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Bromley – In the Football League!
Bromley – In the Football League!

Having supported the club for nearly 50 years, our Bromley reporter Colin Head looks back on the biggest ever weekend at Wembley.

I’d set my alarm for 8, but I was wide awake by 7am, I’m pretty sure I’d been half awake for a lot longer, this was a big day. It was Sunday 5th May and Bromley FC were playing Solihull Moors at Wembley Stadium in the National League Play Off Final.

A win and The Ravens would be taking their place in the Football League for the first time in their 132 year history and for 47 of those years I’d been a fan.      

The occasion wasn’t lost on my family, my Wife’s parents were travelling down from Essex for the game, my wife was coming along and of course my son who has been regular at Hayes Lane since he was little.

I’d made sure my parents were able to see the game on TNT Sports, they had taken me to my first games and always supported the team and my near obsession with the club when I was young.

We met up with son’s mate Jack at Bromley South station at 12 and it was buzzing with Bromley fans, there were queueing measures in operation to keep the platforms from getting over crowded and a steady flow of people in black & white arriving from all areas, including the pub opposite.

After an initial scare about Victoria station being closed, all seemed to be going well. We arrived at Marylebone by 1pm, but then it all got a bit awkward. Two cancelled trains and a lengthy delay saw us finally set off on a packed train of Bromley fans and one Moors fan around 2:15pm, if I wasn’t nervous enough already!

I checked my phone and saw the line up, pretty much what Mash & I had predicted the night before on the From Bromley With Love preview podcast. Louis Dennis had come in for the injured Ben Krauhaus, everything else stayed the same from the semi final win over Altrincham with Sam Woods taking the vacant space on the bench.   

By the time we’d got to Wembley Stadium the place was heaving, the queues for each turnstile went back all the way to the other side of the outside concourse and loads of people hadn’t read the instructions that you have to print the tickets off when they arrived via e-mail.

I’d tried to keep my cool and assure myself that I was taping the game and it was ok really, but also happy that I had factored in the extra time for the journey.

By 2:55pm we got through the gates and made a beeline for entrance 106 just as the teams were lining up for the anthem. As someone who usually gets to Hayes Lane by 2:15pm, I was well out of my comfort zone, but we had made it for kick off.

My mates Martin and Rob were already there, the other two of the eight tickets I’d bought on Monday as soon as they went on sale. 

Just like that, the game had kicked off and Bromley started on the front foot looking to make an early strike. Corey Whitely and Idris Odutayo went close before the pace slowed and things evened out.

I took a breath and looked around the stadium, 75% of which seemed to be supporting Bromley, the noise was incredible, black and white was everywhere….

Five minutes before behalf time the deadlock was broken, Michael Cheek held off the Moors centre back and he coolly slotted the ball past the keeper into the far corner of the net for 1-0 to Andy Woodman’s team. The Bromley area erupted, the perfect time to take the advantage into the break.

At half time I saw my cousin Mike, who has been going to Bromley as long as me, we’d shared the love for this special club since we were at Primary School.

We laughed at the spectacle of the team who had been in Isthmian League Division One when we first started going, now being on the brink of the Football League. 

Back in my seat for the second half, my wife smiling at just how stressed I was looking and then I looked along the row and saw my son who was in exactly the same state. I felt pride and guilt in equal measure that he was now as hooked on Bromley as me!

Two minutes into the half Solihull equalised, Grant Smith had made a great save from Campbell, but Sbara was much quicker to react to the rebound than any of the Bromley defence and it was 1-1.

I knew this game was going to be close, I’d predicted penalties the night before, but I hadn’t wanted to be right. An hour in and The Ravens were handed the chance to get back in front. Cheek latching on to a poor back pass and being brought down in the area by the keeper for a clear penalty. Bromley’s top scorer drove home the spot kick to make it 2-1.

The lead didn’t last long though, Osborne driving forward from the half way line and as Bromey backed off he unleashed a low drive past Smith into the far corner to equalise again. 

The rest of the game passed by in a flash and it was extra time, Alex Kirk hit the post with a header, Whiteky hit the side netting and then late in the second half Kirk beat Hayes with a powerful effort from the right that struck the inside of the post and somehow bounced out and span off for a goal kick. It was going to penalties. 

Two incredibly closely matched teams over the whole season, who had won one and drawn two of their four meetings were now going to decide who would be promoted to the Football League for the first time by taking penalties.

Before the shoot out took place at the empty end of the stadium, the Solihull fans broke through the netting and moved behind the goal from their corner as the stewards just stood by.

Despite this it was Bromley who made the perfect start, Smith making two great saves to his left either side of a Cheek penalty that he drove straight down the middle and into the net off the stunned keeper’s shoulder.

Then with the Moors fans shining the torches on their phones behind the goal, a very nervous looking Ashley Charles saw his penalty saved. Solihull scored their next two, but Jude Arthurs & Whitely also netted for Bromley.

With the shootout tied at 3-3, captain Byron Webster stepped up for the final penalty of The Ravens’ five, knowing that if he scored it would be Bromley’s victory.

With a raise of his eyebrows and a smile to the opposition keeper, already wearing an EFL captain’s armband he sent Hayes the wrong way and as the ball hit the net, The Ravens were promoted to the EFL.

I have no words for the emotions I felt in the first few seconds after that final kick, the whole Bromley section celebrated as one, incredible. 

I stood back and watched all the celebrations afterwards, trying to take it all in. Slightly tearful and smiling at seeing just how much it meant to my son as well. Sharing a look with my wife that said a thousand words.

We’d only been dating a couple of months back in 2007 when we’d seen Bromley win promotion to Conference South via a penalty shootout against Billericay, 17 years on I was so glad she’d been there again.

On the way back to the station I bumped into a number of long standing Bromley fans and we shared hugs and fist bumps, all sharing the same dazed look.   

I don’t remember too much about the journey back, my phone kept buzzing, so many good people took the time out to send their congratulations. I took some time to remember the Bromley fans who were no longer with us, among them Dave Roberts of course, Paul McKay who we lost earlier this season and John Fiorini who did everything for the club. What would they make of all of this? Bromley FC in the Football League.      

We arrived back to a buzzing Bromley South, the pub was rammed and we headed off in a cab to Pink Garlic in Bromley Common to celebrate a perfect day with a top notch curry. And then I made sure I called my parents, my Dad’s first comment, ‘Well done boy. They never do it the easy way do they?’.  

As a football fan, you live for these days.