It’s 72 years since we were last in the hat for the FA Cup Second Round. I want to make sure that it’s on my watch that we do it, says Bromley boss Neil Smith
BROMLEY manager Neil Smith says he is keen to create some FA Cup history for the club when he takes his side to Rochdale on Saturday.
The Lillywhites travel to Spotland sitting in seventh-place in the Vanarama National League table, having collected eight wins, four draws and six defeats and occupy the final play-off berth and are only five points adrift of league leaders Dover Athletic.
Bromley beat Dover Athletic 3-0 at Hayes Lane in The FA Cup Fourth Qualifying Round Replay after coming away from the Kent coast with a goal-less draw, to set up the trip to Rochdale.
Keith Hill’s side, however, go into the game in the bottom-six in the Sky Bet League One table, with a record of three wins, eight draws and five defeats in the League.
The Dale welcome Bromley on a four-match unbeaten run, while Smith’s men have lost one game in seven.
“We’re looking forward to the FA Cup game on Saturday,” said Bromley resident Smith, 46.
“I think if you’d have said that at the beginning of the season this is where you’re going to be in the League and in the First Round of The FA Cup going into the start of November, we would’ve taken it but we’re still wanting more, we still want to be better, we can be better!
“We have to defend a bit better but all in all I can’t ask for any more from the boys.
“We’ve got to use the whole squad, which was only small anyway but the boys would do anything that I ask them to do, so I can’t really complain about anything and I think we’re in a healthy position, a hell of a lot better position than this time last year.”
Bromley travel to Rochdale with a full-time squad that are more than capable of creating history for the three-times FA Amateur Cup winners.
Bromley have won only three FA Cup First Round ties in their 125-year history and their last win at this stage of the competition was 72 years’ ago when Slough United were beaten 6-2 on aggregate.
“Rochdale have got a very good and experienced manager, they’re playing in League One, which is two league’s above us but we go there with a hope that if we perform and they don’t, we get a chance,” said Smith, whose previous club’s include Gillingham, Fulham, Woking and Bromley.
“We’re going to go there and we believe there’s a chance there. Anything can happen in The FA Cup. We’ve seen it before and we’d love it to be our year this year being it’s our 125th year and everything else that goes with it.
“The way that we’re playing as well, there’s a lot of freedom there and we’ve got nothing to lose, so we go there and giving ourselves a real good chance to give the supporters something to cheer about.”
The Hayes Lane faithful have seen many of their League rivals enjoy their five minutes of fame in The FA Cup over the years, including Aylesbury United, Hayes, Marlow, Sutton United and Smith knows it’s now Bromley’s turn.
“Exactly! We’d love it to be us. Lincoln last year, Sutton last year, we’d like it to be us this year and be in that Second Round,” said Smith.
“The last time we did it was 72 years ago. We’d love to be that team to start making some more history.
“Ever since I’ve come into this club (as a coach in the summer of 2011), it’s all I’ve wanted to do, to be in the highest division we’ve ever been; to be in the highest position we’ve ever been; winning more games in this division and every year we can make history and this is no exception, all be it in The FA Cup.
“Being in The FA Cup it gives the supporters that little bit of excitement every couple of weeks going into the next round.
“It’s going to be a tough, tough game away from home but we go there with a lot of enthusiasm,” added Smith, who kept his team news close to his chest to not give Rochdale any inside information.
“Rochdale might be looking at it thinking ‘we can get a good cup run going we can get everything back in order in the League and it’s a distraction away from the league’.
“I’ve been there so I know what they’re probably thinking but we’re thinking we go there on a little bit of a good run as well, one defeat in seven with nothing to lose and hopefully people are playing with a lot of excitement, a lot of belief and going there with nothing to lose.”
Bromley face League One opposition well-equipped on and off the pitch to pull off their Greatest FA Cup day.
Bromley have come a long way in a very short space of time and Smith has played a key role, first as a coach under Mark Goldberg, who guided Bromley to their first League title in 52 years’ when they claimed the Conference South title in April 2015, to being the gaffer at his home-town club.
“I think from being a side that were always near the bottom of Conference South when I first arrived here and just getting out of (relegation trouble) with a month to go with some very good players and probably not achieving what we should’ve to now being full-time to just watching the kids get through to The FA Youth Cup Second Round.
“The Academy’s getting bigger, we’ve got a new pitch, we’ve got new players. We’re a professional side and I think we’ve just grown year on year, especially from when we got promoted to this division.
“I think everyone had has down as cannon fodder if I’m being brutally honest and we’ll be fighting relegation every year, so from going 14th first year to tenth second year, I always want us to better ourselves to be seventh at this moment in time going into November, I think there’s been massive improvements.
“The board as well, the crowd are seeing a total change. We’ve got hungry players, young players that want to improve, want to be better. I’m a manager who wants to always improve. I never want to stand still, I always want to be the best I can.
“You’ve got a chairman (Jerry Dolke) who’s supporting the team and the management, you’ve got a board of directors that’s supporting the chairman and I think we’re all in it together. I think it’s probably been the closest we’ve been as a club all wanting the same thing.”
When asked what it would mean to go down in history and make it Bromley’s day on Saturday, Smith replied: “It will be a dream, it will be a dream for the club. It’s 72 years since we were last in the hat for the Second Round. I want to make sure that it’s on my watch that we do it.
“I’d love it for not just myself but for the players, the chairman, the directors and the supporters. They’ve waited a long, long time and I think it will be lovely to be able to give them something as a reward for their support or this club, my home-town club so I’ll have all the pride in the world if we can just do it on Saturday.”
Bromley’s 72 years of FA Cup First Round heartbreak:
First Round: Kings Lynn 0-4 Bromley
Second Round: Scarborough 4-1 Bromley
First Round: Bromley 2-1 Apsley
Second Round: Lincoln City 8-1 Bromley
First Round First Leg: Bromley 6-1 Slough United
First Round Second Leg: Slough United 1-0 Bromley
(Bromley win 6-2 on aggregate)
Second Round First Leg: Bromley 1-3 Watford
Second Round Second Leg: Watford 1-1 Bromley
(Bromley lose 2-4 on aggregate)
First Round: Bromley 3-3 Reading
First Round Replay: Reading 3-0 Bromley
First Round: Bromley 1-2 Watford
First Round: Aldershot 2-2 Bromley
First Round Replay: Bromley 0-1 Aldershot
First Round: Torquay United 3-2 Bromley
First Round: Swindon Town 7-0 Bromley
First Round: Bromley 1-3 Enfield
First Round: Gillingham 4-1 Bromley
First Round: Bromley 0-4 Colchester United
First Round: Leyton Orient 3-0 Bromley
First Round: Fleetwood Town 3-0 Bromley
First Round: Bromley 3-4 Dartford
Visit Bromley’s website: www.bromleyfc.tv
Rochdale v Bromley
The Emirates FA Cup First Round
Saturday 4th November 2017
Kick off 3:00pm
at Spotland, Sandy Lane, Rochdale, Lancashire OL11 5DR