Dorking Wanderers #20

Welcome back to the final part of the 2026/27 season with Dorking Wanderers. 

I previously said I didn’t want to sell anyone, especially Nile John. However, everything has its price, and every one of our players is available for the right amount. That’s what happened on Deadline Day when Watford came in with a bid; after a bit of negotiating back and forth, an offer we couldn’t afford to refuse came in. 

We lost our most important player, but it’s a record sale for the club – doubling the previous record. 

Another one that left the club in January was Connor McAvoy. For £96K, he left for Southend, two-division down. He was a fine player to have in the squad in League One, however, he’s been struggling after we got promoted. 

With John leaving and the change of tactics where we play more often with wingers opened room for strengthening the squad. The former super talent Kaide Gordon came in from Liverpool for a record fee of £550K. He’s still a huge talent, and hopefully, we can bring out the best in him. However, after just six games for Liverpool so far in his career, his development has stagnated, and the need for minutes is crucial for him. 

Aleksander Andresen came in on loan from Lazio and looks perfect in the Mezzala role. He hasn’t played much for them after the move from Stabaek two seasons ago, but he will get his minutes here. 

Harvey Araujo is the last one, as we only have one natural left-back in the squad. I like his attributes, and I think he could be just as good as a defensive midfielder. We have an optional future fee of £3.6M in the contract if I want to break the bank, budget, and principles I’ve been following so far. 

We didn’t just spend the money on transfers after John left. The board agreed to upgrade both the training facilities and youth facilities for £1.9M. As if that wasn’t enough, they finally decided to expand Dorking Stadium. To enlarge the stadium with 2,161 seats will do us good in the future and will do wonders in the financial department of the club. Nine months at The People’s Pension Stadium again next season isn’t what I hoped for; however, we’ve done that before, and it’s a familiar stadium.

The Championship

The second half of the season started very well with an unbeaten run of six games before we lost three in a row. Nile John scoring four goals in five games in January is probably what tipped the scale when Watford came in with their bid last minute.

After a rather lousy month in February, we found our momentum again in March. Scoring nine goals in four games is superb, and with eight different goalscorers, it’s the same story as earlier in the season. However, players in the front three started to shine. Harvey Vale finally scored his first goal of the season. His backup, Kaide Gordon that arrived in January, scored before him this season. So imagine the relief when he finally bagged a goal! 

In April, we showed that we’re not to be taken lightly at this level, and scoring seventeen goals in four games deserve everyone’s attention and respect. The only game we didn’t win was against Barnsley. However, after trailing 0-3 at the halftime, it felt like a win! Seven goals in those four games from Bryan Fiabema made sure he passed Oakley Cannonier and Edwin Andersson in the run to be the top scorer this season. We followed up the extraordinary form in May, and two wins made sure we finished the season on a nine game unbeaten run and a top 10 finish in the League. It’s a big way to end the season and kick it up a notch after Christmas! 

The FA Cup

In the FA Cup, we won comfortably against division rivals Luton after two goals from Edwin Andersson in the third round. In the fourth round against Arsenal, we trailed 0-2 at Emirates after four minutes. In the second half, Aleksander Andresen came to his debut to set up Andersson twice. What a way to introduce yourself! The equaliser came in the 90th minute, and we shook Arsenal in their playground. In the replay at home, we had good control and created some chances that could’ve won us the game. With the game going into extra time, we got a taste of our own medicine when the genius Martin Odegaard found Ruben Neves to win Arsenal the game in the 91st minute. Even if we lost, we did great against a top side. 

Season Review

With this being our first season in the Championship, we did better than anyone could’ve expected. Finishing four points away from the playoffs, it is easy to think that we should make that our target for next season. Everything is possible if we can build on the immense finish we had to the season. After all, we’ve never been more than two seasons in a division before getting promoted. So it’s all set. 

Losing our key man Nile John in January was easier to handle than I expected. Aleksander Andresen came in and filled the gap right away. In my book, seven goals and six assists in 14(2) games with a 7.47 rating are good enough to be named player of the season. I’m sure he would’ve won the award a couple more months here. Nohan Kenneh, who won the award, and was the young player of the season, did have a fantastic season. Averaging 7.20 in rating with seven goals and four assists are crucial stats from a defensive midfielder who played the first half of the season as a centre back. He won 8/10 tackles, and in the FA Cup, he won 100% of his tackles. I don’t know any other way to describe him than reliable. 

The last one I want to highlight is our top scorer Bryan Fiabema. He came in on a free transfer with many question marks to his name. Nine months later, he’s our leading scorer. He also pitched in with eight assists and had the most PoM awards. Great season by the Norwegian-Nigerian. Could there be an international call-up on the horizon?! 

Westhumble Academy

It’s been an excellent season for our academy, improving the facilities and getting the nod to enhance the again at the end of the season. Our youth recruitment has also been upgraded and is now classed as exceptional.
At the end of the season, our youth level was upgraded to Level 3 – I’m not sure what that will change for us; however, it’s probably better than to stay at level 4.

While the U23s aren’t playing in a division and only play friendlies, the U18s Won the Youth Alliance South East for the third season in a row. I don’t know what we need to do to get League games for the U23s and promotion for the U18s, but it’s starting to frustrate me. If anyone could tell me how to deal with this, I would be super happy to learn!

Our Head of Youth Development said it was a golden generation coming through back in December, but when the intake found a place in March, it was “just” a good intake. There are some players there that look exciting and talented.

We didn’t have the chance to play as many academy players this season as we’ve done in the previous seasons. A significant factor is that we got promoted, and another one is that we’re no longer participating in the Papa John’s Trophy, which has been a great arena to play youth. 

Five players have played for the first team this year, and many have been on loan. Jeff Edwards got the most games and is entering a make or break part of his career at Dorking next season when he’s turning 20. He’s not scoring enough goals to play as a striker in the Championship, and Eric Vogel is catching in on him in terms of ability. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy the change of layout on the series.

/ FM Veteran

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