Why ex-AFC Portchester youth chairman Mark Dugan is ‘perfect fit’ for Infinity’s plan of Southern League football within 10 years

New Infinity manager Mark Dugan.New Infinity manager Mark Dugan.
New Infinity manager Mark Dugan.
Mark Dugan is the ‘perfect fit’ for Infinity’s ambitious plan of reaching the Southern League within 10 years.

That’s the opinion of co-owner Jody Hoare after Dugan accepted the offer of playing a major role in the Hampshire Premier League Senior Division club’s expansion.

The 51-year-old Dugan had been holding a variety of roles at AFC Portchester, including youth section chairman, Football Development Officer and women’s team manager.

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He had also been helping Marty Wallace run the Royals first team prior to the Wessex League going into lockdown mode in mid-December.

But now Dugan is preparing to take charge of Infinity in the forthcoming Hampshire Premier League Supplementary Cup tournament.

Hoare had been caretaker boss for a few games following the resignation of ex-Pompey youth teamer Gary Wheatcroft for personal reasons.

The Supplementary Cup begins on April 10 and Hoare remarked: ‘We wanted to appoint a new manager before the tournament started.

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‘We saw it as the perfect time for someone to come in and treat it like a pre pre-season in a way.

‘It’s a great opportunity to look at the whole squad, including the fringe players, and try a few different things.

‘With Mark’s background and the work he’s put in at Portchester, we felt he was a perfect fit for the club and the direction we want to go in.

‘We want an under-23s team, an under-18s team, a ladies team, and Mark put all that into place at Portchester.’

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Dugan’s name first appeared on Infinity’s radar after they approached ex-Royals boss Mick Catlin before Christmas to ask if he would be interested in replacing Wheatcroft.

Hoare also contacted people who knew Catlin well, including his former Portchester assistant Lee Molyneaux.

It was the ex-Gosport Borough boss who first mentioned Dugan’s name to Hoare, sparking off a chain of events which has led to his appointment.

‘We asked Lee if he would be interested in the job, but he was unable to take it at the time due to work commitments,’ said Hoare.

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‘Lee is going to play for us, though. He can’t play in the tournament but next season he will be a big asset to have in the changing room and on the pitch.

‘We have a 10-year plan to get in the Southern League. People might snigger and say that’s very ambitious, but we’re an ambitious club.

‘Last season was a kick in the teeth. We were all ready to go up (into the Wessex League) - and that was in year one of the plan.’

A huge part of Infinity’s long-term plan is a move to a new ground which is being built for them in a new housing estate near Wickham. Due to the pandemic, there is no actual date yet for when it will be ready.

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Having played home games at Knowle Village, near Fareham, in 2019/20, Infinity are groundsharing with Wessex League club Hythe & Dibden this season. The plan is to stay there until their new facility is ready.

Part of the reason for moving to Hythe was to give the club a Wessex standard pitch should the team be promoted from the HPL. Unbeaten after 24 games of 2019/20, the pandemic scuppered their chances of promotion to Wessex 1 due to the FA null and voiding a huge chunk of the non-league pyramid.

They are now waiting to see whether they will be offered the chance of promotion via a possible FA restructuring of the bottom end of the pyramid.

Hoare continued: ‘Mark is a football person, he lives and breathes the game. He was a big part of Portchester.

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‘He asked us what we were looking for from him, and we said we want him to be a big part of the club, to have a big say in it, to steer it in the right direction.

‘He’s built youth teams, he was chairman of the youth section at Portchester, he knows how to set it all up. It’s all perfect with what we want to do as a club.

‘I know some clubs can swallow up youth systems, but we’re trying to build from the ground up, which is very difficult.

‘Our new ground will be in the middle of a 9,000 home development, so we want to be a big community club.’

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Dugan watched an Infinity training session last night and will take the team in tomorrow’s friendly against fellow HPL club Broughton at Romsey Town FC.

Molyneaux, who trained last night, could well be in the Infinity squad for that game.

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