6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 50: Can you smelll what the Brush is COOKing?

Basil was enjoying a relaxing Sunday morning with the tunes blasting from the Alexa, absolute bliss. Then suddenly, his mobile rang. It was an unknown number. Being sceptical as always, Basil answered it with a degree of trepidation.

"Hello, is this a Mr Basil Brush?
"Yes, and this is?"
"Hello, my name is Kayva Tauira and I'm calling on behalf of Mii Piri."
"Sorry but I haven't heard of either name. Are you sure you have the right person?"
"Oh yes, I have. I work for the Cook Islands Football Association; and we would be honoured if you will be the national team's new Head Coach."
"Yes, we have seen your achievements with Werribee City in Austraila. They speak for themselves Mr Brush, we think you can help improve the team's national standing."
"Just a moment..."

Now this was a call out of the proverbial blue, an international job. Basil texted Stewart, telling him was unfolding and Stewart's response was positive: "If they let you manage Werribee too, take it. It's a real development opportunity." The nation stood 189th in the world rankings out of 211, not exactly a world force, there might a potential to grow them Basil thought. He released the hold.

"I have one question Kayva, before I give you a decision."
"I have a club managerial commitment here in Australia, and I would like to continue with that."
"No problem, we can commit to this."
"You can?"
"Of course."
"I, well, accept then."
"Welcome on board then Mr Brush. Your first international will be on 11 November 2020, a friendly against Micronesia. We will expect you a few days beforehand, a reception party will meet you at Rarotonga Airport. Goodbye for now."

So Basil's fledging managerial had taken another step forward with his first international role. Granted it wasn't with a big nation but from small acorns grow. He was going to combine club and international management for the new season ahead, and then take stock afterwards. Nothing big was expected at the Cook Islands, Basil just wanted to grow the nation as a footballing force and make them little bit more respectable in the Oceania confederation.

The following day, Basil was sat in the hotel restaurant, enjoying a nice mixed grill, when he received his now complimentary copy of the Herald Sun newspaper. It was talking about the new season ahead, and had a preview of the new NPL Victoria season. The Werribee preview was very heartening:

Werribee City: Last season's Victoria Division Two champions come back to the NPL Victoria after an absence of seven seasons, and they have the potential to cause a few surprises. They won the Division Two title with an unbeaten record and whilst we don't expect them to repeat this, they will finish comfortably away from the relegation zone.

Pundits Media Prediction: 3rd
Odds to win the title: 7/1

Of course South Melbourne were the favourites at 4/1, but to see the Bees listed as 4th favourites was pleasant in itself. Basil smiled, he really couldn't wait for the new season to start. Was it Saturday the 10th of October yet? The days couldn't be ticked off quick enough now.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 51: Unbeaten in two!

There was a real buzz enveloping the Galvin Park Reserve on the second Saturday in October, Basil could literally taste it as he arrived in the car park. Despite the media saying that the Bees would have a great season, Basil was content to consolidate and stay alive. That was something he made clear in the shed before that first game against Bentleigh Greens.

"Guys, we're up against a higher standard of class here. No disrespect meant to Manningham United Blues and Bulleen Lions but this is as good as it will get for a club of our standing. It's the pinnacle."
"Yeah, and it's imperative we come out of this first month with some points on the board eh boss?" Matteo Ballan said.
"Exactly Matty, exactly. We need to get points on the board as that might just make a difference. I'm targeting a top half finish here if we all pull together. Anyone think otherwise?"

The shed fell silent as the players looked at each other, nodding as if to say "Yup, with you on that boss." Could the Bees achieve what their manager wanted? Brush had confidence in them, whether they wanted it as well was a different proverbial kettle of fish.

Matchday 1: Werribee City 2 - 2 Bentleigh Greens (0 - 0)

Werribee City staged a remarkable comeback from two goals adrift to secure a point on their return to the NPL Victoria. Both the Bees goals came in the final minute, something that Basil Brush's mentor Sir Alex Ferguson would have applauded and left former Hibs midfielder Grant Brebner wondering what had happened. Brush gave debuts to four of his summer signing spree whilst sticking by a number of his title winners.

The visitors had the better of the game for sure and took the lead after 57 minutes when Marco Jankovic lashed in an unstoppable effort from just inside the box after Werribee failed to clear their lines. Six minutes later, they doubled their lead when James Xydias crossed for Matt Thurtell (older brother of Werribee's Jacob to power a header towards goal. Alex Baird parried that but unlucky for him and Werribee, the striker snaffled the rebound home.

Brush's response was a double change with Michael Holden, such a goalscoring sensation in pre-season, entering the fray alongside Josh Gaspari. Then as time ticked on for six minutes of added on time, Brush urged his players forward in the hope they might get something and cause jitters for Bentleigh. And as soon as that fourth official disappeared with their board, Werribee and their fans were rejoicing as the Bees halved the deficit. Lisandro Paz sped down the right, leaving the defender for dust, before crossing to the back post where Holden volleyed in. Keep pushing was the message, we can get something. And in the fifth minute of six, it became 2-2. Oskar Dillon opted to go route one from a free kick deep inside the home half, and Nathan Elasi was onto it before slipping it past the advancing keeper. Absolute scenes!

Team: Baird; Lakic, Abbott, Dillon, Bavcar; Gonano; Zaffina (Gaspari 67), Ballan ©; Ammache (Holden 67), Paz; Scott (Elasi 57)
Man of the Match: Marco Jankovic (Bentleigh Greens)
Attendance: 545
Position After Game: 5th

The week between the games was eventful as well. First was the good news that Werribee had sold 132 season books for the new campaign, a 20 per cent increase on last season. Hopefully if the crowd was a decent as the opening day, granted there was 308 away supporters though, then the Club's financial situation might improve and maybe some off-pitch investments could be made. The biggest surprise came midweek when Julyan Collett phoned Brush up to apologise for his pre-season outburst. Brush was dumbstruck but accepted the defender's words with the dignified good grace he had shown all along. But as soon as the dust settled on that, Elasi was whining about depth in central midfield to him. Obviously having six players to fill just two slots wasn't on. Maybe one last shopping trip....

Matchday 2: Oakleigh Cannons 0 - 0 Werribee City (0 - 0)

Werribee secured a hard fought point from their first away game of the new season with a goalless draw with an Oakleigh Cannons side that finished runners-up to South Melbourne last season. Both sides created many a chance but neither could get that all important breakthrough to edge ahead. For Werribee, Brush will see this as a point gained rather than two dropped whilst the Cannons will feel that they could have, and should have done better given they were at home.

Team: Baird; Lakic, Abbott, Dillon, Bavcar; Gonano; Zaffina (Gaspari 80), Ballan ©; Ammache (Holden 54), Paz; Elasi (Goodwin 63)
Booked: Elasi (1st)
Man of the Match: Tyson Holmes (Oakleigh Cannons)
Attendance: 581
Position After Game: 9th
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 52: Boom, bang a bang!

Basil knew there was no way to deal with the unhappiness which had enveloped both Nathan Elasi and Lisandro Paz. To deal with the striker, one final central midfielder whilst Paz would only be content if he was played on the left as an inverted winger, and even if it meant that Michael Holden would be used as an impact player to begin with then if it did it's trick then it could only benefit the Club. So when a recommendation came through to sign a quality midfielder, Basil literally jumped at the chance.

Dion Kirk - M C: Free Transfer

Dion is a quality central midfielder that fits right in with what we want at Werribee. He was once on the books of A-League side Adelaide United, and although he didn't make the grade there, he's trained at a high level. A great passer of the ball and with equally good technique, he will add more quality to our midfield options. He has also very good leadership skills so we can count on him to make others accountable if they are not pulling their respective weight. Last season he was at Campbelltown City who nearly made the end of season play-offs, and has also played for South Melbourne and Bentleigh Greens in our division. He might be the final piece of the jigsaw.

He will allocated squad number 29 for the season.

Then as soon as Kirk had signed on the dotted line, Brush got a text from Elasi. The message was short and succinct, a thumbs up emoji. Moments later, a second text came through: this time from Paz. Paz's text said: "Happy with everything boss, no need to cause a fuss now." So all was fine and dandy for now. But with the squad having cover everywhere now, Basil knew he couldn't play everyone. Players might have to be moved on, but nobody was wanting to at present. It would be a case of horses for courses as Basil's grandfather used to say to him.

Matchday 3: Werribee City 1 - 2 Hume City (0 - 1)

Werribee City slipped to their first loss of the season as goals in each half enabled visitors Hume City to walk off with the three points. The Bees gave an immediate debut to new signing Dion Kirk and dominated their opponents from start to finish but failed to make their opportunities count. The visitors took the lead six minutes from half time when Tsoukarellis crossed from the right to the far post, and winger Thierry Iradukunda peeled away from Tom Lakic to drive a low shot home.

Midway through the second half, the visitors went two goals to the good when Mark Ochieng blasted in an unstoppable shot from the edge of the area that simply rocketed into the roof of the net. Brush's response was a double substitution moments later, and one of those substitutes halved the deficit with 16 minutes to go. Skipper Matteo Ballan played a ball into Lachlan Scott who spun away from his marker and drilled a low effort into the far corner. However, that was as good as it was and Werribee suffered their first loss in 25 games under Brush,

Team: Baird; Lakic, Abbott, Dillon, Bavcar; Gonano; Kirk (Gaspari 66), Ballan ©; Ammache, Paz (Holden 60); Elasi (Scott 66)
Man of the Match: Mark Ochieng (Hume City)
Attendance: 522
Position After Game: 12th

The new week started with a Zoom call for Brush on the Monday morning. Calling him was Domenico Serafino, the new chairman of Bangor City. Bangor, who had won the Welsh Cup three seasons in a row in the late 2000s, were having a wretched start to the new season with four points from 13 games and had recently sacked former Argentinian internationalist Pedro Pasculli. Pasculli had been a teammate of a certain Diego Armando Maradona when La Albiceleste won the World Cup in 1986, so had the pedigree. But winning in Mexico wasn't as easy as a wet night on the Menai Strait.

The discussion went well but Brush sensed a sticking point, what the prospective new chairman was demanding. Whilst they seemed to agree that avoiding the drop in 20-21 was paramount, Serafino was targeting winning the league the following season. Talk about a jump in expectations. Brush was more conservative in his judgement, and he told Serafino such: "If the Club survives the drop, you should be looking at a mid-table finish the following season. And then, only one, should you target the title." Serafino's reaction said it all, speechless. Aside of that, Brush received a call from Michael Jessup: one of the senior players at Werribee. Jessup announced he was going to end his career at the end of the season, and he thought it would be considerate of him to give Brush and Werribee a fair of advance warning instead of just dumping on them.

Brush appreciated it, and hoped the season would end up a decent one and give the midfielder a happy finish, Yet the next game was another test, Werribee were off to the J L Murphy to face a Port Melbourne side that had won three out of three so far. No pressure, right? Well considering the Sharks had been tipped to finish 10th, they were certainly punching above their weight. Could Werribee stop them?

Matchday 4: Port Melbourne SC 0 - 1 Werribee City (0 - 1)

Port Melbourne saw their unbeaten record disappear when Werribee City took the spoils at the J L Murphy Reserve on a windy Friday evening. After losing to Hume City the previous Saturday, Werribee made three changes to their starting line up. Out went Alex Baird in goals, winger Omar Ammache and striker Elasi; and replacing them were Jordan Thurtell, Holden and Scott. The changed line up certainly didn't perform like a struggling side as they controlled the leaders with ease and took the lead after just four minutes when William Abbott sent Paz away down the right and his cross was thumped into the net by Scott for his second goal in successive games.

Werribee went close to a second and almost did so six minutes after the restart. A goalmouth scramble saw Scott hit the post from close range. Then the home fans thought their team had equalised in the 57th minute when Milos Lujic found the back of the net from an Evan Christodoulou pass, but those celebrations were soon muted by a linesman's flag. And deservedly so. Yet with Thurtell proving to be a barrier on his debut, Port Melbourne couldn't get back on even terms and Werribee celebrated a well earned three points.

Team: Thurtell; Abbott (Pistininzi 78), Dillon, Lakic, Bavcar; Gonano; Kirk (Zaffina 65), Ballan ©; Paz, Holden (Ammache 70), Scott
Man of the Match: Lisandro Paz
Attendance: 453
Position After Game: 8th

As he got on the team bus post-game, Brush received a text: Bangor had not appointed him and he knew it was because of what he (Brush) had perceived as regards the team expectations. "Ah well," he said to himself. "Their loss."

Soon enough it would be time to pick an international squad for the first time; that would be interesting and a challenge as well.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 53: Naming the international team

After celebrating his birthday quietly, Basil sat down with a list from which he would name his first ever international squad for the Cook Islands. This would form the side for the friendly against Micronesia on 11 November 2020. He chose the following names, following on from a recommendation.

Tahiri Elikana (10 caps /0 goals), Keegan Inia (12/0), Manaariki Pierre (0/0)

Don Aiturau (5/0), Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri (15/0), Spoon Hallin (4/0), Sunai Joseph (9/0), Roimata Karika, Samuel Maoate-Cox (2/0), Ishaq Mohammed Nazeem (12/1), Arus Sem (13/0), Manu Tautu (2/1)

Daryl Areai (6/0), Tereapii Moutiaki (3/0), Gustav Raiora (7/0), Rhys Ruka (3/0), Rua Samuel (0/0), Harlem Simiona (15/1), Lee Tereu (3/0)

Maro Bonsu-Maro (4/4), Emiel Burrow (13/1), Darren Hall-Batty (3/0), Gustav Sila (4/2)

Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri has been named as captain, with Arus Sem as vice-captain at present.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 54: Home is where the heart is

Basil poured himself a glass of wine after submitting his first ever international squad list to the Cook Islands FA public relations team so the media could be informed. Since he was in Australia, Basil delegated to job of letting the players to Tokoa Newnham: Newnham, despite having no coaching qualifications to his name, had been given the role of being Basil's number two. An advertisement had been put out for a proper number two with qualifications prior to Basil's appointment, but sadly this attracted very little in the way of interest.

So Basil had to deal with what he had. There was no scout either so getting an insight on the opponent would be very limited. It was like stepping into the dark and trying to find the light switch. At least at club level, Basil did have some kind of network in place. The advertisements would be re-submitted into the job centre in the next week. Even at international level, it was important to have the right structure and if that meant expanding the management team for such a small nation: then it would have to be.

As he relaxed, there was suddenly a knock on the door. Basil arose from his comfy chair and opened the door to John Waddell, panting as if he had just completed a marathon.

"Wads, come in. Take a seat mate."
"Thanks, thanks Basil."
"You look shattered Wads, everything OK?"
"Yeah grand, I've just been out for a wee 5K run and had to call in..."
"Sure everything's OK?"
"Yeah. Here, take this..."

Waddell thrust a piece of paper into Basil's hand. It was the fixture list for November.

"They had a computer glitch down at the FA mate, so I had to phone up and get our fixtures that day. Apologies for the terrible handwriting, you multitasking and that..."
"Aye, and they say us blokes can't multi-task."
"Yep, exactly."

