Dunkeswell Rovers - Champions - an interview with the joint-boss

Dunkeswell Rovers the Macron League Division Five champions for 2018/19. Picture DUNKESWELL ROVERS

Dunkeswell Rovers the Macron League Division Five champions for 2018/19. Picture DUNKESWELL ROVERS FC - Credit: Archant

Dunkeswell Rovers are celebrating being crowned Macron League Division Five champions.

They sealed the title when granted a walkover with their final day opponents, Willand-based Bravehearts, crying off unable to raise a side for the game!

The league success has been overseen by management duo of Sid Berry and Brian Cann.

Cann says: "If I was to have to put our success down to one particular thing then it would be 'the dressing room'. We made a conscious decision in pre-season to look to see if we could out together a squad of local lads and the first thing we did was recruit three players from Upottery, Tom Cligg, Gavin Richards and Steve Morris, all of whom are Dunkeswell lads and the die was cast for a seriously 'together' dressing room."

Cann continued: "The club so nearly actually went out of business during last summer, but once the decision had been taken to give it another go; it did not take too many conversations between Sid [Berry] and I, to agree to take it on!

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"Our first 'target' was to re-establish the team in the Macron League and look to consolidate our position as a Division Five side so, to end the season where we are is most certainty a job well done by all the lads."

The season did not start too well! Cann says: "We lost the opening game 3-0 to Upottery, but I do recall saying to Sid post match that we were really not that 'far off'

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"Yes, there was some defensive work to sort, but we just wanted to play a style of football that the boys would enjoy playing, and more importantly the supporters would enjoy watching, it was a bit of a culture shock to a few, as we were not prepared to instigate kick and rush football, we wanted to play passing football, attacking football which was pleasing on the eye, and to be honest, bar the last few weeks when results were more important than performances, I think we've achieved that!

"So, to finish up as champions, no not expected, but there were early signs that the lads were capable of something other than just survival, and of course not only champions, county intermediate cup semi finalists, and Golesworthy Cup finalists - all in all a very rewarding season."

We asked Brian if there were any individual players who were worthy of special mention. Typical of a 'football man' with over 800 Western league appearance sunder his belt - 'Canny' responds: "I have always been an advocate of it being a team game and, as such, individuals are never bigger than the team. So, singling out players is certainly not my style! However, I must say that Dan Stapleton, who after a tricky start to the season whilst Sid and I were trying to find his best position, certainly came to the fore for us, in fact, bar left back, and including goalkeeper, he has played in every position, mostly at right wing back, but finished off the season as a centre back! "His energy, his fitness, his ability has been incredible, and has undoubtedly been a huge reason for our success, others to mention would be 17-year-old Joby Mabbutt, who we have seen improve beyond belief, a very wise head on such young shoulders, and probably our best passer of the ball, and he just grew in confidence game after game, and credit to him, was probably one of the first names on the team sheet, a few others also need a mention, Gavin Richards and Jacob Cobb White, who, come the end of the season, literally ran their bodies in to the ground, but were just so consistent all season, and of course, you don't win anything with out goals being scored, and between Max McKeown, Josh Cann and Steve Morris, almost 60 goals were scored, with the latter scoring 24, so he really did prove a great signing.

"So, with goals being scored, and only losing three games all season, the defenders also deserve a mention, Rhys Andrews, Jay Williams, Tom Cligg, Gavin O'Hara, Matt Woollacott, and Josh Clements Wood, have been vital to our success, and, as a life-long member of the goalkeepers union, I must also praise Chris Palfrey who has kept goal so well, particularly over the final third of the season and he is a big reason why we are now basking in the glory of a league success."

He added: "Oh yes, and one more player I must mention is Ben Kidson who decided to take up football seriously this season after many years playing rugby at Honiton, and I do believe Sid and I have turned him in to a very capable footballer. He has kept his berth at wingback - midfield for most of the season, and after a few clashes with officialdom, we have also managed to quieten him down somewhat, but has been a vital part of what we have achieved."

Next we asked 'Canny' for any highlights for him from the campaign.

He replied: "In a title winning season that also saw cup runs, highlights are a-plenty! But, late wins at Culm, at Cranbrook and at Sidmouth stand out, but it will have to be the title decider at Exmouth Spartans; a proper game of football, Josh breaking his arm early on, which seem to rally the boys, two great goals with other things going on off the pitch personally, it was madness, and to win it, with a clean sheet, has to be the stand out moment for me!

Well, what of next season - any thoughts yet?

Cann replied: ""The honest answer is, I really don't know. It's up to the powers that be at Dunkeswell, do I want to carry on, I think so, but not to consolidate of course, I really believe in this group of young men, we will obviously make a few additions; the phone is already ringing with players wanting to join the project, so it could be a busy summer.

"Having played football for almost 40 years, this has been the hardest thing I have ever done, and of course with out doubt the most rewarding, it's been tough, trying to balance the whole thing with team selection etc, trying to be fair, but remaining competitive, particularly when it hit home that we were in with a shout of being involved in a fight for the title.

"Sid and I spent many an hour pondering on team selections, with all that in mind, and at times disappointing players was unavoidable, but thankfully they all bought in to what we were trying to achieve, and my god, they are now so glad they did!

"So, will Sid and I carry on next season, I can't answer that at this point, I would think there's a strong possibility we could be, but we'll just have to wait and see. It's been really hard work, going back to June last year, the guys all bought in to it, and were probably fitter than they've all ever been, which is testament to them all, will they go again...........I think so?

As ever we asked Brian, to conclude the interview by offering anything else he wished to comment on. He said: "I must mention Trevor Berry the chairman, who steadied and steered the ship. Rob Williams, probably the most proactive secretary I've ever known, including cutting grass and white lining etc before every home game. Club stalwart, my old school mate, Eric Cligg - we go back nigh on 50 years you know, and who would have ever thought that, after all these years me playing elsewhere all our lives, and at the ages of 53, we win a title together at his beloved Dunkeswell, you couldn't script it, he also played a few games as substitute, and on many occasion, ran the line for us, as did Lee Williams!

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