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Grays Athletic: Remember Them?

Boro’s pre-season campaign is now in full swing; draws against Hitchin and Norwich putting us on the path to the start of a fresh assault on League Two. No doubt, there are some of you out there who are dusting down the Predictograms once more. And, with it, trying to plot where Darren Sarll’s men will be this time next year. For now, however, we’re looking back. We might be alone in doing this, but that’s what our Remember Them series does. This week, we’re looking back over our shoulders to see the look in the eyes of… Grays Athletic.

 

Grays Athletic: Who Are They?

Grays Athletic: Remember Them?

Grays. The only place in the land to take its name from the hues, colours and shades of its landscape; wedged on the Essex bank of the Thames between Tilbury and the side we looked at last time, Thurrock. Or Purfleet. The history of Grays Athletic starts in 1890, formed as Grays Juniors before merging with United to make the side we came to know. First joining the Athenian League (1912), the Blues had spells in the London, Kent and Corinthian Leagues between 1914 and 1958 before returning to the Athenian set-up in 1958.

It was, however, their move to the Isthmian League in 1983 that laid foundations for the story of us and them.

 

Grays Athletic: Us and Them…

After joining the Isthmian League, Grays Athletic spent a season in Division Two before it split out into North and South in ’84 (to cater for an influx of new teams, including Boro’). The Blues won the new Div Two South at the first crack, resulting in promotion to Division One. A year later, us Div Two Northerners joined them. Due to a quirk in scheduling during the 1986-7 Vauxhall Opel League Division One season, our first two meetings were just two weeks apart. The first on 30 March finished 2-2; the second in mid-April ending up 1-1 at their gaff.

In the 1987-8 campaign, Grays were rampant and us, well, not so. The Blues won both games to nil (0-2 and 0-4) on their way to promotion as runners-up with just the mere One. Hundred. Points! Imagine a ton of points not being good enough to win a league! Anyway, let’s move on. And a fast forward to 1992 (skipping the 1990 AC Delco Cup tie) and the season we were both on a par. After putting six goals past us without reply five seasons before, our revenge was swift; our first league meeting after that hiatus delivering a 6-1 Boro’ triumph.

And, yet, Grays delivered a double riposte that term; first in the FA Trophy, then in the return league date. That 6-1 win, however, was the last time either side scored more than two in a game between us. We went up to the Conference in 1994; Grays didn’t join us until 2005. They didn’t hang around when they (finally) did. In our first league meeting in 11 seasons, the Blues won 1-0 at our place and went on to finish third – losing in the playoffs to Halifax. It was the last time that Grays Athletic had the upper hand over Stevenage. To date, obviously…

We can’t not mention that – in 2007 – Grays were gunning for a third straight FA Trophy title. The managerial mastermind of their first two (Mark Stimson) had come to us, however. The semi-final, therefore, was to be a showdown between a club looking for three-on-the-spin and a manager who was looking to do the same. The manager won that battle, which was good for us. And he also went onto win the war. By which, we mean he led Boro’ to Trophy glory that term. In case it wasn’t clear? Oh, never mind.

 

Grays Athletic: And Then What?

In the season that Boro’ were winning the Conference title and achieving the dream of Football League status, Grays Athletic were heading in the other direction. For the first time since the 1970s, the Blues were relegated – finishing bottom of a league that had been reduced to 23 teams by Chester’s mid-season departure. Times were more than tough. Off-club difficulties saw them quit the Conference, and it took an FA appeal to overturn a Ryman League decision to reject their application. They also had to move in with Rush Green, then Aveley.

After three years in Division One North, Grays were heading up again – romping to promotion to the Premier Division. That status, sadly, was lost last season after finishing bottom. It’s back to Div One North next term…

Here’s our most recent meeting; bottom against top in 2010 and so nearly a shock result…

 

Grays Athletic: Boro’s Record

P24 W11 D7 L6 F32 A25 – League Points: 30, Cup Meetings: 6, Win Rate: 46%

BoroGuide’s Grays Athletic club profile – for old time’s sake…

 

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