Basil looked at the paper:

Saturday 7 November 2020 - Dandenong City @ Home
Saturday 14 November 2020 - Altona Magic (Away)
Saturday 21 November 2020 - Avondale FC @ Home
Saturday 28 November 2020 - Green Gully SC @ Home

Three home games, that would boost the Club's coffers a bit and if the team could get a winning streak then maybe the crowds would go up as well. Seemed like a win, win situation to Basil. If only...
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 55: COOK-ed to Perfection

After Werribee's home game against Dandenong City, Basil didn't hang around to speak much with the media. A couple of questions and he was away in his car, and off to the airport. Basil's destination was Auckland International Airport and then onto Ranotonga as there were no direct flights from Melbourne, for that read also no direct flights from Australia, to the Cook Islands.

There was 5 hour wait between flights so Basil would sit in the lounge, headphones on and tuned to his music in the meantime.

The Cook Islands was somewhere Basil had never been to before, not exactly number one on his holiday plans for sure but it was somewhere he was going to experience. The second flight was just a shade over four hours long, equivalent to Basil taking a flight from Manchester to Dalaman in Turkey back home. Therefore that Spotify playlist Basil created a few nights previous was being to put some serious usage. As he eventually disembarked the flight in Ranotonga, Basil looked up at the skies and typically the heavens opened with a downpour. "Just like being at home in the UK", Basil said to himself. "Nothing ever changes."

After collecting his suitcase from the carousel, Basil made his way to the arrivals concourse. There he met Tokoa Newnham for the first time, the assistant manager.

"Pleased to finally meet you Basil." Newnham said.
"Thank you, and likewise to you." Basil replied.
"Sorry about the weather, I wish I could make the sun shine for our new national team manager."
"No need to apologise Tokoa, am used to it. I come originally from the UK, and from a city that's used to its fair share of rainfall."

Newnham laughed.

"I like you already Basil, you have an incredible sense of humour."
"It's what makes me what I am. Now I think we best get me checked in at the hotel, yeah."
"Yeah, sounds good Basil. Sounds so good."

The two made their way to a black Ford, and clambered inside: Head Coach and assistant ready to start their adventure. For the next couple of days, Basil put the 23 players he had named in that initial squad; through their paces. Putting them through professional drills he had been through himself as a player and observed as a coach. The players were unused to this kind of regime so seeing a few of them blowing as they completed yet another circuit of the pitch, represented some kind of achievement for Basil. As the players passed him, Basil barked out: "Keep going lads, this will be of benefit in the long run for you. You'll become better players for it."

Eventually, game day came and it was time to test himself on the international stage. Basil opted for the same formation that he was using at Werribee even though the players were far from adept at it. The rain was still teeming as the players emerged from the tunnel, and a warm round of applause greeted Basil as he was announced to the sparse crowd. He leant forward from his dugout, and shook the hand of Micronesia's player manager Alex Panuelo warmly.

The game itself was a classic case of a game of two halves, The Cook Islands dominated the first then Micronesia had the best of the second. The home nation took the lead in the 37th minute when Harlem Simiona fed the ball into Maro Bonsu-Maro who placed his shot out of the reach of the Micronesia keeper for his fifth goal in as many internationals. Simiona scored the second four minutes later with a nice angled finish from a deep cross from Lee Tereu. Then with half time just a couple of minutes away, The Cook Islands scored a third when Rhys Ruka arrowed in his first ever international strike from the edge of the area and right into the top corner. Basil couldn't have wished for anything better as the teams came off at half time.

Panuelo made changes at the interval and Brush did likewise, after all it was only a friendly. And Micronesia seemed to respond to their changes better than the home nation as they made it 3-1 just three minutes after the restart. Kenneth Suldan was the scorer, a low shot from 25 yards out that skidded off the wet turf and in. Basil saw it as a goal that shouldn't have happened. Second choice keeper Tahiri Elikana should have at least got a hand to it Basil rued. That goal seemed to breathe a new life into Micronesia, and they got within one with a second goal on 66 minutes when Panuelo powered in a header. Twitchy times for Basil and his new squad, they needed to get a goal to settle any nerves which were become all too apparent. Thankfully for Basil, it came with 15 minutes to go when Ruka netted from the spot after Arus Sem had been fouled whilst challenging for a free-kick.

Micronesia pushed to get back into the game after the goal but The Cook Islands defence held firm for a win on Basil's maiden international game. It hadn't been pretty, it had been nervous in places but at least Basil had an idea what his new charges were like. He smiled, and walked down the tunnel a happy man. Half an hour later, he walked out of the stadium and into the car bound for the airport. Time to go home, and go back to Werribee whilst the Cook Islands FA planned the next friendly out.

Team: Inia (Elikana); Manate-Cox (Hallin), Joseph (Aiturau), Barringer-Tahiri (Karika), Nazeem (Tautu); Sem; Areai, Ruka; Tereu (Sila), Simiona; Bonsu-Maro
Scorers: Bonsu-Maro, Simiona, Ruka 2 (1 pen)
Man of the Match: Rhys Ruka (Cook Islands)
Attendance: 648
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 56: Fireworks!

After the team had delivered three points to him as an early birthday present, Basil settled down to enjoy his birthday in peace and quiet with a quiet meal accompanied by John Waddell, John's wife and vice-captain Matteo Ballan and his spouse. The meal had been planned by Ballan as he wanted to show Basil the best Italian restaurant in Melbourne. It was a huge success, and the perfect way to unwind from the football managerial stresses.

The team put in their best performance of the season against Port Melbourne; and despite the large squad; Basil was reluctant to ring the changes. Never change a winning squad was the philosophy that Basil had been instilled with but despite this, he was still far from happy. He wanted a team that was settled with the players believing in themselves. A tweak here and there wouldn't harm anyone.

Matchday 5: Werribee City 3 - 0 Dandenong City (1 - 0)

Despite the win at Port Melbourne, Basil did decide to change the team for the first of three home games in November. James Karvelis was given his debut after missing the opening four games to a rolled over suspension, this meant that Tom Lakic moved back to the right back spot and Lachlan Davis came in for Michael Holden on the wing. What Brush got was a performance that delighted him no end in a tight encounter settled by two late goals.

Werribee had the best start when they took just a couple of minutes to open the scoring. Ballan fed recent signing Dion Kirk 30 yards out, and the midfielder strode forward before launching a long range effort that simply rocketed home. It was a class strike and underlined to Basil that this signing was one worth making especially for moments like that. Dandenong thought they had equalised a couple of minutes later when Brayden Mann played in strike partner Stipo Andrijasevic but a flag soon subdued those celebrations. It was to be one of those nights for the Dandenong frontman who was well shackled by the home defence.

The Bees were given some breathing space when they made it 2-0 with seven minutes to go. Ballan swung a free-kick and the ball dropped to the feet of Lisandro Paz who netted his first of the new season from eight yards out. The game was firmly Werribee's three minutes later when they netted a third. This time it was the turn of Alec Goodwin to net his first of the season when the substitute latched onto a Kirk through ball to lash in an unstoppable effort from the edge of the area.

Team: Thurtell; Lakic, Dillon, Karvelis, Bavcar; Gonano (Pistininzi); Kirk, Ballan ©; Davis (Holden), Paz; Scott (Goodwin)
Booked: Davis, Karvelis, Gonano (all 1st)
Man of the Match: Dion Kirk
Attendance: 545
Position After Game: 3rd

After completing his maiden international bow with the Cook Islands in the week, Basil arrived back in Melbourne: exhausted. Considering he had not played any international football in his career, the globe trotting came as a culture shock to the Werribee manager. Prior to this, the most he had done in terms of travelling was the flights between Britain and Australia or the usual summer break in Mexico or Dubai which Basil enjoyed. Still it meant more stamps in that passport.

Matchday 6: Altona Magic 1 - 2 Werribee City (0 - 0)

The sole away game in November saw Werribee travel to the Paisley Reserve to take on Altona Magic. It was a return back to an old stomping ground for Marinos Gasparis although the midfielder didn't make the matchday eighteen to mark his return with an appearance. After that 3-0 win against Dandenong, Brush chose an unchanged side which indicated that perhaps just perhaps he might have found his ideal first eleven. It was a game Werribee controlled from the start to the end even if the scoreline suggested it was much closer.

After a goalless first half, Werribee took the lead in the 47th when Llevares fouled Brendan Gonano as they tussled at a free-kick. Ballan stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot. With 20 minutes to go, Werribee had a second when a cross by Lakic was finished with aplomb at the far post by an unmarked Holden. There was time though for a jittery finish when Shahril Mohamad scored with a long range shot that Jordan Thurtell got a hand to but couldn't keep out. Yet Werribee held on and as a result also improved their league standing.

Team: Thurtell; Lakic, Dillon, Karvelis, Bavcar (Abbott); Gonano; Kirk, Ballan ©; Davis (Holden), Paz; Scott (Goodwin)
Man of the Match: Shahril Mohamad (Altona Magic)
Attendance: 455
Position After Game: 2nd
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 57: It's gotta be...PERFECT!

After reaching their highest position in the new division with their triumph at Altona Magic, Basil poured himself a nice glass of Merlot to celebrate of sorts. For a team that had been massively overhauled in the summer, Werribee were certainly punching above their weight. It was becoming the stuff of fairy tales and of course Basil wanted it to last for as long as it could. Nothing lasts forever was the phrase Basil was thinking of as he scanned the latest league standings. It was a case of seeing how long this winning feeling would last.

As he did, he received an email from the admin team at the Cook Islands FA. They were still buzzing that their new national Head Coach had led them to a win in his first game in charge, even if it proved to be too close for comfort in that second half. The email also advised Basil of his second national team assignment, a home friendly against Fiji on 24 March 2021. Fiji were ranked 30 places above the Cook Islands in the recent world rankings, and had also won the last meeting between the two nations: 3-0 in the OFC Nations Cup this summer. But they would be foolish to think that something similar would happen again, right?

Matchday 7: Werribee City 2 - 1 Avondale FC (1 - 1)

Werribee's next game was against bottom of the table Avondale at Galvin Park, the first of back to back home games for the Bees. The mood was upbeat, the media predicting Werribee would swat their opponents aside like flies: after all Werribee were on a run of three consecutive wins. But it didn't start off as planned though as the basement dwellers took the lead after just five minutes play, Argentine Jonatan Germano chipping Jacob Thurtell from the edge of the penalty area.

The game had a pattern throughout, Werribee attacking and Avondale trying to stop by fair means or foul. Midway through the first half, Werribee got back on level terms when Abliantis inexplicably handled the ball from a Michael Holden corner with nobody near him. Not the smartest decision for sure. Anyway, skipper Matteo Ballan stepped forth and sent Markogiannkis the wrong way from twelve yards. It was his second in successive games.

Werribee suffered a blow to their team plans in the 67th minute when Dion Kirk limped off but Basil knew he had a ready replacement in mind. The replacement was Brandon Zaffina, and within three minutes of his introduction, the substitute netted what turned out to be the winner. With the rain continuing to lash down, Lisandro Paz played him in and he then had the composure to steer his shot into the far corner. What an impact! Blushes spared and now it's four wins on the spin for an in form Werribee.

Team: Thurtell; Abbott, Dillon, Karvelis, Lakic; Gonano; Kirk (Zaffina), Ballan ©; Paz, Holden (Bavcar); Scott (Goodwin)
Man of the Match: Jonatan Germano (Avondale FC)
Attendance: 464
Position After Game: 2nd

Basil rued the injury to Dion Kirk, particularly as the new signing had been starting to show why he was so well sought as an acquisition. But the midfielder would recover in time for the final game of the month. Yet before then Basil had to also deal with a strange sequence of events involving David Parkinson. A couple of days before that final game of the month, the Kiwi had phoned Basil to ask him if he could have a wee chat: Basil naturally agreed. The chat was for Parkinson to voice his concerns about not getting much game time recently. Basil understood the concerns and the two shook hands on an agreement for the defender to get some chances soon. After all, the season still had plenty of games to go and there was bound to be an injury or two happen.

Then the following day, Basil was down at the stadium ensuring the kit was ready like he did the day before a home game when John Waddell appeared from out of nowhere.

"Good afternoon Wads, what you doing down here?"
"Basil, I've got some news for you mate."
"It's David (Parkinson), he's walked out on the Club."
"What? I was only chatting with him yesterday and we'd sorted his playing time out for a period. All was good."
"Well, he's decided to walk on us. He was out of contract today, and didn't fancy a month to month one so he's gone back home to New Zealand. Like on a flight this morning..."
"Blow me down, I'll phone him."
"Don't bother Basil, I've tried to call him back but it's saying number unobtainable."
"Well, fine. We move on without him."
"My sentiments exactly."
"I tell you one thing though, I'm calling Matteo Ballan later to tell him he's got the armband for the foreseeable now."
"Good shout, and I'm thinking young Jordan Thurtell could be a good vice-captain to him. He's always vocal on the training or match pitch. Reminds me a bit of that Peter Schmeichel fella."
"Couldn't agree more, great call Wads. Jordan's the new vice-captain, he's deserved it."

And so a new era of Werribee history was written. Nobody heard from David Parkinson, and when the squad heard about it: nobody seemed to raise a concern as if to say, we don't miss him. Basil took this as a positive step.

Matchday 8: Werribee City 2 - 1 Green Gully SC (0 - 1)

The day after he was confirmed as Werribee's new captain for the foreseeable, Matteo Ballan fired the Bees to a fifth win in a row as they came from behind to defeat Green Gully at Galvin Park Reserve. It was a game that the visitors had the majority of the possession but that in the end counted for nada as Werribee continued their impressive start to life in NPL - Victoria. Basil had made one change to the side that had won seven days ago, Nicholas Bavcar coming in for William Abbott which allowed Tom Lakic to revert back to right back from left back.

Green Gully took the lead three minutes before half time when Diamant Yusuf played a through ball and Mate Dugandzic nipped in between both Oskar Dillon and James Karvelis to poke the ball past Jordan Thurtell and into the corner of the net. Yet just four minutes after the restart, Werribee equalised. As Ballan lifted in the free-kick, Karvelis was fouled by Kalmar for a nailed on penalty. The skipper assumed responsibility as always, and this time opted for sheer power to convert rather than placement. Game back on!

Werribee suffered a setback when Kirk limped off for the second game in a row, causing Basil to cast a concerned glance as the midfielder hobbled down the tunnel. Yet Werribee would get the winner for five in a row in the 69th minute when Brendan Gonano found his skipper in a pocket of space and he rifled one in from range with a slight kiss from the post. By this time Green Gully had been reduced to ten men when George Mohammed was dismissed on the hour for a couple of yellows.

Team: Thurtell; Lakic, Dillon, Karvelis, Bavcar; Gonano; Kirk (Zaffina), Ballan ©; Paz, Holden (Collett); Scott (Goodwin)
Man of the Match: Matteo Ballan
Attendance: 476
Position After Game: 2nd

The question after the game remained though, just how bad was the injury to Dion Kirk? Head Physio Jordan Jones' report was keenly awaited...
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 58: Winter is coming

After the crowd had dispersed following the 2-1 home win over Green Gully SC, Basil sat in his car a worried man. He had seen one of his key central midfielders walk off the pitch, and then head off in an ambulance to the hospital to have his injury assessed. Head Physio Jordan Jones had accompanied Dion Kirk in the ambulance and Basil sat there in stony silence. He looked to the skies for apparent divine inspiration, hoping that the injury was just a slight knock.

