The aim is to try to get into the next level but I think promotion from this level is particularly difficult given the limited amount of teams who go up but we’re very ambitious, says Balham boss Greg Cruttwell

Thursday 17th September 2020

BALHAM chairman/manager Greg Cruttwell says he is enjoying life in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division.

The club began their campaign by being knocked out of The FA Cup by Sussex side Hassocks in the Extra Preliminary Round, losing 5-3 on penalties after the game finished 2-2 after 90 minutes.

Balham sprung a surprise by beating Hollands & Blair 2-1 on the opening day of the season and came away from Fisher with a 1-0 midweek win.

However, the side have suffered back-to-back 2-1 defeats, at Punjab United and last night at home to Welling Town.

“It’s all new experiences, which we’re enjoying and we’re going to relish and we’re going to new grounds,” said Cruttwell.

“There’s a lot more travelling, of course. We’ve enjoyed it so far and we really like the new ground and we’re very happy.

“Colliers Wood was very good for us for a number of years but we needed to be slightly nearer Balham.  This (Mayfield Stadium in Thornton Heath, the home of AFC Croydon Athletic) is slightly nearer to Balham.

“Ultimately we want our own stadium in Balham or Tooting but we’re delighted to be here.  We like this ground.

“I’ve known (AFC Croydon Athletic) chairman Paul Smith a long time and Alan Powell as well and we’re very happy to be here.”

When asked about the difference between the Combined Counties League Premier Division and the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division, Cruttwell says he’s impressed with the standard.

“From our point of view we’re playing teams that we don’t know a lot about.  I’ve been impressed with the level. We’ll have to play a lot more sides before I can really, really say but I think the level is good.

“We’ve played four teams in the league and they’ve all been at a really good standard.

“We’ve got Sheppey (away) on a week on Saturday, we’ll see. It’s a new experience for us. I am really confident that on our day we can beat anyone but it’s about being consistent.”

Cruttwell, who revealed he operates without a playing budget, revealed 80% of last night’s squad were homegrown.

He said: “I started the club back in 2001 with one under 10 team so obviously it’s come a long way from that.  Now we have a direct platform from under sevens all the way to the first team. We’ve got a woman’s section, a girls’ section.

“I started the first-team when our players were old enough to do it in 2011.  I’ve been the first-team manager since it started so this is my tenth season as manager.

“We started at quite a low level. We got five promotions in six years. It would’ve been six in six but we didn’t meet the facility requirements one season so we shot all the way through into the Combined Counties League Premier.

“The aim is to try to get into the next level but I think promotion from this level is particularly difficult given the limited amount of teams who go up but we’re very ambitious.

“The unique feature about our club is that everything in our club is about bringing players through the system and using them for the first team so probably we had 80% of the team have come through our age groups.”

Balham welcome Lewisham Borough to Mayfield Stadium on Saturday in The FA Vase First Qualifying Round.

Lewisham Borough play at a level lower than Balham and sit in eleventh-place in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division table having been held to two 1-1 draws by Snodland Town and Meridian VP.

“I want to win,” said Cruttwell, whose side are in the top eight in the Premier Division table, three points behind leaders Tunbridge Wells.

“We got knocked out of The FA Cup on penalties so we all know what a lottery that is.

“We had a good run in The FA Cup last year but we didn’t have such a good run in the Vase, so I hope we’ll have a really good run in the Vase.

“When you’ve had two very, very narrow defeats that game on Saturday becomes important. It’s really important that we get the win and get back on that momentum and I think we’ve got Sheppey next Saturday, which obviously will be a tough game so we want to build and prepare for that in the right way.”

Visit Balham’s website:

Balham  v  Lewisham Borough
The Buildbase FA Vase First Qualifying Round
Saturday 19 September 2020
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Mayfield Stadium, off Mayfield Road, Thornton Heath, Surrey CR7 6DN


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