Non-league football clubs may not receive the glamour or coverage that their professional counterparts do, but they play an essential role in the grassroots football community. One such club is Cray Valley, based in Eltham, a suburb of southeast London. Known officially as Cray Valley Paper Mills Football Club, they are a team steeped in history and have recently made headlines for their remarkable rise through the ranks of the English football pyramid.
Founded in 1919, Cray Valley started as a works team under the name of St. Mary Cray Paper Mills. They played in local leagues and gradually progressed through the ranks, before settling in the Kent County League by the 1930s. Over the years, the team changed its name multiple times due to sponsorship deals and mergers, finally settling on Cray Valley PMFC in 1981. The team is nicknamed “The Millers,” which harks back to their early days when they were associated with the local paper mill industry.
Cray Valley has always had a dedicated and passionate fanbase, and in recent years, their success on the pitch has attracted attention from football enthusiasts across the country. Despite being a non-league side, they have managed to make an impact in various national cup competitions. The team reached the final of the FA Vase, a prestigious cup competition for non-league teams, in the 2019-2020 season, which unfortunately coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the final being postponed indefinitely.
The club’s recent achievements can be attributed to a change in management and investment in the playing squad. In 2019, Cray Valley underwent a restructuring process that resulted in an influx of talented and experienced players, as well as a seasoned coaching staff. Kevin Watson, a former Premier League player, was appointed as the club’s manager, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise. His impact was immediately felt, as the team started climbing up the non-league ranks.
One of the notable successes under Watson’s leadership was their promotion to the Isthmian League, a regional league that sits at level 4 of the English football pyramid, in the 2019-2020 season. This achievement marked a significant milestone for the club, as they had never played at such a high level before. The promotion brought with it more exposure and media coverage, helping to raise awareness of Cray Valley’s existence beyond their local community.
A key factor behind the club’s success has been the strong support from local businesses and sponsors. The team’s quality performances, combined with their community engagement initiatives, have attracted sponsors who want to be associated with their story of growth and resilience. The financial injection enables the club to invest further in infrastructure and player recruitment, strengthening their chances of succeeding in the competitive world of non-league football.
Off the pitch, Cray Valley is deeply involved in supporting the local community. They regularly organize events and fundraisers dedicated to community causes, leveraging their platform to make a positive difference in the lives of those around them. Their commitment to inclusivity and social responsibility has made them a model club in the non-league football circuit.
In conclusion, Cray Valley Paper Mills Football Club may be a non-league side, but they exemplify the spirit and determination that characterizes grassroots football. They have a rich history, a passionate fanbase, and a recent period of success that has put them on the map of English football. With the support of their loyal fans, committed sponsors, and the wider community, Cray Valley continues to strive for greater heights and inspire future generations of non-league footballers.