Stormzy’s football club parts with 2 managers after 5 games

Even Ken Bates or “Deadly” Doug Ellis, old-school football club owners notorious for sacking their managers with alacrity, never got rid of two at the same time.

Happier days: Lee Roots, left, with Athletic co-boss Kevin Rayner on his appointment last May

But that’s what international grime star Stormzy did this week, less than three months after his high-profile takeover of AFC Croydon Athletic together with ex-Palace star Wilfried Zaha.

Athletic have a Combined Counties Premier Division South match at their Mayfield Stadium in Thornton Heath tomorrow against Camberley Town.

It will be the first time in seven years that Athletic have played a fixture without Kevin Rayner as their manager.

On Tuesday night, Rayner and his recently appointed co-boss, Lee Roots, had suffered an agonising 1-0 defeat at home to Jersey Bulls, who grabbed their winner deep into injury time with just seconds to play.

On Wednesday evening, the club issued a statement saying that they had parted ways with Rayner and Roots “with immediate effect”.

With five league games played, Athletic sit 14th in the 20-team division, with only one win so far. They did enjoy a brief moment of FA Cup glory when their first preliminary round fixture at Horley Town was televised by the BBC – with owner Stormzy in the stands with the fans.

Up for the cup: Stormzy (white T-shirt) embraces Roots after the FA Cup win last month

But even that cup run was brief, with Athletic bowing out, 2-0 at Marlow in the next round.

Rayner has been Athletic’s manager since 2016, while Roots was installed as co-manager in May, having previously been at Holmesdale FC.

Athletic is known to be the non-league club supported by Fulham fan Tony Newman, the council leader who bankrupted the borough (his ex-councillor mate, Paul Smith, was club chairman until the recent takeover).

And among its backroom staff recently has been kit-man Tony Pearson, the Tory councillor and current ceremonial Mayor of Croydon. Pearson left a position as a steward at Selhurst Park some years ago after allegations against him of racist and aggressive behaviour towards Palace fans.

It is believed that the decision to act so early on the management team was made by the club’s other co-owner, former Palace backroom man, Danny Young, now Athletic’s club chairman.

Club spirit: Roots (to the right of shot) and Rayner (unsmiling, as ever, on the left) in the celebration after the club’s televised win at Horley. Tony Pearson, the beetroot-faced, bespectacled Mayor of Croydon, can be seen standing close to the centre of the group

The Athletic statement read: “The club wish to announce that both Kevin Rayner and Lee Roots have left their role as Joint Manager with immediate effect. The club would wish to extend our thanks to their hard work during their time at the club.

“Kevin Rayner first joined the club as manager in 2016 and during the last seven years he has taken charge of nearly 300 games. A seventh-place finish was the best season during his time in charge.

“In the summer he brought in Lee Roots as joint manager. Last night the team fell to a last-minute defeat to Jersey Bulls.

“Danny Young, chairman and joint owner, said: ‘It feels that the time is right. After having had an opportunity to work with Kevin and Lee during pre-season and then during the opening games, I do not doubt their commitment and dedication to the club and on behalf of the owners I would personally thank them for all they have done and wish them every success in the future.’

“The club play Camberley Town on Saturday and arrangements for who will be in charge will be announced shortly,” the statement said.

“Things have been moving very fast over the last few weeks,” Young said. “We expect to have a new manager in place soon,” he said, suggesting that an announcement would be made within “days”.

Read more: Athletic hoping their new season will go down a real Stormzy
Read more: Stormzy and Zaha team up to buy their hometown football club

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