Hutch’s Patch: how the other half lives (and, in Bromley’s case, loses)

Jake captures Rob in green
Jake captures Rob in green

No real football left Rob Hutchison at a loss over the weekend, until he was lured by the prospect of a carvery for £8 at the Hayes Lane ground of Bromley FC, from the Conference South. He enjoyed the day – as our Pete Sixsmith, who lightens the load of being a Sunderland supporter with frequent forays into non-league territory, might have told him he would – though the home fans would have preferred a different outcome …

Unexpectedly, I found myself with nothing to do on Saturday (missus out, kids out) and as it was Non League Day, I took myself off to by local Bromley FC to see just what is was all about.

The club ran an advert in the local rag for their NLD bash and with an £8 carvery on offer and that kinda swung it for me. Bromley were founded in 1892 and have been at their ground in Hayes Lane for 76 years. A few runs to the second round of the FA Cup has been as good as it got over time, but they have a long non league heritage in the Isthmian League and winning the London Senior Cup on numerous occasions.

They have a tidy ground with the smart John Fiorini stand hosting ST holders (I’m guessing), a sizeable bar and the luxurious Venue hospitality suite.

There seems to be a sea change going on at Bromley with recent investment and the club pushing forward with expectancy of the Conference South play-offs as a minimum this season that could put them on the cusp of the cusp of the big time. They also have the facilities to raise good revenue on non match days which is so important nowadays. Tickets were £12 with a 50 per cent discount if you showed your PL season ticket if you had one.

Around 100 – 150 got involved in a splendid carvery and there was a real sense of vibrancy and an upbeat feel among the suits before kick off.

The club laid on BBQs and food and drink around the ground, bouncy castles and penalty shootouts for the kids, a mandatory Ice Bucket Challenge at half time, and according to a steward the numbers were up from an average 700 to nearer 1500 on the day.

Sadly on the pitch 2nd place Bromley stumbled to a Mackemesque 1-0 home defeat to lowly Chelmsford City. Dominating possession and goalscoring opportunities, they lost to a soft goal just before half time, after their captain came off following a nasty landing. Even at this level, one defensive lapse can prove costly.

A penalty to the home side was skied, Phil Jones style, after 50 minutes and for all their efforts they couldn’t break down a resolute Chelmsford City who still looked dangerous on the break.

Adam Burchill, a prolific goalscorer for Dover and Gillingham in years gone by still has great touch and neat movement but seems to have lost that killer instinct in front of goal and was hauled off just after the hour mark.

The locals were just typical football fans, no different from any Premier League spectators. They all knew better than the ref but I guess the difference at this level is all the abuse directed at the players and managers of both teams (and by golly there was plenty) was heard by them loud and clear.

Changing ends at half time seemed to be order of the day, and the ice cream vans were doing brisk business, although sadly I didn’t see any monkey’s blood topping being served. Missing a trick there like. Chelmsford’s travelling support numbered about 50 and they made more noise than the locals as at least they had something to shout about as the game wore on; maybe they were Mackems in disguise. FT and no queues to get out and I was home in 15 minutes.

I came away having enjoyed the day, although to be honest I still don’t feel any allegiance towards my local team after living in the town for 10 years. But that wouldn’t stop me turning up now and again to the odd midweek game in the future.

The club certainly seem to be going in the right direction these days and who knows, maybe January will bring “No 17, Manchester United, will play No 63, Bromley FC”. You can check them out at @bromleyfc and #WeAreBromley. I wish ’em well (Monsieur Salut adds: the official club website is at and there’s a Facebook group at


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9 thoughts on “Hutch’s Patch: how the other half lives (and, in Bromley’s case, loses)”

  1. It seems that academies are doing different things to what the grass roots clubs used to do. Their focus is different of course and the results are also different. Whereas a talented young player might not be picked up until he was 15/16, many are discarded before they are anywhere near that age.

    Rejection must be hard for young players at such a young age must be difficult to take and I do wonder how many good young players who have been cut from academies are lost to the game through the sense of failure and rejection. Rarely do we see players coming into the game later, as previously. There must still be some great talent playing in non-league football.

  2. There are millions spent on football for youth William, but it’s concentrated in the academies and not on the local parks and community centre fields with local clubs, as it used to be back in the day.

    Whether that money swishing about is being used in the most productive way, is of course another question for another day.

    You might call it a fashion, but back in the 70s and a little bit later it became almost trendy (if you can refer to it in that manner), to search out a diamond in the rough; that star who had slipped through the net in his adolescence. There are some obvious examples like Waddle, Pearce, Birtles and co. NUFC found Shoulder and the likes of Carney and a couple of others that didn’t do quite so well, such as Peter Cartwright. We ended up with Barry Dunn, of course (cough!). Every club seemed to think that there were gems to be found at non-league fixtures. It all went a little mad and some real duds were also “discovered.” These days, the lads they’d be looking at are those who were discarded from the academies.

    William mentioned the dearth of British players. Not sure that’s the case in Scotland where you’ll routinely see first teams featuring several academy graduates. In the 60’s and 70’s Scotland was producing some of the best players in the world, many of whom would move to England early in their careers or move shortly after becoming professional That river of talent became a stream and is now little more than a trickle, sadly. There were Scots in all the top teams. McCarthy and McArthur who went to Wigan (and since moved on), together with Naismith at Everton are all I can think of as recent examples.

    Kids still get their chance up there. What I do find worrying is seeing the number of overseas players now in the youth team system. One of the Liverpool youth squads has a couple of Spaniards, a Hungarian, a German and several Irish lads.

  3. In the 1960’s, I worked in Dartford in Kent, I saw a lot of Dartford and Gravesend & Northfleet [ now Ebbsfleet ] when I wasn’t playing myself [ at a very modest level I must confess ]. This was in the former Southern League.

    They both had solid support, and some decent players. I watched, with excruciating embarrassment, Sunderland grind out a fluky draw with Gravesend in the FA Cup, and was very relieved when we beat them, I think 5-1, in the replay. [ I had visions of another Yeovil – who I also watched regularly in 68/69 when I worked in that Town ]

    One of the saddest and IMO, most scandalous, things about modern football, is how little of the millions pouring into the Premier League, filters down into local and schools football. Probably one of the principal reasons we have so few top British players.

  4. You get the personal touch at non league footy that you’ll never get in the Premiership. When I lived in th Midlands, the first time I went to Gresley Rovers I asked if they had any mint sauce to go on my mushy peas. They hadn’t but next home game there it was! You won’t get that service in the Premiership!

    I know what you mean about not having the affinity with an area. Although I lived and worked in the Coalville area for thirty years, when they got to Wembley to play Whitley Bay loads of people I saw there asked why I wasn’t in the WB end.

    They were right of course. Throughout my time there I would always root for a North East club when they visited the area. Bishops at Burton, Durham at Solihull, Gateshead at Alfreton, Blyth at Bromsgrove, Spennymoor at Gresley, Whitley Bay at Barwell. The list goes on!

  5. I was going to mention Dulwich Hamlet, my local side. Good effort by a club on the up. Spare a thought for the struggling non-leaguers like my home town club, South Shields, now playing in Peterlee. A far cry from the days when thousands would turn up at Simonside for FA Cup ties.

  6. 1500 ? Rubbish. Dulwich Hamlet, one Div lower (Ishmian) got 2800, a ground record, all paying what they wanted too. Plus a gang of crazy Finnish taxi drivers.

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