If they want to talk to me, I'll talk to them, says Cray Wanderers boss Tommy Warrilow
CRAY WANDERERS’ manager Tommy Warrilow says he’s challenged his players’ to finish their campaign unbeaten.
Warrilow takes charge of the club for the eighteenth time at Brightlingsea Regent tomorrow and a run of six wins on the bounce has clawed the club out of the Ryman League Division One North relegation zone for the first time this season.
GREAT ESCAPE: Tommy Warrilow is pulling off The Great Eascape as Cray Wanderers bid to maintain their Ryman League status when all seemed lost seven games ago
The Wands are in 21st position with 40 points – one point clear of Romford – and Warrilow is delighted that he is on the verge of pulling off The Great Escape.
“It was the right timing really,” said former Tonbridge Angels boss Warrilow.
“When I came out Brownie (Steve Brown) was good enough to let me do some scouting for him (at Ebbsfleet United) and stay in the Conference South and sometimes it’s good to watch things and take a back seat for a little while.
“I’m not going to lie. To start off with I had one assistant manager’s job offer and I kept reading all of these manager interviews and they had offers and turned them down. I’ve not had one yet and I was starting to have a flap and all off a sudden I had three offers just before Christmas to get back into management.
“I didn’t want to rush it. I had seven good years’ at Tonbridge and I felt I done a good job there. Sometimes you just need to take a seat back.”
Eyebrows were raised when Warrilow accepted Cray Wanderers’ chairman Gary Hillman’s phone call plea to maintain the club’s Ryman League status.
The Wands were heading in one direction – down towards the Southern Counties East Football League – but wins over Redbridge, Burnham Ramblers, Romford, Great Wakering Rovers, Harlow Town and Chatham Town have put the heart back in the club.
“Gary phoned me over the start of the New Year and I said ‘why not – it would get my brain going again,” recalled Warrilow.
“It was a League I didn’t know and I only knew three of the players who was at Cray and the remit was to try to keep them in the league, which was easier said than done, but it was a challenge to get stuck into.
“We literally came in on a Monday night. I met Gary on the Saturday and met the lads’ on the Monday. We had a game on the Tuesday so literally for the first time I met the directors and one of the old managers, Michael Paye, who just gave me a list of players and where they play because I didn’t know them.
“Unfortunately in football the one thing you don’t seem to get is time.
“The one thing at Tonbridge we went through the mill together but I knew it would take time.
“Some of the results we got even in the early stages, we knew something was coming.
“We had to get in some new cliental in, of course, but we lost a couple of games in the 90th minute and we should have come away with Thamesmead with three points instead of one.
“We’ve hit a bit of form. We had a two week break in between, which didn’t help and now we’re picking up a bit of momentum and we’re not out of it. The permutations of teams that could still get dragged into it, but the boys’ have done fantastic. The last six games, six wins, you can’t ask for much more.
“When we came off the other week, it’s the first time that we’ve seen the support and the aura around the club change. It’s not nice when you lose week in, week out. I have been there. Even when you draw a game, which we did a lot (at Tonbridge) last year, it can cost you.
“When you win there’s not a better feeling. When you see everyone around with smiles on their faces, it makes the club happier.
“Cray have had a tough time of it over the last couple of seasons and if I can play a small part to helping them keep their Ryman League status I will be delighted for them as well.”
Warrilow takes his side to play Brightlingsea Regent tomorrow – a side sitting in eighth-place in the table with 76 points – a couple of points adrift of fifth-placed Thurrock.
“Two of the four are fighting for play-off spots so I don’t expect any favours,” admitted Warrilow.
“It’s not really about any teams. I’ve brought a lot of lads in that have played at a good level and they’ve got a shape and a system now when they’re beginning to know their jobs.
“Luckily enough for me a lot of them I know and they know how I set things up.
“I’m sure we will be fine. I don’t care if we play top of the league or the bottom of the league. If we can go out with the right frame of mind the boys have done that lately and you can see the rewards we’ve got from it.
“No-one felt sorry for ourselves. It’s been frustrating. It will be nice to win the last four and we can’t do any more than what we’re doing at the moment.”
Cray Wanderers welcome fifteenth-placed Waltham Abbey to Hayes Lane next Tuesday, before hosting thirteenth-placed Tilbury on Sunday, 19 April.
They hope to be celebrating survival by the time they travel to seventh-placed Dereham Town on the final day of the season.
When asked how many points the club need to stay up, Warrilow replied: “44-45. It’s dangerous when you set targets. We might have enough now, we don’t know.
“I know some of the teams need to play each other down the bottom. With four games to go, I’m looking at four victories. It will be fantastic to finish the season unbeaten. If we do that you can’t do much more.
“The transformation around the changing room and the club in the small time we’ve been there, it’s been a real pleasure to see and watch. It’s been nice to watch and hopefully they don’t get into this situation again.”
Warrilow’s initial stay at Hayes Lane was going to be until the end of the season – but he was asked whether he has spoken to the chairman about staying put next season.
“I’ve not spoken to Gary Hillman,” revealed Warrilow.
“When I spoke to Gary in January, there were rumours anyway of a new manager next year so there’s no hidden secret.
“I’ve been just told to keep them up and I’ll do that. At the moment I haven’t done that.
“I’ve known Gary a long time via Jenko (Ian Jenkins), Joe Francis and Paul Blade. I’ve known the Cray lads for a long time. I had a couple of games for them as well.
“To me to come into a league I didn’t know was a challenge and that’s what I really wanted to do. I didn’t want to come into something and tick over for a season.
“I went into a real difficult job and I’m really pleased the way it’s turned out at the moment.
“I’ve not gone up to them, I haven’t spoken to them whatsoever. The remit was to come in and keep them in the league and that was it.
“If they want to talk to me, I’ll talk to them. For a selfish point of view it hasn’t done me any harm whatsoever.
“Someone said if I can keep them in the league it will be a better achievement than getting Tonbridge promoted. It’s on par on that. It feels like you’ve won something if you can claw a side that won three games in 25 games to claw them out of the relegation spot. To give them that foundation.
“I think they need hopefully getting this new ground, to have Ryman League status will be a far better selling tool for them for next season than having to scrap it out in a difficult Southern Counties East Football League.”
Visit Cray Wanderers’ website: www.pitchero.com/clubs/craywands
Brightlingsea Regent v Cray Wanderers
Ryman League Division One North
Saturday 11th April 2015
Kick Off 3:00pm
At North Road, Brightlingsea, Essex CO7 0PL