All the players are aware that we want to be in it for one year and get out of it and get us up to where we think we belong, says Beckenham Town assistant Billy Walton
BECKENHAM TOWN assistant manager Billy Walton says his players feel relaxed going into their opening day six-pointer against Jersey Bulls on Saturday.
It will be the Kent club’s debut game in the Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South, having played Kent League/Southern Counties East Football League football since 1982.
However, Beckenham Town, AFC Croydon Athletic and Balham have all switched over to the newly-created Combined Counties League Premier Division South and the fans’ at Eden Park Avenue are in for an opening day treat.
Jersey Bulls won all 27 of their Combined Counties League Division One league games when the 2019-20 campaign was declared null and void and were denied promotion to the Premier Division, while last season they had another 100% league record, winning all four of their games before the season was curtailed.
Beckenham Town were leading the Southern Counties East Football League Premier Division in 2019-20 and were denied promotion into the Isthmian League for the very first time. Corinthian were promoted on points-per-game over two seasons instead and that has left a sour taste for everyone at the club.
The visit of Jersey Bulls on Saturday has captured the imagination and Walton is relishing the chance of coming up against a fellow title contender.
“I think we’re really, really relaxed about it, to be honest with you,” said Walton.
“Since my wife passed away, I’ve got a different outlook on life and football and it’s made me a bit more relaxed in a weird sort of way. I don’t beat myself up about things anymore and I think I’m more relaxed about it and I think it’s generated across to certain players, if not all of them.
“Since I’ve been at the club we’ve played massive games in terms of the last three years when we’ve been challenging for the title, so every other week is a big game.
“We’re used to the big games and it doesn’t faze us playing Jersey.
“We’ve got a strong side and everyone’s relaxed and looking forward to it and we’ve had a good pre-season and we’re excited about it. It’s a great game to kick off the season, as you well know.
“I don’t really know anything about them. I’d imagine looking at them, as a club and going by their record, they’ll be very well organised, they’ll be good on set-plays and it’s a game to look forward to.
“Jersey will know they’ll come up against a good side so let them worry about us, more than we worry about them.
“Me personally, you’ve known me for a long time, I’d rather play teams like this than a team who you might think are going to get relegated. When you play a struggling team you tend to drop down two or three levels and you’re performance isn’t so good, whereas on Saturday we know if we drop down our performances from what we did in pre-season, we’ll get beat.
“I’m pretty sure the players are all aware of that and we might turn up on Saturday with a little bit more about us than we would against someone well down the pecking order and not well fancied, so to speak.”
Walton’s aspirations are clear – Beckenham Town want to win back their place in the Isthmian League.
“We want to win it and we want to get promoted. It’s taken us a long time to get over not getting promoted. We were in a good position to get promoted so we’re going into it and work extremely hard. All the players are aware that we want to be in it for one year and get out of it and get us up to where we think we belong.
“If the club can just move on one more stage I think you will find it will just kick on.
“It’s just holding us back trying to get out of this level. We just have to get out of it as quick as possible.”
Signing marquee players like midfielder Danny Waldren, 32, will help their cause – a player who played a key role in Bromley winning the Conference South title in 2015 and going on to play for the likes of Dulwich Hamlet, Welling United, Billericay Town, before leaving Romford to play for Isthmian League South East Division side East Grinstead Town last season.
Walton said: “Full credit to Jason Huntley, the manager, and the people around the club as well to bring in someone like Dan. They’ve done a good job recruiting players, not just Dan, Tom O’Connor is another one and there’s a couple of other lads that no one has heard off that have been picked up and we’ve retained 95% of the side who have played over the last two years so full credit to Jason and Dave Mehmet, they’ve pulled all the stops out to bring in some really good players and also retained our best players so we’re looking good.
“We’re most probably the most strongest we’ve been in terms of squad since I’ve been at the club so there’s no reason why we can’t do well this season.”
AFC Croydon Athletic manager Kevin Rayner has tipped Jersey Bulls, Beckenham Town, Guildford City and Walton & Hersham who “fancy their chances of a successful season.”
In response, Walton replied: “Kevin is quite shroud, he’s left himself out of that and taken the pressure off himself. Listen, if we were in the SCEFL this year we’d be one of the favourites, so I don’t see why we’re not one of the favourites in the other league.
“I wouldn’t write AFC Croydon Athletic off any time, no matter what league they were in, so I put it back on Kevin now. I fancy Croydon Athletic to be one of the favourites as well.”
When asked about the switch in league’s, Walton replied: “The feeling with the manager we both feel that it’s a good move for us. It’s a new venture, we know nothing about any of the other teams, except for AFC Croydon Athletic. We didn’t get to play Balham last season.
“I will try to do my homework and get the most information as I can on the other teams but I don’t want to over cook it. In the SCEFL we knew everything about everyone and sometimes you over analyse them instead of concentrating on your own game so I’ve learnt a few things not to worry about other teams, let them worry about us, stick to what we’re good at and if we perform like we did in pre-season then we won’t be too far away and we’ll be extremely difficult to beat.”
Visit Beckenham Town’s website: www.beckenhamtownfc.com
Beckenham Town v Jersey Bulls
Cherry Red Records Combined Counties League Premier Division South
Saturday 31 July 2021
Kick Off 1:00pm
at Eden Park Avenue, Beckenham, Kent BR3 3JL