After spending ten minutes doing precisely nothing, Basil drove back to his hotel. Normally he would have some rock album pumping out of the stereo but not tonight, the drive was completed without a single musical tone being emitted. He nodded at the receptionist as he walked through the lobby, glancing frequently at his mobile. Jordan hadn't phoned, what was keeping him? The more the time passed, the more anxious Basil became. He plonked himself in the cosy chair in his suite, mobile on the glass table, and a large scotch on the rocks in his left hand. Then suddenly the strains of "Welcome To The Jungle" came through on the mobile, Basil picked up the was Jordan at long last!

"Jordan, Jordan..."
"Hi boss, sorry for the late response. A&E was absolutely chocka, we finally got seen about half an hour ago."
"Anyway, the doctors have checked Dion out and it's not good news but it could have been worse."
"Right, what's the diagnosis Jordan?"
"Dion's got pulled knee ligaments boss, you're gonna have to change that team up."
"Timescale, what's the freaking timescale Jordan?"
"Looking at three weeks boss, then there's the fact Dion will have to get his match sharpness back..."
"So we're possibly looking at seeing him miss all of December?"
"Yup, that's pretty much the realistic response. Sorry, but it could have been much worse. A ruptured anterior cruciate for example."
"Sure. Don't talk to me about ruptured anterior cruciates Jordan, I had one of them in my younger days. Not good."
"Yeah they ain't, but you know now. I'll drive Dion home to his family now, and I'll be seeing you later. Take care boss."
"Take care Jordan, and thanks for looking after Dion. You're the best Head Physio in this league mate."

So the injury was a bad one, but could have been which might have ended a career yet wasn't. Three to four weeks, that's a bit of a hole to fill as Kirk and Matteo Ballan were really starting to gel together. Who could fill that void, Basil pondered. He fired up his laptop and looked at his squad list, four possible candidates. There was the experience provided by Michael Jessup and Marinos Gasparis, and the much younger guile of Josh Gaspari and Brandon Zaffina. Zaffina had partnered the skipper in NPL Victoria 2 but Basil saw him as an impact sub these days, so that left Gaspari. "I'm not gonna make a decision now." Basil said to himself. "I'll see how training goes first."

Basil then unfolded the sheet of A4 that John Waddell had given him in the shed pre-game, it had December's fixture list on it. The fixtures were as follows:

On the road for the majority of the month then, and every game as difficult as the one before. If Werribee could emerge from this latest batch fixtures , which would take the Club to within one game of the halfway stage, in touch with the leaders as they were at present then perhaps Basil could dare to dream again. Winning this title would mean a lot, and leave Basil with a decision to make since his contract was up at the end of May. He was still unsure about committing for a third season, the itch to try his luck elsewhere was burning away.

December would be a crucial month for Club and manager alike. That was a given.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 59: Nothing lasts forever

The day before the ninth game of the season saw some welcome cheer at Werribee and it pleased Basil no end. Not content with three home games in November, which boosted the financial situation at the Club, Basil was pleasantly surprised when Chairman Craig Adam publicly announced that he and his consortium were reaffirming their commitment by putting another 85K into the Club coffers.

Nice wee bonus Basil thought, just the thing ahead of the next crucial game on the schedule.

Matchday 9: Melbourne Knights 1 - 2 Werribee City (0 - 0)

Werribee City relied upon two sensational strikes to take their winning run to six games and as a result set a new NPL Victoria record. The goals came from inverted winger Lisandro Paz who seems to have lifted his game to a new level after Basil Brush had agreed to play him in his favoured position. The result kept the Knights in mid-table whilst helping the visitors continue their chase of league leaders Bentleigh Greens.

After the sides had gone in at the interval goalless, Werribee exerted their control of the game with two goals in four quickfire minutes shortly after the restart. In the 50th minute, Paz would score one of the strikes of the season. Picking up a ball from James Karvelis wide on the left, the inverted winger cut inside his marker and took a few strides forward before unleashing an unstoppable effort into the top corner. Safe to say Anthony Zucco in the Knights goal had no chance whatsoever.

The keeper was picking the ball out of his net again in the 54th minute, Paz crashing a half volley into the far bottom corner with the same unerring accuracy. The Knights halved the deficit with 18 minutes to left to play, John Buceto measuring his cross to perfection and 16 year old striker Fu Wei heading home. However, Werribee held on for their fourth 2-1 win a row and with it, the league record for consecutive victories.

Team: Thurtell; Abbott (Bavcar), Karvelis, Dillon, Lakic; Gonano (Pistininzi); Gaspari, Ballan ©; Ammache, Paz; Scott (Goodwin)
Booked: Gonano, Karvelis (both 2nd)
Man of the Match: Lisandro Paz
Attendance: 449
Position After Game: 2nd

Matchday 10: Heidelberg United 2 - 0 Werribee City (2 - 0)

After winning six straight, the question on the lips was could Werribee make it a lucky seven against Heidelberg United? Alas Basil Brush and his team saw that unbeaten run come to an end when two first half goals proved to be enough to give the Bergers a much needed victory after losing to local rivals South Melbourne seven days previous. The damage was done early with both goals scored in the opening quarter of an hour.

Bees manager Basil Brush named an unchanged side for this game at Melbourne Olympic Village, but saw his gameplan undone after just 12 minutes when Heidelberg netted their opener. It was a route one goal which caught the Bees out with Chris Theodoritis launching a huge goal kick that was collected by teenage striker Park Il-Soo took one touch before rifling the ball past Jordan Thurtell. Three minutes later, the young South Korean striker and Heidelberg had a second when he blasted home from the edge of the six yard box following a well worked corner routine.

Werribee thought they had reduced the margin in the 32nd minute when Paz had the ball in the net. However, the celebrations were cut short when the linesman's flag went up for offside. That was about as good as it got for Werribee who now slip down two places in what has been a rather successful start to life since being promoted.

Team: Thurtell; Abbott, Karvelis, Dillon (Petrov), Lakic; Gonano (Pistininzi); Gaspari, Ballan ©; Ammache, Paz; Scott (Goodwin)
Booked: Paz (1st)
Man of the Match: Park Il-Soo (Heidelberg United)
Attendance: 454
Position After Game: 4th
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 60: All Good Things Must Eventually End

In between the games against Melbourne Knights and Heidelberg United, Basil had been summoned to a Zoom call. That call was with a certain Jerry Dolke. Jerry was the chairman of Vanarama National League side Bromley, who had sacked former Gillingham midfielder Neil Smith after eight years in charge about a month ago.

This was a chance to finally head back home after 15 months Down Under, and test his mettle in the fifth tier. Having being discounted by Chesterfield earlier in the season, Basil was unsure if he was the right fit. Only Jerry could decide that.

Jerry presented him with his vision on the call, Basil studied it closely:

Well, having also visualised the season so far, Basil knew that he couldn't go any further in either the FA Cup nor the FA Trophy. All that really remained was to ensure he got, should he be appointed, the team into mid-table and then kick on for the play-offs the season afterwards as per Jerry's plan. However, Basil had ideas in his head that he could actually go that bit further not that Jerry or his potential playing staff would know. He looked at the squad list, four players on long term loans and a little bit of cash available to spend as well. All seemed good. There was also a few spots spare on the backroom team, so that would needed to be sorted as well. Jerry also promised that he would put some extra funds in for the youth system as per Basil's request.

All in all, Basil felt he was being asked to achieve reasonable targets. Nothing too over-realistic like some Chairman do.

A few days later whilst preparing the Werribee side for the Heidelberg game, Basil took a phone call. It was Jerry.

"Hello Basil."
"Oh, hi Jerry."
"Just calling you to advise you that we were very very impressed with you the other day. So impressed, we would like to appoint you."
"Really. I've sorted a compensation figure out with the Werribee Chairman. So it's yours, just let me know if you want to accept."
"Oh cheers, thank you very much. Can I have a few days thinking time please?"
"Of course, I've sent you a contract via email to sign if you accept. Just drop me a reply back to that email and we'll be OK. Bye for now."
"Bye Jerry."

So that was that, Basil had ticked Bromley's boxes and they wanted him. As he sat on the team bus waiting for Wads and the players, Basil contemplated. Nobody would know his decision, not yet anyway.

The Tuesday after the Heidelberg loss, Basil had made his decision. He arrived at training, sans whistle and clipboard and called everyone into the centre of the training pitch in a massive circle.

"Guys, I'm going to make this short and sweet." Basil said. "I've accepted a job back in England so as of today, Wads, will be in temporary charge until the Club find a permanent successor."
"Wow!" said skipper Matteo Ballan. "Where you off to gaffer?"
"Bromley, a team that play in the fifth tier of English football. It's a chance to establish my name back in England. And to be honest, I did think hard about it before accepting the offer."
"Good luck Basil, we won't forget your impact." Wads said.
"Thanks Wads. I'd been considering to move at the end of the season anyway but this is time and the role sounds like something I can progress with. You'll be in good hands lads, and I won't forget you all either."

At that point, a cab arrived to take Basil to the airport and the long flight home. Basil Brush was the new manager of Bromley, subject to international clearance which was a bit of formality. Next stop, Hayes Lane BR2 and to meet the players Thursday morning: jet lag permitting.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 61: Getting to know you

Basil stepped off the flight at Heathrow Airport after the Boeing 777 parked at gate 32. It was 07:30 in the morning. The rain was teeming down as normal, and there was a brisk south-westerly wind which made the disembarking that bit more hazardous. He zipped up his Adidas rain jacket and held his New Jersey Devils hockey baseball cap tightly as he scurried across the tarmac and into the warmth of the Terminal 3 building.

He meandered his way through to border control, and smiled attentively at the officer on duty.

"Good morning sir, and the purpose of your arrival in the UK please?"
"I'm the new manager of Bromley Football Club."
"Really? But you have a British Passport yet have come from Austraila."
"I was managing over there, non-league."
"Right. Well everything seems to be in order, enjoy your time back home then. Good luck."
"Thank you."

Basil headed to the baggage reclaim area, picked up his case and looked for the signs for the passenger meeting point. After heading in this direction and that, Basil saw a sign with his name on it. Holding that was none other than Jerry Dolke, the Bromley FC chairman, A few steps further, and the two men shook hands.

"Welcome back to England." Jerry greeted enthusiastically, happy to have his man in place.
"Thank you Jerry, see the weather's still as rubbish as I remember it?"
"Nothing changes Basil, nothing changes here in the UK."
"Yeah, pretty much standard."
"Now let's get you to the Bromley Court Hotel. I've arranged for you stay there until you find a property of your own. That OK?"
"Sounds a plan Jerry, let's do this."

The car sped its way through the inevitable morning rush hour travel, and arrived at the hotel an hour later. Basil checked in, and left his case for the concierge to drop off at the room. Keen to get stuck in, Basil wanted to meet the players and his backroom staff before the customary press conference later in the afternoon. Surprisingly, there was hardly any sign of jet lag but Basil put this down to sleeping on the flights. Jerry parked his car at the stadium, and ushered Basil into the stadium where the team were training at this morning. He pointed the office which would be Basil's domain, and introduced him to Janette: his PA.

Basil made his way up the tunnel, to see a man laying cones out on the pitch. The man paused, cast the remaining cones aside, and jogged over to where Basil was stood.

"Morning, you must be Basil?"
"Yes, and you are?"
"Jon, Jon McCarthy - assistant manager at your service."
"Pleased to meet you, let's get down to doing the preparation before the rest arrive eh?"
"Good idea."

PROFILE - Jon McCarthy: Jon has been assistant manager for the Club since the summer. A former Northern Irish internationalist, despite being born in Middlesbrough, Jon obtained 18 caps for his adopted nation. His playing career saw him start his career at Hartlepool United but he really shone at York for five seasons before moving onto Port Vale. Two impressive seasons there saw Birmingham City pay £1.5 million for him in 1997 where he had four reasonable successful seasons despite a multitude of injuries. He eventually hung his boots up in 2007 and after completing additional studies started his coaching career at Chester in 2014.

As they laid out the training exercises, the two men chatted intently as if to bounce ideas off each other. Jon explained to Basil that the Club had the following in place: a goalkeeping coach in Jim Stannard (the former Fulham goalkeeper), a fitness coach in Ben May (who played for Millwall), Sean Wickenden was the Head Physio and two more former pros in Brendan Moloney and Brian Atkinson (he of Sunderland and Darlington fame) managed the Under 23's and Under 18's respectively. But there was scope to expand if Basil felt suit. Moments later, Jim Stannard and Ben May arrived: Jon did the formalities and introduced Basil to them. Now to await the arrival of the players...
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 62: Understanding Bromley

As Basil and his new backroom staff chatted in the centre circle of the Hayes Lane pitch, the players slowly trundled up the tunnel for training. Each player looked up as if to wonder what was going on, and smiled. Basil counted each one to confirm that he had the right numbers available for that first session, and from the list that Jon (McCarthy) he appeared to be four short.

"Jon, we're four short!"
"Sorry, my bad Basil. I didn't mark out the injured on that list." Jon took a pen and wrote "INJ" at the side of four names. "There you are, all should be correct now."
"Yep, cheers."

Basil then took the formalities of breaking the ice with an introduction to the players, just like he had done at Werribee. One of the four marked as injured, then spoke.

"Thanks for your warm introduction. Welcome to Bromley, my name is Billy Bingham. I'm the Club Captain."
"Billy Bingham? Jeez, you've changed from when you managed Northern Ireland." Basil quipped.
"Very funny boss, like your sense of humour."
"You'll get used to it Billy, trust me. And that applies for you all too."

Basil then explained his plan for the remainder of the season, that he was targetting a mid table finish come May. The team currently found themselves in 18th place, just three points and three places above the drop zone. Five points separated Bromley from Basil's target position, and eleven from the last play-off position currently occupied by AFC Fylde. In Basil's mind, that was his personal target but the players and Jerry were not aware of this; neither were the backroom staff either.

With the formalities over, Basil let Jon take training and preferred to have a watching brief for the first couple of days: he would begin to take training on the following Monday. That way, he could see what was looking good and what needed to be worked on. Two and half hours later, the session finished and the players made their way into the canteen which was housed underneath the main stand. Basil didn't join them, preferring to sit in his office to do more club planning. Methodical as always, he made the following notes from the information he had been given from Jon and Jerry respectively.

There was £72,000 to spend if needed on players. Prior to a spot of Basil tweaking, there had been nothing at all. Jerry had given Basil full control of the budget adjustment. It also meant at the moment there was just over £1,500 a week spare to cover wages so Basil knew he would have to be extra prudent with any transfer dealings. Bromley weren't the richest club in the division so Basil knew he was in for a challenge but he relished it. If he could achieve the targets, the finances would get better.

