Non-League FootballSport

Cray Valley PM boss Steve McKimm: This title-winning season will be cherished for a long time

Cray Valley PM manager Steve McKimm reckons that their title-winning Isthmian League South East Division campaign will be a difficult one to top.

The Millers lost just once in their 38-game league season and finished six points clear of Ramsgate as they took the only automatic promotion spot – which means they will face the likes of Dulwich Hamlet and Dartford when the action resumes in August.

Cray Valley also progressed from the prelims of the FA Cup to hold Charlton Athletic at The Valley in the first round proper – the BBC TV cameras screening the tie as well as the return at The Artic Stadium.

McKimm was appointed as boss last summer. The Eltham-based club went unbeaten away in the league – winning 18 and drawing one.

Cray’s run in the FA Cup ensured a fixture backlog.

“We were five games behind the team at the top at one stage,” said McKimm. “Barring two of our cup games they all went to replays – including the Charlton one.

“We were missing out on league games when other teams were playing – which was great because we knew we wouldn’t be training and that we’d be playing, playing and playing. There is nothing better as a player – when you’re winning – because there is no tiredness or fatigue. It’s just constantly getting out there and wanting to get another three points.

“It’s a fantastic achievement. Going away from home the last two games, we were even more confident because we’d only dropped two points in the previous 17 games – that was a last-minute goal at Ramsgate.

“The boys were very confident they were going to get the wins. They weren’t interested in getting a draw in the last game – they were going in to win. Ninety-five points, in any league, is remarkable. I don’t think it has ever been done in that league.

“The players, staff – everyone connected with Cray Valley – deserves massive credit for what they have achieved this year.”

Taxi driver McKimm, who puts the promotion above the one he had while in charge of Tonbridge Angels, has described his squad as “relentless”.

“Their application to everything has been spot on,” he said. “We have done a lot of work behind the scenes, watching games and players, making sure the players go out there with an idea of what they are up against and how they can execute what we want them to do.

“They have been remarkable. They have taken the information on and put it into practise.

“I always say that they are the stars of the show and they deserve everything that comes their way – they have been fantastic this year.

“The cup run was brilliant. A lot of teams in football are after a cup run but we managed to kick on and were even stronger, because we knew our main goal was to get in the play-offs.

“Once we achieved that, we knew our next goal was to go and win it.

“There was no pressure put on any players or us as staff from the powers that be. It worked in harmony.

“Not many clubs or players will achieve what we have this season in terms of 95 points in the league, losing one game, not losing away from home and getting a League One side to a replay. For three-quarters of that tie, in terms of both matches, it was level until the second half (of the replay). Then we went and won the championship. It will be a season that will be remembered fondly by everyone at Cray Valley.

“All of these players, no matter what they do in the rest of their careers – young or old or us as a management team – this will go down as one, if not the best, so far.”

Cray’s reward is promotion to step three of the football pyramid.

So what is the target at a higher level? McKimm said: “I’ll be sitting down with the powers that be in the next couple of weeks and we see where we go.

“I will see what their plans and ambitions are. They set one out for me when they first gave me the job last year – and it was to make the play-offs – and we have gone one better.

“They will set out new goals we will try and achieve it. It has got to be realistic to what we both feel we can do. If we do that then we’ll have a happy camp.”

Kyrell Lisbie, the son of former Charlton striker Kevin, scored 19 league goals for the Millers and 29 in all competitions.

Adam Coombes (17), Freddie Parker (15) and Matthew Vigor (15) all made big contributions in terms of goals.

Asked about their success leading to interest in his squad, McKimm said:“It’s the nature of football – it’s up to the players what they decide to do.

“If there is more money on the table they might decide to go for that. If there is another chance of doing something special at this football club, they may decide to do that.

“It all comes down to individual preference. I will sit down and speak to the people at Cray Valley and then I will speak to the players. They know that. I’ve told them to have a couple of weeks to digest it. Their phone will be ringing, probably just like during the season as well, because I know how it works and I’m not stupid.

“They have all stayed loyal and true to us. They have achieved one, and probably maybe, their best season they will ever have in non-league football. It will be very hard to top. Some may go on and do it, some may not, but they can go on and cherish it for the rest of their careers.”


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