A BAND of non-League fans from south-east London toasted Marc Guehi on Saturday as he made his England debut.
Cray Wanderers, the capital’s very first club and one of the oldest in the world, is the defender Guehi started as a six-year-old before joining Chelsea.
The Isthmian League premier side hails from Sidcup and has an army of 15 fans traveling home and away.
Dubbed the ‘Cray Massive’ they will watch proudly on Tuesday in the hope that their former teenage star – now at Crystal Palace – gets another chance against Ivory Coast.
But they also have some exciting news that has cost their entire 162-year history – they’ll finally own their home.
After more than a century and a half of sharing a site, construction of a £5million stadium is expected to start in May.
Her nickname, the Wanderer, will no longer be as apt as it has been throughout its existence.
Chief Executive Sam Wright starred for Cray in the ’90s, while two other directors have appeared in Amber and Black in the previous decade.
Wright, 52, told SunSport, “I don’t think any of us have ever associated the Wanderers with the fact that we’ve been nomadic from ground to ground throughout our long history.
“I don’t think we’re going to change any names. We certainly won’t call ourselves The Crays – people might get the wrong idea!
“We will always be the Wanderers. But having your own terrain will change the game.”
The club was founded in 1860 by workers building a railway viaduct in the Cray Valley.
Among their travels for want of a permanent home, they spent 1898 to 1936 at a new site, Fordcroft, until it was converted into a bakery.
They went to a parking lot that became a Coca-Cola factory and then had an 18-year residency in Grassmeade that was converted into apartments.
Oxford Road, where Wright played on a “nightmare pitch,” was their home in the ’90s until the league said they needed floodlights.
They have since shared grounds with National League side Bromley, but have been trying to build a stadium at Flamingo Park near Sidcup for 14 years.
Boris Johnson signed the plans when he was Mayor of London, but they were rejected by his successor, Sadiq Khan.
The proposal was approved in 2017, but issues remained, including concerns about a bat population.
Covid struck and now there have been delays in material delivery.
But Wright and the club’s longtime owner Gary Hillman feel they’re almost there – and should be at the new venue by the start of the 2023/24 season.
Wanderers hope it will attract more fans and better players – and boost ‘football tourism’.
The club has 21 Dutch students coming soon, while a number of Rapid Vienna fans attended a recent game.
Wright are looking to reach the National League even though they are in a relegation battle and are now hoping Neil Smith – their third boss of the season – can save them.
The entire squad left when the first boss of the campaign quit.
But what excites Wright most is how the move can give the academy a boost so they can one day help produce another star like Guehi.
He added: “It goes back to Marc. . . to be able to think that in the future we can bring players who will go on to become professional footballers and hopefully represent their country.”
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/18094938/marc-guehi-england-cray-wanderers-crystal-palace/ Marc Guehi’s first-ever club has cause for celebration, as does Crystal Palace’s New England star