BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Cray Valley Paper Mills manager Steve McKimm has promised his part-time players will embrace the challenge of facing Charlton Athletic on Sunday.
The Millers’ home in Middle Park Avenue, Eltham is just four miles from The Valley but there is a yawning gap between the two clubs as they gear up for their FA Cup first round encounter.
Cray Valley play in the Isthmian League South East Division – step four of the football pyramid – and would need five promotions to reach the same level as Charlton.
This weekend’s tie is one of the biggest matches in the history of the non-league club, who were formed in 1919. In the 2018-19 season they won the South East Counties Football League and reached the FA Vase final at Wembley, losing in extra-time to Chertsey Town.
“It’s massive for the club,” said McKimm, who was born in Tooting, raised in Colliers Wood and played for Dulwich Hamlet.
“What we want to try and do is get as many fans there as possible and then hopefully get them back to The Artic Stadium to support us week in and week out.
“You have got to look at it that there are six leagues difference. We are playing a side with great history, in terms of they have won the FA Cup and been in the Premier League. They have been flying high in their league and scoring goals at will. It is going to be extremely hard.
“You have got part-time players playing against full-time ones – and they are not just footballers but athletes, so much of professional football is about that now.
“We are going to give it our best shot but we know how hard it is going to be. Every single player and management staff need to be 10 out of 10 and then hope that they have a few off their game.
“We’re not going there frightened and shy. We are going there to compete – to give a really good account of ourselves and the club.”
Cray Valley were due to play a London Cup tie last night at home to Balham but McKimm was set to field a youthful line-up to ensure maximum freshness for his first-teamers in SE7.
“On Sunday night we spent a good two or three hours – my assistant Barry Moore and my coach Mark Watson – just watching different bits and pieces of Charlton,” said McKimm. “We know what they are about, in terms of what they can do.
“We’re trying to get every ounce out of the players over the two coaching sessions this week to give ourselves a glimmer of getting something out of the game.
“Because of the cup runs we’ve been having we have been having to play league games and only getting one training session a week. Players will tell you they would rather play games than train, and when I was playing I was exactly the same.
“I’m not kidding anyone by saying we are going to go out there and do this or that but we have done our homework, that’s all we can do. We’re able to pass it on to the players and then it’s up to them on the day to give their best and then what will be, will be.”
The FA Cup always throws up quirks that add to the romance of the competition. And Sunday’s encounter between the two South London clubs is no exception.
Kyrell Lisbie, the son of former Charlton striker Kevin, is set to lead the line for Cray Valley.
The 19-year-old signed for them in August and he has scored 13 goals in all competitions – seven of those in the FA Cup.
Lisbie senior also played for the Millers in the latter stages of his career.
“Kyrell came to us in pre-season and I was actually away on a family holiday when he played his first 45 minutes for us,” said McKimm.
“Barry and Mark told me that night, on the phone, that he was someone we needed to get in, if we can, and that I needed to have a look at him.
“He played in the next game and did very well. We sat down and agreed some terms with him to come in. He has flourished.
“I spoke to Danny Bloor, who had Kyrell at Welling. He spoke highly of him but just couldn’t guarantee him a lot of football this year.
“We were looking for good, hungry young players as well and he fitted that bill.
“So far he has been a revelation, along with the other boys. He has got the goals that count and he has got a bright future ahead of him – he’s also got a good mentor in his dad, who has been there, seen it and done it. He won’t let Kyrell get carried away with it.
“In their household it will be unbelievable for them. Dad played for them (Charlton) and for the club that I’m managing at the moment, Cray Valley. Now his son has got the chance to play for the club he played for, against the club he played for. Maybe it is written in the stars for something special to happen.
“You can always hope for a fantastic away day in the FA Cup but this is a dream come true because we can get more fans here then we could probably take to a Derby County, maybe, because it is so close and so local.”
PICTURES: ROMANA RULE/INSPIRE SOCIALS
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