Hero Bartlett savours Wealdstone’s return from the wilderness

When an experienced centre-forward bangs in 25 goals to help his side win the title, you’d think the manager would be the most grateful. Not at Wealdstone.

On the coach on the way back from the Stones’ promotion-clinching victory at Margate, 40-year-old Scott McGleish – a veteran of almost 700 Football League games but, remarkably, no league winners’ medals – had a message for his manager, Gordon Bartlett: thank you.

It is a measure of the high regard at Wealdstone for Bartlett, who has been in the job for 19 years, that a man with such experience in the pro game felt he owed his latest manager a big debt of gratitude.

It was a moment not lost on the Stones boss himself, who was genuinely moved.

He told West London Sport: “Scott, who has played football for 20-odd years, sat down next to me and said ‘thank you’.

“He was going to pack up earlier in the season as he was finding things a little bit tough but I’m delighted I managed to talk him round.

Veteran striker McGleish considered hanging up his boots
Veteran striker McGleish considered hanging up his boots

“He’s such a great influence on the dressing room and, although he’s not getting any younger, I think he would like to continue with us.”

It’s not just his own players who have acknowledged what a good job Bartlett has done.

From the moment the final whistle blew at Hartsdown Park, confirming Wealdstone’s elevation to Conference South, the former Yeading, Hounslow and Southall manager’s phone has been red hot.

“I didn’t know I knew so many people!” he joked.

“In the 24 hours after the game last  Tuesday, I must have got about 200 texts and voicemails. I didn’t have time to reply to them all.

“There were so many other managers and chairmen in the Ryman League and ex-players congratulating us on what we’d achieved.

“It’s very heartwarming and emotional to get that level of support from people.

“Having knocked on the door the last couple of years, it’s a relief to finally achieve it.

“I said at the start of the season I’m fed up with being the bridesmaid.”

The last time Wealdstone were in non-League’s second tier was 1992.

When Bartlett took charge a few years later, the homeless club were groundsharing with Edgware Town and had switched from the Southern League to the Ryman League, taking a drop of two divisions in the process.

It was a dramatic collapse from their mid-1980s heyday, when they became the first club to do the non-League double, winning the Conference and the FA Trophy.

Wealdstone's win at Margate sparked wild celebrations on the pitch
Wealdstone’s win at Margate sparked wild celebrations on the pitch

The Stones were denied promotion to the professional ranks as their Lower Mead ground wasn’t up to Football League standards – and that triggered their 10-year fall through the divisions.

Bartlett has lifted the club out of the doldrums and believes this latest promotion matches the achievements of the class of 1985, due to the vastly-altered landscape of non-League football.

And he knows the Stones are stepping up in class next season, with possible clashes against ex-League clubs Aldershot and Hereford.

“It’s going to be difficult. Whitehawk won our league by a distance last season and have struggled, Hornchurch and Billericay went up the year before that and came straight back down,” he said.

“The club has been very good to me this year and allowed me to go over budget. I’ve only been told off a few times!

“We’re in desperate need now of sponsors to come in, but what a football club to get involved in.

“When you look at the fans and their emotions, this is a club with a real heartbeat.”

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