Did somebody mention Lazarus? As phoenix football clubs go, if Croydon Athletic ever manages to regain its former position, even in the non-league pyramid, it will make even the comeback achievements of AFC Wimbledon seem modest.
Having played an unwitting bit-part in one of the biggest sports fixing scandals ever uncovered, been shocked at the suicide of its chairman, then having its owner jailed while the team manager and players all walked out in mid-season, the mountain-to-climb confronting AFC Croydon Athletic is so daunting it would overshadow Everest.
The reformed Rams started their pre-season on Friday with a friendly game, suitably against another revived club that had been brought low by some shady dealings, Bermondsey’s Fisher FC.
The start-from-scratch Croydon Athletic lost 4-1 to the Kent League side, though Lee Jansen etched his name in the new club’s history books by getting a 65th minute goal for the Rams.
For a club that received the last rites last December, the very fact that new Rams manager Antony Williams was able to arrive on Friday evening with a squad of 21 players was an achievement in itself.
AFC Croydon Athletic has been formed by the club’s loyal fans, following the example of the AFC Wimbledon supporters when the FA allowed their club to be franchised out from south London to Milton Keynes. The model, and the example, of Wimbledon, who won their place back in the Football League in May 2011 less than 10 years after being formed, is an excellent one.
Starting out from a couple of park football sides in the 1980s, Croydon Athletic had climbed to the Isthmian Premier League by 2010. The following months would wreck the club, as it endured a tax fraud investigation by HM Customs & Revenue and was charged with 24 breaches of Football Association rules and fined £7,500 and a 10-point deduction. Once the club was locked out of its own ground last December, it was unable to fulfill its fixtures.
So the fans formed AFC Croydon Athletic, and their club will be starting all over again on August 4 in the Combined Counties Football League Division 1. They will be ground-sharing with Croydon FC, using Croydon Arena for their home fixtures.
Before the league season, they have arranged a series of pre-season friendlies, as much to allow Williams the chance to assess his playing resources as to practice set-pieces or decide on whether to play a diamond formation or 4-3-3.
The next Rams friendly kicks off at 6.30pm on Monday, July 9, at Beckenham Town’s ground (location details can be found by clicking here), where they will be playing last season’s Kent League runners-up, Erith and Belvedere.
The games then come thick and fast…
- Thursday, July 12: Guildford City (7pm kick-off) at Beckenham Town FC. Apparently, Guildford play in the “Evo-Stik Southern League”.
- Saturday July 21: they visit Crowborough Athletic (2pm kick-off) at Crowborough Community Stadium.
- Tuesday July 24: away at Dorking Wanderers.
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