone wanting a quiet night in, in this particular corner of E17 will be in for a shock, “ola, ola, ola orza Clapton”. Chances are coming thick and fast, and not even a quarter of an hour in, I’m suffering from a severe case of football exhaustion. First CFC send an effort well, well over and then NWL go much closer, a swerving long range fizzer of a shot is only just touched over by the CFC keeper in a very agreeable shade of yellow.

Straddling the hoardings now, the CFC fan in the tan coat and baseball cap, pounds the shaft of his flag against the railings, as he conducts the latest song, “when the working day is done, ohhhh Tons
just wanna have fun”. More home chances as they flood forward, an attempt at a dink over the NWL keeper almost comes off, sending him back peddling he watches it just go over, the sight of which just sends the flags behind him into fits of even more frenzied motion.

A break in play, because of an injury to a CFC player is welcomed, it lets me catch my breath and allows the fans to belt out another song, and they sound brilliant, “looo, looooo, looooo Clapton”. Plenty of cans from the shed bar are being downed and one thing that I’ve always admired about the the Ultras, is their eclectic use of contemporary music to work a song too. I remember they used to do one to a Spice Girls number and even the Tetris theme I think, today's re imagining is to the theme of Cheers, “down the dog is where I’ll always be. Maybe tomorrow we'll own that fucking ground”.

Twenty minutes or so gone, and the quagmire that is the NWL six yard box, stops CFC doubling their lead. Out to meet the forward, the NWL keeper misses the ball, the CFC attacker skipping past him shoots but is thwarted by the heavy ground, It’s like a clip from a Danny Baker video and it's cleared. “Dodgy keeper, dodgy keeper” chant the home fans, but don't harangue him for long, they're a fair bunch, and are soon on to the next song, “whooooooooo, whoooooooo CCFC”

The home side are not having it all their own way and it’s only an absolute beast of a challenge deep into their box that stops a certain goal, which goes down well with the home supporters, “whoooooooo, whoooooo CCFC”.

I'm not sure why I bothered asking Tom if he is getting a hot dog, I know full well he will be, and his reply only confirms what I already knew. “Yeahhhhh” he says emphatically, like a Ninja Turtle. The question is "which one” he points out having put down his nun chucks, “there are many hot dogs” he adds, turning from Michelangelo to Yoda in less than ten pounds.

Still front and centre, the man in the tan coat wheels his arm towards the crowd, rarely looking at the match, whipping them up into near mania as he starts the the next song, “I just can't get enough”. He is backed by quite the drummer, and sometimes it feels such is his eagerness to never let them fall quiet, he is ready for the next chant going, before the the one they are currently singing is yet to finish, “sha la la la”.

Just short of the half hour mark and CFC take a further lead, just after NWL had sent a dipping half volley over the bar, its chances galore. Tucking it under the keeper, the scorer heads straight for the crowd and is embraced by a Ganesh amount of arms and is soon joined by nigh on the whole team. The fans pound the hoardings once again and the drummer is now showing off, with all sorts of flourishes, “la, la, la, Clapton”.

If it wasn't for the faint shout of the celebrating players, if you were not paying attention, guilty, you could be forgiven for not realising that NWL almost straight from restart have gone and scored. You wouldn't know it from the Ultras, they didn't even flinch, but just as it looked like CFC were going to run away with it, NWL have I guess you could say, made things interesting.

Echoing the words of the CFC fan we meet on arrival, the home side like to throw their weight around a bit, “they're a physical team” says Tom, as they give away a free kick on the edge of their box. The strike from the set piece is hardly venomous, but for whatever reasons is too hot to handle for the man in goal, and he can only parry it out into his six yard box, where a NWL player is on hand to tap home the equaliser. From two behind to all square in the matter of five minutes.

For the first time the home fans fall silent, but are quickly stirred by a shout of one supporter, “come on you Tons”. The home keeper is consoled by a team mate, and the fans are soon singing once more, “you are my Clapton, oh, ah, my only Clapton”.

Much of Tom’s time at matches is not spent appreciating the football or drinking in the fans, but assessing and cross checking the state of the queue for the refreshments. “There's a queue for the hot dogs now” he gripes and such is his concern for the demand for the dogs, he is “worried they are going to run out”.

When NWL rifle one into the top corner, it looks like the unimaginable has happened and they have taken the lead, only for the flag of the assistant on the far side to be raised, but none of the celebrating visiting players have seen it yet, and the home fans take much glee in pointing it out. One person even breaks into the Entry Of The Gladiators, aimed more at the officials I think than the NWL players, a personal favourite of mine the large gamut of the football jibes. One supporter though, is less than impressed with his teams lets say porous defence, “pull your fucking finger out Clapton”.

