Dean In The Driving Seat But Won't Leave A Stone Unturned!

Ordinarily, a manager discovering his side had just won the championship slap bang in the middle of a working day while travelling at 50 miles per hour is as bonkers as it is bizarre.

Not in 2020. In a year when anything goes, nonsense is the norm. Dean Brennan’s hands-free phone call to find out some news is almost par for the course in these most erratic of times.

“It was my 40th birthday on the day we found out, so I made sure I marked it,” said the Wealdstone boss, still beaming as he spoke to us via Zoom.

“I was driving up the A1 and the phone went. The chairman called me to tell me the news, to confirm we had won the Vanarama National League South.

“I got back as quickly as I could to open a bottle of champagne!

“But before that I sent a text to all the players, letting them know it was official and we had won the league and of course how proud I was.

“We have had a bit of luck, but we’ve earned that bit of luck. I’m still happy now, there’s still a big smile on my face.

“It’s maybe not how we dreamt it, but it was still a wonderful feeling. Nothing can take away from the teams’ achievement.”

Covid-19 - bringing with it a painful early end to the campaign - won’t be allowed to cast any kind of cloud over the club’s title success.

For the first time since 1988 the Stones are back in Non-League football’s top flight and they are planning to make up for lost time.

They were long-term leaders, winning 22 of their 33 matches. But it isn’t just the football clubs who deserved a change in fortune.

The season before that had started with an exit from Hemel, a pit-stop at Billericay before ending the campaign at Kingstonian.

Personal trauma, though, dominated Dean’s thoughts. His young son the victim of a road accident, a man who has never put football before family can at last look back and remember what a challenging time taught him.

He said: “It came on the back of a very tough year, but it was a season that I learned so much.

“I knew from an early stage we had a good group and that I was at the right place at the right time.

“Nobody has their own agenda here, at our club we cut our cloth - the people are good to be around and they are here for the right reasons. It’s not always like that.

“There was a lot of hunger within the group. I knew there was more than what they had shown in previous years, but it was about bringing that out.

“We have 10 players under the age of 23, and their hunger alongside the more experienced players is a great mix. There is nothing better than younger players who are desperate to learn and who want to take their game to a new level.”

So what can the National League big boys expect when they turn up at Grosvenor Vale?

Their modest Ruislip home boasted one of the best home records anywhere, winning 15 of 17 league matches and the Irishman knows a big part of the reason why.

“Our supporters have a lot to do with it,” he explained. “When you come out of the dressing room, you are coming out into a cage - and all the fans are there, right beside you. They made a great noise. There’s a roar.

“It’s not just about them turning up, we have to give them something to shout about. But they were right behind us, they deserve it.

“There’s nothing better than a collective achievement. You have got to enjoy it, but I need to make sure we’re not living off memories.

“I don’t want us to go up into the National League and be by-standers. We are likely to have one of the lowest budgets, but you need to give yourself a chance of success.

“We’re growing, and we’re getting better - and I think we’ll continue to get better. We’ve got to continue to keep the hunger within the group as well, that is so important.

“We need to be ready, and the hard work has already started. I’ve constantly been on the scouting platforms looking at potential players. It’s no-stone-unturned.

“We know we have to be a little bit fitter, our recovery has to be better - we are going to train Monday and Thursday now and we have to make the most of it.

“We look after our own. We have our own DNA. We’re desperate to make some sort of impact when the new season arrives. We won’t be cutting any corners, but we can’t wait.”

But who is going up with them? The play-offs are little over a week away.

“I think Bath City might do the business,” predicts the former Grays Athletic and Stevenage player.

“Havant will be hard to beat, they are so experienced, and Weymouth too - they will be training four times a week in the build-up.

“But I fancy Jerry’s team to win the play-offs. Bath have got a fair number of good quality loan players and sometimes that could prove the difference.”

Dean Brennan’s quick-fire Q&A….

Your favourite game of last season?
Weymouth away. The fact we won it, 3-1 up and they came back to 3-3. The manner in which we won it, late in injury time, gave us such belief.

Your goal of the season?
Michael Phillips at home to Concord. He pushed through about four players, and was so composed. Great goal.

Pick one word to describe your team other than ‘champions’?

Favourite moment of the season?
I would say Havant away. We won there 4-2 and it was a big game, so I’ve got to say that.

Which is the stand out achievement of your career?

When we won the Southern Premier title at Hemel. We took them from a reprieve to promotion and it was a great moment.

Where next?

LV BET Preview: Harrogate Town Listed as Play-Off Favourites Official betting partner of The National League, LV BET, have listed Harrogate Town as favourites for promotion following their second-place position and bye into the play-off semi-finals.
Clubs Get Busy As Squad Rebuilds Really Get Going Preparations for the play-offs may be in full swing but that hasn’t stopped clubs turning their attention to next season.