David Bowie once said Croydon
Photo: Inside Croydon

“It represented everything I didn’t want in my life, everything I wanted to get away from” – that’s what David Bowie said about Croydon in a 1999 interview with Q magazine. Maybe the same applies to us too; sharing just the one campaign (to date) in cahoots with a team known as The Trams since 2000. Well, that seems legit now the town is home to London’s only tram service. Not that it has anything to do with the story of us and them.

Who are Croydon?

For the Trams, it all starts in 1953 with the club’s creation as Croydon Amateurs. In fact, it looks like the team came to life – in part – to put the football pitch at Croydon Arena to use. And, in those early days, you’d find them getting used to things in the Surrey Senior League. After a decade, however, the time came to move on and that they did; first into the Spartan League (winning the title at the first attempt) and then the Athenian League.

The club binned off the Amateurs bit of their name in 1973 after their first campaign in the Athenian League Premier Division. The reason? Well, they were no longer amateurs. And, after one more season took them to a round 10 years in the Athenian League, it was time to move on. This time, it was to an expanding Isthmian League; starting in Division Two. But it wouldn’t be long before the Trams were moving up in the Isthmian world.

Why do we know Croydon?

In their second season in the Isthmian League, the Trams actually went the whole campaign unbeaten. And yet they still had to settle for second place; their 98 points four short of the 102 that Tilbury recorded to win the title. It was still good enough to go up to Division One, however – soon to be renamed the Premier Division. And they stuck it out for 13 seasons at that level. The 1988-9 season was a disaster, however, and they were relegated.

What is our record against Croydon?

Back in Division One, things didn’t improve for them. In the two seasons it took for us to catch up with them, the Trams came 17th out of 22 on both occasions. For a Boro’ team very much on the rise at that time, our chances were fancied. The first meeting came at our place in mid-October 1991; us coming into it with four straight league wins behind us. Goals from Dave Brown, Duncan Hardy, Andy Walker and Jimmy Hughes made it a fifth.

The return fixture at the Croydon Arena took place in late February 1992. Boro’ were still looking relatively strong in the league, although seven of the 10 matches we played after a defeat to Dorking on 18 January were cup affairs. At their gaff, things were much tighter. It took Martin Gittings to separate the sides in the end; scoring the decisive goal in a 1-0 win for us and wrapping up a league double over the south London side in the process.

Croydon: Boro’s Record

Our head-to-head: P 2 — W 2 — D 0 — L 0 — F 5 — A 2 — Pts 6 — WR 100%
Our last tango: Croydon 0-1 Stevenage Borough, 22 February 1991

What happened to Croydon?

At that time, matters were turning sour for Croydon off the pitch. According to their official site, they were going through five Chairmen and 11 managers. At the same time, debts were growing and the threat of closure wasn’t far away. After we left ’em in Division One, the Trams lasted another two seasons before relegation to Division Two in 1994. And that was a dreadful season. Amid off-field turmoil, Croydon shipped 198 goals in 42 games.

The reason for such a crushing Goals Against tally is because the first team had walked out. In came a businessman by the name of Ken Jarvie, bringing with him players who were making a nine-level leap up the pyramid to keep the club going. But it was also a watershed season for the club. Jarvie put the club back on an upward path; winning promotion in 1996 and again in 2000 to get them back in the Premier Division.

And that’s where we come back to trams. Ding ding.

(The club left the Isthmian League in 2006, joining the Kent County League for three seasons and moving to the Combined Counties League after that. Since 2014, the Trams have played in the Southern Counties East League – which is actually the new name of the Kent County League. We thought we should bring you right up to date. Even though we wanted to end on the tram note. You can’t have it all.)

• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Croydon club profile

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Pete H is the head of the BoroGuide team; helping to keep the show on the road for the best part of two decades – all because of his love of Boro'. He was relatively late to the scene; first rocking up at Broadhall Way during the 1995-6 season. But that's mainly because he was too young to pledge allegiance before then. There have been more than enough highs (Easter Monday '96) and lows (Kettering '02) since then, however, to keep him occupied. Yes, and the 2010 title win...