Working alongside such experienced players – probably the best players at non-league level at the time – was the best test for me. When I went in, I asked myself: “Am I cut out for this?”
By the end of the season, I knew the answer.
When I went back to Dulwich, it felt like a different club to the one I’d known as a player.
Before I took the job, I went to watch a game and it was terrible. The team wasn’t great on the pitch and there were about 100 people in the stands. There was no atmosphere at all.
The club didn’t have much money, but I felt like me and Junior could do something different. And it was my local team – I wanted to bring back the spirit that had been there when I’d worn the shirt.
At first, we had a few teething problems with some local fans. The manager before me was old school. He’d often go and have a drink with the supporters in the bar, and they liked him.
When we went in, it was: who are these little upstarts? They thought we were just a pair of kids.
“I want to do well for myself, of course, but also for the boys who are coming up from a similar background to me”
Nine years on, a lot has changed. In 2013, we got promoted to the Premier Division of the Isthmian League. For the last two years we’ve reached the playoff final. These days, more than 1,500 fans come to our games.
A lot of that is down to the team winning more than losing. But it’s also down to the work we’ve done off the pitch to bring in the local community. To let everyone know that they’re welcome here. That no one is forgotten.
I come from a community background, and I’ve watched that sense of community get lost over the years. So when I see so many people coming together now and showing solidarity for the club, it’s great. They know that this scenario is about greed, and they’re saying no. This club means more to us than money.
I feel a responsibility to them, too. Looking at where the club was when I came in to where it is now – that’s how I want to leave it. If it disappears, it makes the last nine years a waste of time.
Away from this battle, I know there’s a big future for this club. Hopefully there is one for me, too.