GRAYS Athletic’s search for a new home could take them back to school.
The Ryman One North club have just completed their second season as tenants at East Thurrock United’s Rookery Hill ground and will start next season in a new temporary home at Rush Green, former home of Ford United and Romford.
Fans from Grays have spent much of the winter working on the facilities at Rush Green, which is expected to pass the Ryman League’s checklist after being given preliminary approval.
The League have added a caveat that Grays should have a second ground available if the work is not completed but the club are confident it will not be needed.
Meanwhile, in the bid to return to Grays, the club may be seeking an alternative to their proposed and originally preferred site on Blackshots adjacent to the rugby club.
That site is currently leased by Thurrock Council to a farmer and it could be up to two years before he vacates, meaning the Blues would not be likely to return for another three seasons at best. Their ambitious plans for a new stadium could even mean a longer build period than that.
However, this week it has been confirmed that the neighbouring playing fields belonging to Treetops School, could be made available to the club.
And though the school’s head Paul Smith is remaining tight-lipped about who he has been talking to, the school has confirmed dialogue has taken place with interested parties, which the Enquirer believes to be Thurrock Council and former Grays owner Mick Woodward, who was party to the deal that saw Grays leave their New Rec home with the pledge of money for a new stadium from its developers.
This week the school released a statement saying: “Treetops School has had informal talks with senior individuals at Thurrock Council and others regarding the potential development of sport and leisure facilities at the school.
“Treetops has a long-published ambition to benefit both the whole of Thurrock’s special needs community and the local neighbourhood by providing appropriate and top class sporting facilities, such as those drawn up and approved in the original planning application for our new Special Needs Schools campus.
“There has been speculation about Grays Athletic Football Club building a new ground on land that is currently used by the school.
“While we have had no meetings with Grays Athletic, we are happy to publicly say we support the idea of Grays Athletic having a ground in the Grays area. We also believe that instances when a town’s football club and schools such as ours, work together as part of the same community, can only be a good thing; And, if by working together, we can enhance and improve the lives of the young people we support and at the same time benefit the local community through the provision of new facilities, then we are happy to explore all possibilities.
“We would expect to consult with the local authority and local residents in a wholly transparent manner should any discussion go beyond the current speculative stage.”