Grier's Guide to Grays Athletic
The game: Grays Athletic v KIngstonian, pre-season friendly. Saturday 17 July, 14:00.
The club: Formed in 1890 and long-standing members of the Isthmian League. Their finest hour came in 2005 when they won the FA Trophy and promotion to Conference National, winning the Trophy again the following year. But financial troubles hit in 2010 - they lost their ground to developers and resigned from the Conference, and have been forced to groundshare since.
The town: Grays is the largest town in the borough of Thurrock, where London stops and Essex begins. But since they lost their ground to housing development in 2010 they've played elsewhere in the local area, currently groundsharing in the nearby village of Aveley.
The ground: Parkside, Park Lane, Aveley, South Ockendon RM15 4PX. A modern new ground to replace Aveley's old Field Mill - the bar is part of the main stand building and allows a great view of the action through the huge windows. Like most new grounds, the playing surface is 4G.
Tickets: £5 for adults and £1 for under 16s. They don't seem to be selling them online.
Directions: A short way from junction 31 of the M25 just over the Dartford Crossing, with plenty of parking available at the ground. If you're taking public transport the easiest way is probably to get the train from either Fenchurch Street or West Ham to Rainham (Essex), from where the 372 bus takes you into the middle of Aveley.
Our record there: We've never played a competitive game there but Hayden Bird likes it as a destination for friendlies - Grays beat us 5-3 two summers ago and a Corey Andrews goal helped us to beat landlords Aveley 1-0 this time last year.
Recent form: A draw with Three Bridges and then defeats to Cray Valley Paper Mills and Tonbridge so far in pre-season. Last season they finished 8th in the curtailed Isthmian 1 North.
Players to watch: Portuguese winger Joao Carlos has been at Grays since 2011 and offers a real goalscoring threat from out wide. Ex-Ks centre back Rob Bartley is listed on their website although hasn't played in any of the friendlies yet. Manager Jim Cooper had a long spell at Met Police before leaving when the non-league restructure placed his side into the Southern League.
Crowd: A classic old Isthmian club who have played Ks many times over the years, Grays' crowds have held up well despite their years of playing outside the town.
Drinking: There are three pubs on Aveley High Street, about a ten minute walk from the ground, all of which have outside seating areas - this is, at least at time of writing, the final Ks game before Covid restrictions are 'irreversibly' revoked on the 19th . The Old Ship is a traditional pub with old fireplaces and stained glass windows, listed as a CAMRA heritage pub. The Top House shows live sport on TV and, in happier times, live music. The Crown and Anchor is another traditional pub and has the largest beer garden of the three.
Food: Again the High Street is the best place to head, where the choice includes Essex Chef (fish and chips), Ming Long (Chinese) and the delightfully named Taste of Aveley (curry).