Bromley had two affiliations in place which pleased Basil no end. The first was with local league club Gillingham who were flying high in second place in League One, whilst the second was with Premier League side Crystal Palace. Having that link Basil viewed as a good move, perhaps he might be able to nab some of the Eagles young talents on loan and get the Premiership side to cover the wages. A smart move he thought, especially if Bromley needed to kick on towards the end of the season.


Goalkeepers: 1. Mark COUSINS, 23. Ryan HUDDART, 33. Will TODD, 38. Liam TOWNER

Defenders: 3. Ryan GALVIN*, 5. Jack HOLLAND, 6. Chris BUSH, 13. Jordan LAWRENCE-GABRIEL, 25. Jamie BARTON, 26. Michael CHAMBERS, 28. Anthony WISE, 34. Harrison HOLGATE, 36. Joey JONES**

Midfielders: 4. Jordan HIGGS, 7. Luke COULSON, 8. Frankie RAYMOND, 10. Billy BINGHAM, 11. TQ ADDY, 15. Robbie SIMPSON, 17. David BOATENG, 18. Ben ALLEN, 24. Ellis HUDSON, 27. Monday SUNDAY, 29. Johnson WICKENDEN, 30. Andrew REAY, 31. Jude ARTHURS, 32. Mark BROWN, 35. Faysal BETTACHE***, 37. Henry WOODS****

Forwards: 9. Vadaine OLIVER, 12. Michael CHEEK, 22. Matt RUSH

* - on S/L loan from Sheffield Wednesday, ** - on S/L loan from QPR, *** - on S/L loan from Salford City, **** - on S/L loan from Gillingham


Michael Cheek - the 29 year old striker has scored over 100 plus goals in non-league football and as such Bromley rely upon him and his usual strike partner Vadaine Oliver for their goals. He joined the Lilywhites in the summer of 2019 from Ebbsfleet United, and has also seen service with Dagenham and Redbridge, Braintree Town and Chelmsford City. Currently top scorer with 5 goals from 17 games.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 63: Off and running

Basil looked the fixture for the remainder of December 2020. A long trip north to Chorley to begin with then back to back Christmas home games against Aldershot Town and Havant and Waterlooville. Assessing the table, Basil thought that if he could win a couple of games then that would be progress and a good start. The question was though, could he get the players to buy into what he wanted almost straight away?

A tough ask, yes. But fingers crossed, right?

Matchday 25: Chorley 1 - 2 Bromley (1 - 0)

Backed by 44 loyal away supporters, the Basil Brush era at Hayes Lane began with a win at Victory Park in Chorley. The Lilywhites owed their win to a quickfire second double, with on loan defender Joey Jones being the unlikely hero.

Bromley lined up in their new manager's preferred 4-1-4-1 formation with Michael Cheek playing as the sole striker. Chorley took the lead in the 27th minute when veteran attacking midfielder Louis Dodds curled in a free-kick from the left which was headed home by Marcus Carver. However, two goals in as many minutes saw the points head back to South East London. In the 69th minute Luke Coulson's free kick was netted from an acute angle by Jones. The on loan QPR defender was in the right spot shortly afterwards to score the winner when a Jack Holland header was parried by Matt Urwin into his path six yards out.

Team: Huddart ©; Holgate (Coulson), Holland, Bush, Galvin; Jones; Raymond, Bettache; Allen (Rush), Addy (Boateng); Cheek
Man of the Match: Joey Jones
Attendance: 934
Position After Game: 16th

Basil's plans to name an unchanged side for the Boxing Day clash suffered a setback when left-back Ryan Galvin turned up at the light session on Christmas Day with flu like symptoms. Keen to ensure the rest of the side would not be affected, Basil sent the defender home straight away, The loanee would miss both Christmas games, forcing a bit of a reshuffle.

Matchday 26: Bromley 2 - 3 Aldershot Town (2 - 2)

At a very wet Hayes Lane on Boxing Day, it took a wonder strike to give Aldershot all three points and in the process ensure that Basil Brush's first Bromley home game wouldn't be a winning one. Brush made two changes from the side that won at Chorley; Coulson and club captain Billy Bingham came in for the injured Galvin and Frankie Raymond who dropped to the bench to accommodate the skipper. The Shots though netted the first goal which came after just nine minute when Libyan midfielder Mohamed Bettamer glanced a header into the far corner from a Joe Muscatt delivery.

Bromley were level just five minutes later. Ben Allen saw his curling free-kick parried by Walker but straight to Jones who poached in his third in two games from inside the six yard box. Aldershot regained the lead in the 22nd minute when a weak defensive header by Harrison Holgate was blasted first time into the net by Alfy Whittingham. The fourth goal of an action packed first half came nine minutes before half time when Allen crossed for Michael Cheek to score with a thumping header. The winner though came twenty minutes from the end when a Robbie Tinkler cross was headed away by Holgate but only as far as Muscatt who arrowed a volley first time into the top corner. Try as they might, Bromley couldn't equalise for a third time and the visitors move up to fourth in the table.

Team: Huddart; Coulson (Boateng), Holgate, Holland, Bush; Jones; Bettache (Raymond), Bingham ©; Allen, Addy (Reay); Cheek
Man of the Match: Alfy Whittingham (Aldershot Town)
Attendance: 1,853
Position After Game: 17th

Matchday 27: Bromley 3 - 1 Havant and Waterlooville (2 - 1)

The final game of 2020 saw Bromley record their second win under Basil Brush's new regime with a well earned triumph over the Hawks. Once more Brush made two changes, both positional. Coulson and Holgate made way for Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel, back from injury, and David Boateng: the latter playing the holding role in front of the back four with Jones dropping into central defence alongside Jack Holland.

Bingham had an influential role in the opening goal after 23 minutes, a teasing centre from the skipper and Allen poked in his first ever Bromley goal from close range. The Hawks equalised eight minutes before half time though when central defender Craig Robson glanced in a header from a Roarie Deacon set-piece. However, Bromley regained the lead on the stroke of half time with a sensational strike from Faysal Bettache. The QPR loanee ran at the Hawks defence before unleashing a thunderbolt from 25 yards that gave the keeper no chance whatsoever.

Bromley secured their win with a third goal just a couple of minutes after the restart. A low cross by Lawrence-Gabriel found Cheek in space who slammed it home at the second time of asking after his initial effort had been blocked. After that Bromley cruised to the win, and there was still time for a cameo appearance from Vadaine Oliver who made his first appearance after four months out with a hip injury.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel (Higgs), Jones, Holland, Bush; Boateng; Bettache, Bingham ©; Allen, Addy (Raymond), Cheek (Oliver)
Booked: Jones (2), Bush (2)
Man of the Match: Billy Bingham
Attendance: 1,098
Position After Game: 17th
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 64: No rest, no play

The New Year echoed with bangs and fireworks a plenty. Basil had gone down to the centre of London for a few days to celebrate 2021's arrival. Like thousands, Basil stood in the cold night air on the Embankment watching the London and the Thames light up in a serious explosion of colour and splendour. There was no Jessica Miesel, nobody actually to snuggle up close to and gaze into "come to bed" eyes, just pure strangers whooping and hollering as the display unfolded. After spending the previous year in Australia, experiencing it back in the UK: well, it was nice to return to normality for a while.

The following day, Ne'er Day as Basil's father used to say it, Basil was in his office planning for the next game for Bromley. It was a long trip north in 24 hours which meant an early departure from South East London. Destination, Darlington. Basil read the online edition of the Northern Echo and as part of the game preview, it mentioned Basil's loan spell at Hartlepool United when he was a player. Hartlepool and Darlington, even though the two towns were 25 miles apart, enjoyed a bit of fierce rivalry. So Basil braced himself that he might get a bit of banter in his direction tomorrow when he took his place in that visiting dugout at Blackwell Meadows.

But before that, there was a transfer to deal with. Bolton Wanderers of League Two wanted to sign David Boateng, and the player had expressed a wish in making the move permanent. Because the 19 year old defensive midfielder was out of contract since the previous manager not decided to offer him a full time deal, the youngster could move and Basil would be powerless to stop it. As it was, the Trotters agreed terms with the player and he left there and then. That was the cruel side of football. But the same day brought some good news as the Club managed to expand their off pitch team with 27 year old Dean Jones arriving at Hayes Lane as a Sports Scientist. Jones had been the standout candidate from the recent advertisement, and only the best would do. He wouldn't be the last new arrival in January.

Matchday 28: Darlington 1 - 1 Bromley (0 - 0)

Bromley picked up a valuable point in their bid to clamber out of the relegation dog fight but it could have been much more if they hadn't been so wasteful in their finishing at Blackwell Meadows. Barracked by the home support constantly through the ninety minutes, Basil made just a single change to the side that defeated Havant and Waterlooville. David Boateng had departed for pastures new, Bolton, with Frankie Raymond coming into the starting eleven and forming a central midfield trio alongside Billy Bingham and Faysal Bettache. TQ Addy and Ben Allen stayed on the wings with Michael Cheek continuing as the lone striker.

After a goalless first half, Bromley took the lead in the 54th minute when Salam pushed Harrison Holgate as they challenged for the ball after an inswinging free-kick from Bingham. Referee Constantine Hatzidakis pointed straight to the spot, and Cheek stepped up to drill the penalty kick right into the bottom right hand corner: absolute perfection. With 22 minutes left, the home side equalised. Salam charged into the area and fired in an angled effort that Ryan Huddart could only parry out to Jordan O'Brien and he rammed his shot into the vacant net.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Jones, Holland (Holgate), Bush; Allen, Bettache, Raymond (Oliver), Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek (Higgs)
Booked: Holland (3)
Man of the Match: Jordan O'Brien (Darlington)
Attendance: 1,464
Position After Game: 18th

With there being a fortnight between the Darlington game and the next one, a home one against 8th placed Barrow, Basil sought the time to continue his backroom staff overhaul with new faces coming into Bromley. Tuesday the 5th proved to be the most hectic with two new names arriving to fill roles. The first new name was the appointment of Director of Football, and filling that role was former Oldham Athletic goalkeeper Andy Lonergan who had retired from playing in the summer after a spell at Liverpool. Also coming in that was a boost to the medical team with Deanne Goring joining the Club as an extra physiotherapist, this would ease the pressure on Sean Wickenden who had been rushed off his feet since arriving in the summer.

The following day, it was the turn of the scouting network to receive a boost as Joe Taylor was appointed as an additional scout. Then Basil brought in George Stevens 24 hours later after this as a Chief Data Analyst, Stevens would watch the team's game and see what was good and what was bad before submitting a report to Basil. All the top clubs had this model in place, so why not Bromley? Then the biggest arrival came on Saturday the 9th as Basil and Bromley brought in their big name acquisition as a coach. For arriving in Bromley was none other than 81 times capped French internationalist and five times Premier League winner with Manchester United, Patrice Evra! Yes, the very same one. Evra was swapping the bright lights and party scene in Barcelona for coaching on potential wet days in Bromley! What a coup!

Matchday 29: Bromley 4 - 0 Barrow (1- 0)

Bromley produced their best performance under the short time they have been managed by Basil Brush; with a comprehensive dismantling of Barrow at Hayes Lane. Barrow were ripped apart with some scintillating football from the hosts and didn't help themselves with two Bluebirds players being sent for early baths by referee Paul Rees. Brush made two changes to his side that drew at Darlington, both in the back four as he persisted with the 4-5-1 formation. Coming into the starting line up were Holgate and Ryan Galvin, the latter now fully recovered from flu which had left him bedridden over Christmas and New Year and out went Jack Holland and Chris Bush.

The rout started in the 19th minute when Ben Allen stood up a cross from the byline and Cheek planted a header into the far corner. It was the beginning of a great day for the former Ebbsfleet marksman. With the second half less than a minute old, he and Bromley had a second when Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel's low cross was tapped home at the near post by the striker. Two minutes later, he completed a hat-trick when he got his head onto a Bingham corner. The striker's elation was felt all round Hayes Lane. Then Barrow really started to unravel as they were reduced to nine men before the game reached the hour mark. Lewis Hardcastle and Josh Kay both saw red for second bookable offences, leaving their manager and supporters watching in disbelief.

Goal number four arrived in the 64th minute. Another Bingham corner and this time substitute Vadaine Oliver thumped home a header into the back of the Barrow net. After that Bromley played the game within themselves, keeping it simple at front and back. The boys had earned their Monday off after this!

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Jones, Holgate, Galvin; Allen, Bettache (Coulson), Raymond (Oliver), Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek
Booked: Cheek (2)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Attendance: 1,130
Position After Game: 16th
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 65: Sometimes you can't always be a success

As the month of January ticked closer to being completed, Basil sat back in his office chair...content shall we say. He'd finished his first month at Bromley, and the team were slowly buying into what he demanded from them. He fired up his work laptop, and connected to the internet just to see how Werribee were doing. Had things gone pear shaped after Basil's departure? In fact, not they were still doing rather well. So he typed up a nice email to Wads to pass on his fondest wishes and that he (Basil) still had a soft spot for them despite being on the other side of the world now.

In between the last game at home to Barrow and the next away to AFC Fylde, Basil added another name to his now increased back room staff. He had found a Head of Youth Development, and arriving from north of the border was Scot Stevie Campbell. Stevie had been enticed to come from Brechin, near Dundee to take up the role that Basil was so keen to fill. He had experience in this role before with both Dundee clubs as well as at Inverness Caledonian Thistle as well as acting as a number two at Glebe Park. Just the ticket. With the squad also thin on numbers, the first team squad only had 18 players with the rest scattered in the Under 23s and Under 18s, Basil was also scouring the loan and free transfer markets in the hope of finding a gem and keeping the wage budget still firmly under control.

Matchday 30: AFC Fylde 5 - 3 Bromley (3 - 2)

There were goals a plenty at Mill Farm as hosts AFC Fylde and visitors Bromley put on an attacking show that must have really satisfied the neutrals but not been good for the heart rates of the managers and supporters of the two sides. Bromley manager Basil Brush named an unchanged side from the side that thumped Barrow 4-0 seven days previous which meant the team continued with the 4-5-1 formation for the third game in succession. However, Vadaine Oliver had been become the latest victim of the flu bug which had hit certain members over the last month.

Fylde started with a bang with two goals in the opening eight minutes. In the second minute, the hugely impressive Tom Walker netted from the edge of the area after a slick passing move before Angolan winger Érico Sousa drilled in a second six minutes later. Bromley looked shell shocked to say the least. Yet Bromley picked themselves up and stunned their hosts with two goals of their own in two minutes to make it 2-2 after just 22 minutes. First of all in the 20th minute, a superb defence splitting pass from Faysal Bettache found TQ Addy who beat Montgomery at his near post with an angled finish. Then Bettache himself scored the second, a curling effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

The home side regained their lead a minute before half time when James Craigen's corner drifted all the way through to the far post and Gary Oliver slid in to convert. The striker bagged his second three minutes after the restart, Walker charging down the left before delivering a low cross to him who made it 4-2 with a low finish. Bromley had to fight back and fight back quickly if they were to get anything out of the game. They got within one in the 67th minute when Joey Jones bulleted home a far post header from an curling free-kick by skipper Billy Bingham. Then as they pushed forwards for a fourth and equalising strike, Fylde put the game beyond them when former Macclesfield Town midfielder Danny Whitehead lashed one in from long range with four minutes to go.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Jones, Holgate, Galvin (Holland); Allen (Coulson), Bettache, Raymond, Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek
Booked: Lawrence-Gabriel (7)
Man of the Match: Tom Walker (AFC Fylde)
Attendance: 1,518
Position After Game: 16th

The midweek saw Basil manage to bring in his first signing, and he was adamant it would not be the last as there were still certain spots in the team which lacked depth.

