I am very excited to be playing our first game at the National Sports Centre, says Croydon boss Liam Giles
CROYDON manager Liam Giles says he’s feeling excited about their debut match at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre on Saturday.
The Trams play Athletic Newham – the artist formerly known as Lopes Tavares – in the London Senior Trophy First Round – at their new temporary 16,000 all-seater stadium.
Croydon last took to the field on Saturday 24 October when they lost 2-0 at Ashford-based Kennington in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division and are sitting in seventh-place in the table with 11 points from seven games, 10 points adrift of leaders Sporting Club Thamesmead.
“I am very excited to be playing our first game at the National Sports Centre,” said Giles.
“It has huge history and if I’m right in saying I think we have the biggest stadium capacity in non-league, if only we were able to fill it, could you imagine it?
“We hope we can get as much support behind us on Saturday as we have been on the road all season so far and we have had zero income. Fingers crossed we get a big crowd in what will be a historic day for the football club.”
The Southern Counties East Football League has been suspended until Saturday 26 December 2020 due to Covid-19, although clubs are playing in FA Vase and London Senior Cup and London Senior Trophy ties this weekend.
All Kent sides have been placed in Tier Three by the UK Government, which means they are unable to attract crowds at their games, while Croydon (and other clubs in a London Borough) have been placed in Tier Two, which means they can attract crowds of 300 to their grounds as from tomorrow, while Elite clubs such as Bromley in the National League can attract crowds of 2,000 at most.
“It’s a shame we won’t be returning there until January, due to the League being suspended, which is frustrating but it must be a very difficult decision for the League to make, so we respect the decision,” said Giles.
“We are in Tier Two, so would be able to play, it’s a shame we couldn’t fill December with fixtures against other Tier Two sides from our league to get some games out of the way but unfortunately it’s not to be.”
Athletic Newham play in the Eastern Counties League Division One South and are in sixth-place in the table with 16 points from their nine league outings, three points adrift of leaders White Ensign, who have a game in hand.
“We don’t know anything about our opponents, so it’s the unknown come Saturday,” admitted Giles.
“Usually I have an idea of a team’s style and key players but with Athletic Newham, I have no idea at all!”
Giles would like to enjoy a lengthy run in the London Senior Trophy – a competition for clubs at Step Six – this season.
“I would like to have a good run in this cup as I feel it’s a cup we could realistically win,” added the Croydon boss.
Only elite football clubs have been allowed to train during the second national lockdown and Giles has set his squad fitness regimes online during the break.
He said: “Lockdown, yet again, has been very difficult for us, as we haven’t been able to train or get together so we have been setting the lads challenges and done a zoom class or two to keep them active, but ultimately they have to be doing their own bits too and we have to trust that they are.
“I’m sure it will be clear to see who has put the work in and who hasn’t.
“Fingers crossed, we can get back to some normality as soon as possible as football is more than a game to most and is a massive release from day-to-day life. It really does impact people’s mental health as much as their physical health.
“It’s vital we get back to it as long as it’s safe to.
“We had a massive injury crisis leading into lockdown. Unfortunately, we never got to name the same back four all season, which has been frustrating as pre-season we were very defensively strong.
“As you can see we have conceded far too many goals (19) since the real business begun with a makeshift backline.
“Two of my back line are back fit, which is a plus, although two are still some way off returning.”
Visit Croydon’s website: www.croydonfc.com
Croydon v Athletic Newham
London Senior Trophy First Round
Saturday 5 December 2020
Kick Off 1:45pm
at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, Ledrington Road, Crystal Palace, London SE19 2BB