AFC Croydon Athletic in race against time to return to 'spiritual home' for new season
The football club formed out of the ashes of Croydon Athletic is to return to the team's "spiritual home" - if it wins a race against time to be ready for the upcoming season.
AFC Croydon Athletic, founded by fans in 2012 following the collapse of its predecessor, is to play matches at Keith Tuckey Stadium in Mayfield Road, Thornton Heath, from next month.
The ground was home to Croydon Athletic from the club's inception in 1986 until it folded in 2011 following allegations of money-laundering involving owner Mazhar Majeed, the suicide of chairman David Le Cluse, a crippling tax bill and a points deduction for financial irregularites.
The club's successor has shared South Norwood's Croydon Sports Arena with Croydon FC for the past two seasons, but has harboured hopes of returning to the ground since its foundation.
Those hopes were dashed when the 3,000-capacity Keith Tuckey Stadium's clubhouse was destroyed by arson in January last year.
But with construction of a new clubhouse expected to be completed by the end of this month and the club's board close to sealing a long-term lease with owner Croydon Council, the team is set to play its first matches at the ground many fans consider its true home.
Chairman Paul Smith said: "It would mean a tremendous amount, both on and off the field.
"For a number of the people involved in this new club, clearly they have worked hard at the formation and development of the previous club and had themselves worked hard to build up the stadium in the old days, so to lose it as the club did and the supporters having no control over that was obviously very sad.
"To think that we have got ourselves, after a couple of years, into a position where we can go back, is going to be very important.
"On the field, it is our spiritual home, we think we will feel at home and will be in a much better position to compete as a club and be able to do the things the things that we want to do."
The clubhouse was gutted by fire last year
As well as the club's first team, Mr Smith hopes the new ground will host junior football matches and lessons.
But the club, who are looking to push for promotion from the Combined Counties League Division One after finishing seventh last year, face a battle to get the ground ready first for the new season on August 2.
Mr Smith hopes the Football Association will be "sympathetic" if the stadium is not ready in time and allow the club to switch grounds during the season.
He added: "I think that is going to be touch and go as to whether we are ready, but we aren't far away.
"It is going to be a race against time, what with getting the pitch ready as well as making sure that the rest of the facilities are suitable for the level at which we play.
"It is a challenge but it's a bit like the World Cup really - that was ready to start after lots of speculation and we will be too."
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