PAUL DOSWELL says Sutton United want to take another step towards establishing themselves as one of Non-League’s best top flight clubs – and renewed his call for the question mark over 3G pitches in the Football League to be addressed.
The U’s enjoyed a brilliant campaign last season following their National League South title win. They finished 12th in the final table after a remarkable FA Cup run to the fifth round where they played the competition’s eventual winners Arsenal.
Prize money from beating Cheltenham Town, AFC Wimbledon and Leeds United has been sunk back into improving their Gander Green Lane home.
And Doswell, who took charge of the club in 2008, says it’s all about careful progression.
“We feel we need to establish ourselves as a good National League club,” he told The NLP. “We’ve had one year and that’s not enough to feel established. Everyone says second-year syndrome can be the hardest so we’ve got to be wary of that.
“But our ambitions are to be a good National League club and be competitive in every game. We’re being realistic. We don’t think we’re going to be in that top five or six, but there’s no reason why we can’t beat all the teams on our day. We’re just trying to be a good club and keep that momentum going.
“The majority of the FA Cup money has gone into the infrastructure of the club. We’ve completely refurbished both dressing rooms and we’re refurbishing our main bar. That’s important and we’ve also had new LED floodlights put in.
“The ground is going to look fabulous when it’s all finished. So we’re not just sticking it into wages and that’s a big thing.”
Star player Roarie Deacon has joined Scottish Premiership side Dundee, Maxime Biamou has gone to Coventry while there is interest in Kieron Cadogan.
Doswell has made some impressive additions, however, with Dover trio Ross Lafayette, Moses Emmanuel and Aswad Thomas all arriving along with former Braintree and Boreham Wood midfielder Kenny Davis and ex-Leeds man Simon Walton.
Doswell is happy with the blend of experience and youth – and he’s set to unleash goal sensation Tommy Wright.
“It might have gone under the radar, but Tommy Wright is our player and he scored 52 goals for Salisbury on loan last year,” Doswell said.
“Tommy’s now in the first team squad and it’s his chance to take. Adam Coombes joined us from Welling, he scored 30-odd goals and he will come back fresh. So the mix is decent and I hope we’ll be there or thereabouts in terms of that top half. That’s the aim again – see if we can beat what we did last season.”
With the play-offs being extended to seventh, that means they might not be far away from competing for a place in the Football League.
But currently artificial surfaces are banned higher up and the issue seems to have slipped off the League’s agenda following a 2015 vote for it to be allowed in League One and Two that saw a 50/50 split.
Sutton are seeing huge benefits from their 3G pitch and now boast 40 junior teams as well as three disabled sides, three girls’ sides and a ladies’ team.
“The only thing that will stop this football club progressing further forward will be if the Football League don’t accept them,” he said.
“It’s such a massive part of the make-up of our club now. I’m going to keep banging the drum about this, but it’s ridiculous people query our pitch when you can play on pitches like Newport’s – a rugby pitch with sand on it.
“If Arsenal and Leeds can play on it, then I don’t see why it’s not good enough for League One or League Two.
“We can’t rip it up, the whole business of the club is based around being a Community football club. But if we ever get in the play-offs, I want to compete in them and if we win them I want to compete in League Two.
“Bromley, Maidstone and Sutton means almost 15 per cent of the clubs are not eligible for promotion. In 15 years’ time it will look archaic because most clubs will have them.
“You can’t fund a football club in the guise of a rich investor because eventually they get fed-up and clubs end up collapsing. The way to do it is be self-sustainable. It needs to be back on the agenda.”