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Exclusive: Gavin Rose opens up over Dulwich Hamlet exit and proud of his Champion Hill achievements

Gavin Rose has broken his silence over his Dulwich Hamlet exit and highlighted some of the challenges he faced during his lengthy spell as manager.

Peckham-raised Rose won two promotions with the South London club during his 13 years in charge – the Isthmian League South title in 2013 and the Isthmian League Premier play-offs in 2018.

“Exits are never handled well because it is quite difficult for both parties,” the 45-year-old told the South London Press. “With hindsight, probably the club might have wanted to handle it in a different way given the amount of time and service I gave them.

“Essentially the exit was the right thing but the timing and how it was handled could’ve been a bit better.

“If I’m being really honest I stayed at Dulwich in the last two or three years with my heart, rather than my head. That happens when you grow to love a club and you want to make sure you can help it stay alive at times and still succeed, remain at the level it is at.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we did. I never looked back while I was in the job, it’s very difficult to be proud while you are doing it. When you realise how many challenges managers face, to be able to manage your local team for that long is a massive achievement.

Dulwich Hamlet v Hungerford Town Vanarama National League South, Champion Hill, 12 September 2021   Picture: Keith Gillard

“I was probably close to 700 games [in charge]. When I first joined the club I didn’t imagine I’d be there for that period of time, I remember saying I wanted to get the club up within three years but we weren’t able to do it in that timescale.

“I was here for some rough times and was able to give stability to the club, on and off the pitch.”

Rose was boss when Dulwich were forced to leave their Champion Hill home in March 2018 – due to a dispute with landlords Meadow Residential – returning that December after groundsharing at Tooting & Mitcham’s Imperial Fields.

Hamlet’s crowds soared in the campaigns after his appointment and this season they are averaging more than 2,000 a match – nearly double their nearest rivals in Ebbsfleet United and Bath City.

But Rose says that backing did not translate to serious funds being available to him.

“We won the play-offs and my summer was spent not knowing if we’d have a budget as good as the one we had in the league below,” said Rose. “It was actually less. I had to get players on less money than they were on the year before.

“As much as we had big crowds, it didn’t always relate in terms of what my resources were. The club had a lot of off-the-field issues. They always had them. One of the contracts I signed was a three-year deal but it could end any day, through no fault of your own, if the club didn’t get planning permission.

Picture: Rob Avis

“I signed that with my eyes fully open, knowing that it doesn’t matter how well we do on the pitch – if this club is closing down then your contract is null and void.

“It’s hard to build stuff when you have those sort of things in the background.

“We had clubs that were so much better resourced financially than us, even though we had by far the bigger crowds. Teams like Maidstone and Dorking last season, their budgets were probably two or three times more than what we had.

“It’s great having the support but if other clubs have that depth and quality it will always tell on the pitch. I don’t think when Dulwich got to the Conference South they could compete with the type of budgets of the teams who were trying to go up, knowing there would’ve been an even bigger ask to compete in the league above.

“The club couldn’t really do that because it didn’t even know if it was going to be surviving from week to week or month to month with all of the judicial stuff.

“Our record as a management team in Conference South should’ve been better with our skillsets and the quality of players we had. There are no excuses, but there are reasons why it would never have been promotion.”

Rose has had time to recharge and spend time with his family.

“I purposely took a bit of time out because I had been working flat out with Dulwich for the best part of 13 years,” he said. “It was a chance to re-assess.

“Going into the new year I’m really keen to get going again and start working. Since I’ve come away from Dulwich I’ve had a few approaches from clubs but I just didn’t think they were the right opportunity for me to take on.

Dulwich Hamlet v Eastbourne Borough, Vanarama National League South, Champion Hill, 26 December 2018.
Photograph by Keith Gillard

“It’s hard for me to say what level would be right. It’s waiting on being approached and looking at it from there.”

Rose built something special at Dulwich. Not just taking the club up two tiers in the domestic game but also the way the numbers through the turnstiles ratcheted up.

“As it went on you start to understand where the growth could be,” he said. “We heavily got better in the first two to three years and got better young talent.

“We started to do a bit of outreach work, which is not really the manager’s job, but that helped get more supporters in.

“We had a football in the community and started to get the parents to come in and watch games. Once the atmosphere was better, because more people were there, the team started to do a lot better. It kept encouraging us and the club to keep going out and encouraging more of the community to come along.

“I think the club probably realised it was a collective effort.

“I really enjoyed it. We were getting close to promotions and then we got promoted. We moved players on and numerous players fulfilled their dreams with us. It was great to be able to do that.

“There was the rush of getting the club promoted but also winning matches and changing people’s lives – to go on to bigger and better things as well. It was another massive thing we enjoyed doing.”

Rose will have a testimonial to properly say goodbye.

“I want to hugely thank everyone who played for us – plus all the volunteers at Dulwich Hamlet and the supporters,” he said.

“They helped us on our journey. I wish them every success in the future.”

Picture: Rob Avis

MAIN PICTURE: ROB AVIS

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