‘My dream FA Cup tie? Manchester United at home. Of course, that’s nothing to do with the fact the game would be televised, and with me being the stadium announcer, you know…’
The weekend of October 25/26th will see the final qualifying round in the 2014/15 FA Cup take place. After the Extra Preliminary, Preliminary, First, Second and Third Qualifying rounds have seen many non-league clubs fall by the wayside, 64 sides are left standing. The potential riches of the First Round Proper are agonisingly close.
For Bromley, after their 5-0 Third Qualifying Round replay victory over Grays Athletic, Evesham United stand between them and the big time.
The Calor (Southern) League Division One South & West outfit are themselves looking to make the First Round – if they managed it, they would surely be the lowest ranked side left in the competition. But, the Ravens are quietly confident of victory.
I spoke to Tim Hutton, Bromley’s media man, as well as Stadium Announcer and co-host of the Bromley Podcast, Matt Hall, about their club.
To kick-off, Tim teaches me a brief history of Bromley Football Club: ”We were formed in 1892 and played at a number of stadiums before moving to Hayes Lane in 1938, celebrating 75 years at the ground last season. The most notable honour in the club’s history was our third win in the FA Amateur Cup, beating Romford 1-0 in 1949 in front of a record 96,000 crowd in the first ever final held at Wembley. We are currently playing at our highest ever level of football in the Conference South having won promotion to this league in 2007 via the Play-Offs – playing in front of over 3,000 in both the semi-final win and final win – where Peter Adeniyi wrote his name into Bromley history by scoring the winning penalty in the shoot-out to take us up. This season has seen our highest ever average attendance so far, with an average of 700 supporters coming through the gates at the newly dubbed The Fortress Stadium.”
Bromley currently ply their trade in the Conference South, England’s sixth tier – a place where Tim believes there is a high standard of football being played: ”The Conference South is a very high standard of football. Some people will think it’s just long ball as it’s non league – but that is rarely the case. The league has a really good mix of players who have been at this level for a number of years and know what it takes to win, while a lot of teams will have young players recently released by Football League clubs looking to get back into the professional game and eager to impress. As a club we’ve had a number of players progress to professional football, including Ryan Hall (now of Rotherham United), Garath McCleary (now of Reading) and Sam Wood (Wycombe Wanderers). You only have to look at some of the names in the squads at this level to see how strong it is.”
Speaking of the Ravens’ squad, Matt tells me that there are ‘plenty of star names’ in the Bromley line-up this season.
”Players like Ali Fuseini, Seb Brown, Paul Rodgers, Jordan Robertson and Joe Anderson are all seasoned Football League players while numerous others have had professional spells. We have a very exciting youth set-up and having seen clips of their matches (most of which are emphatic wins), I can see a few future Bromley players in the making.”
On the subject of stalwarts and ones to watch, Hall added: ”I’d say the longest serving player is Danny Waldren, closely followed by Pierre Joseph-Dubois, although Ali Fuseini and Ugo Udoji have had previous spells with us. Another one to watch for sure is the captain – Rob Swaine. Unfortunately he’s been injured recently, but when he’s on the pitch, his leadership is second to none. He’s a solid centre back, and poses a goal threat as well.”
As stated above, Bromley are here thanks to a 5-0 replay win over Grays Athletic in the last round. That replay was needed due to a goalless draw at Mill Field three days previous, in which Athletic ‘keeper, Conor Gough, produced a man-of-the-match display. Despite needing 180 minutes to knock out their opponents, the Kent outfit were deserving winners, as Hutton tells me: ”I think overall we deserved it over the two games.’
‘Conor Gough was in inspired form in goal for Grays in the first game but was lucky to stay on the pitch in the second. Grays could have won the first game without a doubt, they played extremely well and had a number of chances and made us work for a draw, so credit to them. The second game was much more of a professional performance by us – we got the job done, as people had probably expected us to in the first game. With that being said, our goalkeeper Seb Brown made a number of brilliant saves throughout the 90 minutes.”
The FA Cup is notorious for producing shock results and with Evesham United on the horizon, could Bromley underestimate their opponents (who lie two divisions below them in the pyramid) or will the Conference South side remain professional until the end?