Jack Diamond - M/AM L: On loan to the end of the season from Sunderland

A young winger who will add competition to the left wing slot currently occupied by TQ Addy. Has come through the Academy of Light, and this represents the third loan spell of his fledging career. Made eight appearances towards the back end of the 2018-19 season with Spennymoor Town and a full season long loan last season at Harrogate Town, scoring four goals in 45 league and cup matches. Made his Black Cats debut as a substitute for Lynden Gooch in their 3-1 home win earlier in the season and scored his first goal for them in an Papa John's Trophy group encounter against Everton Under 23s. Will be wearing squad number 16 at Hayes Lane.

Matchday 31: Yeovil Town 0 - 2 Bromley (0 - 1)

Bromley took advantage of some slack finishing by their hosts to record a vital away win to boost their chances of not being drawn into a relegation dogfight. Goals from top scorer Michael Cheek and Frankie Raymond did the damage against the Glovers for whom new Dutch manager Foeke Booy will be far from impressed with his team's chance to conversion ratio. The Lilywhites surprisingly named an unchanged side for this game, with new loan signing Jack Diamond from Sunderland not deemed fit enough to start.

The opening goal came after 20 minutes play. Ben Allen headed a pass into Cheek who took one touch before unleashing a half volley into the roof of the net beyond Liam O'Brien. The former Coventry City keeper had no chance with that one and he certainly had no chance with the second and decisive goal, which came six minutes from time, Raymond curling a sublime free-kick into the top corner.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Jones, Holgate, Galvin; Allen (Coulson), Bettache (Rush), Raymond, Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek (Holland)
Booked: Allen (3)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Attendance: 2,756
Position After Game: 14th

The following day saw the belated Vanarama National League monthly awards be handed out for December 2020, and Basil was pretty pleased it had to be said. Top scorer Cheek finished second place in the Player of the Month category whilst loanee Bettache went one better. The midfielder's superb effort against Havant and Waterlooville secured the Goal of the Month crown for him to much applause from Basil, his backroom and team-mates when it was presented to him at training.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 66: Let's build a bit of momentum

Basil had one thing to say to the Bromley team as they boarded the team bus in Somerset to head back to South East London, "Lads, let's build a bit of momentum." and he meant every single word of it. The team has gotten themselves up to 14th which the board were delighted with but Basil wanted more. He wanted the team to kick on further and move up that table towards the play-off spots. Sure it was a tough ask to haul those above Bromley in but Basil had that self-belief that nothing was impossible.

Anything would be considered possible. Why have targets but actually exceed them? As Basil sat in his office the following Monday after the Yeovil game, he thought of printing out and placing positive messages across the dressing to inspire the team. He had seen it have a positive effect when he was a player so why not bring it into the managerial career of his own. Positive message after positive message, encouraging the team to take the next step: the next step towards greatness he saw it as.

Matchday 32: Bromley 0 - 0 Harrogate Town (0 - 0)

Basil made one change from the side which took maximum points from Yeovil as the team embarked on a month which would see them play three of the four games at home. That change saw Luke Coulson come into the side on the right wing as Ben Allen was dropped due to some less than impressive performances. Other than that, Bromley were fielding their 4-5-1 formation which was working well whilst Harrogate were playing a basic 4-4-2.

Despite the promptings of skipper Billy Bingham, Bromley ended up having to share the spoils on a windy afternoon. Neither side could find that killer instinct in front of goal with Basil content that his central defensive partnership Harrison Holgate and Joey Jones kept Town's prolific marksman Jack Muldoon very quiet indeed. It was a point but it could have been three. The game also saw the debut of new loanee from Sunderland, Jack Diamond, as he entered the fray as a 55th minute substitute.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Holgate, Jones, Galvin; Coulson, Raymond, Bettache (Oliver), Bingham ©, Addy (Diamond); Cheek
Man of the Match: Billy Bingham
Attendance: 1,234
Position After Game: 13th

It was a busy week before the next game as the League decided to announce the January 2021 award winners in midweek, just seven days after December 2020's had been released. Bromley wouldn't win anything this time out although top scorer Michael Cheek did finish second in the Player of the Month awards for the second successive month. Basil told "Cheeky" not to feel too disheartened, after he was appreciated at his own club and that's all that mattered really...anything else was a bonus! Then 24 hours before the Lilywhites next game, Basil was delighted to bring in his first permanent signing.

Josh Boorn - S C: Free Transfer

That first permanent signing is 18 year old striker Josh Boorn. Josh came through the youth ranks at Luton Town but was released by the Hatters at the end of 2019-2020 season without making a first team appearances. Before signing a contract which takes him up to the end of next season, Boorn was spotted playing Sunday league football by Lilywhites Chief Scout Paul Martin who recommended him to be snapped up. Basil Brush had this to say about the new acquisition: "I'm delighted to bring Josh to the Club as my first permanent signing. He's a good size, 6 feet and just 18 with some very good striking abilities. I was surprised when Luton released him but Josh knows he has a second chance here and is determined to play his way into my plans. Definitely one for the future."

Matchday 33: Bromley 1 - 0 Wealdstone (1 - 0)

Bottom of the table Wealdstone tried to arrest their slide towards National League South but in the end was hosts Bromley who made it three games without defeat thanks to a narrow win. After a goalless draw seven days prior, Lilywhites boss Basil Brush opted to go for an attacking 4-4-2 formation against the basement dwellers which meant Michael Cheek and Vadaine Oliver formed a double pronged spearhead. The inclusion of Oliver was one of three changes with Sunderland loanee Diamond making his first start and Allen being restored to the right wing. Dropping out were Faysal Bettache, TQ Addy and Luke Coulson.

In fact, the only goal of the game featured two of the included players. Allen spread the ball out to Diamond on the left wing who waited before playing the ball into the path of top scorer Cheek who slid a low shot past Stone to beat the keeper at his near post. Hardly the most polished performance but another step forward in the right direction as the Basil Brush Bromley revolution continues to roll onwards.

Team: Huddart; Lawrence-Gabriel, Holgate, Jones, Galvin; Allen, Raymond (Bettache), Bingham ©, Diamond; Oliver (Addy), Cheek
Man of the Match: Daniel Phillips (Wealdstone)
Attendance: 1,449
Position After Game: 10th
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 67: Creeping up on the outside

After three clean sheets on the bounce, Basil was rather content with how Bromley were performing. Granted they would have the odd blip like they did at AFC Fylde, the signs were that Bromley were starting to buy into what Basil demanded from them. Slowly but surely they were building up form like a well oiled machine and closing in on the seventh and final play-off position which when Basil took, seemed very much improbable indeed.

The Monday after the Wealdstone game, Basil was at another press conference in Hayes Lane. It was time to unveil his second permanent signing.

Mohammed Sangaré - M C: Free Transfer

The latest arrival at Hayes Lane was eight times capped Liberian internationalist Mohammed Sangaré. Sangaré had been released by Newcastle United in the summer without making a first team appearance for the Magpies in five seasons at St James Park. He had been on trial at Bromley for almost a month before Under 23's manager Brendan Moloney suggested to Basil that the midfielder should become a permanent member of the squad after producing some very eye catching performances. The 22 year old has signed a contract until the end of next season. Basil had this to say: "I'm very pleased to bring in Mohammed as my second signing. He has done exceptionally well when on trial and we like what we see in him, he will be challenging those in the first team soon that I do believe."

A few days later though, Basil had a setback to deal with. First choice right-back Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel twisted his ankle during training, and the damage was pretty bad. Head physiotherapist Sean Wickenden confirmed the tenacious but attack minded full back would miss three weeks of action, a massive blow to the side and for the player himself to contend with.

Matchday 34: Chesterfield 0 - 2 Bromley (0 - 0)

The only away game in February saw Bromley travel to Chesterfield. This was a bitter sweet trip for Basil as the Spireites had overlooked him for their then vacant managerial position in September, opting to choose former Exeter and MK Dons manager Paul Tisdale instead. Tisdale lasted just 137 days before being sacked with the team still involved in a relegation scrap. They were under the temporary tutelage of former Doncaster, Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds and Rotherham defender Glynn Snodin. With what happened to Tisdale, Basil afforded himself a wry smile as he walked into the away dressing room at the Proact Stadium.

For this fixture, Basil decided to stick with the 4-4-2 that had beaten Wealdstone with the one enforced change, Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel out injured, 18 year old Anthony Wise coming in for his Bromley debut. It was a tight game with both teams looking for that all important breakthrough, and it was Bromley who made it in the 62nd minute when a ball over the top from Ryan Galvin was collected by Jack Diamond who took one touch before chipping it over Luke Coddington and into the roof of the net. As Chesterfield pushed for a leveller, Bromley netted their second and clinching goal with a minute to go when a free kick from Billy Bingham was powerfully headed into the net by Joey Jones to cap a towering performance by the centre half.

Team: Huddart; Wise (Bush), Holgate, Jones, Galvin; Allen (Coulson), Raymond (Bettache), Bingham ©, Diamond; Oliver, Cheek
Booked: Wise (1)
Man of the Match: Joey Jones
Attendance: 4,559
Position After Game: 8th

The last game would be just three days later due to opponents Sutton United being in FA Trophy action at the weekend. Whilst the timing was not perfect, meaning there would be lots of tired bodies, there would be an extended time for the players to recover afterwards. Basically a bit of six and two threes as Basil's father used to call it. Could Bromley lift themselves one more time to finish the month with yet another three point haul?

Matchday 35: Bromley 3 - 0 Sutton United (1 - 0)

Bromley made it 13 points out of their last 15 with a comprehensive win over near neighbours Sutton United at Hayes Lane. Top scorer Michael Cheek was the destroyer in chief with a brace whilst there was a cracking goal from TQ Addy to delight the home support further. It was a result that made it seven wins out of eleven since the former Werribee City manager was appointed in late December and lifted the Lilywhites within five points of the play-offs with just eleven games left to play.

Brush opted to move back to 4-5-1 for the game which meant changes, in fact he made three of them. Out went Vadaine Oliver, Wise and Ben Allen with Addy, Faysal Bettache and Luke Coulson coming in. With Addy on the left wing, Diamond showed his versatility by switching to the right.

Bromley took the lead ten minutes before the break. A superb crossfield pass by Bingham was collected by Diamond whose first time cross was brilliantly volleyed home by Cheek. Ten minutes after the restart, Bromley had their second. Some fantastic passing football was abruptly ended by Rio Glean with a forceful challenge on the Sunderland loanee. Cheek stepped up to send Wusiewicz the wrong way from twelve yards and score his 15th of the season.

The game was as good as over after that, but the home side weren't finished with their scoring as they added a third twelve minutes from the end. Diamond found fellow winger Addy at the edge of the area and he took one touch before unleashing a piledriver that flew into the net with Wusiewicz given no chance whatsoever.

Team: Huddart; Coulson, Holgate, Jones (Bush), Galvin; Diamond, Raymond, Bettache (Oliver), Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek (Allen)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Attendance: 2,730
Position After Game: 9th
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 68: It's just getting more better, maybe just maybe?

The morning after the Sutton United game, Basil started packing a suitcase. No, he wasn't about to walk out on Bromley but with no first team game on the Saturday Basil would be out of the country on international business. Basil's destination? Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

Why was he going there? Well, Nikao Sokattak were in action against Hekari United in the OFC Champions League Group Stages. Nikao were the holders of the Cook Islands Round Cup and it would give Basil a feel of seeing some players in action before the national side took on Fiji in a friendly match on 24 March 2021. He would soon have to name a squad for that, with the help of Tokoa Newnham of course, but it would go to show to the Cook Islands FA that he was serious about the role they had given him last October.

Predictably Hekari dominated the game from the onset but they simply couldn't finish their chances which gave hope to Nikao that they could get something out of it. It had the hallmark of a surprise result written in the proverbial stars, and you know what...that's exactly what happened! The game was in its 87th minute when Thomas Manuarli's out swinging corner was headed goalbound by John Paul Teetai. Hekari hesitated and central defender Romano Meutaua lashed home from six yards. Still there was time for drama as Hekari scored with virtually the last kick of the game but the New Zealand officials ruled it out for offside. The home crowd went bananas so as soon as the final whistle went, Basil was out of there and to his hotel for a rest prior to flying home that same night.

Despite suffering jet lag chronically, Basil was back behind his desk on Monday with preparations for Bromley's next game. That was 24 hours later at the Globe Arena against table toppers Morecambe. As he planned meticulously as always, there was a knock on the door and in entered Jerry with a huge smile on his face. Basil looked at Jerry who was thrusting his iPhone into Basil's face:

"Basil, Basil. Look at this, look at THIS!"
"I'm looking Jerry, I'm looking. Jerry, stop waving your iPhone around FFS! I'm trying to read it."

Basil stared at the Twitter message on Jerry's iPhone:

The manager then opened the link, and there it was in its whole entirety. The full story. Basil read it, his eyes bulging with excitement and Jerry's face beaming with joy.

"Congratulations Basil, so knew you had this in you."
"Thanks Jerry. I couldn't have..."
"You could and you did. The presentation will on the pitch before the game on Saturday against Stockport. Anyway must go, meetings and that. I'll leave you to your planning."

And before Basil could say, thank you, Jerry was back out of the door as quickly as he had entered through it. Basil rocked back in his leather desk chair, hands behind his head and reflected. He looked to the skies and said to himself: "This one's for you Da!"

A wry smile flooded his face, and Basil then opened the top left desk cupboard door. He pulled out a glass then a bottle of Jura before pouring himself a measure, nothing too much as he didn't want to be pulled over by the police.

Yeah the reputation was going in the right direction. But still more work to do..
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 69: March-ing on together

The rain was lashing down as Basil boarded the team bus outside Hayes Lane, bags under his eyes so big you could fill a Tesco shop in them. He had very little sleep, and the worse was yet to come in March as he would embark of games at home and overseas with Bromley and the Cook Islands. But he promised Jerry that they wouldn't be too much trouble when he had the interview. However, now considering, perhaps they were yet there were other managers who had done dual roles such as his mentor: Sir Alex Ferguson. "Fergie" had, in 1985, taken over the temporary charge of Scotland after the sad passing of the legendary Jock Stein on the touchline in Cardiff. Under that brief tenure, Sir Alex managed Aberdeen whilst dealing with a World Cup qualifier against Australia and the eventual tournament in Mexico.

But this was different, yet Basil was confident he could deal with it. With a stopover, the journey would last almost six hours and the same back. Time to rest those weary eyes. Thankfully the boys were in a similar place so snooze time for all, bar Geoff the driver of course.

