“In English slang, a Croydon facelift is a particular hairstyle worn by young women. The hair is pulled back tight and tied in a bun or ponytail at the back. The supposed result is that the skin of the forehead and face are pulled up and back, producing the effects of a facelift. Traction alopecia, a type of gradual hair loss, can result from using this hairstyle. This hairstyle is frequently worn by certain young women in the United Kingdom, and is portrayed in the media as belonging to young women from the lower social classes, particularly the Chav subculture . The term is thus considered derogatory because it portrays people from Croydon as being lower class. Croydon can be replaced by the name of any other unfashionable residential area.” Not my words before the lawyers from Croydon come a-knocking but those of Wikipedia, the font of all truth and enlightenment and ten years old today – Happy Birthday old chap. The term could equally be applied to the goings on at Croydon Athletic football club, the town’s premier sporting attraction. Sure, we all know that Crystal Palace are on the doorstep, but who really wants to watch Edgar Davids, Steffen Iverson and Julián Speroni play in front of 20,000 fans when just a mile or so away down the B266, hidden behind a cemetery and some allotments is the Keith Tuckey Stadium, home of the real team of Croydon. Founded in 1986, the club was a merger between Wandsworth F.C. and Norwood F.C. and was initially named Wandsworth & Norwood until 1990 when the club’s name was changed to Croydon Athletic FC. The merged club initially played in the London Spartan League, where they were promoted to the Premier Division in 1986-87. In 1988-89 they missed out on the Premier Division title on goal difference. In 1993-94 they finished as runners-up again and applied to join the Isthmian League but were rejected due to the state of their ground. The following year they finally won the league title but again were refused promotion. In 1996-97 they finished in third place and after extensive ground redevelopment were finally able to join the Isthmian League. After a few seasons of consolidation they stormed to the Isthmian League Division Three, scoring 138 goals in 42 games in 2001/02. Due to league reorganisation, this saw them placed in the new Division One South where they remained for the next few seasons hardly pulling up any trees. In September 2008 the club was bought by Mazhar Majeed, a UK based property developer and agent for members of the Pakistan national cricket team. He brought in the management duo of Tim O’Shea and Neil Smith and they set about building a squad that would take the division by storm, winning the league from Folkstone Invicta by some seven points in the end. All looked rosy in CR7 as the club took its place in the Ryman Premier in August 2010, the highest level they had ever played at. Ironically, their first game was away at Folkstone where they came away with a 2-0 victory. A further four points from the next two games saw the Rams top the league at the end of August. And then on the last Sunday of August the News of the World dropped through the letter box of houses all up and down the country, changing the whole goddamn shooting match. Majeed was implicated in the NOTW’s sting operation uncovering massive match fixing allegations in the Test series between England and Pakistan. Croydon Athletic were investigated by HM Revenues and Customs due to allegations that Majeed had been using the club for money-laundering purposes, after Majeed was recorded by an undercover journalist stating that that was the only reason he had bought the club. ToSh and Smithy left the club, as too did most of the players. The Isthmian league gave the club some breathing space, and few thought they would ever survive this, especially when a month later the club’s chairman was found dead in tragic circumstances. But four months later they are still fighting. inevitably they have lost the majority of games and dropped to the foot of the table (ironically with Folkstone Invicta one place above) but a win at Margate a week ago had completed a remarkable double over the Kent side and given everyone around the club a shot in the arm. However, a three point penalty given for fielding an ineligible player against, yep you’e guessed it, Folkstone Invicta put them back on the bottom of the league. Oh, and did I mention the club had been bought out by a group of Danes? No? Well please forgive me! Let me give you the official press release:- “Croydon Athletic are pleased to welcome Fodboldsekskabet A/S as joint owners of the Club with effect from 1st January 2011. The Danish football fans’ company, led by Palle Katring-Rasmussen and Christopher Baadsgaard, have joined forces to take the Club forward both on and off the pitch. The papers were signed, sealed and delivered today and the Club are looking forward to a successful partnership between Fodboldsekskabet and Mazhar Majeed.” So they were essentially a Danish Myfootballclub.com who of course own Ebbsfleet United. The whole deal threw up a mass of questions, which I am in the process of asking the owners, thanks to my extensive knowledge of Danish. “Palle and Christopher head a group of over 400 Danish football enthusiasts who are fanatical about English football, and whose dream was to own a British club. These are formed of skilled professional people who are able to offer commercial skills to the running of the Club, and form an extensive network who can offer a lot to the Rams. They had previously been involved with a possible takeover at Chester City eight months ago, but this did not come to fruition.” Palle himself is quite well known in Denmark for the muscle he brings, having once been voted Mr Universe. He recently spoke with the Croydon Guardian:- “More than 400 scarves and 300 t-shirts have been sold in Denmark – more merchandise than the club has sold in the last decade. Croydon Athletic is very big in Denmark, it’s like a cult or a phenomenon.” I have to say that being out in Copenhagen four days a week I am yet to see any evidence of that, and FCK and Brondby scarves still dominate the street. Their plan is to turn the club into a Blue Square Bet Premier one by 2016 and they have started by bringing in two Danes, Lasse Weber, a striker, and defender Stefan Rasmussen. We shall see. This wasn’t just a normal Saturday afternoon either. This was the non league outing equivalent of Sky’s Super Sunday. The planets had amazingly aligned to give us a smorgasbord of Twitterers attending the game. Disappointed that Lewes were playing away at Braintree Town on one of his rare visits to the UK from the USA, Lugewas as pleased as punch to be attending a game. Perhaps he wont be so impressed when he sees that the KT Stadium wasn’t exactly the “scaled down brother of Hull’s KC Stadium as I had described it to him as. Next up was Scottish Ross. A die hard Wolves fan, who