We’ve told the lads I think you kind of wear the crown heavy here because there is a target on your back and you are the scalp every week, says AFC Croydon Athletic joint-manager Lee Roots

Thursday 10th August 2023

AFC CROYDON ATHLETIC joint-manager Lee Roots says he is looking forward to the new challenge of managing in the Combined Counties League Premier Division South for the first time.

Roots departed Bromley-based side Holmesdale after keeping the club in the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division despite having limited resources at Oakley Road.

“My budget at Holmesdale was very modest, £300 per week we spent and I came under it every week.  We only paid five players and I was getting a tune out of the players for three to four years,” revealed Roots.

Holmesdale, meanwhile, announced on Monday 7 August that their club business development manager Simon Kidby has taken over from Ray Tolfrey as chairman.

Roots insisted AFC Croydon Athletic are not splashing the cash this season, despite being under new ownership.

“We’re not spending silly, we’re spending smart,” said Roots.

“The owners have put a lot of money into the club already behind the scenes, which has been done up quite a lot and will continue to do so.

“Where I’ve come from working with a modest budget and Kevin Rayner’s been working here on not a huge budget, we’ve been able to piece together a really competitive squad at quite a reasonable price.

“The owners could’ve easily have thrown hundred thousand pounds at the players if they wanted to but we want to build it and we want to do it the right way.

“We’ve got a substantial resource to be competitive in the league and we’re looking after every player within the squad, which is unique, so it’s a really good idea from the owners.

“There’s incentive schemes, bonuses for the players, performance related so it’s really unique and a good time to be at AFC Croydon Athletic.”

AFC Croydon Athletic kick-of their league campaign on Saturday with a trip to thirteenth-placed finishers Alton.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Roots.

“I know every ground and every plug point in every changing room in the SCEFL. I needed a new challenge. I needed to be fresh and I wanted to go to a different league and I want to go to different levels.

“I’m excited to go to the new clubs.  We’re going on a coach to Alton, which will be great for the players.

“The way that this club runs is absolutely night and day to where I’ve come from. That’s no disrespect to my previous clubs (Chipstead (Kent), Forest Hill and Holmesdale).

“I know they’re a half-decent side, they beat the club twice last year but we’re a completely different team and a different club now.”

Despite not splashing the cash, AFC Croydon Athletic will have a target on their backs and will be a big scalp in the ninth-tier this season.

“I think you’re absolutely spot on. We’ve told the lads I think you kind of wear the crown heavy here because there is a target on your back and you are the scalp every week,” admitted Roots.

“Every team would be expecting us to be spending X amount, which we’re generally not and actually I don’t mind that pressure, it doesn’t faze me.

“It will be new to some players, there’s an expectation when you put on the (AFC) Croydon (Athletic) shirt now. There’s also expectation on how you have to conduct yourself outside of it. We’ve told them unfortunately they’re semi-professional players within a professional environment so we’re looking forward to that.”

Roots has joined Kevin Rayner at AFC Croydon Athletic, who opened their campaign with a dramatic late 3-1 win over Sutton Athletic in The FA Cup last Sunday.

The Rams’ reward is a FA Cup Preliminary Round trip to Horley Town on Saturday 19 August (12:30 and live on the BBC iplayer, red button and website) – the two sides meet each other in the League at Mayfield Stadium next Tuesday 15 August.

“We had the cameras down doing a feature on the club (against Sutton Athletic) and that came with double hype,” said Roots, who reflecting on the late drama of scoring two goals in stoppage time to claim a flattering win.

“For the players, winning this round, winning the next round, these are the FA Cup Finals for these players. The way that we won it will be something that they will never forget and actually as players it is something you can take in for the next games, so we’re really proud of them.”

With the club being taken over by Crystal Palace footballer Wilfried Zaha and musician Stormzy; Danny Young and Jordan Davis will be the hands-on people at Mayfield Stadium.

Roots said: “I’d like to say a massive thank you to Danny Young and Jordan Davis, who are the hands-on people at the club.

“They have backed us and given us support. They have been a voice of reason and have given Kevin and me full backing, which we feel as well, so we’d like to thank everyone at the club for the welcome and hopefully for the continued support.”

Visit AFC Croydon Athletic’s website: www.afccroydonathletic.co.uk