Matchday 36: Morecambe 0 - 4 Bromley (0 - 2)

The rain was still lashing it down as Bromley arrived in Morecambe. Basil and a few of the lads, Michael Cheek specifically headed to the Eric Morecambe statue on the seafront before the game for a quick selfie or two. The comedian was a bit of comedic legend to Basil, and Basil flashed his spectacles in typical Eric Morecambe style with a "Wahey!" as Cheek played photographer. 23 away fans all coddled together in the Bay Radio Stand Terrace, hiding their eyes from an incessant downpour. As for the team, Basil named an unchanged line up from the side that had beaten Sutton and also an unchanged formation to take on the league leaders.

The game saw Bromley produce their best performance by far under Brush, as they made the league leaders look more like league strugglers. The great away day started as early as the sixth minute when Frankie Raymond lofted a free kick into the penalty area and Harrison Holgate rose above everyone to direct his header into the far corner of the net with Mark Halstead in the Shrimps goal, stranded. A second arrived after 19 minutes; the hugely impressive Luke Coulson drove to the byline before planting a cross onto the head of Cheek to steer his header into the bottom corner and again with Halstead left floundering.

Morecambe simply had no response to Bromley's attacking play, and the visitors bagged a third two minutes after half time. This time it was skipper Billy Bingham who created it with a free-kick to the far post and Faysal Bettache headed it in. The rout was completed four minutes from the end when substitute Ben Allen scampered down the right before clipping in a cross that fellow substitute Vadaine Oliver headed in easily at the near post. It made it six wins on the bounce for Bromley, and six clean sheets: apparently a Vanarama National League record as Basil was told as he boarded that bus home.

Team: Huddart; Coulson, Holgate, Jones, Galvin; Diamond, Raymond (Bush), Bettache, Bingham ©, Addy (Allen); Cheek (Oliver)
Man of the Match: Luke Coulson
Attendance: 1,510
Position After Game: 8th

Basil smiled as the coach pulled away from Christie Way, Morecambe. But this job was far from done indeed, more challenges awaited him and his ever improving team. One of those challenges was to agree terms on a new deal with skipper Bingham. Bingham was wanting £3K a week, tripling his wages, but Basil knew that this would put the Club in financial peril as he'd stretched the wage budget to the maximum. He couldn't do it as much as he appreciated Bingham as a player and a leader. Unless somehow Jerry would increase the wage budget which knowing Jerry, was like getting blood out of the proverbial stone. Hopefully the skipper would agree to wait until the end of the season when maybe, just maybe, either his demands would have lowered or the budget had increased. That was Basil's hope.

Matchday 37: Bromley 2 - 1 Stockport County (1 - 0)

There was a real buzz abounding Hayes Lane as Bromley played their 37th league game of the season. Before the game, Basil was presented with his Manager of the Month gong by a representative of the league sponsor. Obviously Jerry was in shot, milking it as if he had achieved it himself. The home support serenaded Basil as he picked up the award: "There's only one Basil Brush.." to the tune of Winter Wonderland.

The match itself was against former Football League side Stockport County. County had been in the second tier of the FL structure just 20 seasons ago but they freefalled so much that they slipped into the National League North at the end of 2012-13 season with crippling debts but were now on the hard slog back. For this game Basil made two changes from the convincing midweek win at Morecambe. Loanee Ryan Galvin had picked up an abdominal strain in training the day before and after assessment, was going to be out for around four weeks, and Raymond was sacrificed for a change of formation. Anthony Wise replaced Galvin and Oliver came in for Raymond to allow Bromley to play 4-4-2.

Bromley took the lead after just three minutes. A Bingham free kick was met by Bettache who looped his header over Ben Winterbottom and into the net for his second goal in as many games. It was a scrappy game to be fair but the home side scored a second after 57 minutes. Joey Jones played a ball over the top like Franco Baresi, and into the path of Cheek whose low shot beat Winterbottom at the near post. It was the striker's 150th goal of his career and 17th of this season itself. The Hatters pulled one back a minute from time thanks to a superb long range strike from Elliot Osborne which could win Goal of the Season and ended Ryan Huddart's clean sheet streak. Yet Bromley held on to make it seven wins out of seven.

Team: Huddart; Coulson, Holgate, Jones, Wise; Diamond (Allen), Bettache (Raymond), Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek (Holland), Oliver
Booked: Bettache (5), Diamond (1), Cheek; Holland (3)
Man of the Match: Elliot Osborne (Stockport County)
Attendance: 2,083
Position After Game: 8th
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 70: And the train keeps on rolling

Seven wins out of seven, and just one goal conceded in that time. Perhaps Basil and Bromley would afford themselves some time to dream the impossible? Yet Basil, despite Jerry's excitement, remained calm. There was no need for him to get excited just yet as football could kick you down when you didn't want it. Time to stay focused and take every game as it came around.

Basil also the impending transfer deadline to deal with. Thursday 25 March 2021 was circled in a thick red marker on the manager's wall planner, as after this date Bromley's transfer dealings would end for another season. At least there was no such thing as transfer windows in the National League, eh? A quick look at his squad told Basil what he needed to know, and where he could possibly strengthen. The Monday after Stockport saw Basil make the first of two transfer overtures that week.

Target one was 23 year old midfielder Ruben Sammut. An internationalist for Malta, Sammut had come through the Chelsea youth ranks but failed to make an appearance for the London giants. He had recently been on loan to Chesterfield so was available for a nominal fee. Relegation threatened Darlington wanted him but so did Basil, so after a bit of wriggle room with finances, the Bromley gaffer made his move. Now it was down to the player. Later in the week, saw Basil make an approach for target number two. That was experienced defender Diogo Ferreira whom Basil knew from his Werribee days. He could be signed on non-contract terms which meant no wages, but would the former Porto reserve team player consider a move to the other side of the world to further his career? That was the question which Basil awaited an answer to.

Matchday 38: Wrexham 2 - 3 Bromley (0 - 0)

A frantic end to an absolute classic was how the supporters described it as Bromley made it eight wins from eight with a thrilling win in North East Wales. Basil had made two changes from the side that defeated Stockport; out went Jack Diamond and Vadaine Oliver with Jack Holland and Ben Allen returning to the starting eleven. The Bromley manager decided to use a 4-1-2-2-1 formation at the Racecourse Ground, unsure if he had gambled too far as the team hadn't really played this too often. It would either work or blow up in Basil's face spectacularly

The first half saw the teams go into the interval, goalless. Wrexham had had the better of the chances but not made the most of them so Bromley could consider themselves pretty fortunate indeed. The Red Dragons took the lead eventually in the 61st minute when Jay Harris lofted the ball over the top and the experienced Simeon Jackson nipped in to loft the ball over the stranded Ryan Huddart. And that's how it remained until the final eight minutes when the game went mental with four goals.

In the 82nd minute Lilywhites skipper Billy Bingham produced a moment of magic when he curled in a free kick from long range which left Wrexham keeper Rob Lainton grasping thin air. But the drama was still to come. As the fourth official prepared to show how much added on time there would be, the visitors grabbed the lead when a cross from Luke Coulson was headed home by top scorer Michael Cheek. Yet Bromley weren't finished there as they added a third in the second of five minutes added on. As Wrexham pushed for a leveller, Cheek produced a great defensive header to halt the Red Dragons at a set piece; the ball landed at the feet of Bingham who launched a one man counter attack with a charge forward that had Wrexham in retreat. The skipper then applied the finish with a strike that Lainton got a hand to but couldn't keep out.

A first ever Wrexham goal from Largie Ramazani made it a nervous finish, but it was just too late for the home side. The promotion charge continues unabated.

Team: Huddart; Coulson, Holgate, Holland (Oliver), Wise; Jones; Allen (Diamond), Bettache (Raymond), Bingham ©, Addy; Cheek
Booked: Coulson (4)
Man of the Match: Billy Bingham
Attendance: 5,651
Position After Game: 8th

After the game, Basil was on the bus home when he received a text from Sammut. The former Chelsea trainee was willing to join the Lilywhites and reject Darlington. Great, but then came the surprise. With no money in the transfer kitty, and the fact the planned new signing was under 23 and contracted still to the Blues, there would be a nominal fee of £2.3K to pay to secure his services but that would have to affect the prudent running of the wage bill. Basil wanted to sign him but the additional financial implications were now kicking in, with that in mind the transfer was halted for a week whilst Basil tried to get Jerry to give him more flexibility. Otherwise it would be off and hopefully a signing for 21-22 if the player was still available.

Damn finances! Meanwhile, Ferreira hadn't made his mind up. That one could take a bit of time, Basil thought. Still he was happy with what he had so far.

Matchday 39: Ebbsfleet United 1 - 2 Bromley (1 - 0)

Bromley moved into the National League play-off picture with yet another win from behind, this time at Stonebridge Road. It was the Lilywhites ninth win in succession as their resurgence under Basil Brush continued. Brush opted to go back to 4-5-1 and made two changes from the win at Wrexham seven days previously. Diamond and Frankie Raymond were brought back to the starting line up with Allen and Holland omitted.

Ebbsfleet took the lead in time added on at the end of first half. A deep cross from Andy Kirk was headed into the bottom corner by top scorer Josh Umerah. It was a well deserved lead for the Fleet as the visitors were clearly not their fluent best. The game turned though on its head in the final 16 minutes as Bromley snatched the win from the jaws of defeat. The equaliser came after 74 minutes when Cheek played in the recalled Diamond thirty yards out. The Sunderland loanee hit a fierce potshot on goal which Jordan Holmes in the Fleet got a left hand to but was unable to keep out. Then with just three minutes to go, Bromley bagged their late winner. A corner from Bingham caused Fleet all manner of problems and Lawrie Wilson could only head his clearance against substitute Allen and see it rebound into the net.

Team: Huddart; Coulson, Holgate, Jones, Wise; Diamond, Bettache, Raymond (Oliver), Bingham ©, Addy (Allen); Cheek
Man of the Match: Billy Bingham
Attendance: 2,041
Position After Game: 7th

After the game, Brush sped away. There was packing to be done, time to get that passport out once more.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 71: Jeers and Cheers

The day after that latest win, Basil was in London Heathrow Terminal 3 Departures for the second time in 2021 and probably not the last either. His destination? Auckland. To arrive in the Cook Islands eventually would see him on four flights, and four flights back to the UK. The game was on the Wednesday, and then it would be time to do a quick post-match press conference, arriving back in the UK late on Friday. Thankfully Bromley didn't have a game on the Saturday otherwise Basil would have looked positively dreadful in the dugout.

Still, this was the life of an international manager.

24 March 2021, INTERNATIONAL FRIENDLY: Cook Islands 0 - 3 Fiji (0 - 0)

Basil's second international match in charge of the Cook Islands, saw them take on a Fiji side ranked 32 places above in the FIFA world rankings. The two nations had played each other nearly nine months ago in a OFC Nations Cup Second Round Group Stage game, with the Fijians taking the honours that day with a 3-0 win. However, buoyed by what he saw against Micronesia, Basil felt his new international charges could maybe spring a surprise.

The Cook Islands squad saw a raft of changes, with injury robbing Basil of the services of Keegan Inia, Arus Sem and Lee Tereu to name just three. The manager opted to stick with his 4-1-2-2-1 formation with Maro Bonsu-Maro again been seen as the main striker after 5 goals in his first 5 internationals. Despite being under incredible pressure from the start, it took Fiji 62 minutes to break down their stubborn hosts. A miscued clearance from home skipper Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri landed at the feet of Fiji's Bruce Hughes and he blasted the ball into the net past substitute and debut cap Maanariki Pierre. A real unstoppable finish.

With the game finely poised score wise, it could have gone either way. Yet Fiji clinched their win two goals in five minutes in those closing stages. First after 76 minutes, a corner from Tito Vodowaqa wasn't dealt with and Peni Tuigulagula swept the loose ball home. Then with the Cook Islands firmly concentrating their efforts on trying to get back on terms, Fiji hit them for a third thanks to a composed finish from Rusiate Matarerega after a lofted free-kick from Filipe Baravilala had picked him out in the penalty area. So a second 3-0 win for Fiji against their hosts, and plenty for Basil to deliberate over as he flew back to England (via Auckland again) later that day.

Team: Elikana (Pierre); Maoate-Cox (Hallin), Joseph, Aiturau (Mohammed-Nazeem), Barringer-Tahiri ©; Ngatoko (Sila); Ruka (Burrow), Areai; Moutiaki, Simiona; Bonsu-Maro (Hall-Batty)
Man of the Match: Tito Vodowaqa (Fiji)
Attendance: 872
Referee: Jean-Baptiste Wananije (New Caledonia)

If Basil was feeling a tad disappointed after the loss, that was nothing to what was going to happen in the following days as he received a double transfer setback. First of all, his pleas to Jerry to push open the wage budget ended in abject failure as the Chairman refused to sanction the planned transfer of Ruben Sammut. Maybe in the summer, now? Secondly, Austrailan central defender Diogo Ferreira had decided to stay Down Under and move to Heidelberg United: a move Basil only found out whilst in the first class lounge at Auckland Airport.

Could there be some good news, please? Basil sincerely hoped so. As he prepared for Bromley's final game of March at home to Solihull Moors, there was a knock on the door and in walked Michael Cheek and the striker was looking pretty pleased with himself. Whilst the manager was away, the Club had offered Cheek a new deal until the summer of 2023.

"Here you are boss, signed and sealed." Cheek said.
"What the..."
"Yeah whilst you were away, Andy (Lonergan) offered me this new deal and after talking it over with the family...well I couldn't say no to it."
"That's marvellous news Cheeky, you really are of our most influential players. Glad you're staying."
"No problems gaffer, more goals to come. See you game time tonight"

Basil was so pleased to see the signed contract in front of him, so much so he sent an internal message over to Jerry but as regards Billy Bingham. Basil wanted his skipper to stay, so the message was clear: make it happen Mr Chairman! Could it get better with a win over the Moors and complete a second successive undefeated month?

Matchday 40: Bromley 4 - 1 Solihull Moors (3 - 0)

Top scorer Michael Cheek celebrated his new contract with a fantastic hat-trick, his second of the season following one at home to Barrow in early January, to propel Bromley to another win and complete a second successive undefeated month. The same treble took Cheek to 21 goals for the campaign and cemented his place at the Vanarama National League score charts. For the game itself, Basil made three changes to the side that won at Ebbsfleet United. Out went Anthony Wise, Frankie Raymond and TQ Addy with Ryan Galvin, Ben Allen and Vadaine Oliver replacing them as Bromley adopted their 4-4-2 formation.

It was an entertaining game with both sides creating chances a plenty but in the end, it was Bromley's more accurate finishing that made all the difference on the night. The home side took the lead in the 18th minute when Jack Diamond sped forward with a run from his own half into the Solihull penalty area. That run was halted by a challenge from Moors' Sam Gibson but as the ball squirted free Cheek showed his predatory instincts to race onto it and beat Ryan Boot at his near post.

