BY SAM SMITH
Bromley manager Neil Smith feels his aim is to regularly welcome the 17,000 fans who backed the club at Wembley in May.
The National League outfit enjoyed a successful campaign last season, finishing a place outside the play-offs and reaching the FA Trophy final which they lost on penalties to Brackley Town.
Smith says the Ravens have been supporter-friendly since the moment he replaced Mark Goldberg in 2016 – having been assistant boss since 2011 – and stresses he wants the 17,000 who supported them at Wembley to turn up to Hayes Lane for regular games.
“The support has been immense, just by walking around the place you can see people backing the club and the team,” said the 46-year-old, who enjoyed playing spells with the likes of Gillingham and Fulham.
“It did and it didn’t [surprise me that we took 17,000 to Wembley]. What surprised me was the rate at which those supporters got on board, we were selling a thousand tickets a week for the first 10 weeks for which they were on sale.
“Ten thousand tickets sold after 10 weeks. My aim is that I’ve got to try to make those supporters come every week now, not just for the big occasions. I want to let them know that Bromley are doing well and need their support.
“We’re going to have a 1,300-seater stadium by Christmas, the academy’s grown to around 40 members of staff. It’s not just on the pitch that we’re trying to develop, but also off the pitch. As a club we’re moving forward and hopefully there are many more good days coming.
“A bond with the club is the one thing since I’ve walked through the door that the supporters have had. From when I joined to now, we’ve been accessible to them, we go in the bar and have a drink with them, have a chat – on good or bad days.”
Bromley earned their first victory of the season at home to Gateshead on Saturday. A Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe strike two minutes from the end capped a game otherwise devoid of any incident.
It has been a tough few months for Smith. He lost three of his best players – Josh Rees, Louis Dennis and Brandon Hanlan – to the Football League at the end of last season and his squad is relatively new. He is keen to temper expectations after last season’s success but is hopeful that his side can now go on a run following their maiden win.
“It’s been difficult, especially losing players like Louis Dennis, Brandon Hanlan and Josh Rees. They scored 37 goals between them but the lads who have come in to replace them have done really well.
“Last season was amazing but that was last season. Everyone’s expectation levels are now a little bit more greater; they now want us to go and win the trophy, win promotion, and I’ve got to now win the FA Cup!
“It’s a brilliant situation to be in. I’d rather be expected to be looking up and trying to achieve. We know it’s going to be difficult, there are some big clubs in this division now and we’re going to have to be at our absolute best to win games.
“Hopefully the boys can settle down now and this [win against Gateshead] eases a little bit of pressure off their backs. They can go and enjoy themselves a bit more. Hopefully we can now put a run together.
“Toby Adebayo [-Rowling] has come in playing in a different position, John Goodard has given us a link in the midfield – we only met him on Friday.
“The goalscorer, Junior, he works hard and he’s shown a lot of graft. He got 26 goals in 26 games for Malden and Tipton so that’s further proof that he can score.”
IMAGE BY KEITH GILLARD