Grays Athletic were a familiar opponent in both our Isthmian and Conference National days, as well as being an epic FA Trophy foe. It was against the Gravelmen that Boro’ needed to get past to make it through to the 2007 FA Trophy Final. After getting to the Conference in 2005, the Essex side had an eye on going straight through and out the other side; finishing third under Mark Stimson and falling short in the playoffs.
Stimmo came to us and then the Gravelmen started to struggle. The 2009-10 season ended in relegation; things getting worse when they quit the Conference completely. Instead of taking a spot in Conference South, they applied to join the Ryman League. Their bid was batted back at first, however; only allowed in after an FA appeal. In 2016, Grays Athletic became a community-owned club.
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.
Why do we know the Blues?
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.
How to get to Grays Athletic – Travel Information – Distance: 55 miles
Go around the M25 to Junction 30/31, which is in the clockwise direction and is for the A13. Take the second exit at the roundabout for the Thurrock-bound A13. At the next roundabout, go right round and take what we hope is the fourth exit – this is Ship Lane.
Keep going down Ship Lane for 1.2 miles into Aveley, before you need to turn left onto High Street and then right again onto Mill Road. You’ll come across the ground on the right-hand side, just before you reach St Paul’s Close.
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