Flamingo Park: We've given Sadiq Khan no reason to turn it down, says Cray Wanderers manager Tony Russell

Monday 19th March 2018

CRAY WANDERERS manager Tony Russell has told London Mayor Sadiq Khan to rubber stamp the clubs proposed new stadium at Flamingo Park in Chislehurst.

Mr Khan is in full support of Bostik Premier Division club Dulwich Hamlet’s off-the-pitch troubles, saying on Twitter that he is “deeply concerned about the issues facing Dulwich Hamlet.  Can’t be right that the club’s long-term future still hangs in the balance.  I urge the current owners and the council the come to a swift arrangement in best interests of the local community.”

Cray Wanderers wait for the green-light from London
Mayor Sadiq Khan as they bid to turn Flamingo Park
from a run-down nightclub and wasteground into a
community football stadium.

You can’t help save one troubled London club give the go-ahead for clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and AFC Wimbledon and forget about Cray Wanderers, whom have been playing football since 1860!

Bromley Council passed the club’s revised plans for Flamingo Park by 11 votes to 3 last Tuesday night and Russell urges the London Mayor to finalise the club’s long-term ambition of building a stadium that they can finally call home.

“It is great news but no one’s going mad because we’ve still got that little matter of Sadiq Khan,” Russell said following his side’s 4-3 win over Horsham in the Bostik South at Bromley’s Hayes Lane stadium yesterday.

“We’re at that stage now where Bromley Council have got to tie up a couple of issues, conditions, minor stuff like a footpath.  Once they’ve done that it drops on Sadiq Khan’s desk and he’s got eight weeks.”

Cray Wanderers are the oldest football club in London and Russell does not want Mr Khan to kill his club.

“Cray Wanderers have been going much longer than Dulwich Hamlet. We’ve got a big history.  Sadiq Khan’s got it in his palm. All he has to do is stamp something and then we’re building!

“I’ve spoken to the owners. If he doesn’t do it there’s other options, there is a Plan B.  I don’t think they want to do it.  What they’ve done this time, the houses on the site are affordable houses so there’s a load of green land for all the schools to come and use the community pitches.

“We’ve got six pitches on the site, the housing is for people to get on the housing market so it ticks every single box so there’s no reason whatsoever why he should turn it down.

“Gary Hillman (chairman) went away and tweaked it to give Sadiq Khan no reason to turn it down.  It’s a fantastic opportunity. We’re really hopeful that Sadiq does the right thing. We hope so but ultimately we don’t know.

“Bromley council have been really supportive and they’ve written a letter of support in to the Secretary of State, who is above Sadiq Khan to say if he turns it down can you step in, which he can do, so we have got that option.  He does have the power to do that, if we ask him to.”

Russell, 39, says he wants to be the manager that leads out a Cray Wanderers team at the new stadium beside the Sidcup by-pass.

“My first game here was at home to Tilbury on a Tuesday night I was standing in the dug-out thinking I’m expecting Jenko (Ian Jenkins) and Joe Francis to turn up and say ‘what are you doing, Tony?!”

“I’ve played for the club.  My assistant Joe Vines has played for the club as well so it means a lot.  It probably hinders me a little bit being here.  I want it so much. I want to do so well for them.  The supporters here still remember when I was still playing.

“I’ve got a real good connection with them.  Dave Francis, the vice-chairman has played for Cray, Micky Paye has played for Cray. We’ve all got it in our blood and we’re dying to do well.

“We all know the potential of this football club.  I honestly think in 10 years they’ll be in the National League (the fifth-tier of English football) competing for League football.  I honestly think that.  We’re not going to do that at somebody else’s ground but if they get home, we’ll go!

“My biggest fear is I’ll be here through the hard times, the time they get the ground that will be me done, so I’ve got to make sure I’m still here when they walk into the new stadium.”

Russell revealed that it will take 18 months to build the stadium – once Mr Khan gives it the go-ahead.

“The owners have said it will be all guns as soon as they say yes! They’ll be in as quick as possible trying to get it up within a year or a year and a half. If there’s a chance Gary Hillman can get it in a year they will push it through and do it as quick as they can.

“Back in the day Cray used to get 700-900 fans.  I think they could get 2,000 fans at home games, I honestly think that.  The potential is actually scary!”

Visit Cray Wanderers website: www.cray-wanderers.com