NEIL SMITH was in Edinburgh last week to watch 14-year-old daughter Evie in the British Diving Championships.
It’s fair to say the Bromley manager’s summer recruitment has made a splash with some impressive signings added already.
Hot on the heels of Maidenhead striker Adrian Clifton and Ebbsfleet United’s frontman Michael Cheek and midfielder Joe Kizzi from Billericay, Smith has also signed midfielder Billy Bingham, who was a regular in League One with Gillingham last season, and ex-Wimbledon defender Chris Bush.
Reeco Hackett-Fairchild has signed permanently following a loan spell last season from?Charlton Athletic and Smith expects to make more additions before the season. But he’s happy with the progress so far.
“Really pleased,” Smith, below, told The NLP. “Last year with the FA Trophy final we were a little bit late into the market and we didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. We managed to pull it around October-November-December with the acquisitions we made, but we don’t want to have that slow start again so we’re trying to give ourselves the best opportunity.
“It’s another tough season, there are some big clubs coming down, some big clubs coming up, so we know it’s going to be a tough year. We want to get off to as good a start as possible.
“You want to get momentum going and we didn’t. We were very erratic – we’d win one, lose one, draw one. Then we had a little run of 13 games with one defeat and two draws that gave us a push.
“You’ve only got to look at the size of the clubs that were down the bottom in the end and where they’d been the season before in the play-offs – the Aldershots and Boreham Woods. All of a sudden they’re fighting relegation.
“We know how tough it is and we want to give ourselves the best opportunity to stay among the starting pack and the big guns.”
Smith hopes his signings will not only add to the squad, but move the Ravens on from last season’s eventual mid-table finish.
“We wanted a forward line,” Smith said. “We started with Omar Bugiel and a couple of others and it didn’t work as well as [you hope]. We obviously brought in JJ Hooper who gave us the goals and ammunition to push on.
“This year bringing in Cheek and Clifton – two totally different players but both scored 17 goals. One in a team successfully fighting to survive and the other pushing for play-offs right until the end. You hope they give you the goals to give you an opportunity.
“We’ve lost Roger Johnson this season, so we’ve brought in another centre-half in Bush, a 26-year-old in that Ebbsfleet side who knows what it takes.
“Then Billy Bingham, a League One player, adds to my midfield. We know his quality, he’s been on our radar, our chairman tried to sign him several years ago.
“We didn’t believe these players were available to us, so for the board to back me shows the commitment to me and the club to try and get us up into the top half again.
“They’re signings I hope through the core of the team bring us a bit of strength and experience.”
Bromley are going into their fifth season in Non-League’s top flight and have every reason to feel established at Step 1.
With a new stand behind one goal ready to open and an academy also helping to grow the club, there is a feel-good factor around the place. But Smith isn’t taking anything for granted from the previous four campaigns.
“You don’t want to just go into it saying, ‘Right, we’ve been here for five years, we know what it takes’,” Smith added.
“It’s always getting tougher and something can pop up you might not expect.
“It was a tough season last year and I think as a club, a manager and management team of coaches, we learnt a lot about ourselves.
“We don’t want to go through those experiences again. We want to be in the top half. To do that we know we’re going to have to pull on all our resources and get the most out of the players every week.”