Bobby Wilkinson’s Bracknell Town side have been flooded with plaudits after becoming the country’s first senior men’s side between steps 1 to 4 of the English Football Pyramid to lift a league title.
Bracknell won the Isthmian League South Central Division One on Saturday after beating Ashford Town (Middlesex) 4-0 while results for Chertsey Town and Basingstoke Town went the Robins way, with six games to go.
Former Reading FC winger Garath McCleary and ex-Royals full-back Chris Gunter were among the professionals to send their congratulations, while Welsh international and former Arsenal and Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey also published a congratulatory video on social media.
Football in Berkshire spoke to Bobby – previously involved with Reading under Brendan Rodgers and asked about the connection: “I’ve known these lads for years from when I was at Reading, I’m good friends with a lot of that generation and I’ve tried to help them out where I can. I brought Michael Gilkes with me to Hungerford Town as a coach and now he’s involved with the first team there, Mikele Leigertwood as well.
“Garath’s tribute was stunning. When he was out of contract I got him down with us to use the facilities, train and it was a lovely message, none of these guys had to do what they did.
“Gunts, he’s been in on Monday’s and I’ve helped him with his UEFA ‘A’ Licence. We’ve had Noel Hunt around doing some coaching and he’s now back at Reading as well.”
Watch Aaron Ramsey’s video message to the Bracknell Town team below:
Where the Aaron Ramsey connection came from though, Bobby simply said: “Gunter arranged it. They’re away with Wales and they’re each others Best Men. Aaron wanted to say congratulations, it’s lovely of him to do that.
Tooting & Mitcham United’s gesture
On a rare Monday night fixture for Bracknell, the Robins extended their defensive record and unbeaten run in a 0-0 draw with Tooting & Mitcham United. The Terrors gave the Robins a ‘Guard of Honour’ as they entered the Bottom Meadow pitch, a move Wilkinson described as ‘pure class’.
Wilkinson said: “Tooting obviously are at the other end of the division, they’re fighting to stay in the Isthmian League so for them to think about and do that is unbelievable. Them and their fans were a credit. I’ve done it myself and it was something my lads deserved, but it was pure class from them.
“I like to get on with managers. I’ve spoken to them before and offered help where I can.
“Saturday at Bottom Meadow is going to be a party”
Wilkinson was eager to appeal to fans ahead of Saturday’s Isthmian League trophy presentation, on Non League Day no-less.
Bracknell host Chalfont St Peter, themselves fighting for points at the bottom of the table, but the Robins boss is expecting a party atmosphere. He said: “I want to thank all the fans for their support. Be loud and proud on Saturday, come and see the team pick up the trophy.”
Saturday will be the first time since 1994 that Bracknell Town has won a league title, and Wilkinson added: “It’s a great gesture from our chairman to make it free entry. All donations on the day will be to the Ukraine appeal and of course, it’s Non League Day.
“Reading aren’t playing either so it’d be great to see a few of them come down, don’t forget I’ve also got Lea Barkus on my staff so that’ll make his day.
“We would love to pack the ground. The beer will be flowing, it’s going to be a lovely sunny day and can we beat the grounds big attendance record when Sandhurst played host to AFC Wimbeldon’s first-ever competitive fixture [for reference, Wikipedia says this was 2,449]?