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Review: Bromley FC Retained/Released List 2023
Machel Hewitt casts a keen eye over the Bromley squad
When a season ends, the toxic bin-fire of close-season chatter begins. Retained/released lists are the catalyst, player-signing announcements add fuel.
Non-league fans and analysts rush to proclaim these comings and goings as an indication that the club in question is on the right path. Of course, we won’t know if that’s true for several months, so I prefer to keep my powder dry until I’ve seen a few pre-season games at the very least.
Evidently, Bromley have been operating under a similar maxim as they were one of the last National League clubs to announce their retained/released list.
By and large, it contains no surprises.
Cameron Green, Charlie Nicholas, Finlay Lovatt, and Tunji Obembe will all leave the club this summer. I expect them to find new clubs between steps two and four, but they may have to run the trialist gauntlet to do so.
Cameron Green’s search for first-team football might require him to step down to step up, à la Ben Wynter, but he’s a solid left back with his best years ahead of him.
Nicholas, Lovatt, and Obembe are academy graduates who were on the first-team fringes last season. Hopefully, they can bounce back and fulfil their potential one way or another. Ollie Tanner’s journey offers hope.
NEW CONTRACTS OFFERED
The club “remains in discussion” with Riece Charles-Cook, Omar Sowunmi, and Harry Forster. In an ideal world, Bromley would retain all three.
Omar Sowunmi was always going to explore his options this summer. His body of work during his two-season stay at Bromley has rightly garnered much attention. Even in a season where Wrexham and Notts County dominated the league, there can be no doubt that Sowunmi was one of the best CBs in the league. He even made the Vanarama National League Team of the Season.
As I understand it, Bromley have made Sowunmi a very good offer within the remit of their budget. Time will tell if Omar chooses to re-sign with the Ravens or take a better offer in League Two.
Reice Charles-Cook signed a sensible one-year deal last summer, but his career has taken a big uptick since then. If it wasn’t for his injury lay-off early in the season, he may well have won Bromley’s Player of the Season award.
I suspect that, rather than exploring his options, the hold-up is down to Reice negotiating the deal he feels he deserves.
By his own admission, Reice re-discovered his love and focus for football last season. But, all sentiment aside, he’ll know his worth.
There are several National League clubs looking for a keeper at the moment. While I find it hard to believe they could tempt Charles-Cook away, if I were Bromley, I would try to seal the deal sooner rather than later.
Finally, we have the curious case of Harry Forster. I must admit, I didn’t have his name on the out-of-contract list and assumed he was on a two-year deal.
I could be wrong, but if Harry only signed a one-year deal in 2022, it points to his agent wanting to play the field if Harry had a strong season.
Did Harry have a strong season? The jury is out on that one.
Make no mistake, given his age (23) and his ability to cause havoc with his pace, Harry should only get better with time. That’s why I can see other clubs looking at him as a prospect worth pursuing.
After all, if you like Aaron Nemane at Notts County or Angelo Capello at Halifax Town then you are effectively looking at a similar player in Harry Forster.
Harry’s Achilles' heel, at this juncture at least, is the inconsistency of his end product. But that’s no reason for Bromley to move him on, hence why they’ve offered him a new deal.
Another consideration is that Kellen Fisher’s emergence has complicated how Bromley use him. If Fisher plays, Harry has often been used as an impact sub. If Bromley play a flat back-four, however, Harry starts further up the pitch.
Football is a squad game. Individuals win matches, but squads win trophies and promotions. That’s why holding on to a talented and flexible player like Forster is a no-brainer.
Will he stay? I expect so because I think he likes it at Bromley. But, any club with a good scouting network, and the resources to offer a better financial package, should be looking at Harry Forster.
ONE YEAR OPTION TRIGGERED
Callum Reynolds, Louis Dennis, and Soul Kader were the three names on the list.
Callum Reynolds was the definition of consistency last season and was another player who, if it weren’t for Omar Sowunmi, could have had a shot at Player of the Season.
