Special volunteer of Sutton

Special volunteer of Sutton

Football: Doswell has breathed new life into the struggling club as a benefactor cum coach

Special volunteer of Sutton

Paul Doswell will not be asking for a lucrative win bonus if minor league Sutton United pull off a second FA Cup giantkilling in their humble history and beat Leeds United on Sunday.

Actually, just as in every other match he has taken charge of since becoming manager nine years ago, taking his customary place in the dugout will leave Doswell out of pocket.

Like all the non-playing staff at Sutton, the 50-year-old is a volunteer. But unlike the others, Doswell has pumped thousands of pounds of his own cash into the club, who play at the quaintly named Gander Green Lane in south London suburbia.

The property company owner works for nothing and bankrolls Sutton to the tune of 2,000 pounds ($2,514.00) a week.

Two years ago his philanthropy stretched to provide an interest-free loan of 450,000 pounds so the club could install a state-of-the-art 3G pitch.

National League Sutton's victory over League One (third-tier) AFC Wimbledon, who play two levels above them, in a third-round replay means Sutton will earn around 500,000 pounds from the cup run whatever happens against former English champions Leeds, now bidding to return to the Premier League, on Sunday.

Not that Doswell is in a hurry to get reimbursed. "Paul said I don't want it back but I said you're getting it whether you like it or not," long-serving chairman Bruce Elliott told Reuters by telephone.

No wonder he calls Doswell his "Special One".

"He is unique," said Elliott, who sat on a pitch-side wooden bench 47 years ago when Sutton hosted Don Revie's mighty Leeds side in the FA Cup fourth round and lost 6-0.

"No one does anything for nothing these days but he genuinely does. He has bought into it hook, line and sinker."

Sutton were on their uppers when Doswell walked in like a Good Samaritan in 2008, having spent eight years as manager of minor-league Eastleigh where he also financed a new stand.

"We were not doing well, looking for a new manager and he drove all the way over from Winchester to chat to us," Elliott recalls. "Our take on the meeting was that he interviewed us. As a result he appointed us as his club," Elliott quipped.

Since that day Sutton, best remembered for knocking Coventry City out of the FA Cup in 1989, two years after the then top-tier side had lifted the trophy, have thrived on and off the pitch and play one notch below Football League level.
Their well-equipped ground is a source of local pride, used by hundreds of youngsters each week. Attendances average well over 1,000.

Doswell, despite not being paid, is no "hobby" manager, either. Last season his side went 26 matches unbeaten in National League South to gain promotion. Now they have survived four rounds to set up a fairytale cup tie against resurgent Leeds.
Only 5,013 will be inside the ground but millions will tune in around the world to watch it on live television.

Doswell said the pressure was off his side, the lowest-ranked team left in the competition. "Myself and the chairman knew the Wimbledon replay was a 300,000 pounds game," he said. "It can blow your mind. Now, it's like a free bet. We're expected to lose. If we get a draw that would be magnificent. I would love to go to Elland Road. If we were to win, you might as well send me up to heaven and up into the clouds."

Father-of-seven Doswell is modest about his philanthropy but proud of turning Sutton into a model community club.

"Before our FA Trophy match the other night all our youth teams had their sessions on the pitch before kickoff," he told Reuters. "Then they watched the first team. That's priceless.

"I need football as much as it needs me and I'm very fortunate to be able to help.”
But can he cap it by masterminding a true FA Cup shock?

Ironically, Doswell says the quality of the artificial pitch he installed makes that less likely. "Leeds have an identical pitch at their training ground. If we had a crappy old mud patch we would have a better chance," he said. "But if we do cause a massive shock I want people to say it's because we were the better team, not because of the pitch. And whatever happens, that pitch is our legacy and will serve hundreds of people in years to come."

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