BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Gavin Rose admits that Dulwich Hamlet’s battle to get back to Champion Hill has been an energy-sapping experience.
The National League South side return home after nine months of being locked out – caught in the crossfire of a battle between landlords Meadow Partners and Southwark council – when they host Eastbourne Borough on Boxing Day.
Hamlet are set to train on the pitch on Christmas Eve.
“It will be really emotional when the game comes,” said Rose. “It has been a hard slog – I can’t pretend that mentally it hasn’t been a bit draining.
“I have been focused on so many things rather than football management and matches. It’s been draining hoping to get back home, seeing all our supporters and getting that atmosphere back. It can really help us on the pitch. I can concentrate only on the football from here on in.
“Along the way we have had a lot of different people and groups lend a helping hand – the supporters’ trust, Save Dulwich Hamlet and Dulwich Hamlet 12th Man Scheme which has raised massive amounts of money.
“We’ve had so many people, including Ben [Clasper, director] who have given a lot of aid to the club in this period. It’s important to remember it is a collective group because survival without all of them wouldn’t have been possible.
Ben has been very good in terms of ongoing mediating with the council – along with Tom Cullen [director]. It was perfect timing.
“The directors, along with people doing volunteer work, have kept the club alive over the last year.
“Everyone should be very proud of their efforts.
“I’ve been back at the stadium while it has been refurbed. For me the work really starts Boxing Day going forward.
“I hope the pitch plays well. We ended up delaying our return by a month but the biggest test is going to be in terms of impact – because we are virtually setting up like it is a new pitch but at the wrong time of year.
“We have got an excellent groundsman and team making sure they can get the best surface possible.”
IMAGE BY KEITH GILLARD
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