Let us entertain you - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Thursday 19th January 2006
Cray Wanderers’ assistant manager Joe Francis tells football fans to get themselves down to Hayes Lane on Saturday for their Ryman League Division One clash with Hastings United, writes Stephen McCartney.

The Wands produced their FOURTH 3-3 classic of the season last night, when they drew Molesey at Hayes Lane in an extraordinary game.

However, a crowd of just 123 watched the six-goal thriller – three of the goals coming inside five and a half minutes of injury time.

Cray found themselves 2-0 up at the break against lively opposition when Drew Watkins headed home his fourth goal of the season and midfielder Matt Woolf netted his third from the penalty spot.

But 23-year-old striker Phil Ruggles pulled a goal back after just three minutes into the second half and the former Woking, Kingstonian and Leatherhead striker glanced a dramatic injury time header to equalise.

Ruggles then drove a low 25-yard shot, which curled past Steve Northwood into the bottom far corner to grab the lead 233 seconds into stoppage time to steal the lead.

Adam Young, however, popped up to score his first goal of the season when he clinically fired past John Ashwood 52 seconds later to give the Kent side a share of the spoils.

And now it’s time for some statistics to persuade you to get down to Hayes Lane to be ENTERTAINED.

Cray have played 38 league and cup games this season (17 of them at Hayes Lane).

They’ve scored a total of 83 goals in those matches, but have leaked 71.  In 26 league games they’ve scored and conceded 48 goals but for such an entertaining side they’ve only attracted 2,184 fans to watch their home games, which is an average of just 128.

Pitty. Because you’re guaranteed plenty of goalmouth action at both ends of the pitch when Cray take to the field – four goals a game.

Francis, an influential midfield playmaker at several clubs during his career, including Kent sides Welling United and Bromley, is concerned with the lack of support for such an attack minded team.

”Get yourselves down here and watch this team because every week, week in and week out there’s goals here and it’s entertaining,” he insisted.

Cray endured a 4-0 thrashing down at the Pilot Field in the middle of September and Francis is looking for revenge.

”Another tough game and we have to get a little revenge because we got stuffed there 4-0.

”They’re a big club, a good side, but like us are in and out.  As Leslie Crowther used to say – come on down!”

Francis admits his side are “consistently inconsistent” and playing in Bromley instead of their own ground (Oxford Road, Sidcup has no floodlights and doesn’t meet Ryman League criteria) means they don’t have a big fan-base – but their stay-away fans are missing out.

”I think the football team has a lot to offer here, the unknown little club,” said Francis.

”We’d love to have own ground because if we had our own ground we’d have 500 supporters every week.

”But we deal with what we’ve got here.  For the few supporters we have we serve up entertaining football and 99% of the time we do it for them.”

Francis pointed out why his side aren’t attracting the fans – although they’re one of the best attacking sides in Kent.

”We’re not playing at Cray are we?” he said.  “Any team that is nomadic loses its fans – it’s as simple as that.

”It’s just unfortunate but our chairman (Gary Hilman) who is Cray through and through has over the past five years been trying to secure a premises and has left no stone unturned.

”It will give him the utmost pleasure to find somewhere but we enjoy it here.  We do consider Hayes Lane as our own ground, but it’s not and you can’t get away from that but tell everybody to come down here.  It’s a good side.”

There is a unique atmosphere created by the club’s players and they relish eachother’s company – both on and off the pitch.

Francis explained: “People have such elevated opinions of themselves at this level and when you’re playing in front of 150 people each week, and not too many people more, there is no pressure so enjoy yourselves – make sure you enjoy your football.

”We don’t apply any pressure on the players – enjoy yourselves and everybody get together because you’re a long time not playing and if you don’t have memories of where you’ve all been and done things together, let alone win the games, you ain’t got much.

”Life’s about sharing experiences.  For example we’ve just had (full-back) Danny Whelan come back.  He’s been gone for 18 months and he’s come back like he’s never left.  He ain’t been anywhere, change of job, pressure at work and had to pack up and he just said he’s missed Cray so much.  We have had that from so many players that have left and moved on.”

Meanwhile, Cray officials are upset with their league rivals Tonbridge Angels with the way they handled the approach for their 21-goal striker, Jon Main.

Main impressed on his Angels’ debut during their 1-0 win over Banstead Athletic last Saturday, having left Cray on the eve of the match.

When asked about Main’s transfer to Longmead Stadium, Francis was clearly angry and blasted: “He’s gone.  See ya! He’s one of only two players ever to have left this club.  Jon and Sam Wood (whose now playing for landlords Bromley) have chosen to leave this club.  See ya Jon – all the best.  Not really!

”A deal that was done on Friday night just leave’s a nasty unsavoury taste.  See you later Jon, thanks.

”Jon feels he’s progressed.  You can’t agree with that.  I’m not sure he has.”

Cray Wanderers v Hastings United
Ryman League Division One
Saturday 21st January 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
at Courage Stadium, Hayes Lane, Bromley