Back in business

  • by One Glove

Bromley start their National League campaign with a high-profile game against Grimsby Town this Saturday. Goalkeeper Mark Cousins told www.theoneglove.com about his club’s rise in recent seasons, his hopes for this season and how the global pandemic had a positive effect following the worst injury of his career...

Last season was a strange one in the National League…

because everything was up in the air due to the pandemic. First of all we had an issue with funding, with some clubs stating they couldn’t go on. You had the teams down towards the bottom wanting everything to stop because they were in a relegation battle and clubs at the top going for promotion wanting to carry on, so it became a bit of a farce. Once it became clear there would be no relegation, you could also see the teams nearer the bottom cutting their cloth and saving as much money as possible, trimming squads right down and bringing in loan players from Football League clubs for free. Dover, meanwhile, just stopped playing completely, so it was far from ideal.

 

We made the play-offs last season for the first time…

which shows the progress the club has made since winning promotion from Conference South in 2015. We have since been taken over by a new owner who has invested a lot into the club, not just in terms of playing budget but the infrastructure of the club. The stadium has been improved, we’ve got a college/academy programme and in terms of fan base we average around 2,000 fans. Playing on a 4G pitch also attracts a lot of community interest. We’re seen as one of the smaller clubs in the league so people underestimate us, but in terms of the playing squad, we’re one of the top ten teams in the league.

 

Our manager is Andy Woodman…

who is a former goalkeeper. He’s worked as goalkeeper coach at Newcastle, Charlton and Crystal Palace, and was at Arsenal for four years before taking the Bromley job in March. He’s a good manager, a good character, who has got us playing well and all the lads have taken to him. We’ve also got experienced coaches like Roger Johnson and Alan Dunne, both top pros in their time, so it’s a great backroom team to have.

 

The fans are back…

although we did have them in attendance for the final two games of last season, for our home win against Notts County and the play-off defeat at Hartlepool United. To be honest, I had got used to fans not being there. It felt strange for the first few games without them but you adapt, and after a while it just became the norm. For a keeper it was actually a bit of a luxury because you didn’t have to shout as much to be heard and you didn’t get stick from behind the goal which is usually a guarantee at every game! With the fans back you realise just how important they are in terms of creating an atmosphere. You make a really good save and without fans you don’t hear anything, whereas when they’re at the stadium and you’re making saves left, right and centre, you do feed off it, definitely.

 

It’s coming up to two years in October...

since the worst injury I’ve had in my 19-year career. It was away at Yeovil; the defender has headed the ball back, which was short, and I’ve had to come out of my box and have then collided with the striker. I got to the ball first but suffered an impact injury and I woke up on the pitch not knowing where I was, with my shoulder basically hanging out. I had an operation within three days which definitely helped my recovery, then I was four months in rehab and was back just before COVID-19 hit. I was still not 100 per cent fit but was fortunately given an extra six months of recovery time due to the pandemic. I was able to build strength up in my shoulder without having to worry about the football side. When the season started again, I felt 100 per cent and played every single minute of last season.

 

This season we will strive to improve on last year…

but it will again be competitive with a lot of teams aiming to win promotion, especially Wrexham – who we pipped to the play-offs by one point last season – given the players they’ve brought in. We want to be in and around the play-off picture but just going under the radar again. We were floating around tenth, ninth, eighth, then in the last few games we really kicked on and got in on the last day of the season. We’d like to be higher up challenging this time but we also have to be realistic.

 

Champions Sutton United set the benchmark last season…

as they are a similar club to us in many ways. They didn’t have the best squad in the league but were really effective; they had a game plan and stuck to it. They were also a very fit team and deserved to win the league. They showed that being a big club like Wrexham, Notts County or Stockport in this league doesn’t guarantee success. Sutton are proof that any team can get out of the division.

 

We start the season this Saturday…

with a home game against relegated Grimsby Town. It’s also on BT Sport, so we’re really looking forward to it. I believe we’re the only team in the National League to have a 4G pitch this season, so they won’t be used to coming and playing on that in a competitive game. It’s always hard to tell when a team comes down what to expect though; I’m not too sure whether they’ve had a big turnover of players this summer, but it will still be a good test and hopefully we can start with three points to set us on our way.

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