CRAY WANDERERS 2019-20 SEASON – The Thoughts of the Manager – Tony Russell
The 2019-20 Isthmian Premier League season has arrived with Cray Wanderers proudly taking our place in the 22 team Division after finishing champions of the South-East Division. Here manager Tony Russell starting his fifth season in charge of the Wands looks back to the highs of last season, a welcome to the new players to the club, a review of pre-season and what we can expect from the other clubs including Saturday’s first opponents, Kingstonian.
Welcome back Tony to you and all the coaching and playing staff as we embark on a new football season and a new division to look forward too. Congratulations Tony also on winning the Isthmian South-East Manager of the Season award and of course promotion as Champions of the South-East which was well deserved. Now that we’ve had four months to let things sink in what were your favourite memories of what was a momentous season on and off the field?
What a year for the Club! We finally get the go ahead for the ground & we also win a league at this level for the first time in the clubs history, it will be hard to top a season like that. I am just glad to have been a part of a year that will live long in the clubs history no matter what the club ends up doing. My favourite game was Whyteleafe away. It was pretty tight up the top at that stage & the top 6 were all playing each other on the same day as fate would have it. Whyteleafe at home was the hardest game we had played to that point so going away to them looked a hard game on paper. That’s when the phrase “Moving day” was born! We were unreal on the night, we was 3-0 up at half time & it could & should have been 6-7! I remember sitting on that cool box & just being blown away by the standard of football I was seeing. We left the game 10 points clear & never looked back.
As with most post-seasons players move on and new arrivals come to the club. For our supporters that haven’t been able to catch us during pre-season tell us a little about the new arrivals at the club in the summer, Lewis Carey, Charlie Allen, Andre Coker and Tom Murphy and the qualities they can expect to see?
We had to say goodbye to Nick Blue, Junior Dadson, Sean Roberts, Archie Johnson & Jordan Clarke for a number of different reasons. That is the side of the number that isn’t very nice. All of them are good people & you grow so close to them over the season so to lose them is hard. They have all gone on to other clubs now so we only wish them all the very best & thank them for all efforts.
Lewis Carey is an excellent keeper who has great distribution. He played for Lewes last season & won player of the year. He has settled in really well & the boys really like him. With the way we play losing Nick Blue was potentially a nightmare but he has proven already in pre-season we don’t have anything to worry about on that front.
Charlie Allen is an experienced centre midfielder with high energy & good leadership skills, He is very much an all-rounder who can do the lot.
Tom Murphy is a player we got off Dartford, He is a wide player who has an eye for goal! Very hard working has good pace & good quality in the final 3rd.
Andre Coker is one of them players when he gets the ball you move to the edge of your seat. He is very unconventional, He will do things that will make you shake your head in disbelief. He had lost his way a bit before coming to us so his confidence was a little low but game by game we are seeing more from him. We still have lots of work to do with him but we are all excited to see what’s to come from him.
Looking at the players in pre-season I think Lewis Carey, Tom Carlse, Lee Lewis, Joe Taylor, Andre Coker, Tom Phipp and Karl Dent were very consistent and generally the team looks very strong with not too many weak links. You and Vinesy must be very encouraged at the team assembled for the start of the season or do you think there is any more tweaking to be done?
In terms of Personnel we are not looking to bring anyone in so no tweaking on that front. We have things we still need to work on that’s for sure. It’s been great to see Tom Carlse & JT Doing so well in pre-season, we are very different in how we play to most teams so it takes time for players to truly get it. The pair of them playing so well has a lot to do with them both knowing they are a big part of it & in Tom Carlse case knowing the setup we will do playing against different formations etc. It is a lot to take in at first but now he gets what we want from him so now he can play without over thinking about things & we are seeing the benefits of that as he has been brilliant. JT is on fire! He has worked so hard in pre-season & is as fit & sharp as I have ever seen him! If we can keep him fit & well I can see a big season from him coming up. Young Lee Lewis & Freddie Parker have both been great. Both players have come through the youth team & both have had good pre seasons. Freddie scored a great hat trick vs Tonbridge Angles and Lee Lewis was very good on Saturday so all good signs going forward. We have worked very hard to put this squad together & it is without doubt the best group of players I have worked with, We somehow have to pick a starting 11 out of the lot of them so wish us luck with that!
Pre-season has come to an end which I quite enjoy purely as the games are quite relaxing to watch and a chance to cast an eye over some trialists and potential new signings. From a managerial point of view what are your impressions of pre-season and the plus and minus sides to building a squad.
I don’t mind it, it is what it is? Like you said you get to look at a few plus it helps to get players match fit for the season. We had one game this pre-season that was a shambles in terms of what we walked into but apart from that it has been really good. I loved the game on Saturday, Two good sides going at it & they put a BBQ on for us after the game. It was really nice both set of players sitting round eating & have a few beers. I have a lot of time for Paul the manager & I ended up having a beer & telling each other the good & bad points of each other’s team & I found that really interesting
This is going to be a great season for all supporters as we look to take on old foes, new opponents and some teams we maybe haven’t played for a few years. Looking at the Isthmian Premier are there any teams you think we should be keeping an eye out for as potential contenders and any managers you are particularly looking forward to going up against?
I think it’s hard to tell who’s going to be up there at this point. Carshalton finished 2nd so I’m sure they will be strong, Merstham finished up there and the manager left and took their best players to Kingstonian while the best players stayed so that tells me they will be one of the better teams in the league but you won’t really know until 10-15 games into the season. That’s when it starts to take shape. In terms of managers I don’t really get pally pally with other managers. We are all here to do a job & if you get too friendly with people you can get offended when they go for one of your players. I only really had one manager who I classed as a mate & we don’t talk now as he phoned one of my players in the summer. I know & have always had a big respect for Jay Saunders as a manager. He is a young manager like myself who went on a great run with Maidstone & took them all the way to the National League, even when he was flying he carried himself very well & was always respectful so anytime I can share a touchline with him it’s a good day. Big Pete is a good guy at Carshalton, We have had some great games over the years so looking forward to continuing these battles. Craigie over at Cheshunt is a larger than life fella who I like, He has always given me the time of day, Even when I first started out he would pick my calls up & I never forget things like that. Covo at East Thurrock is just a legend “ Mr Essex” as I like to call him. Anytime I go and watch a game over at Essex he is there? He loves it! So it will be good catching up with him at some point. Simmo at Hornchurch has won the lot in non-league and did well in the pro game too so it’s always nice to test yourself against people who have achieved things that one day you hope to do. So yes I am looking forward to going up against most of them
Finally let’s look ahead to Saturday and the first match at Kingstonian. I notice that they are quite well fancied by the bookmakers. What type of game can we expect against Hayden Bird’s side on Saturday?
And rightly so, they have a very good side & manager. Hayden likes to play football just like us, It will be like the Hastings game from last season! There will be goals that’s for sure, both teams are very front foot & we both want the ball so it will be nice & open. We could go there & keep it tight & work on the counter attack but that’s not us. I have watched them & they can rip anyone open on their day but I also feel that about us too.