Season Preview: Grays Athletic-Under the radar

THERE is a calm and assured optimism that surrounds Grays Athletic with just a few days before their season in the Ryman Premier begins.

There are no outlandish claims, no eye-popping signings, just a quiet but detailed preparation. The type of preparation that you might expect from seasoned pros such as manager Mark Bentley and Glen Little.

The first game of the season under manager Jody Brown, was a 2-0 defeat against Billericay Town. Grays looked incomplete and a work in progress. They remained that way all the time he was in charge. They did pretty well under him but still looked like something was missing.

Then came Mark Bentley and since then, Grays look like they have started to build something substantial.

Sometimes the best person to speak to is chief, Andy Swallow. Back in 2010, Andy told the Times newspaper that by 2015, he hoped that Grays Ath would have their own stadium and were in the Conference South.

In 2015, they are still some way off that. But not that far off. Off the field, you would like to believe that, quietly, the meetings continue as they look for the opportunity to bring the Blues back home.

This looks like a team with enough quality, retained and recruited, that could challenge for a promotion play off.

Bentley and co have been wise to invest in the defence with experienced players such as Sean Cronin alongside Jay Leader and Jay Siva but they have also retained key strikers such as Bradley Tomlinson and Dumebi Dumaka. With player such as Kenny Beaney and Joao Carlos, there is also a sense of continuity.

You have the feeling that, once the season settles down, there will be fresh blood but they will see how it goes.

Last season, most people had identified Maidstone and Margate as favourites to be promoted. They were right. This season, it is harder to call. That suits Grays Ath, who can go about their business, relatively unfancied but respected.

This could be a fascinating season, in more ways than one.

Prediction: Play-Offs

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