The bottom line is survival, insists Angels' chairman - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Sunday 06th August 2006

As Tonbridge Angels’ prepare for Ryman Premier League football, their chairman Nick Sullivan insists:- the bottom line is survival. writes Stephen McCartney.

The Angels bounced back at the first attempt after just one season in the first division, beating arch-rivals Dover Athletic 3-2 in the play-off final at the beginning of May, having finished the 44-match league campaign in third place behind Ramsgate and Horsham.

But Mr Sullivan is anticipating a tough second campaign as chairman of the Betterview Longmead Stadium club.

The club have, however, signed three players who played Nationwide Conference football last season.

Goalkeeper Aaron Kerr and defender Scott Gooding have signed from Gravesend & Northfleet, and the club have just added former Crawley Town midfielder Robert Kember to the squad, after impressing in his four pre-season outings.

When asked what the club’s aims are, Mr Sullivan, speaking in an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with replied: “Survival. Simple as that! Progress is survival.

“We’ve strengthened the squad, we’ve got three boys who played in the Conference last year, which is going to help.”

Another midfielder, Scott Kinch, has signed from Tooting & Mitcham United after impressing against the Angels last season. In fact he was sent off in the play-off semi-final against the Terrors, which Tonbridge won 2-0.

And Mr Sullivan rates him. He said: “We’ve got Scott Kinch, who arguably was the best midfield player in our league last season, so that’s strengthened the squad, with the boys that Tony Dolby’s retained.

“The league’s harder than it was last time, but we are a better equipped club with a better side. So yes, the bottom line is survival and if we survive I’d be more than happy.”

Whilst other clubs in the division are splashing the cash, Mr Sullivan admits the club are surviving week-to-week and will not spend money that the club hasn’t got.

“Any non-league chairman will tell you it’s very much a week-to-week survival,” he said.

“There’s very few clubs that have got rich benefactors at this level - any level really.

“You’ve only got to look at the amount of clubs that are in financial trouble already.

“We don’t spend what we haven’t got but what we’ve got we fight hard to get - it’s not easy.”

Last season the Angels were the second highest supported club in the first division, but Mr Sullivan cannot wait to lure bigger gates to the west Kent club this season.

“The gates will go up this year of course,” he predicted. “There were sides who didn’t bring anybody here last season and I think apart from Dover we were the second best supported home side, but you cannot rely on gates.

“We have outside benefactors who have been more than generous to the football club and obviously sponsorship, which has gone up, so we don’t rely on gates solely,” he said.

Club officials and management have learnt lessons after their nine month stay in the Ryman Premier League last time, insists the chairman.

He said: “We have a better squad but time will tell. We’ve got a good blend of youth and experience, a fantastic reserve and youth team set-up.

“Tony (Dolby), Mike (Rutherford), myself and the board of directors, everyone associated with the club, have learnt from the last time. I will take staying up now as a progression.”

Mr Sullivan, meanwhile, revealed the club has plans to improve the stadium within the year - if funds and sponsorship dictate.

“We’ve done a hell of a lot of work in the last year and any non-league club you can go on, and on and on,” he said.

“It’s a bottomless pit at times but there’s a fine balance between playing budgets and works on site.

“Yes we need to put another turnstile and various other things - having already installed a new turnstile at the other side of the clubhouse.

“But we need to put another turnstile in, which we will do. We need to put in more seats, which we will do, between possibly Christmas and certainly before March next year.

“Then next summer we will look, if the finances and sponsorship dictate, to put some terracing over the clubhouse side because we do need some raised terracing.”

But Mr Sullivan revealed the Supporters Association will foot the bill for the ground improvements.

“To put in another bank of 50-100 seats is not fortunes but it’s still money we’ve got to raise,” he said.

“The Supporters Association will look at that but we’ve been very lucky with the building work and two of our loyal supporters, Mick Ruler and Les Beechman have done a lot of building work in the summer for us and their going to look at the terracing for us.

“It’s something we’ve just discussed in the last couple of weeks. If we can do it, it will be nice, but it’s not a priority.”

Coming up for Tonbridge Angels:

Tuesday 8th August 2006
Kick Off 7:45pm
Pre-Season Friendly
Sittingbourne v Tonbridge Angels
At Bourne Park, Eurolink, Church Road, Sittingbourne

Saturday 12th August 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
Pre-Season Friendly
Tonbridge Angels v Tooting & Mitcham United
At Betterview Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge

Saturday 19th August 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
Ryman Premier League
Hendon v Tonbridge Angels

Tuesday 22nd August 2006
Kick Off 7:45pm
Ryman Premier League
Tonbridge Angels v Worthing
At Betterview Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge

Saturday 26th August 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
Ryman Premier League
Tonbridge Angels v Carshalton Athletic
At Betterview Longmead Stadium, Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge

Monday 28th August 2006
Kick Off 3:00pm
Ryman Premier League
Ramsgate v Tonbridge Angels
At Southwood Stadium, Prices Avenue, Ramsgate

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