Real football officially returns on Saturday as Cray Wanderers start their first season back in the Ryman South with the visit of Sittingbourne to Hayes Lane.
There has been a buzz of anticipation amongst the supporters about a return to the South division after two fluctuating seasons in the Ryman North. With more local games and matches against some old adversaries this could be a season to savour for the club.
Last season’s fourth placed finish and playoff place was a just reward for the teams endeavours and despite defeat at Harlow in the Semi Final there was a great deal of satisfaction to take from the season.
Pre-season has gone well for Tony Russell’s side with just one defeat in eight games and there are reasons for optimism. The club has a new Assistant Player Manager in Paul Lorraine and already looks to be a major coup for Cray with his experience. Defensively he and Jay Leader, one of the key signings from last season to res-sign for the club look strong. Player of the year Grant Basey, Lea Dawson, Karl Dent, Nick Blue and James Duckworth are amongst the players re-signed with the club. With top signings like Danny Haynes, Lee Prescott and Sid Njie coming to Hayes Lane there are more than enough reasons for optimism.
With a move across to the South many supporters are already planning their trips to Kent, Surrey and Sussex with fish and chip emporiums and real ale pubs high on the list of priorities. Some old favourite grounds like Hastings United, Lewes, Faversham Town, Ramsgate, Herne Bay, Tooting and Mitcham, Carshalton, Whyteleafe and Corinthian Casuals await us adding to the feelgood factor around the club.
Tomorrow we kick off against old rivals from our Kent League days and from our first stint in the Ryman South, Sittingbourne. The Brickies are a well-established club in this league having moved over from the Southern League following league restructuring in 2006. Sittingbourne are managed by Nick Davis and finished 18th last season but are traditionally a difficult team to play against. A well supported side despite many trials and tribulations over the years regarding their grounds, the club which applied to join the Football League in 1961-62 when Accrington Stanley folded have a rich history. They won the Kent League three times, the last in 1990-91 earning them promotion to the Southern League where they stayed either in the Premier Division or Division One South and East until 2006.
Over the course of many years the clubs have met 44 times with Cray winning 11, Sittingbourne 20 and 13 games drawn. Our last league meeting with Sittingbourne took place at Bourne Park in March 2009 with Cray winning 3-1 in our promotion season with goals by Leigh Bremner, Steve Aris and Colin Luckett. The last time we played at Hayes Lane the game finished in a 1-1 draw in December 2008 with Dean Morris scoring for Cray.
We welcome you all back to Hayes Lane tomorrow. Admission is £10.00 adults, £4 concessions and U16s. Enjoy the afternoon with London’s Oldest Association Football Club.