Dulwich Hamlet down as Bobby Wilkinson leads Weymouth ‘great escape’

Bobby Wilkinson. Photo: Neil Graham.
Bobby Wilkinson. Photo: Neil Graham.

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Bobby Wilkinson turned Bracknell Town into a relentless winning machine over several seasons with the ultimate triumph of lifting the Isthmian League South Central Division One title by 20 points and conceding just 12 goals.

Whatever the reasons surrounding his departure from the Robins earlier this season, the former Wealdstone and Hungerford Town boss was soon back in the dugout, this time on the South Coast, at struggling Vanarama National League South Weymouth.

The mission? Save the Terras from a damaging second successive relegation after two years at non-league’s top table came to an end in 2022.

On Saturday, Weymouth completed what looked almost impossible, and escaped the bottom four. Thankfully for the narrative of this article, alphabetical order means that for the entire season, Weymouth were never above 21st in the division and never out of the drop zone until that final day win.

A 2-0 win at fellow relegated National League side Dover Athletic secured a dramatic escape in an intensely competitive division that saw even bottom side Hungerford post 40 points. The win leapfrogged the Terras above Dover and dumped Dulwich Hamlet into the final relegation place alongside Concord Rangers, Cheshunt and Hungerford.

New manager bounce

At the time of Reading-based Wilkinson’s appointment at Weymouth, Football in Berkshire wrote: “The Terras – currently bottom of the division following relegation from the top-tier National League last season – confirmed the news on the club website following the departure of David Oldfield on the 14th September along with his assistant Tom Donati.”

It won’t be lost on Dulwich Hamlet fans either that around the time they were looking for a new manager, Wilkinson was available having departed from Bracknell Town. In any event the club appointed Paul Barnes who was then subsequently replaced by last season’s NLS title-winning manager Hakan Hayrettin.

Weymouth got their man and his assistant Mike Percival, and it was the Terras who were celebrating final day survival with the well-supported Hamlet heading down.

Wilkinson used all his contacts

Making use of your contacts is never a bad thing in football, especially when you can call on the support of an EFL Championship winning boss with a Premier League Manager of the Month Award in his trophy cabinet.

This week, former Reading FC and Leeds United boss Brian McDermott revealed via his LinkedIn account he had been ‘mentorning’ his friend Bobby Wilkinson during the season.

McDermott wrote: “I had the privilege of being with and seeing Bobby through the season in a mentoring role. For him to be able to talk, share his thoughts and feelings and try to not take them home with him, he said, was invaluable. For me to try to ask questions, at the right time is so important. Discussing subjects such as “emotional decision making” when in a heightened state of emotion, trying to make a decision. That never went that well for me!! The criticism when things don’t go well “It’s not personal” even when it feels personal. Is it a choice if one wants to take it personally? I did take it personally back when I managed and carried resentments, which I now realise only hurt me. Today I choose not to take things personally.” (You can read Brian’s full post here).

Certainly for Wilkinson now, having helped Weymouth avoid the drop, the challenge will be to help the club back onto its feet and challenge again for elevation back to non-league’s top tier.

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