”I always say there is no easy tie, especially at this stage. Evesham have not got through to this round through luck, they have battled their way into it and I’m sure they’ll give us a tough game. Regardless of what league a team is in, anything can happen in the cup. We experienced being knocked out by a team two divisions below us last year, so the lads need to make sure it doesn’t happen again” said Hall.
Should the Ravens overcome Evesham, the holy grail for non-league teams, the FA Cup First Round awaits. But how far can they go? Is it possible for a team from the sixth tier to make Round Three? ”I think every club at this level aims (or hopes, more than anything) to get to the First Round of the FA Cup, where absolutely anything can happen.’
‘Financially, the dream is three home games throughout the qualifying rounds, followed up by a big League One or Two side on TV. I think most teams are hoping to get Portsmouth this year. The draw is an exciting one for us, many will see it as a side two leagues below us that we should beat, but it’s the FA Cup, anything can happen – we know that!” said Hutton.
When asked about the league, Tim added: ”Having been beaten Play-Off semi-finalists last season, we’ll be hoping to improve on that this year, particularly with the squad we’ve put together. But, there are so many strong teams at this level – any team that’s going to win the league will need to go on a very consistent run. We’ve seen that with previous champions who often win the league by a good few points.”
As regular readers will know, I like to know what people’s dream FA Cup tie would be – and this one produced two very different answers. Tim: ”My dream FA Cup tie without a doubt would be Leeds United away. Being a Leeds supporter, it’d be great to see my two teams play each other in a competitive match. Hopefully I’ll see it one day! It’d also be great to go to Elland Road as press.”
Meanwhile, Matt puts sentimentality aside and dives straight in for the big-money tie: ”This is a tough one. I’m assuming we’re not talking just for the First Round? Just in general? For me, although it’s very, very far fetched, it’d be Manchester United at home. They’re a club I’ve enjoyed watching ever since I was about 5 years old and to have them at The Fortress Stadium, with the ground packed out, would mean so much for our club. It’d give us more recognition, which would, of course, potentially lead to us gaining more supporters and progressing as a club.’
‘Of course, my choice is nothing to do with the fact the game would probably be televised, and with me being the stadium announcer, you know…”
Roger Westmacott, Evesham United Club Secretary, provides this rounds ‘View From The Opposition’.
When asked about the prospect of hosting higher opposition and the Worcestershire clubs hopes of winning the tie, the secretary said: ”I think the game will be an interesting one for us against higher graded opposition. So far, we have beaten higher graded opposition in Southern League Premier Division sides Redditch United on their own patch in a replay and Histon, again after a replay, at home after holding them to a draw in the original tie.’
‘Bromley will be a difficult game – they are another step up the pyramid, but we will go into the game full of confidence, hoping that we can spring a surprise.”
It’s Evesham United v Bromley in the FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round on Saturday 25th October. Kick-Off at the Spiers & Hartwell Jubilee Stadium, Evesham, is at 3pm.
Bromley expected line-up: Seb Brown, Ugo Udoji, Joe Anderson, Ali Fuseini, Jack Holland, Adam Bailey-Dennis, Pierre Joseph-Dubois, Reece Prestedge, Jordan Robertson, Moses Ademola, Louis Dennis. Subs: Rob Swaine, Harry Grant, Duncan Culley, Adam Birchall, Mitchell Pinnock.
Evesham United expected line-up: Kevin Sawyer, Jared Wilson, Lewis Binns, Marcus Jackson, Matt Sysum, Linden Dovey, Elliot Kennedy, Carl Brown, Ashley Edenborough, Lance Smith. Subs: George Washbourne, Michael Tambling, Liam Harding, Nathan Jackson, Kevin Slack, Jack Watts, Sean Wood, Aaron Drake.
Matt Hall co-hosts the Bromley FC podcast with David Cooke. Hall & Cooke discuss all things Bromley FC as well as other football matters. ”I believe it’s set for a return after a short break very soon” said Hall. ”It’s something my co-host, David Cooke and I really enjoy doing. We like to keep supporters up to date with how things are going at the club. We often have interviews with players and management, as well as competitions. It’s always good fun and well worth a listen.”
Listen to the Bromley FC podcast HERE or contact the show at email@example.com.
Find out how Bromley got on in the First Round Proper HERE.
Check out the rest of the FA Cup journey here: https://marklitchfieldblog.wordpress.com/fa-cup-20142015/