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Dorking Wanderers' journey to the National League is the ultimate underdog story

Josh Lawless

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Dorking Wanderers' journey to the National League is the ultimate underdog story

After Oldham Athletic's new chairman Frank Rothwell completed a £12 million takeover of the club, he spoke to the jubilant fans outside the club's ground and asked them about Dorking, their first home opponents of the season.

"Does anybody know where Dorking is?" was the question from the local businessman and it prompted a loud 'NO!" from those who gathered outside Boundary Park.

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To answer the query, Dorking are a side based in Surrey and they have quite the unique story.

Remarkably, the club was set up in 1999 by a group of mates in a park and first started playing in the Crawley & District league.

During those very humble beginnings, they had to rent pitches from the council for £50 and once had a match abandoned because a Shetland pony invaded the turf.

Image: Alamy
Image: Alamy

But the club have achieved an incredible 12 promotions in 23 years and are now just one level below the Football League. It's proper Football Manager stuff.

The Surrey Senior Cup winners finished second last term and beat Ebbsfleet United in the National League south play-off to secure promotion to the National League.


The clash with Oldham, one of the founding members of the Premier League, will be shown be live on TV in what is a huge deal for a club who started at the very bottom of the pyramid.

Their manager Marc White was there at the very start and now somehow juggles the responsibilities of being owner,

chairman and manager - despite no coaching qualifications - all while running a marketing company at the same time.

"The original intention was to have a kickabout and enjoy a beer after the game, White said, as per the BBC.

"We have gone from paying a fiver on a local park to having 1,000 active members.

"We never really had a plan and we just pieced things together as we went along, but perhaps 12 to 14 years in we started to have these little pipe dreams.

"We were the beneficiaries of Dorking FC being disbanded, but Dorking is a small market town and everyone wants the best for each other. Some of the people who worked at Dorking FC are now involved with our club.

"It was, over time, an ever-expanding hobby, but it became properly serious when we reached the National League."

Image: Alamy
Image: Alamy

The club, who have played at the Meadowbank Stadium - a ground with three separate stands on two sides - since 2018, are still part-time.

Players have other jobs in addition to their footballing exploits. James McShane, one of their longest-serving players and a scorer last week, works for Royal Mail.

All three summer signings were free transfers and they have only have paid a fee for a player on one occasion back in 2018.

Dorking got their first point on the last weekend when they drew 2-2 at home to 10-man Chesterfield and will look to cause a major upset at 17.20 this coming Saturday.

Featured Image Credit: Image: Dorking Wanderers & Vanarama

Topics: Non-League

Josh Lawless
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