Ahead of today’s start of the non-league football season, Croydon FC’s new coach and its club chairman admit that there’s a tough 10 months ahead of them if they are to survive in the Combined Counties Premier League.
As first revealed by Inside Croydon, all but one of Croydon FC’s squad quit the club at the beginning of July.
The Trams were quick to appoint new coach Aaron Smith, who has hurriedly put together a new squad of players, who will now be targeting avoiding relegation and a cup run as their priorities.
Starting with just a single player on the books on July 10, Smith has managed to recruit 33 new players, but is winnowing them down to 18 after trials and four pre-season friendlies, where Croydon thrashed Wickham Park and a weak Holmesdale, but lost to stronger sides Beckenham Town and Newport (Isle of Wight).
“If we don’t improve, then it will be a very tough season for us,” Dickson Gill, the club chairman, said in an interview to be aired on Croydon Radio tomorrow.
By then, Croydon will have played their first game of the season, away at Frimley Green, newly promoted to the Premier Division after topping the First Division last May.
“We have done quite well in a short period of time,” Gill said. “Two weeks ago it was disastrous, so we are going in the right direction.”
Interviewed after last week’s friendly at Beckenham Town, Gill was impressed by the team’s strength at the back in the first half but was worried about how some younger players coped when brought on in the second half.
Smith has recruited many younger players who have been released by academies or under-21 sides. “I’m more than happy the way it’s gone,” he said, adding that he wants to bring in senior players he has known for some time.
“We have had to sign players that we knew who are not quite strong enough – they are going to be loaned out to other clubs so that they can get fitness and experience,” Smith said.
“Every game is challenging. We don’t win the league on August 3. We win the league in the middle of the winter on muddy pitches.”
Following today’s game at Frimley Green, on Wednesday Croydon play their first game of the season at their Croydon Arena home, against promotion favourites South Park, a game which Gill describes as “a very good test”.
The Trams’ FA Cup extra preliminary match is away at Epsom Athletic on August 17. The match, at Chessington and Hook’s Chalky Lane ground, will also see a family day to celebrate Epsom Athletic’s first attempt to get to an FA Cup final.
By comparison with Croydon’s “disastrous” build-up to the 2013-2014 season, their non-league neighbours and current ground-sharers, AFC Croydon Athletic, have had a quiet build-up to the season by the standards of their recent history.
As well as looking to move up from Division One of the Combined Counties League, where the re-formed club started its football journey 12 months ago after the collapse of its previous incarnation when unable to fulfill its Isthmian League fixtures the previous season, Athletic are looking to move back to their Mayfield Road home ground as soon as possible.
The Rams have got stronger as their pre-season games have progressed, including the last game, an impressive away 1-1 draw at Isthmian League side Redhill.
Today, at 3pm, Athletic host Bedfont and Feltham at the Arena.
Meanwhile, Croydon FC is having its own family funday at Croydon Arena on September 1 to mark the club’s 60th anniversary.
The club was established in 1953 to provide the new municipal arena with a football team after Conservative Croydon North MP, a keen sports fan, had successfully lobbied the council to build a sports stadium.
The highlight of the funday will be a veterans match against former Crystal Palace players. Gill says that he is looking forward to seeing old playing colleagues from both clubs and seeing “how slim they were and how big they are now”.
The family day will also involve a children’s’ mini football tournament, raffles, stalls and bouncy castle.
- Full interviews with Dickson Gill & Aaron Smith can be heard on the Croydon Matters programme tomorrow at 3pm and later on podcast on http://www.croydonradio.com
- Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source that is actually based in the heart of the borough – 267,670 page views Nov 2012-Apr 2013
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