GRAYS chairman Mick Woodward has challenged the club's supporters to find a new location for the team after meeting resistance to the possibility of moving the club to a new, purpose-built home near Corringham.

Woodward first revealed his plans for a joint venture with East Thurrock United several weeks ago and, in the wake of concern from fans, met them face-to-face at a public meeting at the club's bar on Friday evening.

There was standing-room only around the enigmatic chairman as he spoke about the club's future, and he repeatedly reiterated his fear that the club will die if they don't move to a new home.

Speaking passionately he said: "We do not own this football ground. We are only tenants. We pay rent to a landlord.

"I came here and with the help of a lot of other people we dreamed a dream and paid out a lot of money to make it happen. Over the years we drew the supporters in as we followed that dream on an amazing journey.

"We won the Conference South and we won the FA Trophy. We did well in the Conference and we won the Trophy again but now the simple fact is that we have to move on. Staying here means this club is a dead duck.

"It isn't something that's easy to do. I've looked at a lot of places, we've looked at the Torells school site but they are building homes there.

"We have looked at land at the bottom of Chadwell but they are building a new school there. We've looked at Blackshots, we've talked to the rugby club there and we came up with a plan where they would work with us and we would buy the adjacent land and we took it to the council but they told us Christ almighty' that's a good idea and they wanted to build it and run it.

"But we want to run our own club, control our own future.

"I've been here, there and everywhere.

"We will not take Grays Athletic out of Thurrock and it will always be Grays Athletic but finally I met with Bennie Bennett at East Thurrock United. He's got some land near the Five Bells roundabout which is in Thurrock and together we have looked at it.

"We are not near completing this yet but unless we have something else we may go to planning with it as a joint ownership project with a new ground, eight Astroturf pitches, a training dome, a pub and a restaurant. Things that will enable us to have our own fundraising. It's about having the facilities to make the money "As for football, money that Grays Athletic take at the gate will be Grays' and money that East Thurrock take will be East Thurrock's.

"This is still at the planning stage and we haven't even taken it to the council but something like this has to happen or this club is going to go down.

"You can't guarantee crowds. We went to Upton Park with thousands of supporters last year and everybody said we would have gates of 2,000 this season but it hasn't happened. You have to plan other ways of bringing money into the club."

Several supporters challenged Mr Woodward about moving the club out of Grays and the chairman responded by challenging them to find 20 acres in Grays that could be developed.

"Please come to me or any other members of the board if you know of any suitable land. It's got to be sensible, with all the highways and access and be about 20 acres. If you know of somewhere, tell us," said the chairman, who also revealed that four years ago he had tried to secure land at ArenaEssex for the football club, but had failed because he was told the land was earmarked for industrial development.

Mr Woodward also poured scorn on Thurrock Council and accused them of not being supportive of sport in the borough. He said he saw the creation of the Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation as an opportunity, because they were prepared to make things happen.

"I've been to Thurrock Council and spoken to lots of its councillors but they have all got their own agenda and it's not about football. Their officers do not help either, one of them, Tony Norrington, we've talked and talked to him about things but he's like that table there - he never, never moves!", said Mr Woodward.

"But it's very hard talking to them and trying to get them to help. And when you take an application to them, each and every time, it costs. It's about £52,000 to make a proper application. Can this football club afford to keep doing that?

"There is a chance now because of the creation of the Development Corporation but we need people to get together and support what we are doing."

While he recognised the passion and support of the local' football supporter, Mr Woodward said the modern game at the higher level was about involving a different kind of people in the game.

"I need to go out and get blue chip companies to support this club but how can I bring them here? They can't even park their cars, you'll be lucky if they have some wheels left if they park in the road near here.

"Roy Keane had it right a few years ago when he talked about the prawn sandwich brigade but you do need their funding.

"Without it, what have we got? This club will go backwards. It cannot survive at this level without changing and moving and we cannot stay at this ground. We stay here, we are a dead duck!"

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