Cray Wanderers return to league action after a weekend’s break with a tough test against Phoenix Sports on Saturday, 8th December. Here Tony Russell looks ahead to the match, reflections on the Ramsgate game and our new signing Joe Taylor as well as the events off the field involving Flamingo Park.
It seems hard to believe but we are in December already. We had a weekend off due to the Thamesmead Town situation so go into Phoenix Sports well rested. This though will be a tough game. What sort of match are you expecting against Phoenix Sports and the threat that they could pose?
I have been to watch Phoenix & I was really impressed with them. I have known Paul the manager from way back when we were both on a coaching course together & we got on really well. Him & Nick are two very good people who understand the game so they will come with a plan, that’s for sure! The two boys up top for them, Teniola & Duah-Kessie, are big power boys who are a handful. This will be a hard game & I have already spoken to the players on Friday night (we trained Friday night last week) on how they set up & what the game plan will be. We will get out on the training pitch Wednesday & work on the areas I think we can hurt them.
Let’s go back to our last league match, a goalless draw against Ramsgate on 25th November. Considering we were down to ten men for a fair period of the game, I thought we played well and finished strongly. What were your thoughts after the game?
Funny one as I didn’t know & still don’t know if I’m happy with a draw if I’m honest. On one hand, when you go down to 10 men so early a draw isn’t a bad result but, on the other hand, when you have had 21 shots on goal, see Ben miss a 1v1 in the first half and Dadson miss a 1v1 in the 2nd half then see Jay leader hit the bar and have 65% of the ball, you do feel maybe it was 2 points dropped rather than a point gained. Fair play to Ramsgate, they can point to a few chances themselves but I left the ground a little disappointed. Full credit to the players though, we finished like a train & they were hanging on at the end. Considering we had played a big chunk of the game with 10 men it shows: A – The players fitness levels are good & B – The character of the players we have at the club. I always talk to the players after the game on the pitch and I could see how disappointed they were but that just shows me how much they want to win matches. If a team wants to take points off us then we make sure we give them everything we’ve got so they have to earn them.
Since then we have signed prolific goalscorer Joe Taylor from Margate. Tell us a little bit about Joe and the qualities he can bring to the side?
I have been a big fan of Joe for a long time so when there was a chance to get him I jumped at it. Joe is 6 foot 2, strong, has pace and can shoot with both feet, but don’t be fooled by his size and think he is a target man. He has great feet & will score all sorts of goals. He has never played for a footballing side before & I think that will only make him look better. Joe had 15 managers calling him from the National league down to the Kent league, he got offered a lot more money but said he had always been a fan of the way we played & he, with the new ground getting the green light, was excited to be part of that. We wanted to get it over the line so Dave Francis, Sam Wright and I drove to Margate to meet him. I didn’t get home till 1am but we were all buzzing when we got back in the car. How many owners & managing directors do you know would do that? If I was a player & the manager/Owner & Managing director travel 2 hours to come & meet me I think I would have signed too. When I talk to other managers & hear the rubbish they have to put up with it does make you grateful of what we have at Cray.
Finally, we can’t let it pass without mentioning the tremendous news about the Planning application approval for Flamingo Park from the GLA. The first I knew of it was from your Facebook post and led to a frenzy of tweets and messages. As far as the long term future of the club and the community is concerned this is going to bring first class facilities and opportunity to the area isn’t it?
It’s unreal news! I spoke with 3 out of the 4 owners moments after we got the news & all of them were the same; not cheering or anything like that but just really calm?. I’m pretty sure it was a little bit of shock if I’m honest. They have worked so hard & been on such an emotional roller-coaster, I am so happy for them as I know what a strain it has been on them. Special mention must go to Gary Hillman who could have walked away when the ground first got turned down all those years ago but he never gave up hope & always said he would do it. With Dave Francis, Michael Paye & Jason Miller coming in with Gary the club is a very strong club now, run by four good men who will take this club a long way! The ground will look brilliant & Cray wasn’t just saying it to get it through planning, this facility will give local schools the land to do first class P.E session & sports days. This ground will be the Hub of the Community for all ages, Genders & races. Flamingo Park will soon be back to a place full of people playing & enjoying sport.
Well done to everyone we played a part in helping Cray get the green light, So many people put a lot of work in behind the scenes so let’s not forget them too. Lastly thank you to all the people who wrote & signed letters of support for Cray going home you have helped make a lot of people very happy. COYW.