Wednesday 28th September 2005

VCD are finally coming back home to Crayford

It has been seven long painful years for VCD Athletic boss Martin Ford - but the long serving manager has every reason to celebrate - the club have finally announced they are returning back home to their Oakwood ground in Crayford next season, writes Stephen McCartney.

The club entered into a groundshare agreement with local rivals Thamesmead Town from season 1998-99 as their ground didn't have floodlights, and for the past two season's they have played their home games at Lordswood's ground in North Dane Way.

But they have one more season in exile - at Greenwich Borough's Harrow Meadow ground in Eltham - before they can finally play Kentish Observer League premier division games in Crayford.

Ford was appointed manager back in 1993 when the club were playing in the Kent County League.  Two years later he guided the team to the treble, winning the  Kent Intermediate Shield, Kent County League Cup and not forgetting the Erith Hospital Club.

But everyone at the club has every reason to celebrate now.

Ford told the club's website www.vcd-athletic.co.uk he felt he was going to get the sack following their poor start to the season, but it turned out good in the end.

He explained:  "I was feeling rather down in the dumps after our 4-2 defeat against Whitstable Town a couple of weeks ago.

"What I couldn't tell you that week was the fantastic news I received after the journey back to our club the same day.

"They had been keeping it from me for over three days - that we were finally coming home."

Ford reveals the conversation with club officials when he feared he was about the leave the club with 12 years service under his belt.

"Martin can we have a work in private" they said. "I feared the worse, we had not exactly got off to the greatest of starts to the season," Ford said.

"Do you want the good news or the bad news Fordy" said John Frosdick (the grounds projects manager).

"After today give me the bad news" I said.

"Well, the bad news is you can't tell anyone.  The good news is we're coming home and we're £100,000 richer."

"I thought they were joking, they showed me the letter - they were not.

"I didn't know what to do after a lot of hugs (13 seasons of hugs on my part).  

"We decided that we would make our way into the bar, act ordinary but make the announcement during half-time of the televised England match.

"I was bursting to tell someone so I rang my dad in Spain, where he now lives.

"He is VCD through and through and has worked his socks off for the club  whilst in this country.

"He was not answering his phone - typical!

"Who could I tell?  It was obvious the only two people in the club should know first was my skipper Terry Barry and my close friend, and former secretary, Brian Norris.

"What I didn't know was that twelve bottles of champagne were on ice and my wife was on her way to the club.

"The announcement was made and the club was packed.  It went mad!  Great scenes!

"A great night and one the club has fully deserved after all this time.  If you think I'm going overboard, you must realise how long we had been waiting for that day - nearly eight years, so I need make no apologies."

The work is due to start on the 17th October with the pitch being dug up and rotated 90 degrees.

The club have been told that if the weather is kind and the pitch and floodlights are in on time then the work will be completed in January.

"We will not use the new pitch anyway until the following season so hopefully the ground will look a picture for the start of the following season," revealed Ford.

The news buoyed Ford's men to their first victory of the season last weekend, ending Tunbridge Wells' unbeaten start to the Kentish Observer League campaign with a 3-0 win at Harrow Meadow.

"We enjoyed our first league win of the season with a convincing win over, if I'm honest, not a great Tunbridge Wells side," added Ford.

"It was nice to get our first three points, but it's still early days let and no one is getting too excited."

This Saturday, Ford takes his side to Saltdean United in the FA Vase second qualifying round. 

With a coach departing the club's car park at 11:45am (costing £10 adults and half-price for concessions), the proud manager added: "It's a match I expect to win although I will be without the services of Chris Whitehouse and James Brown.

"I am hopeful we will have enough strength in depth as we really need to be in that draw on Monday."

Saturday's FA Vase Second Qualifying Round matches (involving our sides):

Eastbourne Town v Maidstone United
Gosport Borough v Greenwich Borough
Hythe Town v Moneyfields
Lymington Town v Thamesmead Town
Saltdean United v VCD Athletic
Selsey v Lordswood
Sevenoaks Town v VT
Slade Green v East Preston

Saltdean United v VCD Athletic
FA Vase Second Qualifying Round
Saturday 1st October 2005
Kick Off 3:00pm