So this is new – its been a while since anyone put a handful past us without reply, but we all knew that it would take a little time for the brand new Crowborough Athletic to bed down and find its footballing feet. In truth, Sheppey were much better on the day, although five is a little flattering based on the actual performance and whoever scored first in the sweltering heat would always be in the ascendency because chasing a game when you’re losing is almost impossible when melting is a major concern. The EV was showing 32 degrees as I parked up in a Halfway side street and I lasted about 10 minutes standing in the sun with the Ultras before retreating to the away terrace shade to help give Dan Ellis a hard time in the Sheppey goal. To be fair, the stuff we were shouting at him was no where near as bad as Mrs Dan who outlined loudly where the Big Man’s “My Body is a Temple” regime had gone wrong on the recent all-inclusive family holiday to Turkey. To be fair to Dan, there was a World Cup on but beer for breakfast and four desserts wherever possible is not making the old adage of “who ate all the pies?” much of a mystery. We also had a slightly bizarre exchange with some casual Sheppey bystanders who were not too enamoured with Dan’s colourful language and constant berating of his new back four. We had to explain how Dan operates and it felt like the old days for a split second, except Dan’s a Sheppey player for the moment. I’m sure all will be forgiven if he continues to deliver clean sheets, not that he had too much to do today. Crows fans still defending “Crows” players – some things will never change.
The Sheppey ground remains probably the best in our league now and the playing surface was lush and green. Weirdly, despite arriving half an hour before kick-off, they’d already run out of programmes so I’m indebted to “Billy Bonds” who gave his up immediately, recognising my journalistic need. I’m not too sure where they got the list of players names for the back cover, mind you, as while we were not expecting to recognise too many – as you may or may not know, only the great Tom Boddy remains from last season – the published 17 differed wildly from the actual 17 that made up the squad.
Either way, the team on the pitch that has started this season is 100% different to the one that walked off the pitch at Alderbrook at the end of last season and in a perverse kind of way, I think we’re all looking forward to seeing how things develop. True, we don’t fancy losing 0-5 every week but that’s not going to happen, and for the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes, we were firmly in the game, creating the odd chance in the second half despite heatstroke almost certainly setting in. Sheppey’s first goal was on 21 minutes and their fifth on 57, and when you consider one was a penalty, one went in off the post and one was tapped in after a fine save from Dan Smith, we weren’t that far away from competing, given that that’s the first competitive game for this new line-up ever. We’ll learn, we’ll improve and we’ll catch a few teams out, and I hope the lads have got their heads up, because it was a battling performance in challenging conditions with the heat and the crowd. They simply never gave up and continued to try to play football whenever we had the ball, showing little flashes of a decent side, a work in progress for sure. From the cheap seats, we were all really pleased with the effort shown and the team got a deserved round of applause as they trudged off from what was almost a literal baptism of fire. Much work to do but it must be reasonably exciting as a coach to start with raw talent and see where you can take it, under no pressure whatsoever. I saw some good individual performances but as this is the opening blog of the season, I’m going to keep my powder dry on specific mentions for specific players, save for Dan Smith returning on loan to us from East Grinstead and turning in a decent performance in our goal despite the score line. He wasn’t at fault for any of the goals and made a couple of good stops to keep things relatively sensible in a tough day at the office.
I’m not going to dwell too much on the old Crows after today as we need to try to look forward and not back. We all know the issues backstage, so they move on with our thanks for two superb seasons and some great memories, hopefully documented reasonably on this blog. There’s no doubt that we’ll miss them and I hope that one or two take an opportunity to come and stand with us on the terraces – Jack Walder snuck in quietly to our friendly against Langney – and I also hope they all know that they will always be welcome by the terrace faithful. They are family. We’ll see Big Dan again in November, if not before, and I think he’s the only Crow to definitely stay in our league, signing for Sheppey as its closer to home, although rumour has it that Jason Barton may join Tunbridge Wells yet again. There are some old faces at Rusthall too. As for the others, here’s what we think we know so far…
- Dan Tear, Jack Turner, Sam Carrington, Sam Cole, Marcus Goldsmith have all moved back to the old Sussex league (jealous) and currently play for Eastbourne Town, where Steve Ives is also now coaching;
- Henry Muggeridge and Lewis Unwin are at Whitehawk
- Tom Phipp is at Cray Wanderers, while Jack Walder has returned to Lewes (although crocked again already)
- Slightly irritatingly, Zac Attwood and Sam Crabb are at the delightful Sevenoaks Town (we hear Zacco is also injured already) and much less irritatingly Dan Perry is at Haywards Heath Town.
- James White is apparently at Herne Bay, with Shaun Loft at Uckfield
There’s a couple MIA but wherever they are we wish them well and look forward to seeing all of them again at some point if the footballing gods allow.
That’s it really, off and running for another season and I’ll blog as much as I can, although I may give some of the more stupid South London trips a miss this year, while I continue my campaign to get us back in the Sussex league. Sheppey is a 72 mile round trip, Deal 108 miles, Fisher 74, Faversham 66, blah blah blah and even IKEA may not be enough to tempt me back to Croydon. We’ll see. We’re tipping Beckenham (48 miles) or Chatham (46) to win the league, Sheppey could be in the mix, and in a funny way it’s nice not to have the weight of expectation on our shoulders for the moment. We need to keep calm and carry on, while the new committee sort things out off of the pitch. The only way is up, not Essex.
Oh, and here’s a minion for no apparent reason….