Why Dorking, you ask?
My love for this beautiful football club started in FM20 when I did a challenge with a friend during a lockdown. We picked a club each in the National League South, and the race to the Premier League was on. While I didn’t quite make it that time, and my friend made it all the way with his Dulwich Hamlet side, a seed was sawn, and the fascination for the club started to grow.
Fast forward to last summer when I had started blogging my saves, and the decision for last year’s save fell on Dorking again. I wanted to do something great with this club that I couldn’t do the last time I tried. This time, I found out that I wanted to get to know the club at a different level than before, and to my great amusement, I found the Bunch of Amateurs documentary on YouTube. Imagine picking a random club at that level, and suddenly they have a documentary. That’s like winning the lottery in terms of available information. Without that documentary and the information available, I doubt I’d have been such a big fan of them. I’ve got to know the players, staff, stadium and area. For a guy in Norway, it’s terrific that I can get to know a club like that through FM and YouTube.
Everyone likes to build a small club from the bottom and reach new heights in FM. At least, I imagine everyone appreciates that. The history of Dorking Wanderers is unique in that perspective. The club was founded by Marc White and his friends in 1999 and played park football, to begin with. When they started at Westhumble, it was just a field with no facilities. Volunteers did everything. At one point, they had to put a rope around the field to fulfil the league’s requirements to have a fence. Imagine the work that has gone into some of this. From having no electricity to having floodlights is a huge step.
When the club moved stadiums in 2017, they moved into the old Meadowbank that the town’s former club, Dorking FC used. Surrey FA decided to redevelop Meadowbank and have its headquarters there. Dorking Wanderers got a new ground that was a huge step up from Westhumble. In the first season at Meadowbank, the club won the Isthmian Premier League and gained the 11th promotion in their short history. A fantastic story, and the club is still young.
After the promotion to step one of Non-League Football, there are higher demands on the grounds, and the club has to expand and improve the infrastructure to fulfil those requirements. In the National League, the stadium requirements are a minimum capacity of 4000 and a minimum of 500 seats. On November 2nd Dorking got permission to make the required improvements to the ground, and a few days later, the news broke about them placing a bid to buy Meadowbank. The reasons for that are many, and the Surrey FA seems negative about it. However, the right move for Dorking Wanderers as a club will be to buy the stadium and own it themselves. Both for the first team and the academy and community use of the ground. With a rise through the divisions as rapid as this, it sure has been challenging to meet new requirements every other season.
There have been no sugar daddies involved, maybe just Marc White, who invested his money in the club. But they have actually turned down investors who wanted to invest money in the club and sign players from a higher level. So sustainability has been the critical factor for the club since that attitude will continue in the foreseeable future.
The club is built brick by brick and has adapted to every new level and challenge that has come it’s way so far. But, unfortunately, it’s one of only three part-time clubs at the National League level, and with the next promotion, they have no alternative but to go full-time. That will probably be the biggest game-changer so far. Imagine starting a club with your mates, and 20 years later, you’re one step away from the EFL and full-time. This was probably just a distant fantasy at one time, but now it’s closer than ever to becoming a reality.
The club now has an established academy setup and a reserve team that plays decent level. According to Marc White and Jordan Clark, the long-term aim is to develop players for the first team, and a couple of players have been handed their debuts in the last seasons. Dom Plank is probably the most talented from the academy so far, confirmed by being signed on a two-year scholarship deal by Wolves academy this summer. Together with talented goalkeeper Freddy Leather, the pair was the first players to be given a scholarship deal by Dorking. That is just the start, and more will come after them with the club now having the status and setup they have.
Since I was a kid and Manchester United had three Norwegians in their first team, I have been a fan of the club and followed English football closely. However, the commercial aspect of the game is crazier than ever, I feel like a customer when I’m visiting Old Trafford, and my appearance makes no difference. If I don’t show up, my ticket will go to another football tourist and customer. Because of that aspect of the top flight, I’ve taken a greater interest in following Dorking Wanderers, and I have now booked plane tickets to visit Meadowbank and watch a game live in March 2023. It will be a different experience than visiting Premier League grounds in a positive way.
I look very much forward to visiting both the ground and the City. Unfortunately, I don’t know if my GF, who’s tagging along, shares my interest in also visiting Westhumble and Big Field to see where it all started, so I have to be creative to fit it into our schedule. At least I persuaded her to take a weekend trip to Dorking when we’re in London. My hidden agenda has, of course, been to visit Dorking all the time, and a weekend in London is a great disguise to get her to join. Of course, it could’ve been a weekend in Paris, which would’ve been a disaster…
I wonder if this answer why I’m blogging and playing with the club again this year, but at least I hope some of you learned a little bit about this fantastic club, and it would be awesome to hear from others that follow the club with great interest. I have a lot to learn about the club that I can’t find out on my own in Norway. Anyway, to summarize it all up: I am now a fan!
Thank you for reading.
/ FM Veteran