Two goals in four minutes just after the half hour put the game beyond Solihull. In the 31st minute, a low cross from Faysal Bettache was turned in at the near post by the in form Cheek then ten minutes from the break Billy Bingham provided a corner which was headed home from six yards out by Harrison Holgate. Solihull put up a battle but they had to wait until the 89th minute to get on the scoreboard when Jake Beesley crashed one in off the bar from the edge of the penalty area. Still Bromley and Cheek would have the final say in the third minute of time added on when substitute Addy weighted his pass into Cheek who had slipped away from his marker just enough to slide the ball low into the corner past the advancing Boot.

The game also saw the Bromley fans welcome a debutant to the side as midfielder Mohammed Sangaré made his first appearance for the Club since signing for the Club in January. He came on as 73rd minute substitute for Bettache.

Team: Huddart, Coulson, Holgate, Jones, Galvin (Wise); Allen (Addy), Bettache (Sangaré ), Bingham ©, Diamond; Oliver, Cheek
Booked: Allen (4)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Attendance: 1,602
Position After Game: 7th
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 72: That winning feeling

It was Maundy Thursday morning when the latest winners of the Vanarama National League monthly awards got announced, and Basil was busy as ever. The players were in early doors for a lightish session ahead of the Easter games which would begin with a Good Friday trip north to Victoria Park and Hartlepool United. Basil had spent half a season on loan to Pools during his playing career, and he still had family living the town as well. All of them would be on the terraces watching, and Basil wondered in the back of his mind, what kind of reception he would get on his first return as a manager of an opponent. Hopefully, it would be a good one.

The lads were being put through their pace as always by assistant manager Jon McCarthy in one group, fitness coach Ben May and Patrice Evra was taking a third with the groups alternating every 30 minutes. Jim Stannard was putting the keepers through a thorough workout in the goalmouth at the North Terrace end of the ground. Everything was going well, when Jerry came rushing out. "What does he want? Has he got a new contract for Billy (Bingham) in that suit pocket?" Basil mumbled as the Chairman ran onto the pitch like David Pleat had done at Maine Road way back in 1983.

"Jerry, Jerry. I'm trying to get the players ready for tomorrow's game!" Basil growled.
"I know, but look here." Jerry replied, his iPhone waving about once more.

Both Basil and his leading goalscorer Michael Cheek had been honoured by the League, making it a double celebration for the Club. Two Manager of the Month awards in as many months for Brush and a well deserved award for the league leading hotshot. Then Basil looked at the date, it was April Fool's Day. It was also 10:00am too which meant pranks could still be played without comebacks for another couple of hours. Brush and Cheek looked at each other, then looked at Jerry.

"This is an April Fools prank Jerry, very funny." Cheek said to the Chairman.
"No Michael, this isn't. " Jerry replied, and proceeded to load up the Vanarama National League website on his iPhone.

It was completely true, the stories were up there in black and white. In addition to Cheek's player of the month award, Bingham had been named in third place in the same award. And it didn't stop there either. Harrison Holgate and Faysal Bettache had finished second and third respectively in the Young Player of the Month category behind Sutton United's 18 year Scot Darren Clark.

"This calls for a celebration." skipper Bingham announced.
"Yeah, save it for a few ales on Saturday skipper since we don't have a game. We'll have a few socials in the afternoon in the Club House." Basil replied.
"Sounds good."

The awards would be handed out on 10 April when Barnet came to Hayes Lane. But winning on Good Friday at Hartlepool and on Easter Monday at Notts County, two of Bromley's promotion rivals, was the main thing. That and avoiding the Manager of the Month curse for a second successive month. The season defining month was about to kick in, Brush and Bromley knew they had to lift those impressive performances garnered so far to a whole new level now. No time to slip up with a shot getting into League Two as the ultimate reward in seven weeks or so time.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 73; An egg-cellent Easter!

With just six games of the regular season to play, everyone knew how important the Easter period was. Two games in three days would test anyone at any level, never mind in the National League. It could make or break a season for a Club. Bromley were on a roll, ten games unbeaten with nine of them wins and the team seen as relegation candidates in December: were now pushing for an unexpected promotion under Basil. Basil had kept his players focused throughout, the talk of promotion and the word itself was banned in the dressing room.

Yet if they could pick up some decent points from those Easter away games then perhaps they would be allowed to dream that bit more right?

Matchday 41: Hartlepool United 1 - 4 Bromley (1 - 1)

Bromley headed north on a crisp Good Friday morning to face promotion rivals Hartlepool at the Vic and for manager Basil Brush, a return to a familiar place. Despite being born in Sheffield, Brush had been raised in the North East town and as a youngster used to go down to the Victoria Ground as it was then known to watch Pools with his uncle. Thus when he pulled on the blue and white in 2004 on a season long loan from Sunderland, it was like the realisation of a dream come true.

Almost five hours later, the Anderson Travel coach pulled up on Clarence Road to a smattering of home supporters. One of those supporters was itching to see Basil, and as the Bromley manager strode off the final step, he was engulfed in a massive hug. The person issuing that hug, none other than Basil's uncle Ron, the same uncle who had taken him to his first football matches. Obviously Ron was wanting a Pools win but he also realised the fact that his nephew had a job to do as well. It was a real family moment. That happiness had obviously transmitted itself to the Victoria Park stands too as Basil received such a rapturous welcome when he appeared in the away dugout. The Poolies remembered him with fondness.

As for the match itself, Bromley did their promotion hopes no harm whatsoever with a comprehensive win over the hosts. Michael Cheek was the destroyer in chief with yet another hat-trick, making to back to back trebles for the hitman, and left the 22 away supporters dancing in delight. The team had seen two changes from the side that had seen off Solihull Moors just 72 hours beforehand with Mohammed Sangaré being given his full debut as Brush reverted to his 4-5-1 formation.

The rout started after just five minutes, Billy Bingham with the left wing corner and a thumping far post header from Cheek that fizzed past Brad Young and into the opposite bottom corner. Pools equalised four minutes from half time when a long free-kick from Matt Challoner was misjudged by Joey Jones and left Harrison Cooper in the clear; the Middlesbrough loanee strode away and fired in a shot that squirmed under Ryan Huddart and into the bottom corner. But Bromley were in no need to leave Teesside with nothing, they wanted those three points with passion.

In the 56th minute, the visitors regained the lead and it would be a lead that they would never relinquish. Jack Diamond turned Michael Raynes inside and out before standing up a cross that Cheek powered home a header from ten yards out. Five minutes later, it was 3-1 and a Cheek hat-trick. Once more Diamond created it with a slide rule pass into the league's top scorer who drove a low shot beyond Young. With 22 minutes to go it became three in 12 minutes as Bromley added a fourth when Sangaré pinged a pass into Diamond who blasted in a powerful shot and cap a great day's work for the winger.

Team: Huddart, Coulson (Wise), Holgate, Jones (Lawrence-Gabriel), Galvin; Diamond, Bettache, Bingham ©, Sangaré, Addy; Cheek (Oliver)
Booked: Cheek (4)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Attendance: 5,234
Position After Game: 7th

Basil opted not to make the journey back down South after the game, deciding instead to stay overnight in Hartlepool to have some quality family time with his aunt and uncle. Family was always important to the Bromley manager, it was what had been instilled in from those tender years kicking a ball around Grayfields or against the wall at the rear of that house on Belmont Gardens. The following morning, it was time to bid farewell and who knew: the two sides could yet play each other in the National League play-offs.

As the manager strolled into the social club that afternoon, he was greeted by a smiling Bingham. The reason for the skipper's smile, well whilst Brush was on the train back to Bromley, Bingham had been at the Club earlier to see Jerry and sign a one year extension to his current deal. The deal had seen the midfield schemer's wages triple and ensured that Bromley wouldn't lose him this summer. It had come at a cost, the wage budget was now way over what it was 24 hours before and there were some rumblings that Basil hadn't achieved that objective. But the deal had been brokered without the manager so the buck needed to stop there and then. Coupled with a raft of youngsters signing their first ever professional contracts, Brush knew he would have to balance those books in the summer with a new wage budget provided by Jerry. It was one of those things, right? He could deal with it.

Matchday 42: Notts County 0 - 1 Bromley (0 - 1)

Bromley extended their unbeaten streak to an impressive 12 games and moved up to 6th place in the National League standings with a single goal win at Meadow Lane. With a match in hand to come, the league's surprise packet continued their rise under Basil Brush and now lie just three points behind second placed AFC Fylde.

For the second game in three days, Basil opted to name an unchanged side from the side that had comprehensively dismantled Hartlepool on Good Friday which meant the 4-5-1 formation was again in play. Despite picking a tight groin strain in light training the day before, Ryan Galvin was deemed fit enough to play and he had a vital role in the winner. The left back on loan from Sheffield Wednesday charged down the left wing, cut inside Dion Kelly-Evans before measuring a cross onto the head of Cheek who headed in his 25th of the season from the edge of the six yard box.

The goal was the highlight of what was a dour game with the Magpies not taking their chances when they had them presented to them. In the opposite corner, Bromley were resolute in defence and just about deserved their win. Four games to go, just four points separating second from seventh. The race is well and truly on now.

Team: Huddart, Coulson (Lawrence-Gabriel), Holgate, Jones, Galvin (Wise); Diamond, Bettache (Allen), Bingham ©, Sangaré, Addy; Cheek
Booked: Bettache (6), Jones (3), Allen (5)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Attendance: 5,556
Position After Game: 6th

Easter, for Basil and Bromley, had certainly been egg-cellent for sure!
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 74: Steamroller

With three of their four league games at Hayes Lane, Bromley knew that their play off destiny was in their own hands. Basil was aware of it, the players were and the fans were certainly buying into it. Nobody would have thought that on 19 December last year, with the club lying in 17th and embroiled in a relegation scrap, that fortunes would change so rapidly and so positively for all.

The way things were going, Basil was making progress a season ahead of schedule. However, he was sure that he would stay in Hayes Lane until the end of his contract at least. Then; and only then; would he decide where he would go next. If that meant going overseas again then so be it. Until now, Bromley was his focus and taking them as far as he could.

Matchday 43: Bromley 2 - 0 Barnet (2 - 0)

Two goals in the first half at rain swept Hayes Lane propelled Bromley to yet another win, their 11th in succession. It lifted them to a season high of 4th, and left the home supporters thinking that anything was possible. Brush made two changes from the side that had won at Notts County on Easter Monday, Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel and Vadaine Oliver came into the side at the expense of Luke Coulson and Mohammed Sangaré.

Before the game, there was a double cheer from the home fans as Brush and Michael Cheek received their Vanarama National League Manager of the Month and Player of the Month awards respectively. Those cheers got louder as the home side took the lead after just three minutes. A Billy Bingham free-kick to the far post was headed in by Faysal Bettache under very little challenge. The second arrived in first half added time, a probing move ended with Cheek touching the ball back to Bingham who rifled in an unstoppable shot from 20 yards that gave Scott Loach no chance whatsoever.

Bingham's strike was phenomenal, considering he had been nursing a bruised knee since midway through the half. It would also mean that he would leave the game before the hour was up. Despite the absence of their skipper Bromley could have had a third when Anthony Wise, the replacement for Bingham, nodded down a cross field pass from Cheek down to Jack Diamond who finished well but the assistant's flag muted the celebrations. Barnet planned to get back into it, but Bromley were resolute and Ryan Huddart kept his 14th clean sheet of the season.

Team: Huddart, Lawrence-Gabriel, Holgate, Jones (Coulson), Galvin; Diamond, Bettache (Allen), Bingham © (Wise), Addy (Allen); Oliver, Cheek
Man of the Match: Billy Bingham
Attendance: 2,282
Position After Game: 4th

There would be no respite for Basil and his players as three days later, they had to face a play-off rival in Stevenage. This was the game in hand that Bromley hoped to take advantage of but Basil just knew it would be one of the biggest games of his fledgling Bromley tenure. Win it, and the Club could reach even loftier heights. That was the message he was trying to put across as the players trained both Sunday and Monday.

Matchday 44: Bromley 2 - 1 Stevenage (2 - 1)

A 12th successive win, a National League record, moved Bromley into an unbelievable second place whilst confirming Aldershot Town as National League champions. Goals from strike partners Oliver and Cheek proved decisive for the home side in an entertaining encounter with Ben Kennedy's strike for the Boro being their sole response.

Brush made a solitary change to his side from the Barnet win; Coulson coming in for TQ Addy which meant Jack Diamond swapped over to the left wing. Other than that, Bromley were unchanged and kept their 4-4-2 formation for the second successive game. The home side were ahead in the 17th minute when Diamond measured a cross onto the head of Oliver who leapt highest to power in a header. Four minutes later, Bromley doubled their advantage. Kennedy obstructed Joey Jones as they challenged a Bingham free kick: Cheek slamming home his 26th of the season from the spot and away from the grasp of Jack Ruddy.

Stevenage needed a goal to get themselves back into the game, and they got one in first half added on time. Coulson's attempted clearance was intercepted by Charlie Carter who then fed Kennedy to atone for his penalty aberration with a curling finish beyond Huddart. The two sides then created chance after chance to enthral the crowd but in the end Bromley held on. They now know that a second place finish would guarantee them a home play off semi-final. Can they achieve it?

Team: Huddart, Lawrence-Gabriel, Holgate, Jones, Galvin; Coulson (Allen), Bettache, Bingham © (Addy), Diamond (Wise); Oliver, Cheek
Man of the Match: Ben Kennedy (Stevenage)
Attendance: 1,976
Position After Game: 2nd
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 75: Don't you just love that winning feeling?

Two matches to go, and a place in the end of season lottery guaranteed. That's how it was for Basil and his Bromley squad. A trip to Boreham Wood would conclude the away league list before the regular season ended with a home match against Dover. As always, Basil wanted nothing more than a win. Granted, the title was beyond as the win over Stevenage had handed Aldershot the silverware but a second or third place finish would mean one less game in the play-offs. It would also give the players some well needed rest after such a gruelling end of season schedule, four games in 14 days!

No time for passengers, there's a job to be completed was the mantra as the Lads boarded the bus for Meadow Park. For Basil, it was a trip around the M25...the road to hell as a certain Christopher Anton Rea dubbed it!

Matchday 45: Boreham Wood 3 - 5 Bromley (1 - 1)

Bromley ramped up their charge for a place in League Two next season with yet another win in a goal crazy game at Boreham Wood's Meadow Park stadium. Brush named an unchanged side from the side that defeated Stevenage in midweek which meant Bromley would field a 4-4-2 formation for the third game in succession. Chances were in abundance with both sides focused on attack from the first whistle, so it came as a surprise that we had to wait until the 25th minute for the opening goal. A dangerous cross from Bromley skipper Billy Bingham was diverted into the net by Jack Diamond for the Sunderland loanee's fifth of the season.

Yet the home side were level a minute from half time in their bid to take three points for their relegation scrap. The ball was worked out to Lewis Duncan just inside the penalty area and the former Aberdeen trainee lashed a shot into the bottom corner. Two minutes after the restart, Boreham Wood were ahead thanks an effort from distance from Bilal Kamal which left Ryan Huddart with no chance. By the time we had reached the hour mark, the score had gone to 3-3 with three goals in as many minutes. In the 57th minute, an arrowing cross from Vadaine Oliver found striker partner Michael Cheek and he powered a header into the net.

