The Luxury Fan’s Ryman Premier Prospects

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Will Magee returns to TFN with a look at the brightest young prospects in the Ryman Premier…

Young people. What are most of them up to these days? Going to the cinema, learning to drive, being educated, discovering the true meaning of heartbreak, drinking litre bottles of cider in the park; all of these things rank high on the average young person’s list of pastimes. Then there are those special young people, those who are really quite good at playing football. Many of them occupy themselves not by indulging in ordinary activities, but instead by playing in the seventh tier of the English footballing pyramid – the Ryman Premier League. Some of them are doing an exceptionally good job of it, and deserve a bit of recognition. Who the ruddy hell are these bright young things? Well, let’s find out.

Nathan McDonald, goalkeeper, Enfield Town

24-year-old Town keeper Nathan McDonald was superb this campaign. A vital part of the side’s ill-starred push to the play offs, he played in all forty-six league fixtures and kept eighteen clean sheets in the process. He received five club ‘Man of the Match’ awards, plus a luxury accolade from me for his valiant performance in Enfield’s one-nil home loss to Dulwich Hamlet. Rumours that manager Bradley Quinton has taken to calling him ‘Doctor Octohands’ are as yet unconfirmed. Continue reading

The State of the Game: ASPIRE – A football academy with a difference

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Dulwich Hamlet manager Gavin Rose (Photo: Onion Bag Blog)

In Part 3 of TFN’s State of the Game Series, James Dutton and Hugo Greenhalgh look at the ASPIRE Academy – a model that combines top class coaching with valuable life skills…

Last month, James Ducker published an in-depth study on young footballers in The Times. The series, entitled ‘From superstars to scrapheap’, examined the emotional damage that can be caused to young players who are released, especially those who fail to earn a scholarship or professional contract. A rather bleak study conducted by the charity XPRO revealed that “96% of scholars signed by clubs in England and Wales at 16 will not play again from the age of 18 and of those who do earn professional contracts, only 2% will still be professionals past 21”. Furthermore, over half of 15-18 year olds who were released suffered from depression or anxiety, and were turning to alcohol or substance abuse.

While these figures may not be altogether surprising given the unpredictability of most careers in football, it is worrying that a support network doesn’t exist for these young men. One day they are the club’s latest prospects, the next they could be released and unemployed. The players know full well that football is a life choice that requires more hard work than most, but if and when that plan falls through, they are left with very few qualifications and sacrificed full time education in order to give it a shot.

One institution who are trying to combat this is South London’s ASPIRE Academy. The Academy, founded by Dulwich Hamlet manager Gavin Rose, began in 2002 and its mission statement is to provide a football and educational programme for 16 – 18 year old males, to pursue their dream of playing professional football whilst also furthering their education. Dulwich play in the Ryman Premier Division, the seventh tier of English football, but the academy setup is the envy of many professional clubs. Continue reading

Erhun Oztumer – ‘He came from Turkey to bring us joy’

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(Photo courtesy of Mike Urban)

I heard a rumour, Erhun Oztumer, He came Turkey, To bring us joy

He’s 5 foot 2, He’s pink and blue, Please don’t take, My Erhun away

It is with some sadness that I write of the departure of Erhun Oztumer from Dulwich Hamlet to Peterborough United this summer. For the past two seasons, Oztumer has been the lynchpin of Gavin Rose’s slick Dulwich side who have garnered something of a reputation for attractive, attacking football. No player illustrates this better than Oztumer; his first touch is sublime, his vision is excellent and he is equally adept at beating his man as he is at finding a killer through-ball. He helped Dulwich win the Ryman Division One South in 2013 and last season scored 33 goals as Dulwich chased successive promotions, only to miss out on the final day.

But Oztumer isn’t the sort of player you need to scramble for the stats book for (if you did, you’d see he’s also provided 18 assists last season). He is simply a very pure and talented footballer who knows how to use his skills effectively. For two years, he has been the star attraction at Champion Hill and he will be dearly missed. Continue reading

Interview: Gavin Rose and His Pink and Blue Army

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TFN editor James Dutton speaks to Dulwich Hamlet boss Gavin Rose about the club’s rise through non-league football, and his further ambitions in the game…

Hidden away in a leafy borough of South London, Dulwich Hamlet have been making waves in non-league football this season. Enjoyable, attractive, attacking football has put the club and its feverish supporters on the cusp of a second consecutive promotion, this time to the Conference South – almost unprecedented in the club’s proud history.

Gavin Rose is coming towards the conclusion of his fifth season at Champion Hill, and barring any last-minute changes he will end it as one of only seven black managers in the top eight divisions of English football. The other six are, like the 37-year-old from Peckham, managing in non-league football.

Ambition marks Rose out from many of his contemporaries at this level. Does he see himself as a manager in the Football League in the next five years? “Definitely,” is the immediate, assertive response. But it should not be mistaken for arrogance, he recognises that he has no divine right to make it that far. It’s a philosophy that underpins his personality, and shines through in his beliefs about the game he loves.

What would be holding him back from that, barring the A license coaching badge that still needs to be earned? Other than himself, he sees no stumbling block.

But with the sackings of Chris Powell and Chris Hughton in the last month, there are now no black managers in charge of the 92 clubs that comprise the Premier League and Football League. He is well versed on the subject, this stain on English football, but perhaps surprisingly unfazed.

Continue reading

Editor’s Column: State of Play in the Premier League, Dulwich Hamlet and Smoking Footballers

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This week’s Editor’s Column from James Dutton looks at the state of play in the Premier League, Dulwich Hamlet in the Ryman Isthmian League and the top five smoking footballers…

Seven games into the Premier League season and with the second international break upon us, the table is beginning to take shape.

At this stage of the 2012-13 season Chelsea sat above the two Manchester clubs at the summit, with Everton, Spurs, West Brom and Arsenal clinging on to their coat tails.

At the bottom sat Queens Park Rangers, whilst Norwich, Reading, Southampton, Aston Villa, Wigan and Liverpool perched precariously above them; all with less points than games played.

This year only Crystal Palace and Sunderland have less points than games played; Norwich have seven off seven and yet occupy the remaining slot in the relegation places – a year ago they’d have sat in 13th.

What does this tell us? Continue reading