As part of The Bootiful Games Build up to Non League Finals day at Wembley on 20th May, we have spoken to some of the key players and coaching staff of both the Buildbase FA Trophy Finalists and of the Buildbase FA Vase Final two, writes Gary Langley.
We have caught up with Bromley Manager Neil Smith who has taken time out from his busy preparation for the game and his media commitments to talk to us about the day. We ask him about how he feels ahead of the big day and about the general feeling around the club, Neil also speaks to us about where the FA Trophy features in his list of targets at the start of the season and about his playing career too.
In his playing days Neil made over 200 appearances for Gillingham as well as being one of the Kevin Keegan Fulham generation of players who soared through the leagues. Neil also spent time at Reading before moving on to clubs such as Reading, Stevenage, Woking and Welling.
So to start with Neil told us about the general feeling around the club……
“As the manager of Bromley I’m so happy to be leading this squad of players out at Wembley. I live in Bromley and I went to school across the road from the club, to help get Bromley to the final is fantastic. At the start of the season myself, the coaching staff and the club assess where we are at and what we need to achieve and the target at the beginning of the season was always to try and gave a good run in both cups. We achieved getting to the 1st round proper in the FA Cup and then as the rounds were going and we were getting results it then becomes a dream that we might be able to achieve. When you start progressing and you get into the quarter finals you just hope you can keep it going and then when you reach the semis you then have to go for it.
“At the moment, to be sitting in 9th place and a point outside the playoffs is a testament to the players, they have done a lot of traveling in the Buildbase FA Trophy and then staying focused in the league. I think a few people had us as bottom four or five club at the beginning of the season, so we are achieving so much this season so far but there is still much to do, I wouldn’t say we are punching above our weight either, these lads have made this seasons success happen on merit so we are at this point because of our own efforts.
“When I compare it to my playing career and what I achieved there, I consider myself fortunate on a number of fronts. I was very lucky in respect of winning promotions and Championships at the league clubs I was at. Playing will always be the best as it’s a great life and the team mates you play for end up becoming good friends but management is a very close second, as you can try and put your beliefs in a team and watching team grow is a great feeling. Trying to gel a team into a team spirit brings out the best in myself and the coaching staff who are just important off the pitch as the players on it and I can honestly say I have the best staff.
“I loved every minute of my career but getting to lead Bromley Football Club out at Wembley Stadium is a dream that I didn’t think would happen so yes this is up there with my personal achievements. It is about us all as a collective though, this is more for the owners, Chairman all the brilliant people that work at the club and last but not least it’s for the fantastic supporters who have been brilliant this season.
“I missed Wembley twice as it wasn’t ready, Reading in the play offs was played in the superb Millenium Stadium in Cardiff and then when Woking reached the trophy final in 2007 we played at West Ham, so this is my third time lucky, I hope. I’m so proud of the squad of players I have as they have worked so hard this season from when we came in for pre-season to now, it’s be relentless with games coming thick and fast with no let up.
“In the summer, we were a new squad with new players and they formed a great team spirit and that has got us through games when maybe it wasn’t going our way, but they have stayed strong and stayed together and believed in each other and as I say, we are where we are on merit.
“On reflection, there is a lot going for us, we go into the final as a strong unit, we are in our 125th anniversary year as well. Its 69 years since the club was last there so it’s been a long time and do it’s great that we can finally take the town and club back to Wembley and for the supporters to have a great day out.
“The club and town is so excited, to have sold over 12,500 tickets already is absolutely brilliant and when supporters come up and shake your hand to say thank you is very humbling and so I’m honoured to be able to take this club to Wembley. As we head towards one of the biggest weekends of the club’s long existence I would like to thank everyone for the support myself and the players have received, not just this season but since I walked through the door 8 years ago. Through good and bad the supporters have given us everything and so we have hopefully given everything we have back.
You can read Alex Gudger’s interview, from Bromley’s opponents Brackley Town by clicking on the image below.
You can read the thoughts of Bromley’s player-coach Alan Dunne by clicking on the image below: