I am under no pressure from the club, says Cray Valley boss Paul Gross
CRAY VALLEY (Paper Mills) manager Paul Gross says he is under no pressure during his second season in charge of the Eltham based club.
Gross took charge of the club last summer and guided the Millers to a top seven finish in the Southern Counties East Football League.
“Overall, I was very pleased with my first season,” Gross told the club’s Facebook page.
“We didn’t get off to the greatest of starts and it was not what I was hoping for, even though pre-season went very well and we were all buzzing to get the season started.
“However, results just seemed to go against us but I never felt that we particularly let ourselves down.
“We didn’t get annihilated by anyone but there were some silly little mistakes and we saw things that were happening on the pitch that we, as a young management team, had to learn from.
“We needed to eradicate the individual and team errors and I feel we got there in the end.
“We made a few personnel changes around the end of October and we were able to keep that group together and we seemed to go on from strength to strength.
“I believe it was more about spirit, hard work and determination than it ever was about footballing qualities or a lack of skill, and once we created that bond amongst the players in the changing room, we never really looked back from there.”
Gross announced the signing of Luke Harvey a couple of weeks ago and Gross couldn’t praise the striker highly enough.
He said: “He was captain of Herne Bay when they won the Kent League and reached the semi-finals of the FA Vase a few seasons ago and I’ve known him for years through playing with each other at Charlton Athletic as youngsters.
“He’s a good lad and a great character to have around you. He gives you everything you need from a striker.
“The players I’m looking to recruit for this season, especially in Luke’s case, I asked myself, who didn’t I like playing against when I was a player? Luke was one of those and he has proved he can score goals but he’s mobile, can bring other players into the game and he is very difficult to shake off the ball.
“He’s a player who wants to win football matches and he wants to do it with a smile on his face. And just as importantly, I’m sure he’ll fit in with the rest of the group in the changing room.”
When asked if there were any further recruits on their way to Badgers, Gross revealed that he’s bringing in another striker, for his second spell at the club.
“Yes,” Gross said, “I’ve also signed Adam Marsh from Erith & Belvedere. He can score goals from anywhere on the pitch and is just as comfortable on the ball in wide areas where he can create opportunities for others. A good, all-round striker who scored 18 goals for Erith & Belvedere last season, and he’s a lad I’ve known for a long while.
“Again, another player who will fit straight into the changing room and I’m happy to have him on board. Adam and Luke will only add to the firepower we’ve already got at the club.”
One of the star performers for the Millers last season was centre half Ronnie Vint.
The former Dartford Academy captain, joint winner of last season’s Manager’s Player of the Season award, has returned to Princes Park after signing a one year contract for the relegated Vanarama National League South club.
“Ronnie was certainly one of, if not the, outstanding player in the League last season,” said Gross.
“For such a young lad, I think he surprised a lot of people with just how commanding, and how good he actually was.
“I don’t think any of us expected him be as good as he showed us he was, especially this young, and I’m sure he’ll have a big season with Dartford.
“He’s moved on now and we wish him the very best of luck, but I’ve signed a very capable replacement in Aiden Sherlock from Faversham Town.
“He is still a very young player at 23 but he has a lot of experience having played for Ebbsfleet United, Sevenoaks Town, Margate and Erith & Belvedere.
“He’s reached the play offs with Faversham Town two years in a row and he’s a very comfortable centre half who can also play at right back and in midfield. He’s a winner, a big character and someone who goes on to the football pitch, no nonsense, to win matches. He will bring a bit more skill to the team and along with Luke, brings some valuable experience to the spine of the team.
“We’re still in the early stages of pre-season and I’m talking to few other players that I would like to bring in, again from a higher level, and we’ll see how those talks develop. If I can get those players to sign, it can only add to the squad we’ve got and make it even stronger.”
When about the rest of last season’s squad, Gross said, “I’ve spoken to a few of the lads and nobody has told me that they don’t want to come back down for next season, yet!
“We lost a few players towards the end of last season through work commitments, injuries and the like, so we ended up in the last game of the season against Erith & Belvedere with five 17 year olds on the pitch!
“But if the club is going to progress, I need to sit down with those lads who couldn’t commit and find out if I can rely on them for the whole season, not just three quarters of it. There’s a lot of conversations still to be had yet.”
With the first of the Millers’ pre-season fixtures scheduled for Saturday 11 July, Gross revealed his plans for pre-season.
“We’ll start on the 2 July as I think we made a mistake in starting too early last season and everyone was bored by the time the season started.
“We know how we are going to play, how we’ll set up so we’ll just get the boys together and get the new lads integrated into the system. And with the emergence into the squad of some of the Youth team players last season, all in all, it looks like I’ll have a strong group of players for the whole season.”
One person who won’t be involved every day next season, is coach Dan Frost.
“Yes, that’s unfortunate really,” said Gross, “Dan has told me that due to family and work commitments, he will be unable to put the hours in for me as he did last season. He’ll still be a part of the team and he’ll be involved when he can.
“I’m disappointed he’s stepping back but I fully understand his situation. Dan has been a great help to me during my first season, and a good friend, and I’ve learned quite a lot from him. He’s a top lad and he’ll be missed and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dan for his not inconsiderable help last season
“Dan will be tough to replace but I am actively looking to bring someone in and I’m talking to someone at the moment and maybe that will work out for me and the club.”
Gross has invited former Welling United and Ebbsfleet United coach Dean Frost to join in with the club’s pre-season preparations.
“Dan’s brother Dean has said he can help out here and there during pre-season, so hopefully the players won’t notice much of a difference to begin with!”
When asked about his aspirations for next season, Gross replied: “Last season was a good one for me personally and a good learning curve. Hopefully that will stand me in good stead for the coming season.
“I am under no pressure from the committee of the club to achieve this or that, but it’s a great club and I know they want to try and progress.
“For me though, I want to try and take the club as far as I can and as a minimum I want to at least better last season’s seventh placed finish, and to get through a couple of rounds of the FA Cup and Vase would be nice!”
Visit Cray Valley’s website: http://www.cray-valley.co.uk/