Former Gosport Borough favourite Dan Wooden leaves AFC Portchester to return to Privett Park

Shaun Gale has spoken of the ‘no brainer’ decision that has led to Dan Wooden returning to Gosport Borough.

Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 4:57 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 4:59 pm
Dan Wooden in action during his first spell at Gosport against Chelmsford City in October 2013. Pic Mick Young

The player was a highly popular figure during his first spell with the club that included two promotions, a Wembley final and some memorable goals.

Now 30, Wooden has jumped two levels of the non-league pyramid after finishing as top scorer for AFC Portchester last season.

He struck 20 goals in all competitions in 33 starts for the Royals under his former Gosport assistant manager Mick Catlin.

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Pat O'Flaherty has re-signed for Gosport Borough for 2020/21. Pic: GBFC

Of those, 16 came in 24 Wessex League Premier Division matches - and only three players in the section scored more.

‘When I knew Dan was potentially available it was a no brainer for me to try to sign him,’ said Borough head coach Gale.

‘His record at Gosport speaks for itself and when I spoke with him it was clear he wanted to sign for the club again.’

Gale is convinced Wooden’s best days are still to come.

Dan Wooden returns to Privett Park for a second spell with Gosport Borough. Picture: GBFC

‘When I met with him I thought he’s never looked fitter, he’s in really good nick,’ he remarked.

‘He can be a very important player for us next season.’

Wooden was 19 when he first arrived at Gosport in the summer of 2009, Alex Pike signing him from Moneyfields.

He had made his debut for the Dover Road club in the Wessex League in 2006/07.

Wooden went on to make over 300 appearances for Borough prior to leaving in December 2016 due to the club’s financial problems.

He was an integral part of Pike’s squad that won promotion to the Southern League Premier Division via the play-offs in 2011/12.

But it was the following season where his Privett Park career took off - forming a prolific partnership with Rory Williams as Borough completed back-to-back promotions, again via the play-offs.

It was Wooden’s goal in the semi-final at Stourbridge that set Gosport on course for a penalty shoot-out win in the final at Hemel Hempstead Town.

In 2014/15, Wooden featured prominently in Gosport’s first ever season of Conference South football. He also appeared in the FA Trophy final as a second half sub against Cambridge United.

Wooden struck some spectacular goals during his Borough career - none more so than a stunning overhead kick on Boxing Day 2015 against Hawks that earned him national attention.

After leaving Privett Park, Wooden returned to Moneyfields - scoring five times in 17 appearances as the club won promotion to the Southern League.

Due to work and family reasons, he moved back into the Wessex in March 2018 to sign for Portchester - scoring twice in 11 games.

But Wooden was back at Moneys in 2018/19, before rejoining Catlin at Portchester last summer.

Wooden’s departure from The Crest Finance Stadium still leaves the Royals with an abundance of attacking talent.

They still have Jason Parish, Alex Baldacchino and Steven Ramsey from last season’s squad, and have recently added former Alresford pair Craig Harding and Mike Gosney.

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Gale has also retained the services of goalkeeper Pat O’Flaherty.

The former AFC Bournemouth academy player initially joined Borough on loan in January 2018. The move was later made permanent after he was released by the Cherries.

O’Flaherty was the first choice keeper last season, though injury kept him out for a couple of months either side of Christmas.

Gale said: ‘Pat is a great young keeper with a fine future ahead of him.

‘He has an old head on young shoulders, which is always important for a goalkeeper. I am delighted he’s agreed to rejoin us.’

Gale has so far let five members of last season’s squad leave since replacing Lee Molyneaux last month.

Centre half Sam Roberts and midfielder Charlie Davis have joined Steve Claridge’s Salisbury.

Attacking midfielders George Barker and Marley Ridge have dropped down a level to sign for Moneyfields.

And full back Dan Strugnell has joined Wimborne Town, who recently appointed former striker James Stokoe as manager.

Roberts, Barker and Davis had been signed by Craig McAllister in 2018/19, with Ridge arriving at Privett Park shortly after Molyneaux had taken over last summer.

Davis joined Dorchester around the same time, but returned to Gosport before Christmas.

Strugnell, meanwhile, is now onto his fourth club in just over a year.

Having been a regular for Hawks during their 2018/19 National League campaign, he then signed for Dorchester last summer. A change of manager at the Dorset club led to him linking up again with former Westleigh Park colleague Molyneaux in December.

Gale was set to unveil more signings today, including the return of two former Borough players and the arrival of a player who was at Hawks during his time at Westleigh Park.