Hor­nets’ clash has got Wok­ing buzzing

The Non-League Football Paper - - NEWS - By David Richard­son

We delve into both camps as Bar­net and Wok­ing pre­pare to fly the Non-League flag in the FA Cup

A BOT­TLE of New­cas­tle Brown Ale chills in Alan Dow­son’s of­fice mini fridge.

The Wok­ing boss is ready to wel­come Wat­ford man­ager Javi Gar­cia into his por­ta­cabin to­day where he has plot­ted the Na­tional League South’s side ad­ven­ture to the FA Cup third round and a date with a Premier League club in front of a sell­out crowd and the TV cam­eras.

“It’s a tra­di­tion to ex­change drinks, so I’ve got that for him, or a Diet Coke,” he tells The NLP on Fri­day morn­ing.

The drink is a nod to­wards Dow­son’s Geordie roots and a re­minder of his idea about in­volv­ing com­mu­ni­ties in foot­ball. In just six months at the club, the 48year-old has in­grained him­self in the Sur­rey-based town and rekin­dled mem­o­ries of Wok­ing’s cup glory days of the 90s.

Later this month it will have been 22 years since the Cards last reached this stage, where they be­came the first Non-League side to hold a top-flight club on their turf when Steve Thomp­son turned in a last minute equaliser at Coven­try City. Of course, Tim Buza­glo’s hat-trick, that in­spired the up­set of West Brom in 1992, re­mains their most trea­sured mo­ment.

“They said they’d like a cup run when I joined the club – I said you’ve got the wrong bloke!” laughs Dow­son who had never pre­vi­ously



the first round be­fore he ar­rived from Hamp­ton in the sum­mer.

“It’s been chaos this last month. I learnt some­thing off Gary McCann at Hamp­ton, who I know very well. He barred talk­ing about play­ing Old­ham in the first round and it went against him, he thought some play­ers were pulling out of tack­les and things lead­ing up to it.

“I went with adding a cou­ple of play­ers and say­ing if you don’t per­form, you don’t play in the game. It put mas­sive pres­sure on the play­ers.”

To say it’s had its de­sired ef­fect would be an un­der­state­ment. Since their 1-0 up­set of Swin­don, Wok­ing have won all five of their league games to keep up with lead­ers Torquay while tak­ing higher-league Maid­stone United to a re­play and ex­tra time in the FA Tro­phy.


Dow­son says his team se­lec­tion to­day will be the tough­est he’s ever had to make and ex­pects play­ers to leave once the fix­ture has been played, with a clash against pro­mo­tion ri­vals Welling to come on Wed­nes­day. Pro­mo­tion back to the Na­tional League re­mains the pri­or­ity.

He had in­her­ited noth­ing from last sea­son’s rel­e­gated side which made the open­ing months of his time at the club dou­bly tough.

“I re­mem­ber driv­ing to East Thur­rock on the first day of the sea­son think­ing if I get time here I’ll be al­right, but will I get that? We got booed off at half-time. I went into the dress­ing room say­ing we’ve got a hell of job here. We won 1-0 with a 96th minute penalty which could be the best thing that’s hap­pened to us. “I started go­ing to the lo­cal pubs – that’s where the shirt spon­sor came from – the lo­cal schools, the spon­sors to put our point across about what we’re try­ing to achieve and get the com­mu­nity be­hind us. “We were win­ning games but I knew it wasn’t quite right.” De­spite switch­ing back to a part-time sched­ule this sea­son, the Wok­ing board have backed their man for a ti­tle charge in 2019.

Dow­son bol­stered his squad for the Christ­mas pe­riod sign­ing Aaron Ey­oma and Harry Tay­lor on loan and this week has re­signed loan stars Har­vey Brad­bury and Ar­mani Lit­tle from Ox­ford United.

Fired up

“The last time we got beat down here we lost 3-1 against Bath,” Dow­son says. “We weren’t do­ing par­tic­u­larly well and I got heck­led a bit when I went into the bar where I al­ways speak to the fans af­ter­wards.

“When I looked, Rose­mary [John­son, chair­man] was stood right by my side. When I needed her she was there.

“When you’re go­ing through a good time, it would be easy for her to come in here, but she was there when it was a bad time. My chair­man at Hamp­ton, Gra­ham Wood, and Steve McPher­son, who ap­pointed me, would have done that as well, they were bril­liant. It’s nice to have that back­ing.”

Dow­son ad­mits his style is from the old school of man­age­ment – he threat­ened to sack his play­ers at half-time last week fol­low­ing a lack­lus­tre dis­play against East­bourne – but his tech­niques get the de­sired re­sults and he’s pre­pared to make his own sac­ri­fices for play­ers.

In Septem­ber, he ran 100 laps of the King­field pitch to raise money for the in­jured Chris­tian Jol­ley and Kane Fer­di­nand. Jol­ley re­turned to the start­ing line-up at Swin­don and has since been im­pe­ri­ous in mid­field. He’ll need to be again to­day.

“We’re the low­est-ranked club and if we beat them it’ll be the big­gest up­set ever,” he adds. “Lincoln did it against Burn­ley [in 2017] but no-one has done it from this league. Wat­ford won’t want that tag, they’re a proper club, but we’ll have a go.

“As a man­ager you al­ways want to com­pete against the best. Can I out think him? I doubt it but I’m go­ing to have a go. Mind games? I’m not clever enough for that. But can I, in my way, get the play­ers fired up and have a go.

“If you want peo­ple to come back to Wok­ing we’ve got to give them some­thing. I’ve al­ways said foot­ball is about the peo­ple.”

PIC­TURE: David Holmes

TEAM EF­FORT: Wok­ing play­ers and staff cel­e­brate af­ter beat­ing Swin­don Town in the last round


GOLDEN MO­MENT: Wok­ing's Steve Thomp­son fires his late equaliser past Coven­try keeper Steve Ogri­zovic LEG­END: Striker Tim Buza­glo fa­mously scored a hat-trick against West Brom

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