Even the fans in the queue for the Walthamstow Dogs, are paying more attention to the game then Tom, who is looking over longingly at the increasing line, “no way he was offside” barks one, when the latest CFC attacks is brought back, but they don't have to wait long until they are all dancing once again. NWL’s parity is fleeting, as the home side go in front once again.

The toe poked effort is well saved by the NWL keeper, which is met with a sizable groan, he can though only palm it back into the box, where a CFC player is able to get his leg gymnast high in the air and volley home. Absolute madness, the crowd explodes, Mr tan coat punches the air, and one passing person, points out, “you picked a lively one”.

I’m not sure how much more of this I can take, “there is no defence” bemoans one home fan. CFC’s
new lead has lasted all of a couple of minutes. “Recently we have been tight in defence” adds the angry supporter, but not tonight, tonight it's looked non existent.

“He pushed him” shouts the near spitting CFC fan, half over the hoarding, hitting it with the palm of his hand, trying to get the referees attention, but it falls on deaf ears, and he waves away the claim for a penalty. The man in charges unwillingness to award the spot kick is received with accusations that he is a “lizard”.

There are few more pleasurable things in football then a well performed song or chant, yes a bicycle kick is nice, a pin point cross field pass is pleasing to the eye, but a call and response chant, where one fan leads, and everyone else sits silent until it’s their time to respond, is the kind of thing to make this bearded mans knees go funny, “come on you red and white”.

CFC could consider themselves lucky if they manage to make it to the break level pegging, their defence is well and truly on the ropes in the last few minutes of the half, and they are close to conceding on multiple occasions, they are being pummelled, goal bound shots are coming from every angle, the feet of the CFC keeper as well as various parts of his body as well as those of his defender are all that are keeping NWL out. This all going on while the CFC fans flex their sociopolitical muscles, “say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here”.

Another long delay because of an injury to a CFC player, this time lets the referee catch his breath, I’ve just about pulled myself together. “The ref needs a break” laughs Tom, “he so unfit its ridiculous” he is certainly carrying a little bit of extra timber around the middle.

Summing up the half perfectly, and after being bombarded by NWL's attempts on their goal, CFC should really take the lead in the dying moments, but instead of squaring the ball to his team mate calling for it, unmarked in the box, the player in possession chooses to shoot instead, straight at the keeper.

“Just the six goals then” says the CFC fan we spoke to on arrival, who really has a knack of popping up at the right time saying the right thing. Those passing as the crowd behind the goal starts to thin, are not exactly singing the praises of the referee, “he’s on the halfway line, can't wait to get out this pub league” says one. Not everyone has started the move to the other half quite as yet, many are still drinking, chatting, as it turns into a bit of a social. One who is making his way to get some food, Tom now in the queue as an even larger plume of steam spirals off the grill, is sporting the stunning CFC away kit, modelled on the flags of the International Brigades.

Always fond of a tidy, the bin bags are out and one CFC supporter is ensuring that the stand is left just how they found it, “rubbish, rubbish”. Womble impression complete the stream of passing fans gets steadier, “definitely a good game” says one, not maybe the opinion of either manger, each teams back lines look holier than a holey thing.

Tom is still patiently waiting for his food, it feels like he left ages ago. A couple of the CFC substitutes warming up are in very high spirits, one letting out a scream my two year old daughter would be proud of.

By the look on his face, the wait was worth it, Tom is back and he is positively drooling.

The change of ends is all but complete as the players emerge for the second half, “sort it lino” bellows one fan to the startled looking official. Its a genuine roar that greets the players, “come on you Tons”. The fans who had set their stall out early doors behind one goal, have not moved on, instead deciding to stay put, their flags and banners still in place, and they continue to be in good voice, “come on red and white”.

“Mega hot dog” are Tom’s first words after a gargantuan bite of his “classic hot dog”. It’s “so big” he mumbles, his forearms straining under the weight of what is basically a loaf of bread with a Pringles tube of processed pork on top of it. If the sheer scale of it was not enough to keep Tom happy, the fact there were “unlimited condiments” on offer, as well as a “side of pickles” well I’m sorry to be crude, but he is like a pig in shit.

It's all NWL early in the new half, its looks like they have missed a good opportunity when the player in the box takes a swing and a miss at the ball, but it still trickles through the six yard box causing some to hold their breath. Lesser in numbers now, but still singing the smaller group of CFC are sharing their opinion on the top flight of the English game, “fuck the Premier League”.

Clutching what looks like a concession stands worth of tissues, Tom is a mess, “I’m gonna need a wash” he tells me, his face smothered with mustard, the curse of the bearded man eating playing out right in front of me, he does his best to wipe himself down, but he looks a bit of a state.

