Clapham Rovers: The Sunday League side with a FA Cup in their trophy cabinet

In 1880, Clapham Rovers won the FA Cup. Now, they aren’t even good enough to compete in it. 

Not that it matters to the players of today, who embrace a frosted Wandsworth Common to play Sunday League football every week. 

Afterall, they are playing for FA Cup winners. 

As if they’d let you forget. 

“I mention 1880 most weeks,” said Chris Kew, who has been the club’s boss since 2008.

“The 1880 side won the cup in pink and grey halves. And, our new kit is a homage to them.”

Folding after the start of World War One, Clapham Rovers were reborn for the modern era in 1996, when two brothers brought a footballing legacy back to south west London. 

And, Rovers’ ‘amateur-ethos’ has continued to bring trophies to this day.

The current ‘gaffer’ admitted the best moment of his life was winning the ‘Southern Sunday Championship Division’ title four years ago.

“I’ve had two children and got married since,” Chris said in jest. “But Sunday League – it’s unparalleled.”

Clapham Rovers recently featured in the Generation Cup, where clubs involved in the inaugural edition of the FA Cup went head to head.  Photo credit: Clapham Rovers

Memorable moments under Chris’ watch include how one of Rovers’ European tours went quickly pear-shaped.

Following claims of being a ‘FA Cup winning side’, a touring XI were thumped by a professional outfit from Romania’s third division.

“They were awesome,” he added, giggling. 

Then there was the time the boss created his own app – SportPay – to ensure his players paid their subs. 

Or when one of ‘the lads’ forgot the kit and the team had to wear the 12 fluorescent yellow vests a builder had spare in his van.

“We were so desperate, we put them on,” Chris recalled. “We were like: ‘are we really going to do this?’

“But yeah, unbelievably, we did.”

In one match the boss – and emergency keeper – watched on as tackles flew in before an ‘actual fight’ broke out on the pitch. 

“It got a bit nasty and I just thought: ‘Jesus Christ, I’m a dad now!’,” he exclaimed. “I’m standing here, watching this nonsense, thinking: ‘What am I doing! Why am I bothering with this!’”

“There isn’t a team talk where I don’t mention 1880” – Clapham Rovers boss and Neil Warnock fanatic Chris Kew. Photo credit: Chris Kew

The ‘gaffer’ quickly pointed out this isn’t a regular occurrence.

In his own words, Clapham Rovers remain the most middle-class football team you’ll ever play against – despite having ‘a geezer from Bedford’ in their ranks. 

Perhaps Jarvis Kendrick, who scored the first ever FA Cup goal in 1871, and a gentleman at heart, would approve? 

“I think he’d be delighted,” Chris said, smiling.

“The class of 1880 would love that we’re wearing the colours of yesteryear and still playing for the shirt.

“In and amongst the bad football, horrible refs and awful pitches – we’re still an FA Cup-winning side.”

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