The Long, Long Road to Wembley
By Dave Roberts
One man's obsession with seeing his beloved non-league football team play at Wembley.
Publication date: August 2019Buy
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“At 13, I was already set in my ways”.
The book opens in 1968, when Dave Roberts is following his recently established ritual of watching his team, Bromley FC, play at home. Part of this is to queue up for tea (and Battenberg cake) as soon as the half-time whistle blows. As he slowly shuffles towards he counter, he passes a series of framed black and white photographs on the tea room wall. His heart rate quickens as he sees them – a reminder of the day in 1949 that Bromley played at Wembley in the FA Amateur Cup final, in front of 95,000 spectators.
As the current team are a lot less successful – they rarely get past the first round and crowds of around 200 are considered good, he can only dream of a time when his team once again walk out onto the turf of the national stadium. It becomes a lifelong fixation and this book covers the false dawns, disasters and near misses that he goes through over the next 50 years, until, finally, in 2018, his life’s ambition is realised and Bromley once again reach Wembley.
The book covers half a century of change, both in Dave’s life and with Dave’s team. There are key moments, like when the heavily-insured stand burns down and Bromley have to play their Amateur Cup games away. And the time Bromley are so broke they use plastic footballs in the pre-match warm up. And the season that Dave is convinced is going to end at Wembley, before a 9-0 loss in the qualifying round.
There is plenty going on off the field as well. Like when Dave goes out of his way to befriend a Bromley fan whose cousins are huge pop stars. And when he buys a white suit convinced it will become a lucky omen. And when he starts smoking French cigarettes to give him an air of previously-missing sophistication.
The only constant in those 50 years is his love for Bromley FC. A love that starts at the beginning of the book and is finally rewarded at the very end.
Quick select rewards
Dave Roberts is the author of five books. He was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award for 32 Programmes (Transworld) and The Bromley Boys (Portico) has been made into a film starring Alan Davies and Martine McCutcheon, which has recently been released worldwide.
His other books, including Home and Away (Transworld) and Sad Men (Transworld), have been critically acclaimed by the likes of Tony Parsons, Henry Winter, Jilly Cooper, John Inverdale, Peter Crouch and Freya North.
I was feeling increasingly confident that reaching Wembley wasn’t an impossible dream. The Amateur Cup was usually won by a team from the Isthmian League. Last season it was Leytonstone, before that Enfield, and before that Wealdstone. Plus, I knew I had time on my side for my ambition to be realised. I was only thirteen and, according to a science documentary someone at school had told me about, people of our age would live to around 130. Technology was so advanced that someone in South Africa had recently had a heart transplant operation.
The realisation that I would have 117 years to see Bromley at Wembley filled me with confidence. The chances were good. And this wasn’t the only reason I was excited about the future. As was the case with so many people, the forthcoming Apollo 8 mission circling the moon had captured my imagination. And In anticipation of further space exploration I’d introduced a Martian Subbuteo team, by painting the players green - all eight of them. The rest had either been broken through being trodden on or accidentally thrown away.
I got around this discrepancy by creating a scenario in which FIFA chairman, Sir Stanley Rous, decreed that because of their superior physical attributes and ability to never get out of breath at high altitude (the next World Cup was being played in the rarified air of Mexico), Martians had to play with eight players. It turned out to be a calamitous error in judgement, as the green men lost every game heavily, usually to England with Bromley’s Alan Stonebridge contributing 15-20 goals every time. The World Cup was now the Intergalactic Cup, with the final played at Wembley, obviously. Most of my fantasies seem to revolve around Wembley.
- 18th July 2019 Launch of The Long, Long Road to Wembley - you're invited.
Getting the book published has, indeed, been a long, long road, but it's been worth it. I think Unbound have done a great job on the design and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy in the next couple of weeks. You should get yours before it appears in the shops and I'd like to thank you again for making it happen.
We're holding a proper launch for the book at Waterstones in Bromley…7th May 2019 The long road to publication is coming to an end.
Now that all the editing had been done, there are a whole load of new things to worry about. These include: (a) will anyone buy it?, (b) if they do, will they like it?, and (c) who did I forget to thank in the acknowledgements? One thing I'm not overly concerned about is the cover. I've seen a rough draft of what Unbound have in mind and like what they've done. I'll post it as soon as it…19th February 2019 Exciting news.
Well, this is exciting. It's been a long road indeed, but thanks to you and other generous people, enough money has now been raised to mean the book will be published.
It'll now come out as a paperback, which means that everyone who has made a pledge will either be upgraded to becoming a super patron (with their name in the front of the book) at no extra cost, or get a £5 refund instead by emailing…12th October 2018 The Footballer Who Has to Remain Nameless
The chapter I finished yesterday is unusual in that I talked about a footballer I deeply admired, but couldn't mention his name - basically, because I don't want to get sued.
This small extract might explain what I mean...
"One Bromley player from the era that I particularly wish I could have seen, sadly has to remain nameless. He was hugely talented by all accounts, with an eye for goal. But…27th September 2018 Within reach of a century.
When I first started this project, progress was so slow that I wondered if I'd ever manage to find 50 people willing to make a pledge. But it got there and much to my delight, the fiftieth pledger was my childhood hero and Bromley legend Alan Stonebridge. And now, at the time of writing, 97 people have made pledges and the hundred is in sight. So far, nearly £5000 has been raised. Who…16th September 2018 Popular Pledges
What's been the most popular pledge? I would have bet anything that it would be the 'Solid Midfielder', a no nonsense £25 option which gets the book and nothing but the book. Surprisingly, it finds itself neck and neck with the £55 option, given the title of 'VAR Decision' by the Unbound people. This gives pledgers a signed copy of the book and a signed copy of the Bromley Boys DVD. …9th September 2018 YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
How’s it going?
Pretty well, thanks. Almost 70 people have made pledges so far, and the book is nearly a quarter funded. I’ve just finished writing the chapter where a Bromley striker sent himself off in an FA Trophy game.
There must be an easier way to get a book published?
Can’t argue with that, but this feels like the best way even though much of my time seems to be filled sending begging…3rd September 2018 Writing is the easy part.
With previous books, my time has been spent either writing or watching Undercover Boss USA on Channel 4 when I was supposed to be writing. But now, having chosen the Unbound crowdfunding model, time is split evenly between writing, daytime TV and begging people for money. The latter is something I'm finding really awkward. Sending emails asking for pledges is just as embarrassing whether…26th August 2018 The first month.
To be honest, I had no idea how this Unbound adventure would work, or even if it would work. It's quite scary to think that you need three or four hundred people to support your book before it can be published and at times I wondered if I'd be able to get ten backers, let alone hundreds. Crowdfunding is completely new to me and in the first couple of weeks, there was very little activity. …
These people are helping to fund The Long, Long Road to Wembley.
Adam Edwards (Wealdstone FC Supporters Club)