After the excitement of the World Cup and the eagerness of pre-season, Saturday sees the start of the 2018-19 Bostik League season. Cray face a tricky start just down the road at Greenwich Borough. Here Tony Russell gives his thoughts on preseason, the new arrivals, his perspectives on tomorrows opponents and an interesting verdict on England’s World Cup campaign in Russia.
The start of another season which all our fans are eagerly awaiting. What were your thoughts on our pre-season campaign and perhaps an insight into the life of a non-league manager in pre-season?
Tony with Gary Hillman, Welling Town boss Richard Dimmock and Sam Wright in pre-season
In terms of the summer and pre-season this has been probably the hardest. It’s always hard when you finish a season on a disappointment and the spill over of that was something Me, Joe and Nath had to absorb. Everyone reacts differently to setbacks so for the first few weeks it was hard work having to listen to opinions & trying to convince players to not leave as everyone was down about it. The biggest shame of it was we had a great season! Some of the football we played was the best I had seen, we scored the most goals in the league and only Lewes let in fewer goals than us? But we are in a results industry so the season was looked upon as a failure. I have been lucky enough to win 2 promotions with sides nowhere near as good as the side from last season but you need a bit of luck too to win things and I don’t think we got any last season. We need to learn from the mistakes we did last season but also we need to carry on the good work we was doing too, I won’t lose sight of that fact.
The pre-season has been good, I was impressed with the shape of most of the boys when we first come back. We pushed them hard for the first few weeks & the response was brilliant, I was really impressed with the attitude of all the players. The frustrating thing has been never having everyone fit & available for the games in pre-season. 3 of the games we had 6 plus missing but apart from that we are fit and good to go.
We have made a number of interesting signings over the summer and some returnees. For those supporters that maybe haven’t seen us play pre-season what can you tell us about the new acquisitions to the club.
Returning are Mitch Nelson, Jerome Federico & Sean Roberts.
Mitch was only let go because of his discipline, We met up with him in the summer & he was gutted he had to leave. He loves playing for Cray and the boys love him, he is such a big character in the dressing room! We sat and spoke & he is going to really work on that side of his game and we will help him as much as we can too. We are all glad to have him back, he drives me mad at times but as a player & a person I think a lot of him.
Letting Feds go was a bad call on my part, sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say you got it wrong & I 100% did when I let him go. So after eating a lot of humble pie he agreed to come back. He has been brilliant in pre-season so we are all excited to have him back.
I never wanted to lose Sean in the first place but Hornchurch gave him an offer we couldn’t match so off he went? He went off and won the league with them but got back in contact & said he wanted to come back, I know Hornchurch were keen to keep him but he said he missed the way we go about things and thinks it suits him more so he come back. Sean is one of them players to the untrained eye he will go under the radar but I think a lot of him and rate him very highly!
Tom Phipp – 6ft 2 strong, good in the air and will put his foot in. Very good range of passing & a good football brain to boot.
Bradly Pritchard – Covers the ground well and is an excellent reader of the game. Happy to get on the ball & will hunt & get the ball back when you lose it. He is a Leader who talks really well & is brilliant with the younger lads
Matthew George – Left back we signed for Lewes, He struggled in pre-season with a niggling injury so has taken some time away to give it the rest it needs so we hope to see him soon.
Archie Johnson – With Matty being injured we needed to bring a left back in and Welling kindly let us loan Archie, He has all the tools to do very well for us so we are all looking forward to seeing him play.
We start in the new Bostik South East League. Many pundits and the Isthmian Supporters survey has us favourites to win the league. To me it is a very open league and can make a case for a number of teams. What are your thoughts on who will be the teams to look out for?
It’s a hard one to say? I’m not someone who spends too much time worrying about other teams if I’m honest, I don’t see the point of it? You have teams who have come up with momentum you can’t underestimate that? Hastings have paid money for a couple of players so that tells me they are not messing around this year, I read somewhere Ashford want to be in the National league in so many years and have brought in pretty much a new team including Lea Dawson the Skipper from last season so they sound like they are having a go & Gaz is a good manager. Herne bay manager said he thinks they will go up, We went in for a player and couldn’t get near the offer from East Grinstead plus they brought a player off Margate so it’s all going on! Loads of unknowns that no one will really know until 10 games into the season. If I had to pick a team I liked apart from us I would say Hythe, I like the work Sam Denly has done & think he has done a good job so far & they look to have a good squad on Paper. I’m more than happy with what we have so let see how it unfolds…
We begin the new Bostik South East season at Greenwich Borough on Saturday. Greenwich of course now managed by Luke Medley. What kind of a game are you expecting in Eltham on Saturday?
From the reports I have they are young and athletic, but they also have some older heads in there. We played Cray Valley in Pre-season and the pitch wasn’t great so we will need to be careful of that. Meds knows football & having been with us for the past 2 years he will know all about us so it’s going to be hard but we trained well last night so we are confident.
Finally, there is a real feelgood factor about football at the moment following a blinding World Cup and a great showing from England. What did you make of the World Cup and are you as optimistic as me the game particularly at lower league/non league level will go from strength to strength?
Like most people I really enjoyed the World cup as a whole, it was the best one I have ever watched! I thought England did well, after the 2002 world cup the FA brought in laws where you have to have coaching badges to manage at levels. That then felted down to every age group at pro club, gone was the days of the club just letting an old pro who wanted a bit of work run a kids team with no coaching badges. Coaches at Pro clubs now even when working with kids as young as 7 has to work off structure set in place and have to log every session they do. Now we are seeing England under 16’s winning things, The under 19’s winning things, Under 21’s winning things. We was left miles behind other countries when producing players and coaches & managers. We moaned about foreign managers & players coming into the English game and taking all the jobs & shirts but they were miles ahead of us tactically & technically. So to see us go into a world cup with a clear plan on how we was going to play & a commitment to controlling the game with the ball was pleasing to watch, 2ND half vs Croatia we panicked a bit & stopped doing that but Rome wasn’t built in a day so it will take time but we are trying to do the right thing & that’s the most important thing.
I would like to see more young English players playing in the Prem but it’s hard as the Prem runs English football so they won’t say you must have 2 English players playing at any time etc.…I think England will only get better than as time goes on.
I have seen a change in Non-league in the 6 years I have been a manager, them old school managers I once see are dying out now. Managers seem to be getting younger! Non-league football has always been good but it was always very old school, the way it was played the drinking culture and the shape players turned up for pre-season in. It has changed a lot & I’m only 6 years in! I think it is getting better and long may it continual