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Hopeful Premier League target set for 5th tier club after 12 promotions in 24 years

A hopeful Premier League target has been set for 5th tier club Dorking Wanderers after an impressive 12 promotions in 24 years.

Considering that the Surrey outfit were only formed in 1999, then their progress up the league pyramid has been nothing short of phenomenal.

White and his pals didn’t even have the vision of playing in the top tiers of non league football. Initially launched a Saturday League team just to enjoy playing with their friends.

They started playing on a National Trust pitch, before moving to Westhumble Playing Fields, and while the views was quite something, but the grass was only knee-high, they had no electricity or water.

Credit: Groundhopper United

Meadowbank Stadium was then their new home come 2018. It is a modern, 3G pitch that also provides community access to the pitch.

“Initially it was just a social thing and the aspirations went no further than a bunch of friends who had an opportunity to spend time together really,” White tells Mirror Football .

“We were bored of Premier League football so we started playing. Then we got the bug for winning. And only about midway through the journey did we start to see the impact we were having on the community and it has grown arms and legs from there.

“Going to grounds like Notts County, it’s been phenomenal,” White says on life in the top tier of non league. “We genuinely were, with no more than a fairytale, a park side. It’s hard to not pinch yourself. It’s such an exponential rise.”

“If we do that and make a success of that model then we can get to the Premier League that way, it’s fine!” he adds.

“What we’ve done so far has been very difficult, so I wouldn’t write us off doing a few more promotions yet.”

Manager Marc White, who at one time was a promising youth player at Fulham, became a worker in London who had his own marketing company in London. And while he has no formal coaching qualifications, he picked a wealth of knowledge and experience as his side climbed the tiers.

“To the outside looking in, it looks like I’m some sort of control freak,” he said.

“When we started it from scratch, we had no one to pay for it, no one to organise it, no one to play and manage it, so I did all four things to start with. The legs went, so the playing stopped but the rest just stayed there.”

“We have so many fans now – it’s unbelievable – I get stopped everywhere all over the country,” he says. That is down to their success – but also to an innovative step the club has taken to promote itself worldwide.

“People go to our games just because they follow it, because they love it,” he explains. “People love the authenticity – it shows the real world of a football team. All the highly edited Netflix versions, they’re great and they’re an insight, but not quite sure they’re as big an insight as ours.”

“I feel like we’re quite daring in what we’ll show people. I’d love to see other people have the balls to copy it.”

When questioned what the secret to his success is, he added: “It’s hard work, keeping players together and, linked to that, it’s meticulous team building.

“The model is you keep the team together and every year three to four of the guys who struggle to make the jump up go and you bring in three or four that are from that level, or bigger than that.

“You continue to team build. You end up with a core. We have players now who’ve been here six or seven seasons, over three or four promotions. That’s not easy to achieve.”

“Non-league day is so successful because we all underestimate how much football has become a TV sport,” he says.

“Once people go to their local club and they smell the leather and the burgers and a player falls over the barrier onto them, they really love it.

“I feel like it keeps supporters in touch with accessible football.”

Hopeful Premier League target set for 5th tier club after 12 promotions in 24 years
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