Dan Wooden thanks Portchester boss Mick Catlin for reigniting his love of the game after rejoining Gosport Borough
Dan Wooden has thanked his former AFC Portchester boss Mick Catlin for reigniting his love of the game.
The 30-year-old this week returned to Gosport Borough, three and a half years on from leaving amidst the club’s financial turmoil in the middle 2016/17.
Wooden had earnt cult status in his first spell at Privett Park, helping the club to two promotions and a Wembley final after Alex Pike signed him from Moneyfields as a 19-year-old in 2009.
But the player revealed that last summer he wasn’t aiming to play football in 2019/20 as he had lost his ‘hunger’ for the sport.
That was before Catlin - Wooden’s former Gosport assistant manager - sweet-talked him into playing for AFC Portchester, where he had briefly spent time in 2017/18.
A prolific campaign followed with Wooden netting 20 league and cup goals, including 16 in 24 Wessex League Premier Division games.
As a result, Wooden decided to seek a return to the Southern League - he had last regularly played at that level for Moneyfields in 2018/19.
That in turn led Borough head coach Shaun Gale to make the signing that will whet the appetites of all Gosport supporters.
Talking about his Privett Park return, Wooden said: ‘It came out of the blue really.
‘I was talking to another club in the same league, and I guess wind got back to Gosport that I was looking to play at that level again.
‘After speaking to Shaun it was a no-brainer. It’s right on my doorstep, I moved to Gosport last year - I only live a mile from the ground!
‘With the other club I was talking to there would have been a lot more travelling involved.’
Rewinding the clock, Wooden added: ‘I really enjoyed my football again last season, for the first time in a few years.
‘I wasn’t going to play at all last season, as I hadn’t really been enjoying it.
‘But it was great under Cats (Catlin), the way he played was perfect for me - I scored a few goals and got the hunger back.
‘I was enjoying it at Portchester and I had signed on again, but then I wondered if I could still play at that (Southern League) level.’
Wooden had left Gosport in December 2016 after the club’s financial problems had started to be exposed.
When he rejoined Moneyfields, the club had already seen Adam Wilde, Chris Flood, Jamie Barron and goalkeeper Martin Rice leave.
Warren Bentley, TJ Cuthbertson, Mike Carter and Brett Poate all joined the exodus in the following month.
‘I left Gosport because of the problems they were having, but at that time it suited me work-wise to drop down and play at a more local level,’ said Wooden.
‘I’ve still got a few years left in me, I’m definitely aiming to spend them with Gosport.
‘It’s a great club, they’ve got a good fanbase and they should be at the next level up. That’s where they deserve to be.
‘They’re in a much better state now than when I left. They seem to be much more professional off it.
‘I’ve got good memories - two promotions, the Wembley final was a big one for me. But really it was the group of lads, we had a really good group who wanted to play for each other. That’s always a big plus.
‘I know a few of the players, it’s not like I’m joining a club where I don’t know anyone. I know Shaun through having played against Havant a few times - it’s not going to be foreign territory!’
Wooden’s departure still leaves Catlin with a strong-looking squad at The Crest Finance Stadium.
So strong, in fact, they will be most people’s favourites to win the Wessex League in 2020/21 and take their place in the Southern League.
‘Portchester’s a great club, they’ve got some great people over there,’ said Wooden.
‘The club is all ready to go up.
‘They’ve signed some really good players for that level - like Mike Gosney, who I played with at Gosport - and I would be surprised if they’re not near the top of the table.’
Regarding his own role in Gale’s Privett Park squad revamp, Wooden isn’t too worried where he fits into the jigsaw.
‘A few years ago I was mainly a wide player, but I could come inside and play behind the front two where you’re more involved,’ he explained.
‘I can play either flank, up front, or as an attacking midfielder - as long as I’m playing I’m not really fussed where I play.
‘Shaun hasn’t talked about where he sees me playing, he’ll do that in pre-season.’
Goalscoring was Gosport’s Achilles heel in 2019/20. While they boasted one of the Southern League Premier South’s best defensive records, they only possessed one of the worst goalscoring ones.
Wooden recalled: ‘I watched a few games last season and they didn’t really have the rub of the green.
‘They were solid at the back, and hopefully I can help them add a few more goals.
‘If we can do that I’m sure we will have a good season.’