is a Silver Member at the Emirates who is confused about what he is, where he is and when it is. Remember the heart warming story of the woman who during the cricket was mistaken for someone who a) understood the game and b) gave a shit about it ? There was a happy ending in that one when she was flown to Australia to spend 5 days trying to get her head around what a “googly” was. Why do I mention it? Well our next special guest was Gary. Or on Twitter. He lapped up the tens of thousand of new followers moments after Europe won the Ryder Cup in September whilst Graham McDowell started receiving tweets about PHP scripting conferences. No all expenses paid trip to the Celtic Manor Resort for our Gary – just to prove that life isn’t fair. Next up we had Mr Football, Jamie Cutteridge. Now Jamie loves nothing more than a game a day, as we all would, but he is a one man football machine so he was of course up for a game in CR7. Terry Duffelyn, on the other hand is a Crystal Palace fan so consequently knows nothing about good football..only joking again Eagles fans I love you really (and watch out for an exclusive interview with ex-Palace striker Derek Possee very soon). . Terry is one of the sages of Football Blogging and is the driving force behind Socrates, a regular meeting of some of the finest minds in independent football writing, which ironically would be coming to the Dripping Pan next weekend. The KT stadium isn’t exactly the easiest place in the work to get to by public transport considering it is in an area densely populated by train stations. Tram seemed to be the best route from East Croydon and following the instructions from the club website saw us walk through a cemetery and then down one of those alleys that Danny Dyer would describe as the scene for something “Pwapper Nawtie” about to happen. We had our wits about us – we had heard some bad things about the Invicta crew. A climb over a fence (apparently this is the official way in) and we were in the car park and officially the first paying guests in the KT Stadium. Luge didn’t seem too disappointed that John Topliss (designer of the KC Stadium) had not gone wild with his design for the ground and snapped away ready to amaze his employees back in New York this week of what real football was like. Grass roots means something completely different to a 25 year old resident of the Bronx apparently. We settled down to watch the remainder of Crystal Palace’s spanking at Swansea in the very plush club house. Players and fans alike mingled and on one of my frequent trips to the bar (Luge only had dollars on him of course) noted two suited gentlemen speaking in foreign tongue. Well of course it wasn’t alien to me with my almost fluency in Danish. Sensing an exclusive interview opportunity I pounced, asking my question in perfect Danish. “So tell me, why is there such an interest from Denmark in Croydon?” was what I thought I had asked, but judging by the funny look and then the answer I got I think I actually asked “What is your sister doing shopping in Primark in Croydon?”. They were two fans, who were members of the new organisation. They were simply here to wear the scarf and watch the game. Croydon Athletic 2 Folkstone Invicta 1 – The Keith Tulley Stadium – Saturday 15th January 2011 So beer in hand we went and took our place along the side of the pitch. Terry had arrived earlier than expected, simply not able to take the pain of watching the Palace game anymore. The first thing to note was the lino. Not your average “ignore the crowd, concentrate on the game” type of chap. He loved the banter and joined in with conversations going on both on and off the pitch. Talking to Ross about Robert Plant’s boardroom role at Wolves, our cheeky chappy told us that he once saw Led Zeppelin play in “disguise” at the Red Lion in Northfleet (he may well be right as we once saw Iron Maiden play in very same pub back in the late 80’s under a different name). The standard of play, was, as Luge summed up “7th level”. Both teams were desperate for the points and all too frequently the yellow balls sailed out of the ground though mistimed clearances, over ambitious shots on goal or simple John Smith style “have it” ‘s. So many in fact that they ran out of yellow balls and for a period the traditional white ball made a rare winter appearance. I am sure there is a league rule about this and Croydon will probably see themselves docked 20 points for “failing to have enough winter balls”. However, you have to admire the spirit of The Rams. They have had more knock backs this season than a fat bloke on a Saturday night in Zens in Dartford. Both teams equalled each other out in the early exchanges, although if one team was going to score first, based on possession in the final third it was surely to be the visitors. And so unsurprisingly it was Croydon who took the lead. Five minutes before half time and the linesman’s flag stayed down as Frankie Sawyer was put through and he hammered the ball home. Half time and of course it would have been rude not to spend more money in the clubhouse. I would give Croydon’s bar a 8/10 – decent screen positioning, comfy Ikea chairs and a hot food counter. Walls are a bit bare but I am sure they could give Danny or me a call and we would be happy to decorate the walls a la Rooks Inn style. Second half and it was a time for a wander around the ground. We passed through the bongo playing home fans and around to behind the dugouts. For Luge this was an “awesome” experience. As he said, it’s like being a real 4th official. Folkstone went to make a substitution and he gave him some words of encouragement. “Go on 14. We’ve heard good things about you lad”. The linesman wasn’t too impressed and banished him to the stand. Croydon doubled their lead in the 83rd minute when the red armed (he was wearing a strange under garment with long red sleeves under his short sleeve shirt) Sawyer again scored, set up by new Dane Lasse Weber and reacting the quickest to a loose ball in the six yard box. This didn’t go down well with the Folkstone fans who started making accusations that the goal was somehow created by Croydon Chairman Majeed and his business practices. A call to one of their defenders to “bit the bloody ear off” of scorer Sawyer was also a strange one, but a minute or so later they did have something constructive to cheer about when Austin pulled a goal back. But this was a day for the Rams and a 2-1 victory sent us on our way through suburbia to the tram stop. We’d done our bit to support the club – well Ross and I had, whilst Luge kept his bucks in his pocket. The night was young, we weren’t and that can only end in disaster. And sure enough it did after I woke up at 2am on the sofa with QVC on the TV and my lovingly cooked dinner from 8 hours previous on my lap. Well, if you are going to be late home, make it spectacular. More photos from the day can be seen on our Flickr feed here.