Flamingo Park is for the local community - not a seedy strip joint, a rubbish tip and a fair, says Cray Wanderers manager Tony Russell
CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell has issued one last rallying cry to London Mayor Sadiq Khan ahead of the clubs biggest date in their 158-year history.
The club will be told next Monday whether chairman Gary Hillman can build a new stadium at Flamingo Park and bring the club home for the first time since losing their Grassmeade ground back in 1973.
Cray Wanderers: Flamingo Park is for the local community
Since then, Cray Wanderers have hired grounds at Oxford Road in Sidcup and Hayes Lane in Bromley and Mr Hillman is continuing the fight to secure a home for his beloved club.
“The site’s just opened a seedy strip joint, people are dumping waste, there’s giant rats on the cemetery. People are complaining seeing their loved ones and there’s rats running about,” said Russell.
“If Sadiq Khan wants to turn round and say that’s green belt land he needs to answer some serious questions because that’s not green belt land!
“I’m just hoping Sadiq Khan has actually looked at the site rather than the paperwork because he’s only argument is it’s green belt land but it’s not green belt land because there’s no butterflies flying around, there’s no daisies and no people walking their dogs – it’s an absolute crap hole that’s getting abused!
“All the club want to do is use the existing building to build a stand with a pitch and all the rest is open massive grass for football pitches to how it was 15 years ago, full of youngsters playing football, for schools and the local community.
“Dave Francis trumps the bit for the community. He runs his own charity where he gives free counselling to people. He’s got 15 counsellors, so he’s big on the community.
“Community officers Tyrone Sterling and Reggie Oliver are doing a great job. They want to open the doors to underprivileged schools. The Cray area is one of the under privileged in the area, with the lowest death rate in the area.
“They’ve got about 15 schools. All these playgrounds are being taken away and sold off and we’re going to do their PE there. We’re going to get all the schools there and do their sports days, playing cricket, rugby and football, just a facility for everyone to come to.
“Over what? Over a strip joint, a rubbish tip and a fair!
“I’ve actually can’t believe it’s taken this long, it’s actually embarrassing! I find it quite frustrating!”
Cray Wanderers play in the eighth tier of English football and Russell has guided the club to the top of the Bostik (Isthmian League) South East Division table.
The youth team played six games in The FA Youth Cup and were defeated 4-0 by League One club Portsmouth in the Second Round at Hayes Lane last night.
Portsmouth now travel to Premier League giants Liverpool in the Third Round next month and considering Cray Wanderers youth-team players are still at school, the achievement from Mark Dacey and Adam Flemming's players to reach this stage of the competition as a part-time team was truely remarkable and something to be proud off.
Russell said: “We’re building momentum, I can feel it in the club. The under 23s are doing really well, the under 18s are doing well, the first team is doing well.
“All the balls are in, the chips are in, right Sadiq, we’re there!
“We’ve had Charlton (in the Kent Senior Cup) and Portsmouth here and we find out about the ground. It’s a brilliant time to be involved, it’s a brilliant, brilliant time and I’m excited about it.
“I can’t believe it’s gone this far and I hope common sense prevails. The owners have had so many knockbacks but they’re confident and they’ve done everything they can and they can’t do no more than they’ve done – I think we’ll get it!
“I’m a glass half full man, rather than a glass half empty. I have belief in the four of them (Hillman, Francis, Jason Miller and Micky Paye). Whatever we talk about we’re so positive – we’re getting it!
“They’re great men as well, such nice men, really keen to do the right things and are so excited about the project. I’ve been in the meetings, they couldn’t do any more than with what they’ve done. They’ve literally done everything! They’ve answered every question and written cheques for this barrister, that barrister and this person. I dread how much money they’ve put into it already!”
With the highest number of knife attacks among the young in other parts of the capital, bringing the local community together at Flamingo Park is the only way forward for the Mayor.
We must not let the Second Oldest Football Club in the World and the Oldest Football Club in London die. Not on our watch! Over to you Sadiq…It’s time to deliver!
Visit Cray Wanderers’ website: www.cray-wanderers.com