A DJ who has toured with Stormzy, an ex-team-mate of Kelly Smith and a higher attendance than many clubs a long way further up the pyramid – this is not your average fifth-tier women’s football team.
Dulwich Hamlet were top of the table in their first season in the London & South East Premier Division when the campaign was voided because of coronavirus.
That came having suffered the tragic loss of first-team manager Farouk Menia after a long battle with cancer in November.
What is so special about the fifth-tier side?
Touring with Stormzy and Annie Mac
Winger Lucy Monkman, 28, splits her time between playing football in London and touring across Europe and America as a DJ – she’s played at Glastonbury, Creamfields and Parklife.
Known as DJ Monki when on the decks and not the pitch, she said: “I play a lot of sets with Annie Mac and I went on tour with Stormzy a couple of years ago.”
The winger shares her music schedule with the coaches at Dulwich and uses a band to monitor her sleep and energy levels.
“We try to schedule shows in for Friday nights. We try not to on Saturday nights but if it’s a big show then I will obviously do it,” she added.
“If I have a big gig the night before and I’ve not had enough sleep, I’ll tell my coach and he’ll probably not start me!”
As well as a DJ, Dulwich have a qualified physiotherapist and a contingent of American imports, while winger Liz Wicks came through Arsenal’s academy, playing alongside former England internationals Kelly Smith, Alex Scott, Rachel Yankey and Faye White.
Crowds of over 300 and ‘amazing’ facilities
Monkman played for AFC Phoenix before they merged with Dulwich Hamlet in 2019 to form the non-league club’s first ever women’s team.
“Our kit didn’t match and stuff like that. We were playing against teams like QPR and Fulham, who are funded by Championship clubs and had about five coaches compared to our one,” she told BBC Sport.
“The main thing that has improved for us is where we play our home games. Champion Hill is shared with the men’s team and the pitch is amazing.”
Dulwich averaged crowds of 215 at home games last season and a new attendance record was set in November when 312 watched their win over Eastbourne Town – higher crowds than a number of Championship-run clubs.
Planning permission has already been granted to build a new stadium and 3G pitch next season.
“Playing in front of fans was a new experience for all of us. They follow us in our away games too which is kind of strange,” Monkman added.
Club captain Brit Saylor, 34, said the team used to play pre-season matches on Clapham Common and “you would see everybody drinking beer while we were playing”.
“But that was why we decided to merge. Things from there grew really quickly and the benefits that we got from it were pretty drastic.”
‘I wanted to win for the manager’
Despite success on the pitch, Dulwich had a difficult time off it when long-standing Phoenix manager Menia passed away from cancer last year.
The club raised over £10,000 for Menia’s family in a memorial match against QPR and a mural was painted at Champion Hill.
“I knew Farouk for three and a half years,” said Monkman.
“He was a manager that made me want to win for him as much as for myself because I knew how hard he worked. He has just won the London FA Coach of the Year. It’s fully deserved but it’s a shame his work was only recognised when he passed away.”
Free tickets are often provided for children and players are involved in voluntary coaching at local club Girls United. They also do work around LGBTQ in the community and raised over £5,000 with a running challenge last season.
“We are not just a football team, we are a family. We feel it’s our obligation to give back to the community,” said Saylor.
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