Discover more from From Bromley with love
Let Andy Woodman cook
With two weeks to go until the season opener, Machel Hewitt analyses the current Bromley FC squad
The last time I checked in on From Bromley with Love, I warned that we might see Omar Sowunmi, Reice Charles-Cook, and Harry Forster depart Hayes Lane. And so it came to pass.
Sowunmi sealed a predictable move to League Two. Some fans questioned why he chose Sutton United of all clubs, but it probably ticked a lot of his boxes: League Two football, local to home, with a style of play that suits him. Plus, a League Two wage packet is likely to match or beat Bromley’s best offer.
Harry Forster was another player who flew the nest to the Football League. I suspect this departure was engineered by his agent, but to be fair to them, they got what they wanted.
A lot of fans seem unmoved by Harry’s departure, but make no mistake, Andy Woodman wanted to keep him. Even though he could be frustrating at times, he was a crucial squad member who added drive, creativity, and versatility in critical moments.
Crawley are a curious proposition given their crypto backers. I hope for Harry’s sake that this is the right move and not just a guy chasing his Football League dream at the first club that showed any interest.
Reice Charles-Cook also chose not to renew his deal with the Ravens. Reice is an interesting case, one where the lines seem blurred. Reice knows his value. He’s a Football League-quality goalkeeper coming off the back of a season where, but for injury, I think he would’ve won Bromley’s Player of the Season award.
If you believe the club line, Bromley made several offers to Reice, but none of them matched his expectation. A line was drawn and the club moved quickly to secure a replacement.
The business side of football allows little room for sentiment, but fans do. Reice, as I understand it, may well end up north of the border, and I’m sure almost every Bromley supporter wishes him well.
Lastly, Kellen Fisher got his big move to the EFL with Championship stalwarts Norwich City. I thought Bromley might benefit from a loan-back deal, but it appears Norwich want him to develop in their u23s for now, with the possibility of a League Two loan down the line.
Picture: Norwich City FC
While these departures have left some Bromley fans perturbed, Andy Woodman has wasted no time in updating his squad. And he’s been dropping hints that there may be more fresh faces to come.
If you’re going to lose Reice Charles-Cook, probably the most underrated goalkeeper in the league, then replacing him with one of the highest-rated National League keepers is exceptional business.
Make no mistake, a lot of clubs were talking to Grant Smith. That Bromley pulled off his signing is a masterstroke.
If he has a season like his last, where he shone in Yeovil’s relegation dogfight, then it’s highly likely that Bromley will once again be there or thereabouts in April.
Running a keen eye over Andy Woodman’s transfer activity reveals a gaffer who loves to have two top-tier goalkeepers in his squad. We’ve seen Mark Cousins vs. Ellory Balcombe and Reice Charles-Cook vs. Tom Smith in recent seasons, and this season promises to be no different.
Teddy Sharman-Lowe, Chelsea’s highly-rated England U20 international, has arrived on loan to challenge Grant Smith for the goalkeeper’s shirt. That’s an exciting pairing, in theory.
On paper, Tom Smith, then on the books of Arsenal, was a similar proposition to Sharman-Lowe. While you might suspect that a big club would put pressure on Bromley to play their promising youngster, Andy Woodman has always stressed that he was under no obligation to play Smith and wanted to make him earn his place in the team.
Tom got his chance when Reice Charles-Cook was injured, but lost the shirt when he returned. Will Teddy Sharman-Lowe put up more of a fight?
In the summer, Bromley lost Deji Elerewe (Charlton loanee) and Omar Sowunmi (Sutton). Those colossal centre-backs, along with wily operator Callum Reynolds, formed a very cohesive defensive unit at the back-end of last season. Replacing two players of their quality is no mean feat. Does Cole Kpekawa go some way to plugging at least one of those gaps?
Cole has joined from perennial over-achievers Maidenhead United. Having served with distinction in Maidenhead’s strong-arm side, it suggests he will be suited to Andy Woodman’s "Bromley DNA."
