Three years ago when I took over if people turned round and said we’d be playing Ryman League football at Phoenix people would just laugh at you, admits boss Steve O'Boyle
PHOENIX SPORTS’ manager Steve O’Boyle says he has been told to avoid relegation at the end of their inaugural Ryman League campaign.
It has been a remarkable rise for the Barnehurst based club having won the Kent County League Division Two West title in 2005 and are now preparing for life in the Ryman League Division One North – their highest level of football in their 80-year history.
Phoenix Sports won the Kent Invicta League title with only two league defeats to their name in 2013 and claimed the Southern Counties East Football League title with one loss last season.
The club host Greenwich Borough at Mayplace Road East on Saturday to contest the Southern Counties East Football League Roy Vinter Challenge Shield (3pm).
Ian Jenkins’ side were cup specialists last season, reaching The FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round, the FA Vase Fourth Round, before winning both the Kent Senior Trophy and League Cup.
O’Boyle said: “What to expect from Greenwich? I’ll be honest with you, it’s the Charity Shield, yes, you want to win it but the bottom line is if you offered me losing the Charity Shield and winning first game of the season, I’ll tell you what I want.
“I’m looking forward to the game. I quite like the people at Greenwich. I think it will be a good game of football.
“Yes, they are a good side and they’ve got some good players and in a cup competition they’re hard to beat because they won the double last season.”
But O’Boyle just can’t wait until Saturday 8 August, the club’s historic Ryman League Division One North debut.
They play Maldon & Tiptree and O’Boyle admits the celebrations are now over and the hard work begins.
“It should be a good day. I said this so many times. Three years ago when I took over if people turned round and said we’d be playing Ryman League football at Phoenix people would just laugh at you!
“When we took over one player stayed and we got promotion (from the Kent Invicta League) in our first year.
“To win the Kent League (Southern Counties East Football League) was never ever on the agenda and we was told top six last year and we go and win it!
“I can’t wait until the 8th of August, to take this club into the Ryman League.”
The club staged their 80th anniversary celebrations at their ground on 11 July.
O’Boyle said: “I’ll be honest with you, the celebrations back end of April we’re still going on two weeks ago. We had a party on our pitch 340 people had a sit down meal. We started at five o’clock and I believe it went on until half-past-seven in the morning and that was a fantastic night but we were still celebrating winning the league.
“But now we’re in a serious league with serious teams and all I’ve been told is to avoid relegation so I’m going to try my best.
“That’s what they’ve (the board) told us to do, so I will try my best and I’m fully confident I can do that.”
Phoenix Sports then travel to Ilford to play Barkingside on Monday 10 August.
“Never been there, I’ve been told it’s lovely,” said O’Boyle. Ilford have a running track around their pitch and the floodlights are a shade of yellow.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve got people going out to watch Maldon and Barkingside, but what do you learn in pre-season? I don’t think you learn too much?
“If someone come and watch Phoenix (against VCD Athletic last Friday night), what do you learn about Phoenix? We’ve got two different sides out there, it’s completely mixed-up and I don’t think you learn too much.
“I haven’t got a clue what they’re going to be like. All I know, we’ve got to compete and be on our game and we’ve got to play well and if we do that we have to see how we get on.”
Phoenix Sports were defeated 3-1 by VCD Athletic last Friday night and considering they only let in three goals in a game on only a couple of occasions last season, O’Boyle hopes to have another formidable defence this season.
They kept 29 clean sheets in 54 league and cup games last season and O’Boyle said: “That will be lovely, if we can defend like we did last season that will be fantastic.
“Honestly, we’re playing against better forwards so we’ve got to make sure we’re even better than last year.”
When asked whether he knows his starting eleven to face Maldon & Tiptree on opening day, O’Boyle admitted”: Nowhere near it, haven’t got a clue!
“Yacine Gnahore is on holiday and he will be back for the Greenwich game so he’s the only one coming back to the squad.
“I’ve got no plans to bring anyone else in unless someone comes out of the woodwork that I can’t turn down and I hope no one leaves.”
Visit Phoenix Sports’ website: www.phoenixsportsfc.com