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  • David Brent

Once More Unto The Breach

CSKA Clapham 0-2 Jeff’s Chippy Clapham Common 9th September 2019

On October 25th 1415 King Henry V’s English army was vastly outnumbered and overpowered by French forces in foreign territory. Disease had ripped through the English ranks leaving Henry with depleted numbers against the masses of French soldiers. It was thought one more defeat in the war would spell the end for England. However, some clever tactics from an inspirational leader helped turn the tide of the Hundred Years War and immortalise King Henry V. William Shakespeare would later write a play based on that famous battle at Agincourt, the rousing speech Henry gave his troops before the skirmishes started is revered as one of the most powerful speeches ever consigned to paper: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, straining upon the start. The game’s afoot. Follow your spirit and upon this charge, cry: “God for Henry, England and Saint George!”

500 years of history later Britain once again found itself at war. On June 4th 1940, just over a month in to his tenure as Prime Minister, Winston Churchill addressed a nation on its knees. Europe had fallen to the German forces within eight months and it was feared that the Wehrmacht were advancing unopposed through France towards Britain. With the public fearing an imminent invasion, they looked to Churchill in its darkest hour, he was unrelenting with his response: “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender!”

Sir Winston Churchill, voted the greatest ever Briton in 2002, passed away over 60 years ago but Churchillian spirit is still very much alive among certain managers of the Central London Super Sunday League. Historians are already committing Ant Stonehewer’s half-time tirade towards his Jeff’s Chippy players to the annals of history. As his troops trudged off at half-time drawing 0- 0 with league new boys, CSKA Clapham, Stonehewer embodied the former PM and ripped in to his side: “We’ve been f*****g s**t so far today boys! We don’t look up for it at all, we need to be better second-half!”

The Welsh native was rightly aggrieved by the performance from the 2018/19 league champions, the season was just 45 minutes old, but this was their Agincourt – Chippy were outnumbered and outgunned. It took a string of fine saves from Chris May to keep CSKA at bay during the opening exchanges. A goal line clearance from debutant George Robinson was also required as the plucky newbies impressed with their pace and trickery. Phil Gray, a hero of countless Chippy conquests, was outpaced on two occasions and looked like this was possibly one crusade too many.

With Stonehewer’s inspirational words still rattling around Clapham Common and the Chippy players’ heads the second-half saw a much-improved performance from the boys in royal blue, but it did come at a cost. It’s estimated that the Hundred Years War claimed the lives of over 3,000,000 people. The numbers that sadly died as a direct consequence of World War II is still a grey area. However, following Sunday’s ‘Clash at the Common’ the list of casualties is a little more obvious. It stands at one, captain Jon Walton. As in every war there is someone who emerges as a hero after an act of valour and bravery: Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape and there’s bound to be some fella in Star Wars – not sure who, I’ve never seen it. Walton can now be added to that list – the centre half damaged his groin in a sprint to cover left-back Lewis Crossland’s misjudged header and as the CSKA Clapham striker looked to race clear from the halfway line our hero bravely scythed him down – the very definition of taking one for the team. Unfortunately, that spelled the end of the game for the much-loved captain.

Churchill is revered for his planning of D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history which effectively turned the tide of World War II. Stonehewer will be forever revered for how he shuffled his pack after the Walton injury. He cleverly adapted tactics which resulted in the recently retired Harry Ingham applying his unique firebrand of hold-up play as a second striker as Chippy launched an airborne invasion of the CSKA final third. With an hour gone, the ball broke to Ingham 25-yards out, faced with a wall of CSKA resistance he pulled off a textbook Cruyff turn and fired the ball in to the net with his left-foot. Chippy had the breakthrough!

If the success of D-Day was due to meticulously planning and execution then Chippy’s second goal was due to shear quality. Crossland launched a throw-in to Ingham’s chest as if he was launching a grenade in to enemy territory, the Somerset socialist brought it under control with ease and played in Jonny Plowman who curled the ball in to the top corner from the edge of the area.

‘Blitz Spirit’ is defined as: “stoicism and determination in a difficult or dangerous situation, especially as displayed by a group of people.” It’s fair to say that Stonehewer and his Chippy side showed plenty of stoicism and determination to claim all three points on Clapham Common.

Starting XI: May; Stonehewer, Gray, Walton, Crossland; Robinson, Flannigan, Ingham, Plowman; Wilshire D, Mitchell

Goals: Ingham 62’, Plowman 70’

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