AFTER THE curtain was drawn on his tenth season at the helm of Dulwich Hamlet, Gavin Rose is enjoying a well-earned break.
The south Londoner has been the catalyst for Dulwich’s rise up the English football pyramid. He reflected on the latest chapter of his Dulwich career, and his ambitions for the future.
I asked Rose about for his perspective on Dulwich’s 2018-19 season and their fourteenth-place finish.
“We earned survival in our first season so it was definitely a success,” he said. “I think our finishing position was an accurate reflection of us as a group, which is no disgrace given it was our first year and given the problems we had to contend with off the pitch.”
Rose shed light on the difficulties posed by Dulwich’s eviction from Champion Hill in the spring of 2018. He explained that, aside from the obvious financial problems it caused, moving to Tooting also forced numerous players from Dulwich’s promotion season to leave the club because of Imperial Fields’ difficult accessibility.
Looking at things from a monetary perspective, Rose shuddered as he recounted the uncertainty over whether the club would be able to make payments, including to players and staff. He compared it to the uneasy feeling of having to constantly look over one’s shoulder.
In contrast, he insisted that next season the club would be following a more positive trajectory. However, fans should not expect Billericay Town-esque spending sprees anytime soon.
“Our budget wasn’t a disgrace last year. It was an average budget for the league. So, if we do improve it that’ll only be by a bit. We’re not trying to be the big spenders of the league. We’re trying to be self-sustainable and prudent because we want to build something that can continue over the years, rather than a one-year ‘flash in the pan’.
“We think the way to do that is to be competitive but not stupid when it comes to spending money”.
Hamlet fans have rarely doubted Rose throughout his long tenure as boss. However, the club’s off-field management has in the past been an area of concern. Bearing this in mind, Dulwich fans will be pleased to hear Rose’s endorsement of his boardroom, which was delivered with fierce conviction.
He continued: “Last season I turned down three offers from clubs in the [National League] and that was down to, one, the loyalty that we had to the club due to the number of years that we’ve spent here; two, the precarious situation that the club was in off the pitch meant that we wanted to provide stability; and three, because the guys on the board are Dulwich Hamlet supporters first and foremost.
“I believe they have the acumen to build a good structure off the pitch. They’ve shown me that. They have a vision to grow the club over the years to come.
“Their approach is very practical. It makes a lot of sense. They’re not trying to be big shots – we’ve seen a lot of those ships…they usually sink after maybe a year of success.
“Dulwich’s future is going to be built on solid ground. I believe that these guys are going to continue to grow the club off the pitch and I know that they will continue to give me the support to grow the club on the pitch as well.
“I am ambitious and if I felt that the club didn’t want to continue to grow then I’d probably look elsewhere.”
The most immediate job that the board had was organising Dulwich’s pre-season fixtures. One fixture that has caught supporters’ eyes is a visit to Merseyside to play Marine AFC, to celebrate the Liverpudlian side’s 125th anniversary.
The club currently plays in the Northern Premier League and has an intriguing history. They notably appeared in the 1932 FA Amateur Cup final when they were beaten 7-1 by Dulwich Hamlet in front of 22,000 at Upton Park. The club also had the longest serving manager in post-war English football. Roly Howard led the side in a remarkable 1,975 matches from 1972 until 2005.
At the more glamorous end of the spectrum, Dulwich will play a match against Crystal Palace and one other Premier League team, though the second side is yet to be confirmed. Rose was eager to acknowledge the good work done by top-division clubs in agreeing to play Hamlet.
“Over the years Crystal Palace has been a great support to our club. We’ve had many pre-season games with them. They’ve bought a few players from us and given them the opportunity to progress their careers.
“Last season in particular Mr Parish (Crystal Palace chairman, Steve) was really great when Palace gave us a friendly during the season.
“Mr Hodgson (Palace boss, Roy) brought a really strong team down. To me that’s real support. They didn’t have to do that. They risked injuries during a Premiership season.
“They’ve been excellent and they deserve a lot of credit.
“A lot of people are aware that Dulwich Hamlet is a club that helps others where it can. I think it means that people are willing to help us when we need it. It’s great that Palace are coming down. We’ll get a big attendance and our players will get the chance to pit their wits against them again.”
Looking past the summer, Rose shared his ambitions for next season.
“A good result would be to finish in the play-offs. The minimum would be to finish a few places above last season. Don’t get me wrong, you always want to win the league. But to say that in the summer would be very bold. For me, if we can be in the top seven, I think that would be a real achievement.”
Under the former Hamlet midfielder’s guidance, Dulwich have climbed two divisions. Who would bet against them reaching the play-offs next season? After a year during which even the most optimistic Hamlet fans must have felt decidedly blue, the future both on and off the pitch looks increasingly rosy.
Dulwich Hamlet pre-season fixtures 2019:
- July 9: Colchester United (H)
- July 11: Beckenham Town (A)
- July 12: Chester (A)
- July 13: Marine (A; their 125th anniversary, Hamlet’s 1932 Amateur FA Cup final opponents)
- July 16: Bromley (H)
- July 23: Sutton United (A)
- July 27: Crystal Palace (A)
- July 29: Carshalton Athletic (A)