We had only just restarted when the home side regained their lead. A corner from Sorba Thomas was headed goalwards by Tom Champion and skipper Jamal Byfield nodded in from close range. The frenetic scoring continued two minutes later, Cheek picking out Luke Coulson at the far post, and the winger rifled a fierce volley into the top corner. Both sides pushed then for more goals with the next one proving vital and it came eight minutes when Oliver found substitute Mohammed Sangaré in space to pick his spot and blast his first Bromley goal into the top corner. The hosts pushed for a leveller but were punished for a fifth and decisive time four minutes later when Cheek was fouled by Keiran Murtagh as he prepared to get his head onto a Bingham corner. The striker picked himself up, dusted himself down and drilled in the resultant penalty.

An incredible game, one that certainly had everything.

Team: Huddart, Lawrence-Gabriel, Holgate, Jones (Wise), Galvin; Coulson, Bettache (Sangaré ), Bingham ©, Diamond (Allen); Oliver (Addy), Cheek
Booked: Lawrence-Gabriel (8)
Man of the Match: Michael Cheek
Attendance: 976
Position After Game: 2nd

The week to the final league game of the season started on a bit of sour note for Brush as once more he was thwarted by the red tape of import signings. Basil had agreed to bring in Australian midfielder Dino Paola on a non-contract basis, Paola was a player he knew from their Werribee days together. However, despite the player agreeing a non-contract deal, the transfer was aborted due to him not getting a work permit. It was another blow to Basil's plans for 2021-22 but as always, the manager thought to himself: "Fine!" - he was determined to improve the squad next season.

Matchday 46: Bromley 3 - 1 Dover Athletic (2 - 0)

The regular season ended with a particular feeling for Bromley as they recorded their 14th successive win in an incredible end of season run. There was just one change to the side seven days earlier as TQ Addy came in for Jack Diamond on the left wing, the on loan Sunderland winger having tweaked his back in a training session 24 hours before. Another well delivered set-piece from Bingham and this time it was Joey Jones who thumped the header home. Six minutes from half time the lead was extended to two when the recalled Addy teed up Cheek who half volleyed in for his 29th goal of the season.

The game was as good as over midway through the second half. Substitute Anthony Wisemeasuring a cross to Oliver who placed a simple header into the net without any challenge. 3-0 and cruising. Dover did have the final say in the match however when Steven Rigg volleyed in from close range but that was about as good as it did for the visitors. The Bromley form seems to continue unstoppable, two games from their first stint in the Football League.

Team: Huddart, Lawrence-Gabriel, Holgate, Jones, Galvin (Wise); Coulson (Allen), Bettache (Simpson), Bingham ©, Addy; Oliver, Cheek
Man of the Match: Joey Jones
Attendance: 1,840
Position After Game: 2nd

Who will Bromley get in the play-off semi final? Who knows but who would want to face them in the form they are in at present.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 76: Changing and making plans

When Basil arrived in December, he didn't plan to be leading a Club into the play-off semi finals. So much so that he booked himself a summer break in Cancun days after starting work at Bromley. So as the team unravelled win after win, Basil thought to himself that he would be visiting that travel agent again sooner rather than later. And on the first of May, he walked into Virgin Holidays in the Glades Shopping Centre...

"Morning girls." Basil greeted the staff.
"Well if it isn't our town's superb football manager. What can we do for you Mr Brush?" came the reply from one of the staff.

Basil took a seat at one of the desks. Facing him was Charlotte, one of the staff members.

"Charlotte, remember that holiday to Cancun I booked last December?"
"I do Basil, I helped you book it. You go Saturday."
"I was. But as you know, we've got into the play-offs now. So I kinda need to cancel it."
"Oh. We can change the date if that helps?"
"Can we? Can we swap it to go on 22 May instead?"
"Let me check the availability." Charlotte paused, typed a few keys and clicked her mouse button. "Yep, that's all good Basil. There's a late charge though."
"How much?"
"£150.00 but since you've done so much for the town's football club, we'll cover it for you."
"Sure. Consider it done."

Basil got out of his chair, thanked Charlotte and the staff, then walked out. He was buzzing.

It got even better a few minutes when his phone rang. It was Cheeky (Michael Cheek), the club's top goalscorer.

"We've only gone and done it again boss." Cheeky said.
"Uh? What are you on about Cheeky."
"Check your texts boss."

Basil switched to text mode, and sure enough there was a message from Cheeky with a link. Basil clicked on the link, and it took him to the club website. There it was again in black and white. Basil had been named Manager of the Month for the third successive month and Cheeky himself had got back to back Player of the Month awards.

"I don't believe it Cheeky."
"Great isn't it? Thought that would get you smiling."
"I already was, but this just adds icing on the cake."
"Nice. See you around boss."

The play-off quarter-finals were about to start in 72 hours. Basil knew where he was going to be, Gander Green Lane in Sutton to watch the home side against Morecambe. Bromley would host the winners. Time to do some homework ahead of one Bromley's biggest games for a number of years. Preparation was never as important as it was now. Every single thing had to be ticked off to the most minute of detail. No room for mistakes, none at all.
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 77: All I can do is dream, dream, dream....

It was a mild May evening as Basil drove into the car park at Gander Green Lane. He adjusted the collar of his Joma jacket which was emblazoned with a Bromley FC logo on its left breast and the Vanarama National League on the back, then walked to the main entrance door. Basil presented his ticket, and made his way through to the banqueting sweet where a waitress presented him with a complimentary Bovril. This will warm me up, Basil said to himself.

The game itself was pretty one sided with Sutton dominating their opponents who seemed to have fallen off the cliff following Bromley's 4-1 win at the Globe Arena two months previous. Goals from Darren Clark and Aaron Jarvis did the stuff for the U's although it was a pretty ill tempered game with referee Glen Hart issuing each side four yellow cards apiece. Plenty for Basil to think as he drove back to Bromley.

The semi-final was scheduled for Saturday with a 1:30pm kick off time. Basil and Bromley had to be ready, it was literally dog eat dog time. Lose and the season ended there and then.

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAY-OFFS, SEMI-FINAL: Bromley 2 - 1 Sutton United (2 - 0)

A sell out crowd of 5,000 welcomed the two sides at Hayes Lane as both sides bidded to make the Final at Wembley on Sunday week. For Bromley it was a record attendance and was a welcome boost to the financial status. Sutton were backed by 250 noisy followers all bedecked in amber, chanting "We're the amber and chocolates!" to the tune of The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army". The noise was literally deafening as the sides came out of the tunnel, flags waving everywhere and balloons going into orbit before landing pitch side.

For the game, Basil opted to name an unchanged side which meant he stuck with 4-4-2. After his back injury, Jack Diamond wasn't risked from the start but good enough for the substitutes bench. A handy option to have. Basil covered all possible positions on that bench: back up keeper, all four defensive options, all four midfield ones and something for up front.

The game started in the best possible way for the home side. It was less than a minute old when Louis John brought down Michael Cheek a couple yards outside the penalty area to incur the first of four Sutton bookings from referee Billy Khatib. Up stepped home skipper Billy Bingham to curl a wonderful free kick beyond Marcel Wusiewicz and send Hayes Lane bouncing. Just after the half hour, Bromley added a second with a beautifully crafted goal. From deep inside his own half Faysal Bettache sent Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel away down the right wing. The full back cut inside to the penalty area where he curled a cross to the near post. Arriving at that near post was none other than Cheek and the striker timed his run perfectly to poke home his 30th of the season.

Sutton were rattled, and it nearly became game over in the 39th minute. A swift counter attack by the home side saw Vadaine Oliver weight a pass into Cheek who thumped it into the net with Wusiewicz helpless. However the Polish stopper was delighted to see a flag waving on the sideline, Cheek had marginally drifted (and we mean marginally) offside. A massive let off for the visitors.

Given this reprieve, Sutton started to create chances of their own. They pulled one back with 19 minutes when Harry Beautyman and Tommy Wright played a quick give and go with each other. The midfielder received the ball back from the striker before unleashing a shot from outside the box that arrowed in with Ryan Huddart nowhere near it. The momentum was with the U's and they thought they had made level five minutes when Caca crossed from the right for Wright to poke in. However, just like Cheek in the first half, Wright was marginally offside.

Sutton pushed and pushed but Bromley resisted. A place in the Final on Sunday week beckoned. Their opponents? Hartlepool United; who had won their semi-final 3-1 at AFC Fylde's Mill Farm stadium.

Team: Huddart, Lawrence-Gabriel, Holgate, Jones, Galvin; Coulson, Bettache (Sangaré ), Bingham ©, Addy (Diamond); Oliver (Chambers), Cheek
Man of the Match: Billy Bingham
Attendance: 5,000
Referee: Billy Khatib (Wearmouth)
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 78: The Final Countdown

It was the biggest week of Basil and Bromley's lives. Basil, during his playing career, had never played at the National Stadium. There had been times when he had been named in national squads but injury had robbed him each time of an international cap. Bromley themselves had only played there once in their history, losing in a penalty shoot out against Brackley Town in the 2017-18 FA Trophy final. Their opponents Hartlepool United hadn't played there at all but manager John Sheridan had, scoring the winner in the 1991 Rumbelows League Cup Final. The stage was set for a potential classic.

As the week unfolded, Basil had to deal with injuries to Anthony Wise, Ben Allen and Luke Coulson. Thankfully for Basil, all three had minor knocks which meant all three would be still in contention for selection when it came to picking the side. And that was going to be a hard task indeed. Basil could only name 16 players, including five substitutes, which meant that there would be some disappointed names when Basil named the team on Saturday morning after that final training session.

The tension was palpable, the town was buzzing though. One game stood between Bromley and a first ever season in League Two. Pools were hoping to be back in League Two and end four seasons of National League hell as their fans saw it. Almost 40000 tickets had been sold for the showpiece, with over 13000 hardy fans making the trip across the capital from the South East. Could Basil create his own bit of history after leaving Melbourne, Australia less than six months ago for a challenge in the fifth tier of English football?

There was only one way to find out. Who would be celebrating on the middle Sunday in May 2021?
6 years ago
12 hours ago

Chapter 79: Achy Breaky Hart-lepool!

Basil and the team met up on the Friday morning for the normal training session ahead of the Play-Off Final. The injured players trained as normal with no setbacks which meant there was a fully fit squad for Basil to name his final sixteen from. The problem was which players to name and which players to leave out. As Basil retired to bed on the Friday night, he lay in the king size bed with his eyes skyward to the ceiling. He tossed and he turned, he couldn't sleep at all.

Basil sat up in bed and pulled a notepad from the side table. He grabbed a pen and started scribbling formations and names to them. A couple of hours later, Basil was surrounded by reams and reams of plans and plans. But nothing concrete. The following morning, the team were taken to do their final training sessions in Regents Park where Basil and his coaching team put them through their paces. After the session was complete, the players formed a circle waiting for the news that some were dreading. Sixteen names were read out by Basil, one by one. The heads were bowed low with intent, nobody was showing too much emotion.

After the sixteenth name was read, Basil then apologised to those whose names were not stated but assured them that this was the most difficult decision he had ever made as a football manager. Now he knew what it was like for people like his mentor, Sir Alex Ferguson, in all those Cup Finals he was in with Aberdeen and Manchester United. You couldn't please everyone and play them, sometimes you had to be ruthless and cut players from your squad for big games, and Sunday was the biggest game of Bromley's history so far no question. The only problem was, could the sixteen get the result needed?

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAY-OFFS, FINAL: Bromley 3 - 3 Hartlepool United (1 - 2)
After Extra Time: Hartlepool United win 4 - 2 on penalties.

An absolute classic, the fans were saying at the end as they departed Wembley Stadium on a dry but breezy Sunday afternoon. Bromley had won 17 games straight, including a 4-1 win against their opponents just six weeks previously, but their dreams of making the Football League for the first time ever were dashed in the lottery that is a penalty shootout. For Hartlepool United, it is a return back after four seasons away.

Bromley manager Basil Brush named a 4-5-1 formation like he had done so for that 4-1 win but with a slight tweak, the extra midfielder was placed as a holding midfielder in front of the back four instead of being a central midfielder. The starting line up showed two changes from the side that defeated Sutton United in the semi-final. Luke Coulson was deemed not fit enough to start so Sunderland loanee Jack Diamond came in for him in a direct change. The other change saw Vadaine Oliver drop to the bench with Michael Chambers making his first ever starting appearance under Brush as the holding midfielder. Hartlepool manager John Sheridan fielded his strongest possible side which meant recalls for top scorer Luke James and winger Luke Molyneux.

Molyneux opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute. Louis Yamfam attacked down the right before crossing deep for Aidan Keena, and the former Hearts striker laid the ball off to the ex-Sunderland trainee who drilled his effort across Ryan Huddart and into the far corner. Eight minutes later, Pools had doubled their lead and were seemingly well on track to winning the Final comfortably. It came from another Yamfam cross and this time Keena swivelled and fired home from ten yards with Huddart again given no chance whatsoever.

Bromley needed something to avoid being swamped, and halved the deficit five minutes before half time. Jordan Lawrence-Gabriel provided a low cross into Michael Cheek who showed great awareness to see TQ Addy in some space, and the winger drilled a low shot right into the bottom corner of Brad Young's net. Five minutes after the restart, Pools restored their two goal advantage with a third. Man of the Match Yamfam swung in a corner, and it was met with a thumping far post header from central defender Michael Raynes.

That third goal prompted a change from Brush. Young defender Harrison Holgate was sacrificed for Oliver and a move back to 4-4-2 with Chambers moving into the back four. Within two minutes of the change, Bromley netted their second when Lawrence-Gabriel swung in the cross and despite leaning backwards: Cheek produced a superb controlled volley for his 31st goal of the season in just 41 games! The ineffective Diamond was replaced by Coulson as Bromley sought their equaliser and it came with 13 minutes to go. Skipper Billy Bingham measured a left wing cross onto the head of Oliver who planted a perfect header into the bottom corner with Young helpless.

No further goals came in the remaining normal time minutes; and even extra time couldn't see these two teams land the knockout blow that they both so dearly wanted. Therefore after 120 minutes action, we had to go down the route of a penalty shootout. Hartlepool went first with Keena converting but this was cancelled out straight away by Cheek. Pools remained faultless with their next two but despite Faysal Bettache netting Bromley's third, Oliver had seen their second attempt taken by him: be saved by Young. Onto round four, Raynes made it four out of four for Hartlepool which left Bromley's fate in the boots of Coulson. The winger sent his effort to the right of Young but the keeper anticipated it and pushed the ball to safety. Hartlepool promoted, Bromley denied.

Team: Huddart, Lawrence-Gabriel, Holgate (Oliver), Jones, Galvin (Wise); Chambers; Diamond (Coulson), Bettache, Bingham ©, Addy; Oliver, Cheek
Booked: Addy (2), Bettache (7), Jones (4)
Man of the Match: Louis Yamfam (Hartlepool United)
Attendance: 38,816
Referee: Michael Dicicco (North Yorkshire)

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