Mark Dugan happy to carry on managing at two different clubs after being appointed Infinity boss
Mark Dugan is happy to manage teams at two different clubs after being sold Infinity’s ambitious plans to grow on and off the field.
Dugan has relinquished his roles at AFC Portchester of Football Development Officer and under-23s manager after taking the first team manager’s role at the ambitious Hampshire Premier League Senior Division club earlier this week.
But he will continue to manage the Royals’ women’s team who resume their Hampshire League Division 3 campaign in a few weeks’ time.
Dugan has a background in women’s football, having been involved at Portsmouth and Fleetlands before moving the latter team to Portchester in 2015.
But prior to that he had managed a men’s team - Titchfield - in the Meon Valley Sunday League where his team-mates included his new Infinity assistant Glen Couchman.
After joining Portchester, Dugan started to get heavily involved in youth football as well as helping to run the men’s reserves with Marty Wallace.
Eventually he was to become the Royals’ youth section chairman as well as their FDO.
After the women’s team folded due to a lack of players in 2018, he was also instrumental in restarting it last summer.
With his youth hat on, he also introduced a girls section at the club and as FDO created a player pathway from juniors to first team. That included the scrapping of a reserve team in 2019 and the introduction of an under-23 side.
Dugan, 51, was managing the under-23s this season prior to the December lockdown with Couchman, a former Fareham Town under-18s boss and Pompey scout, as his assistant.
Royals chairman Paul Kelly asked Dugan if he could carry on managing the women’s team, and he was only too happy to agree - ‘I can’t have a Sunday with no football!’ - so ensuring official links with Portchester are not fully broken.
‘I have a great relationship with Paul - we haven’t burned any bridges,’ said Dugan, who is also carrying on as the Royals’ youth chairman after being asked by Kelly.
Also prior to lockdown, Dugan was helping interim boss Wallace run the first team after Mick Catlin had been sacked in October. The pair only had four Wessex Premier matches in charge, though, before Dave Carter was appointed in early February.
‘It was a natural step for me,’ said Dugan of his ‘promotion’. ‘I’d been involved in the first team coaching set-up all season.
‘I’d spoken to the chairman (Kelly) about what my role would be for two or three years.
‘For the first team, he said they are pushing for the Southern League and wanted someone who was a one stop shop experienced manager. I couldn’t give him that.
‘Bringing in Dave Carter was probably the right move for the club, though it stifled me a bit.
‘I said to the chairman that I would look at other clubs if I was offered anything.
‘The Infinity job is right for me because of the work I’ve been doing at Portchester and where they (Infinity) want to go. It was a no-brainer really.
‘They want me to help structure the club and set it up for the long-term.
‘They sold me their 10-year plan - moving to the new ground, the under-18s, the under-23s.
‘You need to start from the ground up. As a manager you might need a little black book, but you also need longevity with regards to bringing players through.
‘I’m not just a first team manager, I’ll be doing a lot of other work and I’ll be bringing a lot of passion for it.
‘You can’t under-estimate that, and it’s key to making sure I leave a club in a better place than when I started.’
He believes that is certainly the case at The Crest Finance Stadium, and the fruits of it were on display in the early weeks of a pandemic-wrecked 2020/21 season.
‘There is a pathway in place at Portchester now,’ said Dugan.
‘At the start of this season Cats (Mick Catlin) and Moly (Lee Molyneaux) said they wanted the best five or six under-23s to train with the first team. I was part of the coaching team, so it was a natural thing to do.
‘Joe Johnson was on fire at one point, he scored four goals in six first team games, and Harvey Clark, Sutcha Shepherd and Casey Grieves were given chances.
‘There’s three, four, five of them that will be looking to get into Dave’s plans in the next six or seven months.
‘I was really happy with how it was going, that’s why it’s so hard to leave in a way.’
Given his Portchester links, it would be no surprise to see a few of the current Royals under-23s squad dual sign for Infinity in 2021/23.
All the Hampshire Development U23 League games are played on midweek dates, freeing players up to appear for other clubs, if required, at weekends.
‘Dave (Carter) was good enough to phone me up on Monday and thank me,’ revealed Dugan.
‘We had a good chat, it could be that he has a few players who could come to me next season if they needed games - like a little link between the clubs.
‘We did it this season, a few of my (U23) side who dual registered with (Hampshire Premier League club) Locks Heath.’
Ryan Bath and Josh Nicklin were two of the Royals youngsters that were included in Locks’ matchday squads.
Dugan watched Infinity train on Monday evening and took charge of last night’s 7-0 friendly win over HPL Division 1 side Broughton at Romsey Town FC.
Jamie White (2), Andrew Powell, Danny Phillips, Callum Parker, Joe Mcclean and Ashley Thompson were on target.
Dugan’s first competitive match will be the HPL Supplementary Cup tie at Sway on Saturday week.
On paper, Infinity should win their group which also contains Sway and QK Southampton.
Sway and Lyndhurst were the bottom two clubs in the HPL Senior when the league went into lockdown in mid-December, conceding 134 goals between them in just 14 games and picking up just four points (all to Sway).
QK, meanwhile, play in the second tier of the HPL.
Ex-Hawks and Gosport Borough defender Lee Molyneaux was training with Infinity on Monday but couldn’t play against Broughton due to work commitments. He is not eligible to take part in the Supplementary Cup but could sign for the 2021/22 season.
Dugan has big boots to fill – none of his two Infinity predecessors have lost a HPL game.
Danny Thompson went 24 games unbeaten in 2019/20, prior to the season being cancelled due to the pandemic. And Gary Wheatcroft also didn’t suffer any defeats before he stepped down in December for personal reasons.