Athletic’s return delayed, but they clinch important baaa-cking

Fifty years on from the first Match of the Day, and both of Croydon’s non-league clubs still await their debut appearance on the BBC programme. And as BRIAN GRANVILLE reports after the teams’ FA Cup exploits last weekend, one club also has a prolonged wait for its return to its home ground

NON-LEAGUE NEWS: AFC Croydon Athletic’s move back to their ground in Mayfield Road has been postponed, again.

The club announced this week that the much-anticipated return to its Thornton Heath home ground, previously known as the Keith Tuckey Stadium, has been delayed. It is understood to be because more work is needed on the pitch, and to ensure that the floodlights are properly operational. Mid-October is now believed to be the likeliest date for their first real “home” game for almost three years.

The fire to the Croydon Athletic clubhouse in 2012 was treated as arson

The fire to the Croydon Athletic clubhouse in 2012 was treated as arson

Croydon Athletic’s description as a “phoenix club” had become all too real when arsonists set light to the Mayfield Road clubhouse in early 2012. Athletic have been forced to ground-share at Croydon Arena since, not only with Croydon FC but also with Croydon Harriers and the many other local sports clubs.

Having benefited from a great deal of investment and some public grants when the club was under its previous, “interesting” directors, Mayfield Road had a capacity of 3,000, including a 300-seater stand, unusually well-appointed for the level of the game at which Athletic play.

The Rams have been fortunate over their early season fixtures, as the League has been accommodating, their season starting with a run of away matches.

Of course, this means that later in the season they will also have a run home matches, so it could help if they can turn Mayfield Road into a footballing fortress.

That will also help to impress the club’s new sponsors, announced last week in a flurry of woolly, sheep-related puns, as Athletic – nickname “The Rams” – have gone into partnership with are already being made to offer spring lamb on the menu at the re-opened Mayfield Road clubhouse to celebrate.

A national company with a franchise based in Croydon,  Ewemove has injected some cash up front and the club will benefit further if the company picks up new customers as a result of the deal. At whatever level of football, the need for sponsors and advertisers is crucial. It can be hard work finding the right companies though and those who undertake the commercial and marketing work for the hundreds of non-league clubs up and down the country know just how hard it can be. But these little bits of money are essential for the clubs and can also represent excellent value for money for the business too with good local exposure.

Croydon FC badgeIt was mixed fortunes for local teams in the FA Cup qualifying extra preliminary round last weekend. Croydon FC secured a win in the picturesque setting of Arundel with a goal from Badar Mohammed. This sets up an intriguing preliminary round tie with Epsom and Ewell on August 30. These sides met at the Arena in pre-season with the visitors winning by the odd goal. The winners of their FA Cup clash will bank a little under £2,000 to add to the valuable £1,500 banked from the last round.

There will be no cheque coming to the Rams from the FA this season as they went down 2-0 to Southern Counties East side Erith and Belvedere. The Kent side are looking to bounce straight back to the Ryman League after last season’s relegation and had already won their first three league games, so Athletic’s battling performance in defeat was not without merit.

Whyteleafe badgeWhyteleafe remain undefeated on their artificial home pitch. They have also got the longest trip of the season out of the way early as they travelled to Guernsey. They returned from the island hop with no points and a 0-3 defeat and will no doubt have enjoyed playing in front of the 925 spectators who attended the game.

The jury is still very much out on the Guernsey experiment. They are now in their fourth season playing in the national league pyramid. In their first two seasons they successfully gained promotion through the Combined Counties League and last season just missed out on a hat-trick of promotions when they lost in the play-offs. But there are still those who doubt that it is right for clubs of limited means, and their very loyal supporters, to have to make the journey across to the island for matches, especially midweek games, as was the case for Whyteleafe.

It is a journey, however, that is being closely watched by Guernsey’s Channel Island neighbours on Jersey. Whilst the Jersey FA has for a long time been tempted by taking Gibraltar’s route of playing international football, a club, Jersey FC, still has designs on playing its league football on the mainland. If it were to happen, then in a few seasons it could be a couple of visits to the Channel Islands for Ryman League teams, which is likely to bring the whole thing into question again.

Farleigh Rovers badgeFarleigh Rovers have had a great start to the season. Although not involved in the FA Cup due to ground limitations, they took advantage of an extra league match to secure a 4-1 win over Sandhurst Town and so are top of the Combined Counties Div 1 table at this early stage. Jamie Jagdeo hit a first-half hat-trick to help them to the victory.

The bank holiday weekend means double action for some of our sides. Croydon entertain south London rivals Fisher Athletic on Saturday followed by a trip to Cray Valley on Monday.

Whyteleafe travel to Sittingbourne on Saturday before they entertain local rivals and top-of-the-table Chipstead on Monday.

For the Rams and the Foxes it is just the one game: Farleigh Rovers play at Chessington and Hook United on Saturday while on Monday, Croydon Athletic make the journey to Worcester Park for their league encounter with an 11.30am kick-off.

Coming to Croydon

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