A non-league football club in South London owned by Turkish businessman Cemil Tumkaya is ‘living the dream’ after being drawn against their far bigger local rival Charlton Athletic in the First Round of the FA Cup.
Cray Valley (PM) FC will play Charlton away at The Valley Stadium on Sunday, 5 November 2023. The fixture got an added boost when the BBC announced on Friday that it was televising the game live, which not only means greater visibility for the Eltham-based club, but also extra vital income.
Formed over a century ago, the non-league side currently plays in the Pitching In Isthmian League South East Division – five tiers lower than their League One rivals Charlton, but that will not deter Tumkaya’s green and black army.
Under new management this season, Cray Valley have suffered just one defeat in sixteen games. They are unbeaten in their league and remain in both the FA Cup after four qualifying rounds and the FA Trophy Cup.
Cray Valley’s progress in England’s premier cup competition saw them twice came from behind to thrash Enfield Town 5-2 in the fourth qualifying round. They also despatched Carshalton in the third qualifying round of the FA Cup. Both teams play in the division above Cray Valley.
Following their Enfield Town victory, T-VINE editor Ipek Ozerim asked Mr Tumkaya which team he wanted as an opponent in the next round of the FA Cup. Without pause, the 58-year-old Turkish businessman said “Charlton”.
The Cray Valley President got his wish in last Monday’s FA Cup First Round draw, where the fixtures for 80 teams, which now includes English League One and League Two sides, was made.
With gate receipts shared by the teams, as well as revenue from the televised fixture, Cray Valley stand to get a six-figure pay-out from this round of the competition – a huge sum for such a small club and a welcome cash injection to the significant investment already by the club’s majority shareholder Cemil Tumkaya.
Originally from İskenderun, a port city in Hatay Province, southern Turkiye, Mr Tumkaya, 58, first became involved with Cray Valley (PM) around 2015. His son, Ali ‘Cem’ Tumkaya, made his debut for the Millers aged 16 in April 2015.
Over the next few seasons, Cem played for Cray Valley’s U23 Development side before establishing himself in the senior team during the 2017/18 season. The versatile young defender has gone on to become an indispensable part of the First team, helping them to win the South East Counties Football League (SECFL) Premier Division Championship in 2018/19 and to reach the final of the FA Vase Cup in the same season, where they played in front of an audience of 42,962 at Wembley Stadium.
By the end of the 2022/2023 season, Cem Tumkaya, now aged 25, had amassed 236 appearances for the Millers while also scoring 14 goals. His quality performances have attracted the interest of teams in higher divisions.
Cemil Tumkaya’s time at the helm of Cray Valley has seen “unprecedented success on the field”
At the start of this season, Cem switched to South London side Dulwich Hamlet playing in the division above, but after a brief spell Cem decided to return to the Artic Stadium and went straight back into Cray Valley’s First team.
Like his son, Mr Tumkaya, whose business ventures include shipping, has been spurred on by the taste of success, and, as Cray Valley’s President, has given the club a solid financial base upon which to build. Since 2015, the entrepreneur has gradually become more involved in the running of the club, providing increasing levels of financial support to cover players’ wages and the club’s running costs.
As majority shareholder, Mr Tumkaya now owns Cray Valley (PM) and there is an air of confidence about the small club as it seeks promotion to the next level and continues to punch above its weight.
According to Cray Valley’s Match Secretary David Carter, Mr Tumkaya’s time at the helm of club has seen “unprecedented success on the field.”
“It was gradual improvement at first. Then, under manager Kevin Watson, the team in season 2018/19 won the SECFL Premier Division and with it promotion to the Isthmian League at Step 4 for the first time,” Mr Carter explained, before adding, “They also played at Wembley [in 2019], reaching the final of the FA Vase, losing 3-1 after extra time against Chertsey Town.”
At the start of this season, Cray Valley brought in a new management team led by a new manager, Steve McKimm and its led to the First team firing on all fronts.
The club’s primary ambition is promotion to the Isthmian Premier League. They naturally also want to progress in the cup competitions; each round brings in vital extra income from gate receipts, the bar and catering (for home games) and prize money.
Cray Valley has now matched its FA Cup record-breaking run of the 2020-2021 season by reaching the first round proper – the furthest it has ever been in the tournament. Three years ago, they lost 1-0 to Havant & Waterlooville, a team two tiers above them.
Can this new, stronger Cray Valley go one better and defy the odds by beating Charlton? Mr Tumkaya, who turns 59 next month, will be hoping for an early birthday present from his team when the two sides meet on 5 November.
Tickets for for the fixture are not yet available, but when on sale can be obtained from either Charlton Athletic or from the Cray Valley away fan allocation.
About Cray Valley (PM) FC
The club joined the newly formed Sidcup and Kent League Division 2, winning their first-ever match 1-0 against Hamilton House FC on 20 September 1919. This was followed by a 7-0 victory away to Sidcup Invicta. CVPM went on to win the division in their first season, gaining promotion to the Bromley & District League Division 1.
They were champions again the following season and also won the Kent County Junior Cup, defeating Sittingbourne Paper Mills 3-0 in the Final. Their next success came as members of the Kent Amateur League Western Section in 1932/33, winning the Divisional title that season before finishing runners-up in 1936/37.
Records between the late-fifties and the early-seventies are scarce, until 1975 when CVPM joined the South London Alliance League, winning Division 1 in 1979/80 and the Premier Division in 1980/81 – their final season playing at the sports ground of the mills at St Pauls Cray in Kent.
Following a “nomadic existence”, CVPM arrived at their present home at Badgers Sports Ground in Middle Park Avenue, Eltham, for the 1998/99 season. It was at this time that they also changed the club’s name slightly, abbreviating “Paper Mills” to “(PM)”.
The club continued to enjoy success in the South London Alliance, before moving to the Spartan League in the 90s.
They were elected to Division One of the Kent County League in 2001/02 and gradually moved up to Step 5 of the Kent League. During the 2016/17 campaign, Cray Valley became the lowest ranked team ever to win the London Senior Cup when, beating Ryman Premier Division opponents Metropolitan Police 2-1.
For their full history, visit the Information section of the club’s website.