Wednesday 15th June 2005

Sullivan working hard to make Tonbridge a better place

I CAN assure you that football club's run by former players are in safe hands as they care passionately for them, having worn their badges on their hearts, writes Stephen McCartney.

Take Bromley as a prime example.  Fans were originally concerned when former player, Jerry Dolke wanted to take over the chairmanship in 2001.  It has, however, been hard work for the former Bromley striker.  Not only has he got the backing of many local businesses, in terms of advertising and sponsorship, last summer the club erected new floodlights and currently they are improving the playing surface at Hayes Lane - which is also used by Cray Wanderers - the club are also in the early stages of building a new function room (with many other  facilities) at the back of the current stand.

It has, however, been blood, sweat and tears for Dolke - but he has been finally rewarded as the club secured promotion into the Ryman Premier League in May.

And Dolke's former team-mate, Nick Sullivan, who has only been in charge of Tonbridge Angels for six weeks has already put in the hard work at the club's Longmead Stadium.

You could feel the passion and determination coming from Sullivan as he stood in front of the club's fans last night with his vision for the future.

The 44-year-old, who played in goal for Arsenal (and still plays for their Masters' team), Sutton United, Tooting & Mitcham United, Bromley and Tonbridge Angels, has already put in many hours at his home town club, which is now debt free.

A new porch to the clubhouse has been built and windows (from new club sponsors Betterview Windows and Conservatories) have replaced the former ones.  

The clubhouse has been painted inside and out, with new tables and chairs and the main bar has been re-named the Longmead Lounge.  The spruce up of these facilities will allow the club to let out their facilities (3 bars) to the local community - which is important for clubs to do as it brings in much needed revenue.

With the playing surface and training pitch re-seeded, the perimeter fencing (which was cardboard coloured last season) has now been filled in all around the pitch and painted blue both sides (with the poles painted white).  A nice touch indeed.

The club has been busy getting around 40 companies to advertise around the pitch and these boards will be erected closer to the season.

A new dug out will be built (with 11 seats, which is now the requirement), the changing rooms have been re-vamped and fans coming to the ground for their first pre-season friendly against Sutton United (12th July) will be very impressed with the work Sullivan and his team have done at the ground.

And in an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk, Sullivan hopes these improvements will end the negativity within the club.

"I looked on the fans' forum last week and it annoyed me when people aren't prepared to give me and people I'm bringing in a chance," he said.

"And that's all I ask, we need to push this club forward and everybody pulling the same way.  I know there's negativity at most clubs but I am not worried about any other club."

Sullivan is giving the fans a chance to have a representative on the board - giving fans a chance to voice their opinions on how the club is being run.

Shares costing £50 each are now available as the club aims to raise over £5,000 to help with the playing budget, which has increased from last season when the club lost it's Ryman Premier League status.

The purpose of the Shareholders Organisation, was explained by Peter Ide, at last night's meeting.

Basically it will serve purely as a fund raising venture, an information service for its members and a link between club and it's fans.

Shares can be purchased in the new organisation at £50 each.  There is no limit to the number of shares any individual can purchase.  Each share entitles the individual to one vote at any meeting.  Shares, costing £50 each, can be paid in one lump or monthly and 100% of the money raised will go to the club.  In return a representative of the Organisation will be given a place on the main board.

"What we've done here is there's the Official Supporters Association - there chairman is coming on board," revealed Sullivan.

"The others, who I call the Barmy Army, we've met tonight and they are going to have a voice on the board.

"The youth structure, which is a huge part of our football club are going to have a voice so there's three people that have joined the board - and we'll make decisions to push the club in the right way.

"We'll have monthly board meetings where everything's being discussed - it's got to be the way forward.  It didn't happen last year - we need to drive the club forward."

And the Angels', who are one of the main leaders in youth football in the county, are hopeful that more players, like 17-year-old central defender Michael Cramp (who has signed a contract with the club, having attracted interest from Preston North End) will work through the club's ranks.

When asked from one supporter about the foul and abusive language coming from some of the fans', Sullivan insisted he will ban anyone caught tarnishing the club's image, as he aims to attract a younger following to their games.

"It's looking for our next generation of supporters," he said.  "The most important thing for us is that we have some excellent coaches and we can get them into schools, players to fetes, we've got so many schools' locally - it's making people aware of the football club."

Speaking about the much-needed improvements to the bar facilities, Sullivan added:  "There were certain things that had to be done and we had to get the back of the house done right because obviously that's going to be a source of income, so we're working on the bar as we speak.

"The pitch has been re-seeded, we're working on the advertising boards - people will be pleasantly surprised when they come back."

With a chairman working so hard - supporters can now sense a brighter future for the team in next season's Ryman League Division One campaign.

"Come the end of the season, we've got to be in the shake up," insisted Sullivan.

"The whole league structure is changing the year after (when only one team get promoted) and we certainly feel the squad we've got, and the additions we're going to make (the club will reveal their new signings at the weekend) and with the good youth coming through, we will be bitterly disappointed if we are not there or there abouts at the end of the season."

Although he is in his sixth week as chairman, Sullivan will be in charge for the long haul - and has a hardworking team behind him - both on and off the pitch - as he strives to bring smiles back to the faces of the Longmead faithful.

"I see huge potential here," he said.   "I just felt I could make a difference.  There are some days when you think why have I opened my big mouth but that's far out weighed by the positives.

"I just feel we can get certain things right - the club has got a bright future and all I can do is do my best and I think we can make a difference.

"We all need to pull in the same way, we've got a loyal fan base to build on, we can all push the same way, spread the work load, this will be a better place."

* Meanwhile, the club are searching for a new programme editor.

Application forms for shares can be obtained by email from Peter Ide at: