We will have to be at our best to get something on the board early, says AFC Croydon Athletic boss Kevin Rayner
AFC CROYDON Athletic manager Kevin Rayner says his players are feeling excited to getting back to league action on Saturday.
The Rams return to the Combined Counties League for the first time in six years as they welcome Cobham to Mayfield Stadium on the opening day of the Premier Division South campaign.
“It’s been a horrible time for many and it’s great to be getting back to some sort of normality and welcoming fans back to our level of football,” said Rayner.
“It’s our first competitive game since 24 October 2020 so the whole club is excited to be back.
“Everyone has been working hard behind the scenes getting many jobs and tasks completed to enable us to return.”
The past two seasons have either been declared null and void or curtailed so league form goes out of the window for the opening day of the 2021-22 season.
“We start with a Cobham side that had a good run in the FA Vase last year and have had some good pre-season results,” said Rayner.
“Cobham have some experienced players in their ranks and will be well organised by their management team so we will have to be at our best to get something on the board early.
“The Combined Counties League Premier Division South that we have been moved to this year seems to be ultra-competitive and will certainly be on a par with the strong Southern Counties East Football League with a few sides splashing the cash about and will fancy their chances of a successful season.
“Most pundits seem to be placing Jersey Bulls, Beckenham, Guildford City and Walton & Hersham as the most likely but I’m sure every team on its day can compete and surprise a few teams this year.”
Two of those sides, Beckenham Town and Jersey Bulls, lock horns at Eden Park Avenue on Saturday, kicking off at 13:00.
Rayner, meanwhile, has appointed Ean Patterson, who is known to a few of the squad and “will be a great help in adding to the coaching and fitness of the group.”
Rayner added: “Our pre-season has gone well. We have had a typical pre-season and there were lots of positives for most of the games with the odd blip, which is expected with the continual shuffling of players.
“I’m not one to worry about any pre-season result and we competed well in most games and will look to start on the front foot.
“Our depth of squad is much better than it had been for the last couple of seasons and we have kept the core of last season’s squad but added some good players with strength and experience that we hope will strike a good balance and provide a good way forward.
AFC Croydon Athletic have signed goalkeeper Oshane Brown, left-back Alfie Young (Lingfield); centre-half Reece Hannigan (Corinthian-Casuals); central midfielders Tijani Eshilokun (Welling Town); Joe Bradley (Kingstonian) and strikers Joe Nwoko (Beckenham Town) and Alfie Bloomfield (Bromley).
Jimmy Almeida Onate and Leighton Francis have added to the core of last season’s squad that have stayed at the Thornton Heath based club.
Rayner added: “Hopefully we can compete and see where the squad can take us.”
Visit AFC Croydon Athletic’s website: www.afccroydonathletic.co.uk
AFC Croydon Athletic v Cobham
Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Saturday 31 July 2021
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Mayfield Stadium, off Mayfield Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 6DN