This Saturday sees the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup take place, and once again BT Sports’ cameras will be in position at the Rush Green Bowl to document the events of the day as they unfold.
Their first visit was just over a week ago, for our Extra Preliminary Round tie versus Essex Senior League Sporting Bengal United, a tie we successfully came through despite a very spirited effort from the visitors, who were very much a credit to themselves on the day.
It was very much a surreal day from my standpoint, and I can only imagine how the players felt. The camera crew arrived early, interviewing the players on Clacton Pier and recording footage of them in various situations in and around the seafront area. Further interviews back at the ground followed, along with further footage being filmed as everybody connected with the club put the finishing touches to preparations for the game. BT found themselves an immediate star in our club secretary, Barry Leatherdale, (fondly known as Baz), who introduced the watching millions (well ok, maybe not quite millions!) to our club in a way that only he can, and then finally, and in some ways reassuringly, kick-off time arrived!
I say in some ways reassuringly because I haven’t felt so nervous for an FC Clacton match in years. The sudden media spotlight that had been thrust upon us was a godsend in many ways; a chance to put FC Clacton on the map. It would, however, have been for nought if we had come up short on the day.
An early goal was what was needed to settle the nerves and Aaron Condon duly obliged, putting us ahead as he slotted the ball home from close range after good work by player-manager Ray Turner. I must admit to feeling somewhat relaxed at this point. The omens when we score first in a game are generally pretty good, and I felt confident that this day would be no different.
All was going well until five minutes before the break, when a superb free-kick put the visitors level, and the teams went in at half-time with the score all-square.
And this is where the nerves really started to kick in. It became pretty obvious as the second half progressed that the next goal would effectively settle the contest. Clacton struggled in vain to break the visitors’ offside trap, as a somewhat trigger-happy linesman continually raised his flag every time we dared play the ball into the Bengal half, whilst at the other end debutant keeper Joe Fowler made a couple of massive saves to keep us in the game.
And then it came. Just as we were all reluctantly preparing ourselves for a midweek replay back at Tower Hamlets, the deadlock was finally broken with just ten minutes remaining on the clock. An inswinging cross from Tom Austin bounced dangerously in no-man’s land in front of the keeper, allowing Turner to steal in and head the ball into the bottom corner of the net. The feeling was absolutely incredible, joy and relief in equal measure, a feeling that perhaps this day was infact destined to be ours.
But the best was still yet to come. Just a couple of minutes later, Jake Clowsley struck an unstoppable twenty yard effort into the top left hand corner to set the seal on an emotionally draining, but ultimately worthwhile and victorious, day for all of us connected with FC Clacton.
So this Saturday we welcome the BT cameras back to the Bowl for the visit of another Essex Senior League side, Hullbridge Sports, in the Preliminary Round. Despite a couple of poor league results since the victory over Bengal, I know the lads will be very much up for the game and I’m confident that if we apply ourselves properly on the day its one that we are capable of winning. But whatever happens, I’m sure it will be no match for what happened on Saturday 17th August 2013, the day the BT Sport cameras first came to town.
Hello again! Those of you with long memories (and also quite possibly those of you who’ve just noticed my previous article tucked discreetly in here somewhere!) may recall that just over 12 months ago I offered you all an introduction to my hometown club, and the nearest thing I have to a significant other in my life (which probably tells you something!), FC Clacton. Alongside that introduction, you may also recall that I offered a promise to keep you all regularly updated with events from the Rush Green Bowl and around the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League.
Then off I went and disappeared into the night! Much like our former owner Mr Shuttleworth, or more recently Vladimir Romanov from the Lithuanian justice system! My apologies! I do promise however, (for what it’s worth!), to do better this season!
So back to the football, and I thought I’d start this season’s coverage with a look back on last season, as a way of bringing you all up to speed. It was both a difficult and disappointing season at the Rush Green Bowl. On the pitch, the team finished bottom of the Thurlow Nunn Eastern Counties League Premier Division, winning just four of their 38 league matches, however a series of events (which I’ll discuss later) led to the team getting a fortunate reprieve from relegation and we will once again start this season in the Premier Division.
There were some key changes in personnel off the pitch. Manager Andy Taylor stepped down from the role in mid-September after a poor run of results and Ray Turner returned to the club to take up his first managerial post. ‘Razor’s’ first game in charge saw a 3-2 win over Walsham-le-Willows, but it would be a further 2 months before the next win came along, a 3-0 success at CRC on the last Saturday in November, and a terrible December, which saw 22 goals conceded in just 3 matches, culminating in a 7-0 trouncing at Brantham Athletic on Boxing Day, meant we entered the new year very much staring relegation in the face.
Sadly the first half of 2013 saw no real improvement in results, however the overall nature of the performances did offer some hope and some reason for encouragement and optimism. Without wanting to unduly criticise the previous management, Razor had identified soon after his arrival that he had inherited a squad which lacked the necessary level of fitness to compete at this level, and that was something he soon set about addressing. He also set about forming a more settled squad, and identifying the players he wanted to work with going forward. The second half of the season saw us field a more consistent line-up on a regular basis, and as a result of the hard work Razor put in with our young squad, we certainly became more competitive in matches, even if results didn’t often reflect this.
As previously mentioned, we did finish the season rock-bottom of the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division table after 38 games, and ordinarily you would expect this to result in relegation to the Eastern Counties League Division One. However a long and drawn out saga eventually saw us retain our Premier Division status. In the final reckoning, champions Dereham Town took promotion to Ryman 1 North for this season, whilst Wisbech Town decided to move sideways to the United Counties League. With only 2 of the top 3 teams from the First Division able to take promotion to the Premier Division, (CUP being forced to resign their position from the league as their groundshare with Histon came to an end), there was no need for relegation as the two clubs were required to take the places of the aforementioned two clubs.
So rightly or wrongly we find ourselves kicking off this season in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division. It should be pointed out that we are not the only club to benefit from such a fortunate reprieve in recent seasons, our local rivals Wivenhoe Town have done likewise, but it is a scenario that will not be repeated this coming season as the league have guaranteed that the bottom club in the Premier Division will be relegated; infact in a slight change to the wording of the rules, they have also said that due to the large number of reserve sides in the First Division, it will be the top three eligible clubs that will be promoted come the end of the season.
So it’s important that we finish outside of the bottom three this season, but I know that Razor and Glenn (our assistant manager and also manager of our successful under 18’s side) are aiming slightly higher than fourth bottom. They would also like a cup or Vase run this year after our lack of success in those competitions in recent seasons.
We have had a much more positive pre-season this time around, and there is a real buzz around the club as we prepare to enter the new campaign. Our squad of young local players are only adding to the feel-good factor, and we are all hoping for a much improved 2013/14 season, which I promise I will keep you up-to-date with as the season moves along! In the meantime everybody is welcome to check out our website, which is regularly updated, as are our two twitter feeds, @FC_Clacton and @FCC_fans.
Thanks for reading and all the best to everyone for a successful season!