By his own admission, Cole’s career isn’t where it should be at the age of 27. From the highs of appearing in the Premier League and England U20s to the lows of part-time football, this might be his last chance to get back on track.
If he can rediscover his best form, he seems like a player who can push Bromley toward their EFL goal, or perhaps make the jump on his own, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. Andy Woodman clearly backs himself to get Cole firing again and make him a sought-after player. Omar 2.0, if you will.
At right wing-back, Kellen Fisher has been replaced by 28-year-old Josh Passley. Passley is known to Andy Woodman having played on loan at Whitehawk, then aged 19, when Andy had a relegation-saving stint at the Hawks.
Keen students of the National League will remember Josh Passley serving Dover Athletic with distinction over many seasons. As I understand it, Havant and Waterlooville made him a very good offer, which is why he’s spent the last two seasons in the NLS rather than at his natural level.
The signing makes total sense. For all of Kellen Fisher’s defensive poise and Harry Forster’s attacking thrust, Passley offers the best of both worlds. He’s defensively resolute, but perhaps more importantly for Andy, he offers genuine end product in the final third; something his predecessors sometimes lacked.
Last season in the National League South vs all other right backs.
1st for assists
2nd for completed dribbles
4th for progressive runs
1st for crosses completed
I suspect another defensive addition is on the horizon. Whether at left back, to allow Besart Topalloj to play as a third centre-back, or another centre-back to offer cover, a piece of the puzzle seems to be missing at the moment. Then again, Andy Woodman may feel that in Corey Whitely and Ben Krauhaus, he has left wing-back cover already.
Midfield continues to be the biggest conundrum. There is a lingering sense that it lacks goals and creativity.
As it stands, James Vennings, Jude Arthurs, Marcus Sablier, and Billy Bingham need to add goals to their game or Mitchell Bergkamp, Corey Whitely, and Louis Dennis will have a lot of heavy lifting to do.
Sam Woods arrived in June, fresh from an in-and-out season at Barnet, but it isn't clear where he fits in at Bromley just yet. Will he play at the base of the midfield, rotating with Billy Bingham, or is he a back-up defender? Time will tell.
Whatever Woods’ role may be, it doesn’t provide an answer for the goal-scoring and chance-creating conundrum.
Andy Woodman has hinted at more arrivals, and this is one area where I expect a key addition before the season starts. But don’t be surprised if it turns out to be a loan move.
Barring a long-term injury, I’m not expecting any additions here.
Andy Woodman seems to have the full set at his disposal: Michael Cheek is the target man and finisher, George Alexander is the channel runner, Adam Marriott is the penalty-box poacher, and Louis Dennis is the creative forward. Bases covered.
If we’re being picky, perhaps he lacks a lightning-quick forward who can play on the shoulder of the last defender, or a target man to rotate with Cheek to keep the main-man fresh. But, with a budget to balance, Woodman would be at a stretch to cover one of these positions, let alone two.
Of course, Andy isn’t averse to using the loan market, so if a short-term attacking reinforcement is needed, I expect he’ll call in the necessary favour.
On the surface, Andy Woodman has taken the gamble (is it a gamble?) that retaining the majority of his play-off semi-final squad is the best approach for the season ahead. He clearly feels it has the hallmarks of a side that can challenge once more.
His new recruits all seem quite shrewd acquisitions on paper, plugging gaps and offering versatility, but will they give Bromley something they’ve been missing? The jury is out, but we hope for the best.
Andy says he has a lot of plates spinning on the transfer front. What areas would you like to see strengthened?
Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Thanks for taking the time to read the article above.
All articles are edited by Peter Etherington you can link to him here
If you haven’t as yet make sure you read the other articles in the archive.
If you’d like to show an appreciation for the work that goes into this newsletter you can buy me a coffee through the link below.
You can also find me on Twitter - here
Most importantly of all subscribe to the newsletter to ensure you get these updates direct to your inbox.
Thanks for reading From Bromley with love! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.