In 1995/96 the committee of then Dartmouth United made a bold move in deciding to move to the newly formed Devon league. No longer would Torquay be our longest away trip as the new league meant travelling to Appeldore, Budleigh Salterton, and Weston Mill Oak Villa in Plymouth. In 1999, Dartmouth United amalgamated with local rivals Dartmouth YMRC. The new club would now been known as Dartmouth AFC.
In 2007 the Devon league ceased after a directive from the Football Association requiring all leagues to form part of a pyramid so that all clubs can gain promotion to a higher level. Mike Sampson, sports writer for the Western Morning News and the Sunday Independent writing about the success of the Devon League, said during its term, that Dartmouth AFC were probably the “most successful team of the league” - the only team to win 3 league titles, the only team to win back to back league titles as well as enjoying good cup success and being the only team never to finish outside of the top half at the end of any season.
The second and third team had moderate success in their divisions by comparison, but as a club we were very successful, which was a credit to every player and to all the managers and coaches.
The directive meant the new league would be known as the South West Peninsular League and is comprised of a top division and two lower divisions, known as the East and West. The top division took the top teams from the long established South Western League, and a similar level of teams from the Devon League.
But to join the top division required ground improvements for a lot of Devon clubs. At Dartmouth AFC, we had to install floodlights and extend the pitch. The lights are now done and we hope to complete the pitch extension in time for 2010.
The Cornish sides had a advantage as most clubs already had lights and their pitches were up to scratch. They had also been playing a good level of football for some years. The first match of the first season saw the charity shield contested between St Blazey and Dartmouth AFC, both league champions.
With the winning goal scored for Dartmouth by Robbie Bowker, Dartmouth ran out winners by 3-2. The first two league titles have so far been won by Bodmin, a good side well managed with some very good players This year they will be under pressure from a number of sides all looking to lift the title from them.
As for Dartmouth, we have seen a lot of players leave the club during the summer months and, armed with only a small budget, the managers have found it difficult to recruit new players. Just like our national premiership, it’s the teams with big budgets that have the first pick.
As chairman, I don’t believe the future is as bleak as some would have you think. It’s a season for consolidating and taking stock of what we have. James Bennelick and Lance Worthington are doing a good job with the first team. James has a very good football brain and his awareness of the players, managers, grounds and set ups etc is on a par with any other manager in the league.
Lance has grown into his job, and with James currently playing in the side, Lance finds himself standing alone on the touch line. When at times things are not going so well, making decisions is easy but making the right decisions are another thing. Lance has become a good manager, he’s learning all the time and is well respected by his players and colleagues.
With the loss of so many players, the focus is now is now on encouraging our younger plays to come through. Consequently, some players will be thrown in at the deep end and I guess some will struggle, but I believe the future is still bright. Not only do we have a number of local youngsters in the first team, but the seconds and thirds also have a number of bright prospects coming through.
If you look deeper into the club, Alan Greeno who runs the under 15 side is doing a fantastic job and in a couple of seasons hence, I’m sure we’ll see a number of those youngsters knocking on the door.
I’m sure this has been said before but we, the Committee, are in the process of changing the inside look of the club. Those of you who have ever sat on a committee, will know that it can be very frustrating as everyone rightly has an opinion which means that change and action can sometimes take a long time. But progress is definitely being made.
Finally, my thanks to everyone who works long and hard for the club, giving up a lot of spare time, mostly free of charge. The future is bright so I encourage our supporters to be positive and to have faith.
First published September 2009 By the Dart