Angels chairman: Success will be staying up - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Tuesday 09th May 2006

The chairman of newly promoted side Tonbridge Angels has set his sights on remaining in the Ryman Premier League next season, writes Stephen McCartney.

Nick Sullivan saw his club secure promotion alongside Ramsgate and Horsham after beating arch-rivals Dover Athletic 3-2 in the Ryman League Division One play-off final.

A record crowd of 1,853 flocked through the turnstiles at the Betterview Longmead Stadium last Saturday, and Sullivan was pleased his club achieved his ambitions at the first attempt.

“Our aim when I took over last May was to try to get up,” said the former Arsenal and Tonbridge goalkeeper. “We had no divine right to go up and there’s a lot of people that have put a lot of effort in.

“The run we had before Christmas put us in great shape to get automatic promotion but we went on a wobble but at the end of the day we got up and that’s what mattered.”

The club received praise from local Police, having staged their biggest game at their stadium since moving to the ground in 1980.

“It was a test for all of us,” he said. “We’ve never had a crowd competitively like that. Having the Police involved and the extra stewards we brought in was an eye opener and I thought we handled it very well.

“The Police were very impressed, they were happy and that’s the most important thing.”

Tonbridge Angels can now look forward to staging some big matches against more established Ryman Premier League clubs and Sullivan hopes his club can follow in the footsteps of Kent rivals Folkestone Invicta.

“There’s very few sides in Ryman One who bring away support. We’re lucky, wherever we go we take a huge support,” said Sullivan.

“There’s bigger clubs who will bring better support and that will generate more revenue through the gate.

“Our commercial side will get stronger. It got stronger this year and it will get better. Dobla (Tony Dolby) had a generous budget this year but it will have to go up to get the kind of players we need,” he revealed.

Player-boss Tony Dolby and assistant manger Mike Rutherford have a “wish-list” of players that they want to attract to the club.

“Tony has a well earned break at the moment, he’s away for a week. The three of us has a chat on Saturday after the game. They’ve got a wish list and they’ll be working on it.”

But Sullivan will be delighted escaping the drop next season. “I think Folkestone are a prime example. They’re a well-run club, they’ve had their difficulties in the past but they’ve got an excellent manager who knows what his doing and that’s what we have to do.

“Success next season will be staying up. One thing we won’t do is jeopardise the club financially.

“We’ll only spend what we’ve got and won’t spend more. The club’s stable now and it’s got to stop being a yo-yo club. Success will be staying up and that is our goal from day one.”

Sullivan has been in charge of the club for just 12 months, but praised his band of helpers.

“There’s a lot of people around me who have been fantastic and I couldn’t do without them,” he said.

“It has got better when you look at the whole club as I have to do. I have to look at the whole issue of things. The youth teams through to the first team, the commercial side is going the right way.

“We can’t rest on our laurels. We have to keep building on it and that’s what we’ll be doing.

“We’ll have a week off and then it’s back planning for next season, which we’ve already started I suppose really. We’re all looking forward to it.”

But he warned: “The minute you rest on your laurels is the minute it smacks you in the face and we can’t afford to do that.

“We need to keep doing what we’re doing, we’re under no illusions, it’s going to be difficult next season.

“The minute you start thinking you’ve cracked it you’re in trouble. We won’t be doing that. We’ll be working extremely hard to consolidate the club.”