Here is the final part of a two part blog interview with Bromley FC boss Neil Smith:
TK: Do you think the league has been far more even this year than in previous years, I mean Barnet went on a run similar to yourselves and yet they were never far away from the play-offs either?
NS: Absolutely! Barrow got off to a poor start, we got off to a good start, they hit a run and were at one stage 10-12 points ahead of everybody and then suddenly that’s down to 5 points ahead of the weekend games. Everyone’s had that blip, we’re just having it at probably the wrong time of the season, you hope to get it at the beginning part of the season, kick on and keep the momentum going.
At the start of the season we gave ourselves a target of being in and around the play-offs come the end of the season and at the moment we’re achieving that I think based on our start. With that though expectation levels go up not so much from the management and the coaching staff, we’d loved to have kept it going but we know the reality of football. The supporters have been amazing though, you know, we were averaging 300-400 when I walked through the door eight years ago, now it’s around 2000 this year which is fantastic, now we have to fulfil those dreams of those supporters and you want to keep them coming through the door, keep the dream alive and while we can we will.
TK: Is there any scope in the budget to add to the squad to help push them into the play-offs?
NS: I have to generate my own budget in respect of getting players in. If I want a particular body in, there might be a little bit extra, but I then have to recoup that further down the line. At the moment I’ve had a couple of players go out on loan so that gives me a little bit of room to bring someone in.
TK: Which sides have surprised you at their position in the table and which sides have impressed you?
NS: Chesterfield, I thought they would be up there this year, Fylde obviously after they season they had last year, you expected them to kick on. The teams that are up there, Boreham Wood have done fantastic, again they bring in Matt Rhead as well shows how well they’ve grown. Barrow have probably done better than people expected them to, Yeovil you’d expect to be up there, Halifax another club who have achieved very well, Barnet too. There is no big budget like Salford last year who just blew everyone of the water, Orient another one you would have expected to be up there as well, but that gives everyone a chance this year and that’s what a league should be like.
I think just the one coming down this year makes it an even season again, Stevenage you wouldn’t say are a massive club, they obviously get the balloon payment coming out of the league but they aren’t an 8-10000 supported Notts County for instance. And with the Wealdstone’s and the northern clubs coming up it should be a good league next year as well, and that’s how it should be in non-league everyone in with a chance.
We’ve done really well putting foundations down for this club and when you look at the likes of Bury and others who had none, the club goes down the pan. Owners change all the time and you can’t blame the players who ask for it and get given it, it’s the same in the outside world for jobs, good luck to ‘em I say! It’s then if you can’t sustain it you know, Ebbsfleet are going through it at the moment, an unbelievable budget that they can’t sustain, their academy has gone, their youth set up too and now they’re just a first team.
I want to generate a club here, we’ve 280 academy kids who now support Bromley Football Club and we’ve got a fantastic catchment area here. We’re trying to create a pathway for them from the academy to the first team, it’s what we have to do. I was asked what I would like to achieve when I was given the job four years ago, I’d like eleven Bromley born players starting a game, I’ve got Jack Holland who started in my youth section, he’s now my captain. We’ve got Jordan Higgs who was here at 15 years old in my academy and is now in my first team, Ollie Tanner another whose come through the academy to get onto the first team bench. I want them to have this dream, but also the girls and the women too, we had 38 in our girls academy this year that will go up to 50 next year, the Belles are growing as well, the whole club is growing here. If I go from here the foundations are there ready for the next person. Our chairman goes there’s a foundation to keep building on, that’s what we want to achieve and to keep doing it for the community around us.
TK: Is it Barrow’s title to lose now?
NS: I think so yeah. To be 5 points clear now before the weekend games, to be in front of everyone else for that length of time it’s a hell of an ask for anyone else. Harrogate have had a fantastic run and they are a club who I like in respect of how similar they are to us in how they’ve built themselves, playing attractive football. Barnet again, attractive football, I don’t think non-league is currently getting the rewards and plaudits for how good it is, it’s not horrible football anymore.
Darren Currie wants to play a certain way you know, and there’s more and more of those managers coming through, Ian Evatt is playing football, you get value for money when you go to watch these games. Ten quid to come in and watch us if you book online beforehand, fifteen on the day, Under 16’s are free. I think as a family day out you can’t get much better than that, 2 adults and 2 kids, 30 quid all in and they get to speak to the players after, to feel a part of it.
We go around all the schools, I take a player with me and we do that a lot, it’s important to us and if there’s fundraising games we put them on here for anyone, we do what we can.
TK: The facilities now in and around Hayes Lane show that Bromley are going places, attendances are at a good level, what’s next for the club’s progression?
NS: As we’ve touched on and mentioned a bit, the planning permission for a new stand, the bar area that we’re in now, to be better than we are now and to make it a nice place for families to come so it’s not just ‘come in, watch the game and go’, we want them to stay after, watch the live games on tv, we’ve got function rooms for parties, we’re looking to build our own gym under the new stand out there, we just want it to be the hub of the community and that’s the next level.
It’s the vision we have, we had a five year plan, we’re in year four, we wanted to get the club to Wembley and we achieved that, we wanted to be in and around the play-offs in year five and we’re doing that in year four so next year we have to progress again that’s all the chairman wants to see each year, whilst our current run is very disappointing we still have the chance to end well and we’ll do our best to take it.
My thanks to Neil for taking the time to sit down for a chat and fingers crossed I’ll get back there at the end of the season. Hopefully next week I can recall some of the stories that came out of the sit down as well and will share them with you all.