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Interviews

From Dons to Dorking: The Marc White Story

In-depth chat with fan turned football boss

23 May 2024

Interviews

From Dons to Dorking: The Marc White Story

In-depth chat with fan turned football boss

23 May 2024

“It tore me apart,” expressed a reflective Marc White as he recalled the events of 2002 which changed things forever at Wimbledon.

A man who spent his childhood journeying to Plough Lane by train, Marc is a face that has become known across the non-league and Football League circuits due to his exploits with Dorking Wanderers that have been captured uniquely by the popular ‘Bunch Of Amateurs’ YouTube series.

Watching Wimbledon home and away regularly – including our run to FA Cup victory in 1988 – Marc would go on to become frustrated and hurt at the way our club was treated, and just three years prior to our reformation started his own club, Dorking.

Fast forward to now and Wanderers have experienced an incredible rise not too dissimilar to our own. 12 promotions in 23 years has taken them from Division 5 of the Crawley & District Football League to the National League South in what has been a journey that has created plenty of media headlines.

Here the lifelong Wimbledon fan talks deeply about how his love for the Dons helped to grow his passion for creating a club of his own and provides an insight into combining being an owner with being a manager. This is the story of the real Marc White.

The best place to start, how long have you been supporting Wimbledon?

My entire life really. I’d love to know exactly how it started but it was more because of the location of it all really. I used to jump on a train from Dorking – at the age of 12 and not tell my Mum where I was going – and change at West Croydon and then get off at Haydons Road.

I would get into Plough Lane and watch the matches. My love for football came from that to be quite frank. The underdog spirit inspired me back then and it still does to this day. I was 14 when the FA Cup final came around – so that makes me really old now, hopefully no one can add up!

I went to White Hart Lane for the Luton Town semi-final, whereas the only one I didn’t go to during that run was the Newcastle away game. I used to go home and away when there was no mobile phones and kids used to get trains all over London.

How did you go from being a football fan, to becoming not just an owner but a manager as well?

I’ve always loved football. When the shenanigans happened with Wimbledon, it was weird. I didn’t know how to feel. The people who have kept the Club going and have built it up almost from scratch deserve a medal. I don’t think you’ll ever see it again in English football.

I still followed everyone else to support AFC Wimbledon because it was and still is our club and the continuation. Kevin Cooper is a good friend of mine, as is Glenn Mulcaire – I remember the Combined Counties years, that first game at Sandhurst.

I started playing football with my mates and got a bit of a bug for that. I don’t think Dorking Wanderers happened without the demise of Wimbledon’s football club because it gave me inspiration. I won’t be the only Wimbledon fan from that era who lost enthusiasm for football until AFC Wimbledon kept things alive.

My weekends playing football kept me busy but I always kept up with the results. Even now I’m here, there and everywhere with Dorking but I still get to as many games at Plough Lane as I can. I came to the Walsall game at the end of the season just gone and it felt like I was a kid again. Wimbledon is my club, that’s the bottom line and what it’s achieved is unbelievable. Owning my own club has been driven by what happened to the Dons.

Is it a coincidence that you have a habit of signing ex-Wimbledon players?

It actually is a coincidence! I don’t know why it is but I love it. I was at the play-off final in 2016 against Plymouth when Barry Fuller and Callum Kennedy were lifting the trophy at Wembley. You’ve also got Luke Moore that was part of that 2011 squad. It’s strange to have these lads as part of what we’re doing but their experience is invaluable.

How do you separate being an owner and being a manager, is it difficult?

It’s really difficult. Annoyingly I don’t get the time to be a manager as much as I’d like. To progress a club in terms of facilities and squad, and being something of an unknown quantity, you’ve got to beg, borrow and steal to progress. But, I don’t want to stop doing it, I’ve done it from day dot. It’s not easy but we’ve just bought in a chief executive, who is actually a Wimbledon supporter as well!

We’re still excited to see where we can take the club. My dream obviously is to play Wimbledon one day. I’m not quite sure who I would want to win – that’s how much the Dons are deep-rooted in me! To play my club in any competition would be surreal.

It’s fair to say the YouTube series has helped to put you guys on the map. How has that experience been?

We were approached by a guy who had a camera, he said he had heard about us and that we were a good laugh, he just wanted to film in and around the dressing room. I said yes to it, he mic’d us up and I never really thought about it after that day.

What people love is that you can see the real side of football in it. We don’t operate or do anything different to most teams in non-league. What you see on screen is us and is me. Loads of people around the country recognise us and come and support us at games. We played up at Oldham Athletic and around 150 people came to support us because they love our story.

They like what we stand for and it’s really helped us grow commercially and as a brand. Without it we wouldn’t be able to compete. What I like about it is that it keeps things real. I want people to hear me battering referees and I want them to see the changing room – that’s what football is all about.

Sitting here at Plough Lane, how do you feel about the current state of the Club?

It’s a club scorned and that hurt has driven us to this point. One day we could be playing Liverpool or Manchester United again. The sky really is the limit and there’s no reason why we can’t maintain the ownership structure we have and progress further.

What’s next for Dorking after relegation?

I’m really hurt by it all. We easily have the best squad in the division next season. I’m positioning it as a victory lap from day one. We’re not used to failure. We had so much bad luck last season it was unbelievable. If it could have gone wrong, it did. Football sometimes is down to the gods, you only have to look at how Wimbledon fought back.

I haven’t really spoken about our relegation to anybody until now. There was a succession of things that happened. I would go home and I knew in my heart that we were getting relegated. When the ball went over the line against Oldham by a foot and a half and the ref didn’t spot it, we conceded a last-minute goal at Dagenham, Bromley there was a foul on our keeper for their winner – there was a raft of things happening and I felt we were designed to go down.

You see it a lot when teams win league titles, a lot of things fall in their favour but this was the opposite. That was a journey in itself but the plan is to come back bigger, bolder and better. As we sit here today there is a lot of work to do.

Do you have a relationship with any former Wimbledon staff or players that you lean on for advice?  

Neal Ardley is someone I speak to a lot. My old housemate was Justin Skinner, who was a trainee at Wimbledon, he was part of the squad with Ards and he was part of the Crazy Gang. There was barely a morning when he wouldn’t put potatoes in my shoes!

It’s weird, I’ve always had this affinity to the staff and players of the Club. I don’t think the fans who kept this club going will ever fully get the recognition that they deserve. When I come to games at Plough Lane nowadays, I walk past people who were the same kids who used to get the trains with me as youngsters.

I see them bringing their kids. It freaks me out but I think they deserve all the credit in the world for what they’ve done to keep it alive.

To finish, will there ever be a time again when you just come here as a Wimbledon fan and stand on the terraces again?

Definitely. I’m a football fan first and foremost. The last couple of years in particular have helped me to identify with where we’ve got to a bit more. I can’t wait to be on the terraces as part of it every weekend. I feel like good comes out of bad and that what happened to us will not happen to another club. That is the biggest positive that has come out of it.


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