As I remarked at the time of his signing, experienced pros like Callum are invaluable, especially as Woodman likes to blood young players in the side. He’ll be 34 in November but shows no signs of slowing down. And, given his game is based on his innate ability to read the play, you can assume he’ll be Mr Consistency next season, too.
Some will say I have a Louis Dennis bias, but his form in 2023 was integral to unlocking the best of Michael Cheek and bringing some much-needed creativity in the final third.
Louis is the best player in the squad when it comes to operating in pockets of space, making him our go-to game-changer. Opposing teams know this, but they can’t mark him out of the game because he’s always thinking two or three moves ahead of them, like a fleet-footed chess player.
At the top end of the National League, squad depth is vital. But having quality and options in depth is the golden ticket. In this context, Louis’ re-signing was an absolute no-brainer.
Soul Kader is an interesting one. He was loaned to VCD Athletic (Ryman One South East) in November 2022 and went on to score 11 league goals in 22 appearances, a return of 0.5 goals per game. The youngster only turned 19 in January, which puts that return in glowing perspective.
The extension of his contract suggests that Andy Woodman sees Soul as another potential gem from the academy mine. I expect him to feature heavily in pre-season before going out on loan to a Ryman Premier club. Is Soul one for the future?
There were few surprises here, and I assume the majority of these players signed two-year deals last summer, or when they joined, like Besart Topalloj.
Byron Webster, Corey Whitely, Jude Arthurs, George Alexander, and Kellen Fisher signed new deals midway through last season, and the club has recently announced new contracts for Mitchel Bergkamp and Ben Krauhaus.
However, the retained list does pose some questions.
David Smith, for example, spent nearly all of last season on loan at Hornchurch, Margate, and Hastings respectively. Across those three spells he scored 8 league goals.
The season before, he notched 29 league goals for Folkestone Invicta. From the outside looking in, it seems like he’s taken a big backwards step.
As it stands, Smith sits behind Cheek, Marriott, Alexander, and Dennis in the attacking pecking order. And that’s before any new additions arrive.
Does Andy Woodman still believe he can get a tune out of David Smith at National League level, or is he a candidate for the transfer/loan list?
For David Smith also see George Alexander. George was loaned to Welling United and Slough Town in the National League South last season. Across the two spells he scored 10 league goals.
While not prolific, he does have 7 goals at National League level for Bromley, and he’s only 22 years old. But, even at this young age, the coming season has a bit of a now or never feel about it.
There has always been a sense that George is the channel runner that Woodman wants; the guy prepared to do the dirty work up front. Can he perfect that role and prosper?
And what of Marcus Sablier? It seems crazy that a season-and-a-half ago we were talking about Sablier moving to the Football League.
Since then, things seem to have gone off the rails for the young man. He ended last season on loan at Cray Wanderers in the Ryman Premier League and looked about as far away from the Bromley first team as Earth is to Neptune.
Just like George Alexander, this feels like a now or never season for Sablier. It seems harsh to make such pronouncements when he's only 20 years old, but we can’t deny that his career has stalled. Will he rediscover his form or will he leave the club?
I think a few people were surprised to see Billy Bingham’s name on the list, but if he signed a 2-year contract last summer then it makes sense to keep him around. In an otherwise very young midfield (Vennings, Arthurs, Sablier, and Bergkamp are all under 25) an experienced pro is critical. Billy turns 33 in July, but he’s a shrewd operator and still has lots to offer.
You can bet your bottom dollar that some kind of minimum-fee release clause and/or sell-on fee was included in that contract.
A lot of scouts were casting an eye over Kellen at the back-end of last season. Will a Football League club take the plunge and trigger his release clause?
I’ve always been of the belief that Kellen will leave this summer and be loaned back to us to aid his development. That seems like a best-case scenario for all involved.
Even if he doesn’t bag a big move this summer, I think the coming season will be the last time we see Kellen Fisher in a Bromley shirt. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Those are my stand-outs from the list. Have I missed anyone in your view?
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