It's CFC's turn to send the ball right though the box and not make anything of it. Just like the first half, it’s hard to really concentrate on the match, with the amount of songs and activity off the pitch, “love CFC , fucking hate McBean” sing the supporters, the Clapton owner back in the firing line. Flags are now flying at both ends, I’m caught not knowing where to look. “Better drummer that end” reckons Tom, pointing to the lone Italian singers, four maybe five making up their number, maybe close to one hundred fill the opposite stand, who though are not as percussionally gifted, are singing with everything they've got, “ally o, ally o”.

Noticing the large sticker covered drum is still under the gazebo, one has to ask how many do they bloody have? Tom in neighbourhood watch mode, is not sure the locals are going to be as appreciative of the atmosphere as we are, rumours have it that the Wadham Lodge Stadium will be their permanent home as of next season, and as they belt out a song to the tune of the Shanks & Bigfoot's hit, 'Sweet Like Chocolate', Tom thinks “the neighbours are going to fucking hate them”.

A red and white flag is gently swaying in front of the pop up shop, and the drum has now joined the one already behind the goal, taking the toll to three, some football grounds won’t even let one in, let alone three and as much as I’m enjoying the evening, at the moment all I can smell is mustard, Tom reeks of it and I’m glad he’s driving himself home tonight.

Back to the football for a moment and NWL have a free kick, but it's not hit with much purpose, dribbling through to the man in goal, the game having slowed quite significantly in comparison to the rampant first forty five. The home fans shift their musical inspiration away from garage to something a bit more Country, and Take Me Home, Country Roads, they sing about their spiritual home to the tune of the John Denver classic, “take me home, to the Spotted Dog, where I belong”.

Tom is sure that “we’re not going to have any goals this half” and that both teams have shot their bolt. “Maggy , Maggy, dead, dead, dead” is the latest song from the crowd, any Tory voting locals, already miffed about the noise, are going to be right onto the local council after that one. As far as I know the small section of fans at the other end are not singing about a dead prime minister, but are still singing all the same.

Chances so far this half have been few and far between, CFC float a free kick in, but the man at the back post can't sort his feet out. They should have at least got a corner, but its not given, sending the beardy one from the shop apoplectic, almost on the pitch, he screams over the hoarding, “murder, murder”.

I’ve no idea how long has been played, my hands are absolutely frozen and for the first time NWL have taken the lead, rounding the keeper for their fourth of the night. “Their defence is shocking” mumbles Tom, he thinks the floodgates are about to open, and CFC are going to get “ripped apart”.

“Come on you Tons” pleads someone from the crowd, the first song after the NWL goal is the first one that sounds like heads have dropped, just a bit, among the normally unwavering and fanatical supporters. Their song sounding ever so slightly muted compared to before, “come on you red and white”.

CFC flash a shot wide, and the fans are doing their best to will it in with a deluge of chanting, “singing at the Stray Dog” but they are unable to affect the laws of physics. Another chance, a header, but it's right into the grateful arms of the NWL keeper. Who falls to the ground clutching the ball, in no rush at all to get the game back under way.

I’m not sure what is more remarkable that we have only now seen our first yellow of the match, a robust CFC challenge earns the home player the distinction of being the first in the book or that much
to Toms admiration, that one of the “linesman is wearing a jacket”.

I don't think the smaller group of fans have stopped once, but I’ll be honest they do seem rather sozzled now. NWL are looking very slick, every attack looks like it might culminate in a goal. The game is brought to a stop, when the ball is hoofed clear, disappearing behind the toilet block, and the whole ground glares in its general direction, until from somewhere the ball is found and the game can continue.

Tom didn't think we were going to see any more goals this half, well that's already been proven wrong and I'm sure there is at least one more left in this roller coaster of a match. Two CFC players end up getting in each others way on the edge of the six yard box, one leaves it for the other, but he left it for him too, and the chance goes begging and then almost straight up the other end NWL with their shimmering gold numbers on their backs and a badge that looks remarkably similar to that of the Colombian national side, miss a back post header and the chance to score their fifth, that would have surely put this game to bed.

It was only a matter of time before a NWL player retaliated after one of the many heavy CFC challenges. One could maybe call it a melee, a fracas, a brief flash point, before it soon dissipates. I'm not sure if it's relevant to the foul, maybe the CFC fans know something about one of their team that I don't, one of them is not a man to be messed with, but when they start humming the tune to the Godfather, it is mildly sinister. One person taking it even further, going the full Michael Corleone, "just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in".

How NWL have not just scored their fifth, I'll never know. The smaller group of home fans, now standing atop the railing around the pitch, it's getting an absolute battering, their flags going at hyperspeed, have a front row seat as their keeper pulls off a solid save and then not one, but two blocks on the follow up. "Away, away, away" pleads one nearby supporter nervously.

