Dorking Wanderers are today delighted to announce that Academy midfielder Jack Saunders and B team goalkeeper Callum Backhurst have both signed first team deals with the football club ahead of the 23/24 season.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of James Dickson, Ollie Allen and Cameron Black, Jack is the latest player to take the step into the first team picture after coming through the club's Academy system. A versatile central midfield player with an eye for goal from set pieces, Jack moved across from Welling United's academy last summer to enrol in the Wanderers football and education programme, and has enjoyed an excellent individual campaign with both the B team and National League Academy U19 'A' sides in 22/23. Clocking up the highest number of appearances for the B team, Jack has played his part in the team again producing a 3rd placed finish in the Southern Combination League Division One (Step 6) as well as a couple of impressive cup runs, whilst also featuring consistently for the club's leading U19 side, who this past season competed in the National League Academy South division for the first time.
Goalkeeper Callum also joined Dorking Wanderers last summer after coming through the youth ranks across Surrey at Woking FC. Concluding his time at the club with nearby loan spells at Sheerwater FC and Westfield FC in the 2021/22 season, Callum made his competitive debut for the Wanderers B team alongside Jack in the 0-4 opening day victory over Worthing United. Making an excellent start to his Wanderers career, Callum unfortunately suffered a leg injury in mid-September, ruling him out for the remainder of the campaign, but such was the impression made in the early part of the season, Callum has been rewarded with the opportunity to continue his journey and progress at the club into 23/24.
Director of Football Jordan Clark has worked closely with both player's throughout the past season, and is immensely proud to see Jack and Callum continue their footballing development and become part of the first team set up:
"Jack has been a tremendous addition since joining us last summer, not only footballing wise but holistically to the whole programme we run within the academy. He is one of the most outstanding players I've had the privilege to work with at his age group, and this latest progression for him is thoroughly deserved with how he has performed and conducted himself both on and off the pitch throughout this past season."
"It feels like only yesterday that I met Cal to chat to him about coming across to us after a difficult time at his previous club. Now he's signing for the first team despite a difficult year with injury - which is testament to just how excellent he was and the overall impact he made at the start of the campaign."
Reflecting on the continuing growth of the academy and youth sections of the football club, chairman and first team manager Marc White says:
"The club has made no secret of it's intentions to produce players of a standard worthy of the first team and with every season that goes past this is becoming more and more achievable. Our academy continues to grow and develop - this past 12 months we've integrated our youth section which represents boy and girl players from all ages, and alongside our Elite section we are producing home-grown players of a standard ready for the first team, which of course continues to be one of the main and most important objectives within the football club."
Looking ahead to Jack and Callum becoming part of the first team squad, Marc adds:
"This gives these young men an opportunity to see where they are in comparison to the first team. Once they have a squad number it's often the case these players will go on loan to affiliated clubs we work along side, and this development has been working really well in recent years. Jack Saunders comes well regarded from the Academy pathway and continues his journey there as well which is brilliant, and I look forward to seeing Callum make that further progress with the club this season after a fantastic start last term."