What I need now is the support of League members, management committee, to ensure that we stay in the League, says Lewisham Borough chairman Ray Simpson

Monday 24th April 2017

LEWISHAM BOROUGH chairman Ray Simpson says he is fighting to stay in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division.

The Ladywell Arena based outfit have finished at the foot of the table after collecting 18 points from their 36 league games.

The club set a League record after losing their first 19 games in all competitions under Simpson’s watch, before he turned to head coach Ebun Thomas to bring some respectability to their results.

Lewisham Borough enjoyed their best campaign in their debut Kent Invicta League campaign, finishing in the top eight of sixteen clubs in season 2011-12.

Since then, Lewisham Borough have been perennial whipping boys, finishing at the foot of the Kent Invicta League table the following season, before lifting themselves to a third-from-bottom finish in season 2013-14.

They finished at the foot of the table in the last two seasons of the Kent Invicta League and since the League rebranded itself as the First Division of the Southern Counties East Football League, Lewisham Borough suffered similar fate this season, winning only four of their league games this season.

Lewisham Borough’s record has been embarrassingly woeful, winning 33 of their 192 league games over six seasons, conceding 560 goals in the process, letting in an average of nearly three a game.

Simpson always offers a friendly welcome to the Ladywell Arena, but deep down he knows his club have failed to produce a winning team in an area that is rich in unearthed talent in the community based in an ideal location in south east London.

“The season, once again, was a frustrating one,” said Simpson, who started the season as manager.

“Lewisham badly missed having a striker in the early part of the season after injuries in pre-season.

“I’m not a bad manager but I clearly bit off more than I could chew trying to combine this with my chairman duties.

“After repeated calls for my head and the Twitter feed going into overdrive, I eventually fell on my sword and brought in the highly-rated Ebun Thomas in October to cut his teeth.

“Initially he took time to adjust but working with me, he then began to understand the division much better and I decided to hand over the reins fully.

“The second half of the season has seen us pick up 18 points and performances have improved with the addition of some keen and enthusiastic younger personnel.

“Lewisham now have strikers who could score goals and despite our league position attracted plenty of interest from clubs in the Premier Division and above.  We lost one striker to Erith & Belvedere but managed to hang on to the other.

“Many believe we are the whipping boys and a soft touch but loyalty goes a long way and I will fight tooth and nail to hang on to our best players, top coaches and quality directors.”

Glebe, who detest their big-spending tag, claimed the league title and complete their campaign at home to Orpington on Tuesday night.

Orpington have applied for voluntary relegation after failing to get their rented ground at Green Court Road up to standard.

Rusthall officials insist they have won promotion as runners-up without a playing budget and Simpson wants to follow in their footsteps.

“We are so close to turning the corner,” added Simpson.

“Look at Rusthall who finished second-bottom last season and a year later are now going up. Hard work, loyalty and commitment is the key, along with plenty of money.

“The highlight performance was probably the win against Lydd Town. The best away support has to be Ashford United, who came on a Wednesday night in the pouring rain, sang all game, drank and ate everything we had in the clubhouse and were very complimentary of our facilities, club and team.

“The highlight of the season has to be the addition of the seated stand and naming it after one of the clubs founder members Clinton Rhule, who sadly passed away in 2009. 

“We had a grand opening, which was attended by 500 people and was a wonderful day.  This will allow Ladywell Arena to continue to host football at this level and beyond. It has really been hard work to finally get the seating in after 14 years but I am proud to have led on this achievement which has been very much a team effort.”

Simpson is keen to stay in the Southern Counties East Football League First Division next season.

“What I need now is the support of League members, management committee, to ensure that we stay in the League as we have been integral members and instrumental in the development of Step Six football in London and Kent.

“See you all next season after the directors and I have a well-deserved rest.”

Gravesend-based Punjab United, who have won the Andreas Carter Joma Kent County League Premier Division title in their first season at that level, are expected to be promoted into the Southern Counties East Football League First Division.

With Ryman League Division One North club Thamesmead Town moving out of Bayliss Avenue and hiring National League South Dartford’s Princes Park Stadium, Sporting Club Thamesmead will be sharing the venue with Welling Town next season.

Welling Town, who contest the NRG Gym Barry Bundock West Kent Challenge Shield Final on Wednesday night where they play FC Elmstead Reserves at Sevenoaks Town’s Greatness Park, finished their campaign in third-place in the Andreas Carter Joma Kent County League Division Three West.

Chairman Kevin Oakes was asked whether his club will be playing at a higher level of football next season.

He said: “Unknown. Once the final is out of the way, over the long weekend, I’ll be submitting an application formally for SCEFL and Kent Prem. Will depend on Leagues and AGM’s from there.”