That's it I'm done, here are my keys, bring my car around, I've seen all I need to see. There is not a hair on my considerable body that hasn't shot to attention as the ground fell silent and a single gruff voice leads the rest of the fans, in the most impassioned chant of the night. Reverberating off the backs of the neighbouring flats, it is so loud. The dramatic pauses between the call and then the response is perfectly timed, "because we all love the Clapton............................" and the acoustics make for a “good echo” as Tom puts it, which only adds to the theatre.

The person playing the big sticker covered drum, that he's resting on the top of the hoardings, is only marginally bigger than it. The referee is coming in for more stick, "your tired ref" and another delay, this time not because of a lost ball or an injury, but because Tom thinks "they've run out" of them. The larger of the groups descends into general chit chat, it sounds almost like a busy pub, the small group are still going just as devotedly as they were from the first minute.

"What's go on?" wonders Tom, there is no obvious reason why the game is not going ahead, Tom was only half joking about them not having any balls left, but now I'm thinking there might have been something in it, until all of a sudden the trouser wearing NWL keeper has one in his hands, and we are back under way.

"Relief" says one CFC supporter puffing out his cheeks, CFC have done it, I've no idea whatsoever how long is left, but they've only gone and equalised, the scorer of the goal, sprinting head down towards the bench. One player quickly recovers the ball and makes his way to the centre circle, looking like a man possessed the scorer is ushered back on to the pitch, everyone, me included surely feels this is a game that is there to be won.

As you can imagine, CFC's fourth was quite well received, the sound of about a thousand kettle drums washed over the ground and then back again. The CFC supporters are all about leaving the place as they found it, but the way some are hitting whatever they can get their hands on, there might not be a ground left to tidy up if they carry on this way.

The calls for the scoreboard to be changed are not heard, until the man in charge is given a nudge, and replaces the three with a four.

If this game couldn't get any more intense, it very nearly does, when CFC by only a hairs breadth, miss out on their fifth, in the most dramatic of circumstances. Flying out of goal the NWL keeper doesn't make the intended contact with the big CFC ball over the top, his goal empty, he has set the home team up with an opening for a very dramatic conclusion indeed. Falling kindly to a CFC player he doesn't even take a touch before taking a swing like a golfer with his wedge, he sends the ball goalwards and it looks like he has hit the perfect shot.

Almost like skittles, the CFC fans behind the goal seem to fall away, as the ball sails just the wrong side of the post. When a second chance is presented to them to win it, it's another case of  the player with the ball not passing to an unmarked team mate, shooting instead, straight at the keeper

"Fucking advantage ref", snarls one seething CFC, the railing in front of him stopping him from toppling on to the pitch. A CFC breakaway has just been brought to a sudden stop by a NWL player
who is now very much in the crowds sights, "fuck off top knot". The smaller group of fans are still going of course, driven by a hearty mixture of beer and plutonium, but have started to slow just a fraction and when the referee brings what I'm sure will go down as our best game of the season to an end, it feels a little bit out of the blue.

It's a ripple of polite applause that follows the final whistle and then a song not for their own players, but those of the opposition, "well played North West". The NWL team leaving the pitch applaud the CFC fans for their acknowledgement, one bends down to pluck some grass from the pitch, before kissing it and crossing himself. We could all do with some guidance from a higher power after that madness.

The CFC players first approach the smaller of the two groups of fans, one CFC supporter in a mild state of shock, tells another, "if that lob went I wouldn't be going to work tomorrow". As the CFC players get closer, the noise level raises, beating out what sounds like a war dance on whatever they can, they await the players, "Tons, Tons, Tons, Tons, Tons".

Having first seen it in Germany, I still think it's something more teams should adopt here, the CFC players walk the line of outstretched hands, where both fans and team can show their mutual admiration for each other, in victory or defeat, it's important to reinforce how one is nothing without the other.

"That was fucking emotional wasn't it" says one person exasperated, still coming round to what we have all just witnessed. The small group of supporters have of course not stopped yet, why would they have and as the players finally make their way in, they are serenaded one last time, "come on you Tons".

I'll keep it short, I've gone on long enough. I learnt today that Tom is not a fan of the sha, la, la, chant. CFC fans are most definitely pro remain, "you can stick your fucking Brexit up your arse", however that's not a huge surprise. We certainly did get our "value for money" as one person put it to us, but most importantly I learnt that something many people hold dear, is not a myth, it is the fans who hold all the power in football, CFC are a living example of that. Don't like the cards you've been dealt. Start your own fucking game.

For all of our photographs from the match, click HERE

Watch our video from the match ↓ HERE

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