Respected Rayner leaves Rams: ‘Change was going to come’

Empty dug-out: there’s been no announcement of who is to take-over from long-standing manager Kevin Rayner in the Croydon Athletic dug-out

NON-LEAGUE NEWS: In his first interview since parting company with Croydon Athletic this week, former manager Kevin Rayner tells ANDREW SINCLAIR that he saw the changes coming, and reveals a further exit from the club

Despite their team playing well, a return of five points from their first five league games was not enough for AFC Croydon Athletic’s new owners – Stormzy, Wilfried Zaha and Danny Young – and they issued a statement on Wednesday announcing that joint managers Kevin Rayner and Lee Roots were leaving with immediate effect.

Roots had only been in his role since May, but Rayner was part of the furniture at the Mayfield Stadium, having managed almost 300 competitive games since taking the reins back in 2016.

Speaking exclusively to Inside Croydon, Rayner said: “I fully expected the new owners would want to make changes at some point in time.

Timed out: Kevin Rayner says he knew it was time for change

“That said, the decision for Lee and I to go was mutual and agreement between us all. I want to thank Lee for his hard work over the last three months and wish Danny, Wilf, Stormzy and the supporters all the best for the future.

“I ultimately think the team needed a bit more time to gel. The early games seemed like pre-season games as we were still getting players in and using those games to get players fit.”

Over his seven-plus years in charge, Rayner proved a steadying influence for the club as they continued to re-establish themselves in the non-league pyramid after the turmoil and tragedy that had seen their predecessor club’s controversial disintegration and eventual collapse.

Such is the respect in which Rayner is held that he says he has received “more than 250 messages of support” from players and other managers since the announcment this week.

“The Croydon Athletic fans have been fantastic throughout my time there. They all know the difficulties we’ve been through and have been part of the experience as we have grown the club on and off the field over the last few seasons.

“I would like to say thank you to all of the fans, club members, staff, players and everyone that’s helped out or worked with me at the club over the years. It’s been a pleasure to have been at the club and ensure it maintained Step 5 status while bringing through some fantastic players over the years.

“I’d also like to make a special mention and thank you to my goalkeeping coach Garry Henry. Garry has left with me, and was a fantastic servant to the club throughout my time there.”

Rayner added that he’s not considering retirement yet, but is “looking to see what’s out there” and hopes to be part of a visiting team at the Mayfield in the future.

The club, currently 14th in the Combined Counties Premier Division South, are yet to announce permanent replacement for Rayner and Roots, meaning there will be a caretaker boss in the dugout for today’s visit by Camberley Town.

At least Rayner and Roots’ side had the brief joy of an FA Cup run last month, including having a match shown on the BBC for the first time in the club’s history. Athletic’s run ended in the next round with a 2-0 defeat to Marlow.

It has been a very challenging start to the season for Croydon FC, who only sit outside of the SCEFL Division One relegation zone on goal difference.

Despite showing flashes of ability, they have so far just picked up four points from their opening six league games. Defensive lapses have been their biggest problem, with Liam Giles’ side conceding 19 goals in seven competitive matches.

Hard times: Jordan Anderson leads out Croydon FC for their FA Vase tie with Shoreham. Pic: Paul Davis

Aside from their 5-0 league win over Bridon Ropes, the best result for the Trams so far was a 3-2 win over ninth-tier Shoreham in the opening round of the FA Vase.

That win guaranteed them £775 in prize money and a victory over SCEFL Premier Division strugglers Lordswood in the next round next week would secure them at least another £750.

Of the other locally-based clubs, AFC Whyteleafe are flying – second in SCEFL Division One with a perfect record of six wins from six games.

Balham are struggling, conceding four times in each of their first three games and having been dumped out of the FA Cup and FA Vase at their first game.

They have recorded a couple of wins though over Fleet Town and Spelthorne Sports and that means they sit one spot and point above the Rams having played one more game than their Mayfield groundshare partners.


Croydon Athletic

Today: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Camberley T (H)
Sat Sep 23: FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round v Forest Row (A)
Tue Sep 26: Cherry Red Records Premier Challenge Cup v Epsom & Ewell (A)
Sat Sep 30: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Redhill (A)
Sat Oct 7: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Knaphill (H)

Croydon FC

Today: SCEFL Div 1 v K Sports (H)
Sat Sep 23: FA Vase 2nd Qualifying Round v Lordswood (A)
Sat Sep 30: SCEFL Div 1 v Staplehurst Monarchs (A)
Wed Oct 4: SCEFL Challenge Cup v Bridon Ropes (A)
Sat Oct 7: SCEFL Div 1 v Forest Hill Park (H)


Today: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Alton (A)
Sat Sep 23: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Colliers Wood (H)
Tue Sep 26: Cherry Red Records Premier Challenge Cup v Spartans Youth (A)
Sat Sep 30: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Sandhurst T (H)
Tue Oct 3: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Epsom & Ewell (A)
Sat Oct 7: Combined Counties Prem Div S v Redhill (A)

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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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