I want to see Cray Wanderers at their own ground, says promotion winning goalscorer Simon Osborn

Sunday 19th March 2017

A FORMER Premier League footballer has condemned London Mayor Sadiq Khan for putting London’s oldest football club’s future at risk.

Cray Wanderers were founded back in 1860 but their very own future is at risk over the London Mayor continually knocking back the club’s proposals to build a new stadium in Chislehurst.

Mr Khan claims to make London “the undisputed sporting capital of the world,” and has allowed West Ham United move into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford and has given the green light to their Premier League rivals Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur to re-develop Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane respectively – but continues to knock-back Cray Wanderers’ plans to build their own stadium.

Cray Wanderers currently play in the eighth-tier of English football, the Ryman League Division One South, and have been playing their home games at Bromley’s Hayes Lane ground since 1999.

Chairman Gary Hillman has fought long and hard to deliver a new stadium that they could call home and it looked like the Cray Wanderers chief was going to win his long-winded battle – only for Mr Khan to score the biggest own goal at the last minute.

Cray Wanderers do so much for their local community, as do hundreds of non-league football clubs up and down the country and for Mr Khan to support three big Premier League clubs and non a non-league football club south of the river is devastating and has hurt many people.

One of those people is Simon Osborn, 45.

Croydon-born Osborn, now lives in Bickley, Bromley.  He is now a contract manager for a building firm and coaches local kids at the Volenti Academy, along with Bobby Bowry, a former team-mate at Bromley.

Osborn made 40 appearances in the Premier League for Crystal Palace and Queens Park Rangers and other previous clubs include Reading, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Gillingham, Walsall, before dropping down to local non-league football at Bromley, AFC Croydon Athletic and Cray Wanderers, Erith & Belvedere and Sevenoaks Town.

In fact, Osborn scored the winning goal for Cray Wanderers that won them promotion into the Ryman Premier League, scoring the only goal of the game in a Ryman League Division One South Play-Off Final victory over Metropolitan Police back in 2009.

“Bromley chairman Jerry Dolke put my name to Jenko (Ian Jenkins, the Cray Wanderers manager at the time) and Gary Hillman, as they were looking to get promoted, so I agreed to join and see what happened,” recalled midfielder Osborn.

“It’s always good to score and it feels fantastic when it happens. That goal proved to be extra special as it was the winner and won promotion.

“I’ve scored a few free-kicks in my career but that is as good a feeling knowing it got the club promoted.”

Osborn feels strongly that Cray Wanderers have been given a hard bargain by Khan and urges him to change his mind and give Cray Wanderers the ground they desire.

“Every club should have its own ground and identity and Cray Wanderers are no different and it’s been a hard fight to find that potential site so the club can move forward,” said Osborn.

“Mr Khan has taken the easy option in supporting the big clubs as it gives him the publicity he craves.

“Non-league football clubs provide a hub for a multitude of people in and around the community, from those dedicated volunteers to creating jobs and opportunities for local people to watch football, play football and potentially represent their local club.

“I have been fortunate to play for a number of pro clubs and non-league clubs and I still love going to local grounds as you can still meet and have an interaction with characters of non-league football.”

It would be so easy for Mr Hillman to throw in the towel after yet another stadium set-back but Cray Wanderers have 157 years’ worth of history to fight for and he will not be defeated by some politician who couldn’t care less about local communities in Osborn’s neck of the woods.

“I spoke to Gary around Christmas while they were putting together the appeal but not recently but I know he will be bitterly disappointed in what is happening,” added Osborn.

“I think the decision made by Mr Khan is ill-informed and with what the scheme and the ground will do to the local community this will far out-weigh any detrimental effect it will have on the green belt in London.

“He needs to take a look at the whole picture and make his decision based on that.

“Hopefully Cray Wanderers will get their ground and all the hard work will come to fruition as I still follow and watch them at Bromley FC – but I want to see them at their own ground.”

Mr Khan, could you have the guilty feeling of murdering London’s oldest football club or the second oldest football club in the world, on your conscience for the rest of your life? Do the right thing, give Cray Wanderers the green light and fulfil your promise to make London a hot bed of sport – at all levels, not just the elite level.

Visit Cray Wanderers’ website: www.craywanderers.com