FOR many years Dorchester was a dormant footballing village, writes MATTHEW BRUCE.
Following the closure of the community’s previous club in the late 1990s, it was without any organised football, despite boasting highly-active cricket and tennis groups.
But in 2011, a new club was formed by a group of men who wanted to play locally in the North Berks League.
However, before they could play their first match there was a huge amount of work to do behind the scenes.
“All we inherited were the corner flags and some player of the year trophies, so we really started out with nothing,” said club secretary Mike Stimpson.
“We had to do a lot of fundraising; we got grants and also some generous donations to really get the club started.”
Chairman Chris Shipway added: “We needed new goalposts, new kits and new sponsors, but we got a lot of support and within six months of forming we were ready to go. It all came to about £2,500.
“Fortunately I was able to get the company I work for to sponsor the club and that really helped us get started.”
“Now we’re constantly running fundraising events, organising nights out and selling teas and coffees to people at half-time, purely so that we can continue to fund the club and provide football in the village.”
It’s a big commitment, but one which has so far paid dividends.
Back-to-back promotions in their first two seasons see Dorchester in the North Berks League’s top flight.
In January, they appointed former Oxford City and Abingdon Town goalkeeper Colin Fleet as manager and are now challenging for the Division 1 title.
“They were doing very well and were already on their way to promotion, they just needed to add a couple during the summer in order to survive at this level and compete,” said Fleet, who played for City in the 1995 FA Vase final at Wembley.
“Our aim at the start of the season was just to stay in the top division and then look to improve after that, but obviously it’s gone really well so far.
“We’d like to finish in the top-five this season. Anything over that would be tremendous.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but we could do a lot better than that as well.”
It’s been an impressive ascent, but Dorchester have ambitions to grow even further, including adding a youth section, ladies and girls teams and improvements to the clubhouse.
Shipway said: “It’s a question of whether we keep pushing for further promotions beyond the North Berks League or whether we sit back and try to develop the club behind the scenes.
“It’s too early to say and we still have quite a few months left of this season, but there are still a lot of challenges ahead, both on the field and off it.”
Fleet added: “We’ll have to sit down and see what we can achieve.
“If we continue to do well in the North Berks League then maybe we can see where that takes us.
“I know the people backing us would strive to move upwards and they’re very committed.”