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Grays Athletic Official Website

The Recreation Ground, Bridge Road,
Grays, Essex, RM17 6BZ
Main Office: (01375) 377753
Fax:              (01375) 391649
Directions to the ground

About GAFC

Grays at the Double!

Grays Athletic had to wait 115 years to reach the top flight of non-league football, but when the Club did make the grade, it did so in style.

In May 2005, the Club completed a remarkable double of league and FA Trophy success in a season of firsts.

Grays clinched promotion to the Football Conference, becoming the first club to win the newly-inaugurated Conference South league, wrapping up the title by the end of March, scoring 118 goals in the process.

Then, having claimed the scalps of Conference sides Exeter City and Burton Albion on the way, Grays faced Conference North side Hucknall Town in the FA Trophy final at Villa Park. A closely-contested game watched by over 8,000 fans went to extra time and then penalties, where 'keeper Ashley Bayes was the hero saving from Russell Cooke to claim the biggest knockout prize in non-league football.

Grays taste FA Trophy success

Grays were the first Club outside of the Football Conference to achieve this league and FA Trophy double.

Elsewhere Grays produced their first non-league internationals, with captain Stuart Thurgood playing two games for Paul Fairclough's England National Game XI and teammates Mitchell Cole and Dennis Oli also getting callups. Star striker Freddy Eastwood was sold to Southend United for a considerable fee, going on to clinch promotion for the Shrimpers.

Off the field a series of developments transformed the 'New' Rec. A new 1,000 seater stand, away end, covered terracing and toilet facilities brought Grays' spiritual home up to Conference standard with plans to upgrade further for qualification into the Football League.

The Early Years
The 1980s
The 1990s
The End of the Saxton Era

 

The Early Years

Grays Athletic celebrated their Centenary in 1990, and have played at the Recreation Ground, Bridge Road since 1906. They became members of the Athenian League in 1912. They won the Essex Senior Cup in 1914/15, together with the Amateur Division of the London League.

Grays became very strong after the Second World War, winning the Essex Senior Cup in 1945. Grays helped to form the Corinthian League in 1946 and won both the League and Memorial Shield and were Essex Thameside Trophy winters in 1948.

In the 1950's they reached the County Cup final on four occasions, winning once in 1957. They rejoined the Athenian League in 1958 where they remained until 1983.

The 1980s

In 1981 the Club Patron, Mr. Ron Billings, ensured the future of Grays Athletic at the Rec by purchasing the ground. The Club was reformed as a Limited Company in 1982 with Twin Managers Jeff and Fred Saxton introducing several of the Management Team. Under Chairman Jim Myers they gained promotion to the Isthmian League Division 2. Disaster struck before the end of the 82/83 season when a fire destroyed the 400-seater stand which included dressing and kit rooms. R.J. Billings came to the rescue by building the Ball Court Complex which included dressing rooms, club room and bar.

A fine F.A. Cup run in 84/85 set up Grays to become Division 2 champions. The 87/88 season proved one of the most successful in the Club's history. They were promoted to the Vauxhall Opal Premier League after amassing 100 points. The Club's twin strikeforce of Micky Welch and Tony Mahoney became known as "the most feared striking partnership in non-league football". They won the Essex Senior Cup after a gap of 31 years, and added the Essex Thameside Trophy by defeating near-neighbours Tilbury.

Another F.A. Cup run in 88/89 ended in the First Round proper at Bath City, the highlight being the success at Underhill in putting out Barry Fry's Barnet. Grays retained the magnificent Silver Galleon, the Essex Thameside Trophy, with a fine win at Southend United.

The 1990s

1990/91 saw the pairing of twin strikers Richard Cherry and Dwight Marshall, who scored 58 goals between them, helping the team to sixth place in the league.

Grays won the League Cup with a 3-1 defeat of Enfield in 1991/92. The following season they climbed to sixth spot in the league and had their best every F.A. Trophy run, going out in a replay at Gateshead. In 93/94 they lost to Canvey Island in a penalty shoot-out in the Essex Thameside Trophy final, but won the County Cup by defeating Billericay.

The following season they repeated their Essex Senior Cup win against Billericay for their 8th County title. 1995/96 was another season with a threat of relegation, but they reached the Essex Thameside Trophy final, losing in extra time to Canvey Island.

The hard times of the mid-90s eventually culminated in relegation to Division 1 at the conclusion of the 96/97 season. But success eventually returned with promotion to the Premier division at the end of the 99/2000 season.

The End of the Saxton Era

The 2000/1 season saw the club struggle at the foot of the table for most of the season. However a successful run in the F.A. Cup finally came to an end with a 4-0 defeat at Reading in the First Round Proper. This signalled the start of changes at Bridge Road with Mike Woodward installed as Director of Football, Craig Edwards as First Team Manager and the departure of Jeff and Fred Saxton, who had given the Club loyal service for some 30 years.

2001-2 saw the first team finish sixth in the Premier Division and win a place in the First Round of the FA Cup for the second year running. Grays also won the Essex Thamesside Trophy for the eighth time. The introduction of a reserve team brought further success in the shape of the Capital League title (which had not been won by a team outside of the Conference for 17 years) and runners up honours in the league cup.

2002-3 was tricky for Grays. The departure of manager Craig Edwards led to Mark Stimson taking over the reigns as player/manager. A series of high profile signings including Carl Leaburn and Jason Dozzell did not work out as planned and Grays narrowly avoided relegation.

2003-4 was more positive. In the close season, the Club announced its intention to go full-time and manager Mark Stimson and coach Scott Barrett hosted a series of trials, recruiting a host of talented and motivated young players. The move paid off; Blues notched up some convincing victories, most memorably beating St. Albans 9-1 at home, and star striker Freddy Eastwood bagged 37 goals. A narrow FA Cup 1st Round defeat against Aldershot and a sixth placed league finish provided a signal of the success to come for Mark Stimson's young squad.

Club history & honours

2004-5
Conference South champions
FA Trophy winners

2003-4
1st Round FA Cup

2002-3
4th Round FA Trophy

2001-2
1st Round FA Cup

2000-1
1st Round FA Cup

1999-2000
Isthmian League Division One runners-up (on goal difference) Promoted to Premier Division

1996-7
Relegated to Division One

1993-4
Essex Senior Cup winners

1991-2
AC Delco League Cup winners

1988-9
1st Round FA Cup
Essex Thameside Trophy winners

1987-8
Isthmian League Division One runners-up
Promoted to Premier Division
Essex Senior Cup winners
Essex Thameside Trophy winners

1984-5
Isthmian League Division Two South Champions
Promoted to Division One

1983-4
Joined Isthmian League Division Two

1982-3
Athenian League runner-up (on goal difference)

1973-74
League re-organisation. Division One now top section

1972
Relegated to Division One

1958-9
Rejoined Athenian League

1954-5
Corinthian League runners-up

1947-8
Essex Thameside Trophy winners

1945-6
Founder member of Corinthian League
Corinthian League Champions
Essex Senior Cup winners

1914
Left Athenian League

1912
Founder member of Athenian League