Monday 29th August 2005

500 Not Out for Bromley boss Wakeling

Saturday's Ryman Premier League game at East Thurrock United was George Wakeling's 500th game in charge of Bromley, writes Stephen McCartney.

Wakeling was first appointed manager at the Hayes Lane outfit in the summer of 1990, following a long successful spell in charge of Leyton Wingate.

Following the club's relegation on the final day of the previous season, he guided Bromley back into the (Isthmian) Premier Division as runners-up to Chesham United in his first season in charge.

But it was the cup competitions where Bromley shone as Wakeling maintained the club's top flight status every year on a shoe-string budget.

The Ravens reached two Kent Senior Cup finals; beating Hythe Town in the 1992 showpiece at Gillingham's Priestfield Stadium but they lost to Ashford Town in the final 12 months later at the same venue.

The London Challenge Cup was won in May 1996 at Millwall's New Den, when his old club - who had changed their name to Leyton Pennant - were beaten 3-2.

In November 1996 the first round proper of the FA Cup was reached, when a crowd of 2,709 at Hayes Lane watched league rivals Enfield end their hopes with a 3-1 win.

The Kent Senior Cup filled the club's trophy cabinet in May 1997, when Dover Athletic were trounced 4-1 at Millwall.

But Wakeling's highest league position during this period was in season 1994-95, when they finished in sixth place in the (Isthmian) Premier Division.  That was the season the league experimented with kick-ins.

But after 470 games in charge, Wakeling left in January 1999 (Bromley were relegated at the end of that season) to take a full-time appointment at Ashford Town, and then he went on to further appointments at Hastings United and Carshalton Athletic (where he worked with Billy Smith), from whom he rejoined Bromley in December 1994.

Lying in 15th position in the Ryman League first division at the time he replaced Stuart McIntyre at the helm, Wakeling lifted the team to fourth position in the table by the time May came around, and therefore secured a play-off place.

After defeating Metropolitan Police on penalties in the semi-finals, Bromley won 3-1 at Horsham - a club Wakeling played for earlier in his career - to earn him another promotion.

And in an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk, Wakeling reflects on the positive improvements at Hayes Lane.

One of his first jobs when he first came to Bromley was to sell striker Jon Goodman - who had followed him from Leyton Wingate - to Millwall.

And another striker, Dean Wordsworth was sold to Crystal Palace in 1996, which kept the financially crippled club afloat.  And midfielder Joe Francis (now Cray Wanderers' assistant manager) was sold to Enfield.

"Well, I felt I had an input a few years ago when I sold three players for about 100 grand or more," he said.

"At the end of the day, it was always having a battle.  It was hard, we had a good chairman, but we were top of the league during that time and I needed to get more players just to cement it, and the money was never there, so it was always hard," he reflected.

However, with former Bromley player, Jerry Dolke in charge of the club, Wakeling is now benefiting.

"You look around the ground now and see the people giving us sponsorship and people sponsoring games and the crowds are getting better and the pitch is superb.

"I am very lucky and very happy to be apart of it," he said.

After losing 1-0 at Rookery Hill on Saturday, Bromley came from 3-0 down (thanks to James Dryden's hat-trick) to secure a point in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Kent rivals Folkestone Invicta at Hayes Lane today.

Bromley, however, travel to Claremont Road to tackle Hendon on Saturday (1pm) looking to end their "curse" of not winning at that ground since, well, it's been that long!

"Well, I'm confident every game I play," Wakeling said.  "I haven't seen a team that's better than us yet.

"I just feel we are going to hold our own and I'm happy we can do a bit better than that.

Speaking about their trip to AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday, 6th September, Wakeling added: "I'm looking forward to it.  Playing in front of big crowds is what it's all about and we've got no fears."