Grier's Guide to Dorking Wanderers
We must be about to start the process of trying to put a faux-leather roundy thing into the rectangular stringy thing again, here's Simon's guide to destination number one - the Meadowbank in Dorking.
The game: Dorking Wanderers v Kingstonian, pre-season friendly. Saturday 3 July 2021, 15:00
The club: Formed in 1999 playing on a park in the Crawley and District League, they've won an incredible 11 promotions in the years since to reach the National League South.
The town: Pleasant town nestled in the Surrey Hills, best known for having the largest vineyard in the UK, Denbies, and for Box Hill which has hosted numerous cycling events including during the 2012 Olympics. The surrounding countryside will be particularly nice if it's a bright summer's day.
The ground: Meadowbank Football Ground, Mill Lane, Dorking RH4 1DX. The former home of Dorking FC, Wanderers reopened it in 2018 following a £5m revamp with an artificial pitch. The Surrey FA have also moved their headquarters there. Although it remains pretty compact, last summer they added a seated stand and a decent terrace behind one of the goals.
Tickets: Priced at just £1 as Wanderers look to welcome fans back from the lengthy break. But capacity remains limited with the Government's plans to roll back Covid-19 restrictions put on ice, so you'll need to buy them online while you can - it's reported that very few are still available.
Directions: Just off the high street right in the town centre, you can take the 465 all the way from Kingston, getting off at The White Horse stop. It will probably be about an hour, depending on exactly how bad the traffic is through Chessington. Direct trains go from Raynes Park and Worcester Park leaving about a 15 minute walk, or if driving there's a pay and display car park near the ground on Mill Lane.
Our record there: We made occasional visits to Dorking over the years, mainly for the odd cup game and friendly along with a 2-0 league defeat in 1994. It was also our reserve team's ground in 2002-03 when the late Trevor Jones was manager. Our only competitive visit against Wanderers at Meadowbank was a memorable one, the home side hammering us 7-1 in 2019 with Leigh Dynan's reign as manager ending shortly after the final whistle.
Recent form: Wanderers were five points clear at the top of Conference South when the season was curtailed, to the frustration of Wanderers Chairman/Manager Marc White. This will be the first pre-season friendly for both sides and Hayden Bird hasn't shied away from picking a tough one to start with.
Players to watch: The summer's signings include veteran goalkeeper Lee Worgan who will compete with Slavomir Huk for the number 1 jersey, and midfielders Josh Taylor (from Havant) and Bobby-Joe Taylor (from Ebbsfleet). Striker Jason Prior was top scorer in National League South at the point the season was curtailed, with 15 goals in as many games.
Crowd: The move to the town centre along with on-field success and efforts to engage the community have really helped Wanderers to pull in the crowds. Even with the generous ticket price and Covid-limited capacity it's impressive that this game, a friendly, is looking likely to be a sell-out.
Drinking: Plenty of pubs on and near the high street, particularly at the western end, although ongoing Covid restrictions complicate things with the rule of six still in force indoors. Cobbett's, a micropub and bottle shop, is possibly the best place in Surrey for real ale and craft beer; it's mainly just operating as an offie until restrictions are lifted but you may be able to reserve a space in their small outdoor area. The Old House, with its large and pleasant outdoor courtyard, has proven popular with Ks fans in the past - its kitchen remains closed but a pop-up taco and burrito stand should be there. The Kings Arms has an olde world charm and a small outdoor area, and The Spotted Dog is a traditional pub with a large beer garden.
Food: Being right by the high street there's a wealth of options of available including fast food, cafes, pubs and a variety of restaurants.