firstname.lastname@example.org Nyren Clunis will be back at Dulwich Hamlet next season – but only watching from the stands as a supporter.
It was announced last week that the 28-year-old, dubbed the Prince of Peckham by supporters of the National League South club, was moving on.
Winger Clunis joined Dulwich at the age of 14 and went on to score 117 goals in 486 matches. He is third for post-war appearances for Hamlet. He was a key part of their two promotions up the non-league ladder.
“Leaving was a mutual decision due to the coronavirus,” said Clunis.
“Because of that the budget probably won’t be the same and I felt I didn’t want to be on less money. And they didn’t want to offer me less money, they thought that it would be disrespectful considering the time I’d been at the club.
“I’ve just done my tenth season [in the first-team set-up] and so this moment is bitter sweet. I’ve enjoyed my time there and I wish I could’ve broken some more records. I would have liked to have beaten the all-time appearance record [576 by Reg Merritt]. If I’d stayed for another season and a half then I probably would have done.
“But I feel it’s time to experience some of the football world that I haven’t before. I was meant to have a testimonial but we won’t be able to do that now. It’s still going to happen, whenever we can do it.
“I definitely want that so that I can say a proper goodbye. There aren’t too many people who do 10 years at a football club.
“The standout memories would be the penalty shootout promotion two years ago and when we won the league. But there was also the rival games against the likes of Maidstone and Billericay.
“I can also remember getting presented with a trophy for my 200th game before we played Bognor at home.
“I believe I represented the club well. I was a local boy and I was a part of a lot of the community stuff. A lot of young people from the area looked up to me because I was at such a good team with such good support.”
Clunis joined the Aspire Academy, which was set up in 2002 by Gavin Rose and Junior Kadi and is connected to Dulwich Hamlet.
“I’ve always been happy at Dulwich,” said Clunis. “I like to be part of a team that is always challenging for stuff.
“The last couple of seasons have been very different from the previous eight years. I was used to us trying to win a league or pushing to get promoted. But we were just above the relegation zone [in 2018-19 after promotion to National League South] and then last time we were mid table.
“They [Rose and Kadi] have been massive for Dulwich Hamlet. We used to go to games and there were next to no fans there. Somehow they’ve been able to build this community club with thousands of fans coming to games.
“They’ve coached some good players who have gone into the Football League.
“They are great coaches. They know how to manage kids and make them into men.
“I’ll still be there as much as possible to watch the games. I’ll still be acting like I’m there. I’ll always back Dulwich.”
Rose admitted the decision on Clunis was not an easy one.
“He is a young lad who came to our academy and then into the first team at 17 – he never looked back.
“There are not many matchday squads I’ve picked where he hasn’t been involved.He has been a very good servant. You have to perform very well to be here for 10 years.
“The biggest issue for us is that his playing time last season started to decline a little bit and he probably wasn’t having the impact that either he or I wanted.
“He’s still good enough to play at the level we’re at but being in the pandemic means funding is going to be hard for us. We need to try and get as much value as possible. That culminated in me telling him he probably needs to look elsewhere.
“Nyren hasn’t missed a team talk in those 10 years and has been there for the good times and bad times.
“He was very unfortunate at one stage not to reach his dreams. I was disappointed he didn’t get his own chance to do that because he had a real purple patch in a four or five-year period but never got a [Football League] approach.
“I have to remove that emotional side and do my job for the football team and the football club.
“Nyren is someone who really helped me as a manager, on and off the pitch. He has built a great rapport with the supporters and football club. He has served the club in the way you ask all players to serve it, like a role model.
“He always had time to speak to supporters. Nyren embodied the type of character we want in the club and dressing room.”
PICTURES BY KEITH GILLARD
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