Cray Wanderers preparations for the 2023-24 season begins on Saturday as pre-season gets under way for Neil Smith’s side with Welling United the visitors to Hayes Lane.  Kick off:  3 pm

Cray had an excellent season in 2022-23 finishing 5th and reaching the Isthmian Premier playoffs for the first time in the club’s history.  So it is pretty high bar to jump this season to surpass that but Smudge has been able to build a team with a fine balance of youth and experience.  Seven players have been retained from last season, goalkeeper and Supporters Player of the year, Shaun Rowley, midfielders Anthony Cook, Sam Wood, David Ijaha and Mitch Chapman, wide players Nyren Clunis and Yahya Bamba and striker Tom Derry.

The team have been boosted by some experienced signings, central defender Jack Holland, midfielder Frankie Raymond and striker, George Porter returning to the club he started his career with in 2009 all from Dulwich Hamlet.  Also some fine young players, Central Defender, Cameron Black joins the Wands on a season long loan from Dorking Wanderers, right back, Archy Taylor from Hartley Wintney, at left back another former Wands player, Jamie Mascoll signs from Hornchurch.  Up front, Louis Collins joins the Wands from Tonbridge Angels and played against Cray last season for Folkestone Invicta. 

Pre-season may also give a chance for supporters to see some of last season’s Championship winning Academy players who have been training with the first team during the early weeks of pre-season training.  There could also be the usual opportunity for trialist players to have a run out and stake a claim for a permanent move with this being the first of seven friendly games leading up to the season opening weekend on 12th August.

Welling United arrive at Hayes Lane under a new management team with Danny Bloor taking over at Park View Road last month arriving from Eastbourne Borough who he led to three successive top ten finishes in the National South taking over from Warren Feeney.  Welling will be looking to improve on last season’s 16th place finish but did finish impressively with three successive wins to finish on 58 points, ten clear of the relegation places.

Danny has wasted no time in bringing in players and signed three players from Eastbourn Borough, experienced goalkeeper Lee Worgan, defender Mitchell Dickinson and midfielder James Vaughan.  Right back, Crossley Lema signed from Carshalton Athletic along with defender Taofiq Olomowewe from Ramsgate and midfielder Dominic Odusanya from Maidstone United.

Welling began their pre-season campaign last Saturday with a 0-4 defeat to Charlton Athletic but have plenty of time to go before they get their National South campaign underway at Truro on 5th August.  Their first home game will be against Hemel Hempstead Town the following Saturday.

The sides have met for the last three seasons in pre-season with Welling having a different manager each time.  Last season, Welling were 2-0 winners at Hayes Lane on 5th July. 2022 and the sides drew 2-2 on 3rd August 2021.

Bromley | England | 03 August 2021 | Hayes Lane
Cray Wanderers v Welling United
Pre-Season Friendly
(Photo: © Jon Hilliger / HilligerPix)

BROMLEY, GREATER LONDON, ENGLAND – JULY 05: Cray Wanderers’s Sam Skeffington fires off a shot from the edge of the box during the Pre-Season Friendly match between Cray Wanderers and Welling United at Hayes Lane on July 05, 2022 in Bromley, Greater London, England . (Photo: © Jon Hilliger / HilligerPix)

This should be a great way to begin pre-season with a closely fought local derby and although the result will not mean a great deal in the grand scheme of things, the opportunity to give minutes to players and prove fitness and begin the season healthy takes paramount importance.

Admission on Saturday, £8 adults, £4 concessions on the gate (CASH ONLY) or online at and also a four page programme will be available.  


Please see here the thoughts of Neil Smith ahead of today’s start to pre-season.

The pre-season thoughts of Neil Smith

Hello Neil.  

On behalf of myself, the club and the fans it is great to be back in pre-season again and we are all looking forward to the next few weeks ahead of the Isthmian Premier season.

As we start pre-season, I think this was a question I asked last season. Are you a fan of pre-season or would you prefer to fast forward six weeks to the start of the season?

No, I’m always cautious during pre-season, I know people look at results but I don’t. I just want to get my boys fit and injury free. That will be a successful pre-season for me.  You can win all the games in the world, it doesn’t mean anything. You can lose games and I think you saw last year it wasn’t the greatest pre-season for us in respect of getting results but it was important as we could then find the players that we needed to make us stronger.

One thing you have been able to do is keep a fair number of players from last season including experienced heads like Anthony Cook, Sam Wood, Nyren Clunis, David Ijaha, Tom Derry, Shaun Rowley and with Jack Holland added you have a strong spine to the side.

BROMLEY, GREATER LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 05: The Pitching In Isthmian Premier League match between Cray Wanderers and Aveley FC at Hayes Lane on November 05, 2022 in Bromley, Greater London, England . (Photo: © Jon Hilliger / HilligerPix)

I looked at how we did last season and the experienced players did well for me. Cookie was a great leader not just in games but off the pitch as was Woody.  Shaun had a great season keeping fourteen clean sheets. I could go through them all, Tom Derry, Nyren Clunis, I would have liked to have kept a couple more that have decided to move on but we did our best to keep the majority of the squad together.

As you said we have added experienced players like Jack, Frankie Raymond, George Porter making that spine a little bit stronger.  Obviously last season we had three loan players in the back four so we had to strengthen there as well.

That’s right, you have brought in right back Archy Taylor, centre-half Cameron Black and left back Jamie Mascoll to work alongside Jack.

We have Jack as centre-half to replace Jalen Jones who has gone to Aveley, also the fullbacks needed replacing, Jephte Tanga and Harrison Sodje.  In Jamie Mascoll we have replaced with real quality and pace, Archy at right-back who had a fantastic season last year. We also have other trialists looking in that sort of area to go alongside what we already have. So you try to strengthen, you know what pre-season is like this is when you try and test the players and see how they are and if they are good enough they will be in the team.

Let’s look at today and the first pre-season game and we start with a fascinating home match with Welling United under new management of Danny Bloor coming in from Eastbourne Borough and has brought in some good new players.

Yes, I know Danny and he has come to Welling after Warren Feeney went. I know the owners at Welling United and they had an in and out season last year so they will want to strengthen and do better so it will be a great test for us.  It is very early on, it is our first game and we are looking for fitness and the boys to know each other.

Also perhaps a chance for some Academy players to feature in pre-season which many supporters may not have seen before.

Absolutely, there will be a couple of Academy players involved on Saturday against Welling, Reggie Rye who was our Academy captain at the end of last season who definitely deserves his chance and will be in and around the first team.  We had Tommy King, the Academy goalkeeper who is 16, Michael Ihiedi, Lenny Rye, so we want to try and prove we can produce our own players as well. That is what the Academy is for and we have a great Youth section and we just want to highlight some of the young players coming through and they will get a chance. 

The club is moving in the right direction on and off the pitch, we have a Cray Wanderers Ladies team for the first time this season and hopefully if the ground starts to develop we are looking positively to the future.

That’s right, we wanted a girl’s pathway as well and securing an elite Women’s team for us is something I’ve been banging the drums about since day one. We have a couple of excellent girls youth teams and hope within the next couple of years to get a Girl’s Academy to run alongside the boy’s. So it is exciting times at Cray Wanderers and if we can get news that we can start getting the ground ready then things are looking a lot brighter than they did a couple of years ago.