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Exclusive interview with Bromley chairman Robin Stanton-Gleaves as he targets mid-table finish in first-ever EFL season


Bromley officially won promotion to the English Football League for the first time in their 132-year history on May 5 – and the hard graft of getting ready for that next challenge began the next day for chairman Robin Stanton-Gleaves.

The Ravens have generated close to £500,000 a year from renting out their artificial playing surface at Hayes Lane, which was laid in 2017.

But promotion to League Two means that along with building a squad capable of taking on the fourth tier of professional English football, Stanton-Gleaves has also had to acclimatise the club for off-the-pitch life.

It began the Monday morning after promotion by tearing up the artificial pitch and starting work on a brand new hybrid Desso pitch for League Two.

“It’s been manic,” Stanton-Gleaves told the South London Press. “I took a couple of days to celebrate and let it sink in.

“I’m not sure it has fully sunk in, because we have got a lot to do.  We’re moving the artificial surface to a piece of land behind the stadium, so we can pick up that revenue again.

“There is a lot of cost involved in that infrastructure movement and a slight hiatus in revenue for the football club.

“You have to manage that, the cash flows, the want of players who are playing in a higher league and there are also some safety measures that the EFL insist upon, which have to be done to the ground.

“The players, staff and fanbase have enjoyed it. It’s for them that I am pleased about it. I’m the bloke who sits at the top and worries about the next phase. My enjoyment comes from accomplishing the first phase.”

The Ravens beat Solihull Moors at Wembley in the National League play-off final to secure promotion, with ex-Millwall centre-back Byron Webster, 37, scoring the winning spot-kick.

Stanton-Gleaves said: “Many people who know me would know that when I’m at a football match and we score, I sit still. When we concede, I sit still.

“I believe that football can have such a wide diversity of emotions, from highs and lows, and sometimes the rollercoaster ride in football is too much.

“My job is to minimise the highs and lows and get a constant growth line going through the club in all areas.

“I have always been unemotional in all the games. But in that Wembley final, I sat on my hands for most of the 120 minutes.

Bromley owner and chairman Robin Stanton-Gleaves (left) in the stands ahead of the Buildbase FA Trophy final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday May 22, 2022.

“We were never behind in the game, but it always felt like we were. As the game came towards the end in the 90 minutes, Solihull had the greater play in the last 15 or so minutes.

“If they had taken their chances, the outcome would have been different. They didn’t and we held on.

“We were stronger in extra-time and we were never behind in the penalty shootout as our goalkeeper made two outstanding saves.

“The captain (Webster) is the most experienced and calmest individual we have at the club.

“He took it all on his shoulders and did what he did. I jumped up, grabbed my oldest son and put my face into his shoulder, because I did break down.”

Striker Michael Cheek scored twice during regular time against Solihull to put Andy Woodman’s side ahead twice. He also dispatched his penalty in the shootout and will now, at 32, get the chance to play league football for the first time in his career.

Stanton-Gleaves said: “He has scored in excess of 20 goals in each season he has been with us.

“I pushed the boat out when we signed him under the former manager Neil Smith.

Bromley’s Michael Cheek celebrates scoring their second goal of the game from the penalty spot during the Vanarama National League play-off final at Wembley Stadium, London. Picture date: Sunday May 5, 2024.

“I have always had a personal relationship with Michael. He’s a very unassuming guy and doesn’t shout at the top of the roof, but he does manage to remain composed in front of goal.

“I’m amazed that League Two sides in seasons gone by haven’t taken a gamble on him – he scores goals.

“He has never let Bromley Football Club down – that’s testament to him as an individual. I’m dead chuffed he gets to fulfil his ambition of playing in the Football League.”

Former businessman Stanton-Gleaves, a Millwall fan by trade who was born in the Bromley area and was first introduced to the football club in 2018 before becoming chairman and sole owner two years later, is the first chairman of the Ravens to take the side to the EFL.

“I thought I could make a difference,” he said. “I wanted to give a legacy to the town I was brought up in. I’m proud to have been the one to have taken them into the league.

“Along with the manager, Andy Woodman, he’s the first manager to achieve that.

“Now we’re looking forward, resetting ourselves and seeing what we can do in the EFL too.

“Whatever I have spent here at the football club is in bricks and mortar. The infrastructure is here and it’s here for us to compete. Some of the facilities, so everybody tells me, are Championship level, let alone League One.

“I haven’t put the money on the pitch. I don’t want to be disrespectful to players, but they are a little bit mercenary and they come and go – that’s their right and job. I haven’t fallen for that. We have always competed with a very mediocre budget and battled in the top three for most of the season. We will do the same in League Two.”

The biggest change for the Ravens in the transfer window will be that there is a set deadline for transactions in the top four divisions, with the summer window closing in September and a winter window open for the month of January.

The National League player registration runs up until the third Thursday of March.

“Andy Woodman was very, very good in the loan market,” said Stanton-Gleaves. “In the National League, we could pop into that loan market whenever we wanted.

Bromley v Solihull Moors -, FA Trophy, Semi-Final, Hayes Lane, 06 April 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

“We could have a 14-man squad, get a couple of injuries in November and go out to the loan market and strengthen that way.

“He now needs a bigger squad to cover each position twice. That’s a different mindset and way of working.

“Once the season starts, he only has a couple of weeks to react. It’s a new culture and something we have spoken about. We mustn’t be blase about it. If we make a mistake, we have to wait until January to fix it.

“As far as the squad in concerned, the key players are all contracted. We didn’t have to renegotiate with any key players. The heartbeat and crux of the squad remains.

“Andy’s job is to find four or five nugget players to go on top of that squad to make the difference as we make the step up.”

The top three teams who won promotion from League Two last season – Stockport, Wrexham and Mansfield – had the highest budgets in the division.

But Crawley Town, who won promotion via the play-offs, assembled a side of players from non-league or from other League Two sides, such as club top goalscorer Danilo Orsi, who joined from Grimsby Town.

Heavy hitters Milton Keynes, Port Vale and Gillingham will all be looking at winning promotion to League One next season.

Stanton-Gleaves said: “We have some heated discussions in the board room and people say: ‘You can’t compete with this budget’.

“The greatest thing is that we have competed and we have gone up. It shows you can go about it the right way and don’t throw money at players.

“Somebody like me needs to keep to my principles and say: ‘Here is a fair wage for your talent. Play the way we want to play, use the facilities we have got and lets all go on the journey together.’

“It’s the David and Goliath story a little bit. We mustn’t belittle ourselves, but as I keep saying, there is another way to skin this cat.

“I want the football club to use the momentum and the feel-good factor as much as they can.

Bromley v Solihull Moors – Vanarama National League Promotion Play-Off Final , Wembley Stadium 05 May 2024
Picture : Keith Gillard

“But the reality is that we’re going into a professional football league with established football clubs who know how to travel around the country, dictate home games and win away games.

“We will have to find our feet in some situations and instances. But I have faith in the manager, he is an experienced sole around football.

“I think we will do okay. I have my personal ambition – it’s not daft about getting promoted straightway.

“We have to make sure that we’re a mid-table finish, that we have learned the league and learned what we have and haven’t got.

“We can then prepare ourselves for the following season, knowing that cash and finances will be easy in the second season, because the cost of changing the pitch has already been done.”

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