Cray Wanderers make their return to the Isthmian Premier League on Saturday after a five season absence and kick off in confident mood following their Isthmian South-East title triumph in 2018-19.  They make the trip to highly fancied Kingstonian in their season opener.

Tony Russell’s side has steered its way through eight pre-season games and generally has gone very well with six wins and two defeats and plenty of goals.  Like most pre-season’s there have been some new arrivals at the club and a few departures.  Four players have signed, goalkeeper Lewis Carey from Lewes FC who has impressed during the pre-season games, midfield general Charlie Allen, and wide players Tom Murphy and Andre Coker. 

Here Tony talks about the qualities of the new signings

“Lewis Carey is an excellent keeper who has great distribution. He played for Lewes last season & won player of the year. He has settled in really well & the boys really like him. With the way we play losing keeper Nick Blue was potentially a nightmare but he has proven already in Pre-season we don’t have anything to worry about on that front.

Charlie Allen is an experienced centre midfielder with high energy & good leadership skills, He is very much an all-rounder who can do the lot.

Tom Murphy is a player we got off Dartford, He is a wide player who has an eye for goal. Very hard working has good pace & good quality in the final 3rd.

Andre Coker is one of those players when he gets the ball you move to the edge of your seat. He is very unconventional, He will do things that will make you shake your head in disbelief. He had lost his way a bit before coming to us so his confidence was a little low but game by game we are seeing more from him. We still have lots of work to do with him but we are all excited to see what’s to come from him.

We had to say goodbye to Nick Blue, Junior Dadson, Sean Roberts, Archie Johnson, Marcus Evans & Jordan Clarke for a number of different reasons. That is the side of pre-season that isn’t very nice, all of them are good people & you grow so close to them over the season so to lose them is hard. They have all gone on to other clubs now so we only wish them all the very best & thank them for all efforts”.

The team assembled looks strong with Carey assured in goal, defensively quick and commanding with Barney Williams, Tom Carlse, Jay Leader and Mitchell Nelson at the back.  The midfield area is an embarrassment of riches with Bradley Pritchard, Tom Phipp, Charlie Allen, Karl Dent, Lee Lewis and Charles Etumnu and out wide Jerome Federico, Aaron Rhule, Tom Murphy and Andre Coker.  Up front Joe Taylor has been superb in pre-season with ten goals including five in one match at Whitstable Town while Freddie Parker continues to blossom and scored a hat-trick in the home game with Tonbridge Angels. 

Last season saw Cray Wanderers win the Isthmian South-East with 82 points and win their first title at this level and this was a deserved success after the near miss of the season before.  The step up to the Premier Division is an exciting one Cray Wanderers can go into each game with confidence and the team are raring to go.

Kingstonian will be a tricky start and under former Bromley manager Hayden Bird have made 16 signings to the club with 11 coming from Merstham who Bird managed last season to the Ishtmian Premier playoffs and are well fancied to do well.  As Tony Russell commented. “And rightly so, they have a very good side & manager. Hayden likes to play football just like us so there will be goals that’s for sure, both teams are very front foot & we both want the ball so it will be nice & open”.

The club is prospering off the field to with the planning permission for the new ground at Flamingo Park confirmed by the GLA in November last year and preparations over the next couple of years will see the fruits of many years work in getting Cray Wanderers a ground of their own.  Cray Wanderers also produce a number of fine youth teams which won trophies last season and a dedicated team of coaches give many fine young players a chance and this will be a major plus at the new ground with the excellent facilities on offer.

It is a great time to be a Cray Wanderers supporter and the club are heading in a positive direction on and off the field.