Athletic hoping their new season will go down a real Stormzy

Local banter: it’s not quite in the same league as the Tevez ‘Welcome to Manchester’ billboards, but the local rivalry has been piqued by Athletic’s ownership news

NON-LEAGUE NEWS: The (not-so) big kick-off is less than 24 hours away… Here, ANDREW SINCLAIR, right, the go-to-expert for BBC 5 Live and BBC Radio London, looks ahead to what’s in store at Croydon Arena and the Mayfield Stadium

The days before the start of a new football season are when enthusiasm is at its peak, managers talk a big game and fans dream of a nine-month campaign that’ll end in glory, of some kind.

Yet there is an added expectation about the 2023-2024 season for Croydon’s non-league clubs, where high-profile and celebrity new owners and a host of new players mean that hopes of success are higher than for many years.

Croydon Athletic grabbed the headlines with the announcement at the end of June that Wilfried Zaha, Stormzy and Danny Young had bought the club.

Although the news was a surprise to many, Rams boss Kevin Rayner has revealed to Inside Croydon that it’s been a long time coming.
“I’ve known the club’s ownership was about to change for over eight months, so we have been preparing since then.

“The new owners are fantastic, I’ve got massive respect for them. Danny Young has been working tirelessly for months to help improve everything at the club and will support us moving forward. Wilfried Zaha has been at the ground several times and is again very supportive of us, and with Stormzy aiding the whole project, it’s great for their local area and the club moving forward.

“There’s a real buzz around the place which is testament to them and their staff.”

New team: Kevin Rayner (left) with Lee Roots

The announcement has certainly galvanised interest among fans, it’s not the only change that could yield an uptick in results this season, with former Holmesdale boss Lee Roots joining the Thornton Heath-based club as Rayner’s co-manager.

“I’ve known Lee a while and he is obsessed with detail, but in a good way. Like myself he is very experienced and I needed a larger group of staff to ensure we had the best opportunity to manage the players and improve on a number of areas on and off the field,” Rayner said.

Others to join the new-look dug-out staff are Adam Groom, Jon Coleman, Adam Porter and Kean Wood.

Rayner and Roots are overseeing all aspects of the squad together and their summer recruitment has certainly caught the eye. As well as retaining much of last season’s core, among them David Boorer, Alfie Young, Jack Marney, Nahum Green and captain Junior Kaffo, the club have signed up a number of players with extensive experience at Step 5 and above.

The latest is Brandon Pierrick, now 21, who in 2020 was Crystal Palace’s second-youngest Premier League debutant. Since then has had stints in Scotland and Denmark. Premier League quality and experience, however fleeting, is rare in the Combined Counties Premier Division South. If Pierrick finds good form early, he could make a massive difference.

Signed up: former Palace player Brandon Pierrick has signed for the Rams

First up for Croydon Athletic is a home FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round game with Sutton Athletic (that’s Sutton-at-Hone, near Dartford, rather than anything to do with our next-door borough). Victory at the Mayfield Stadium will bank the Rams a guaranteed £1,606 in Emirates-sponsorship cash.

Although they’re not entering the season with new superstar owners (something the club made very clear with a message plastered over a billboard for the summer), there is a lot of positivity around Croydon FC as well going into their 70th anniversary campaign.

The Trams were at risk of relegation to the 11th tier of English football after a horrendous start to last season, but they picked up really well under the returning manager Liam Giles at the back half of the campaign.

They’ve kept the core of that squad together and added a few fresh faces. The standout is the imposing Ugandan goalkeeper George Kamurasi, who has been part of the hugely popular Sunday league side SE Dons in recent years.

“It was a no-brainer to sign George when I heard he was available,” Giles said.

Safe hands: George Kamurasi

“We reached out and had good conversations that demonstrated that our ambitions matched his.

“I’m delighted to bring a goalkeeper of his calibre to the football club – he’s a real leader whose high standards are infectious for the rest of the group.”

Giles describes his current squad as “ambitious and hard-working”, with their pre-season campaign demonstrating an impressive defence. They do start the campaign a couple of men down, with Ryan Burrell-Grant looking like he’ll be out for the entire season.

The Trams’ season starts tomorrow in the 16-team Southern Counties East Football League Division One away to Larkfield and New Hythe, a side that Giles identifies as one of the title favourites.

“Larkfield is a very tough opening day game. We have a few missing, which makes it even harder but we will always believe in what we do and will have a game plan to try and win the game.

“I don’t want to speak too much about what I think or want us to do. We’re playing every game to win, though, and you know where we want this club to be.”

Trams’ division rivals AFC Whyteleafe have invested heavily in the off-season, bringing in the likes of Helge Orome and Aaron Watson, who both have pedigree at a higher level, and they will be ones to watch.

Balham will once again be groundsharing with Croydon Athletic, as well as sharing a place in the same division. “The Blazers” have finished eighth and ninth in the last two seasons and while they’ve been pretty coy about new additions on social media, their track records indicates that they won’t be far off play-off contention once again.


Croydon Athletic

Sun Aug 6: FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round v Sutton Ath (H)
Sat Aug 12: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Alton (A)
Tue Aug 15: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Horley T (H)
Tue Aug 22: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Tooting and Mitcham Utd (A)
Wed Aug 30: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Colliers Wood (A)


Sat Aug 5: SCEFL Div 1 v Larkfield and New Hythe (A)
Sat Aug 12: SCEFL Div 1 v Greenways (H)
Sat Aug 19: SCEFL Div 1 v Faversham SF (H)
Sat Aug 26: FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round v Shoreham (H)
Mon Aug 28: SCEFL Div 1 v Lewisham Borough (H)


Sat Aug 5: FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round v Steyning T (H)
Sat Aug 12: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Farnham T (H)
Tue Aug 15: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Tooting and Mitcham Utd (A)
Wed Aug 23: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Epsom and Ewell (H)
Sat Aug 26: FA Vase 1st Qualifying Round v Rochester Utd (H)
Wed Aug 30: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Jersey Bulls (H)

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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