Cray Wanderers manager Tony Russell gives his pre-match thoughts ahead of the final league game of the 2017-18 season against Guernsey, gives his review of a dramatic season so far and invites supporters to come and ask questions at the end of the game.
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the final league game of the season. I have been asked to give my review of the season and its hard to know where to start. So lets take it from the beginning.
I bought in a new assistant Joe Vines, Joe is no stranger to the club having played nearly a hundred games over various periods. It has been great having him next to me, we have really grown close and he certainly adds something to us as a club. He knows and loves the club and is also very knowledgeable about the game. He prides himself on our set plays and I have lost count of how many goals we have scored this season from them. On a Wednesday once I have finished working on the shape and game plan for the Saturday, he always takes the boys for the last 20 minutes of the session to work on set pieces and that has really paid off this season. With the continued growth of Nathan as a coach I really feel that we have a strong management team that could serve the club for a long time. I mustn’t forget Ally as she will kill me! She is just the best Physio, period and we are very lucky to have her. The best compliment I can give to Vinsey is that it feels as good as it did when I did it with Razor and I never thought I would say that! Now onto the season.
It started slowly with 2 draws against Thamesmead and Phoenix and then crashing out the FA cup at home to Sevenoaks. I look back now and knowing that Shaggy was unavailable for the first 10 games and then losing Luke Medley it was maybe a little naive of me to not try and bring another striker in, I’m sure if I’d have gone to the owners and explained the situation they would have agreed to me bringing one in on loan but we had a young 16 year old Freddie Parker who I felt deserved a chance. Going forward I always want to promote within, maybe I should put that on ice until we get into the new ground and set up the academy. We then picked up a couple of wins against Molesey and Shoreham and then followed a couple of draws against Chipstead and Hastings where we didn’t take our chances.
Then we played Lewes for the first time and we lost 2 -1 having 2 sent off (there will be a deja vu moment later in this write up) Then followed 4 wins on the bounce including an 8 -0 home win against Horsham in the FA Trophy. We continued our unbeaten run for 23 league games with some impressive wins against Corinthian Casuals, Thamesmead Town away, Hythe, Faversham and the 9-1 league win against Ashford and then came the turning point in the season. The night before the Lewes game we received a letter from the FA saying they had reviewed the game we had played against Sittingbourne on the 24th October and decided that Aaron Rhule should receive a further 3 game ban. We received that letter on the 19th January to say we are disappointed by this would be an understatement! The game itself we ended up losing 2-1 and having 2 men sent off, so the following week we went to Herne bay with 3 players suspended. We were leading the game 1-0 then we lost Marcus Evans and Charlie MacDonald to injury within a minute of each other. Then we lost the grip of the game and lost 2-1. The following game we had 3 suspended and 2 injured, we just couldn’t cope with that amount of players out. The following week with everyone back from injury and suspension we win at Ramsgate only for Lea Dawson to get a red card and a 3 match ban. We sent in video evidence to the FA showing that he didn’t make contact with the player but they upheld their decision. We went on to lose the next 3 games 2-1 to Carshalton, Ashford and Hythe.
We followed that up with probably the best result of the season 5-1 win to a Whyteleafe team that had won 11 out of 12 coming into it. We then beat Horsham, Corinthian Casuals and Chipstead to put us back in the mix. 2 draws against Greenwich Borough and VCD was followed by an 8-0 win at home to South Park. Last week we lost a crazy game 5-2 to Walton casuals and disappointingly had a man sent off. Our discipline this year at times has cost us and it’s certainly something that me and Vinsey are going to address in the summer.
I know once the dust has settled it will grate on me that we didn’t go on and win it I know the squad I have put together and I believe that we are more than good enough. We still have so much to play for, we have a tough game today against a very proud and resilient Guernsey side, it’s remarkable their commitment to our league. The travelling and sacrifice their players, management and committee make in a season is quite remarkable. I tip my hat to them and they really do add something special to the league.
When I look back on the season as a whole, I feel proud to be leading this club, on the pitch we have scored 108 league goals to date and play a brand of football that I believe is the right way to play the game. When I came here I wanted us to have an identity as a club and I believe we have gone a long way this season to achieving that, to score the sheer number of goals is remarkable and some of the football we have played this season is the best that I’ve seen one of my teams play. We have accumulated 86 points to date and if we win today, secure a home tie in the play offs. The play offs themselves is guaranteed to be high tension and drama, but I want us to embrace that and enjoy it. The players themselves only need to look at the fight the owners are putting in to get us back home. The amount of knock backs the club have received this last year in trying to get the ground has been cruel and heartbreaking at times. Ive seen the owners so down at them setbacks, but I speak to them a couple of days later and they are back on their feet and fighting away. Us as managers and players should only be inspired by this, if they can continue getting back up after setbacks and fighting on, then why can’t we! I believe in this group of players just like I do the people who run this club. So strap yourself in as this promises to be an exciting couple of weeks both on and off the pitch.
Me and the players will be in the bar after, for the end of season presentation and to answer any questions that anyone has. Finally I just want to thank Mark Simpson and Mark Hunt for their continued support of the first team and to every volunteer and fan who come to the games and cheers us on. Your continued support is much appreciated from Me and the boys.
(Come on you Wands!!!!)