Puppy Love Easing Dowson's Woking Waiting Game

When you've been trying for the best part of 20 years for something, what’s a few more weeks of waiting?

Alan Dowson doesn’t deal in down time. Even in the summer after ten football months straight he is more interested in fundraising to boost budgets and giving grounds a spruce up than he is getting some sun on his back.

Managing in the National League for the first time, Woking’s boss has just had the rug pulled from under him.

The Geordie miles from home has put in the hard yards, realising an ambition in the year the world entered unchartered waters is a cruel twist.

Starting off in 2003 at Walton & Hersham, where he also worked in the area’s Football In The Community programme, he not only got the bug of management but he learned to engage with those outside a ground as well as in it.

He inspired while in charge at Kingstonian and Hampton - where he was a penalty kick from completing his grand plan of managing in Non-League’s top flight.

A year later, the play-offs were his friend and having made a great fist of his first National League season there won’t be many twiddling their thumbs with the speed of the quick-talking 49-year-old.

Not that he is flying solo in isolation.

“We’ve got a new dog,” he told us. “Bella - she’s a Beagle.

“She also gets up at 6.30 in the morning, and so do we! She is fantastic though, we’re allowed to go out and get some exercise and I’m now a dog walking expert.

“We’ve got her at the right time, she keeps you occupied. Beagles are a great breed, but they keep you on your toes.

“Like everyone you have got to keep busy during this time.”

The country’s best performing part-timers, Woking have worried plenty on their return to the top flight, spending just a year in the National League South under the guidance of their new manager.

Especially early on. Leading the way after a magical first month which saw them win seven times in August alone, they have stuck around the promotion places ever since.

But there have been downsides too.

September and October passed without a single win, a period which saw the club crash out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle. Something that hurt after lasting until January and welcoming Watford in front of the nation last time out.

“The start was fantastic but nobody was getting carried away by it,” Dowson added.

“We were confident but we couldn’t get ahead of ourselves. It was magnificent to win seven of our first eight games, wonderful.

“Especially as so many of us were taking our first steps in the league.

“A lot of people had worked very hard for a lot of time to reach this level and you could see there was a determination to make the very most of it right from the start of pre-season.”

Now it’s a waiting game, and the manager accepts the enforced break came at the wrong time.

Before football’s suspension, the Cards won two of their last three. They were even playing well when losing.

“We’ve had a few second winds!” he said. “We didn’t play badly at all when we lost to Barnet and we really could have won at Notts County a few weeks before.

“We just wanted to stay in contention and we’ve managed to do that.

“It’s a competitive division and there are a lot of teams who can still make the top seven. We would like to think we’re one of them.

“There is still plenty of football to play if and when we get back under way. We just need to sit tight and see how things develop.

“We all know the impact the virus is having on the world. Football comes a distant second.”

PICTURES BY DAVID HOLMES

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