Hi there thanks for chatting to TorquayTalk, we’re looking ahead to Saturday’s big match at Plainmoor and it’s always good to get views from the opposition.
How’s the season been so far at Daggers and are you disappointed not to be higher up the table?
With the standard of players we acquired in the summer, on top of an already strong squad, we of course thought we had a good chance to win the league this season. I think its fair to say we started the season with very good players, but not a brilliant team. You see teams such as Sutton and Boreham who are far more than the sum of their parts; I would say we have been less than the sum of our parts for large parts of the season.
What’s been your highlights of the season up to this point?
Funnily enough, our best performances have often been those that didn’t yield 3 points! We outplayed Hartlepool and Woking away, only to come away with nothing. We also played very well with ten men against Wrexham only to lose 1-0. The best winning performances of the season were probably the 5-1 demolition of Bromley, and 4-0 win at Chester. Narrow wins over Dover and Macclesfield have also shown exactly what we are capable of, hence why it is so frustrating to be down in mid-table.
You are on a run of defeats and have sold players due to financial difficulties, how bad is the situation behind the scenes at the club and how worried are you as a fan?
As long as I can remember we have been a members’ club with no backer. That all changed this summer when the structure of the club was modified to allow outside investment, presumably in a misguided bid to return to the Football League asap. Glyn Hopkin, a long-time sponsor, was set to become majority shareholder and use his considerable wealth to assist with extra signings and off-pitch renovations. He has since decided to withdraw support, meaning our wage-bill is unsustainable.
I am led to believe that we don’t have considerable debt, so it is mainly a case of reducing outgoings. I would expect more players to leave, but our squad is quite bloated anyway. Regardless of the money that came in, I am quite surprised that we signed so many players; several times this season we’ve had almost a full team of pros not even making the bench.
I would hope that the players that remain can show unity and give us something to cheer before the end of the season. If we can reduce the wage bill quickly enough I expect us to survive. Because of the landmark decisions made this season, we are now at the mercy of anybody who succeeds in buying out Hopkin or his partners. In an ideal world, we’d get a shareholder who puts a small amount of money in and tries to create a sustainable club, rather than spending silly money chasing a dream.
Of the players still at the club, who should we be looking out for this Saturday?
We are so up-and-down recently that it is difficult to say who might turn it on this weekend. We’re also not sure who might still be at the club come Saturday! Okenabirhie is capable of match-winning or anonymous performances, hopefully for us its the former. In midfield Boucaud is very skilful, and Robinson/Howell next to him do a lot of work breaking up play and moving us forward, assuming we play with a 3.
We were sad to see Dan Sparkes go in the summer, how’s Dan been doing for you?
We were all excited to see what Dan could do, especially the thought of reuniting the Sparkes/Cheek combination that did so well at Braintree. Unfortunately he picked up an injury in pre-season and we didn’t see him until December. His return coincided with the team’s dip in form and all the rumours of financial problems, and his performances like several others have suffered. He had a good game against Aldershot and hopefully will build on this.
Are you happy with the man in charge and what tactics does he employ?
John Still is a Daggers legend and has done so much for the club over several spells in charge. However, I think he has to take some criticism for the way parts of the season have played out. I don’t doubt his determination, but for whatever reason we have never really looked cohesive on the pitch.
Personally, I feel that our style this season is a departure from his usual recipe for success. A lot of the time we’ve employed 4-2-3-1 which actually ends up more like 4-2-4. This often leaves us susceptible even though our goal-threat is considerable. We seem to actively encourage our wingers to stay high up the pitch which I find difficult to understand, as we’ve conceded countless goals from crosses by opposition full-backs.
I, like several fans, don’t think we started the season with a left-back on the books. Pennell was first-choice but I believe he is much better at centre-back, which is where he’ll likely line up on Saturday. Howells, more of a wide midfielder by trade, has plugged the gap for long periods.
Will you bring many away followers down to Devon?
No! Given form and weather it could be quite sparse, maybe 75.
We have finally found some form, any score predictions for the match?
If you’d asked me a week ago I’d have said this was a nailed-on home win. However, the spirit and endeavour we showed against Aldershot have given us renewed hope. It felt like we were playing as a team again with everyone working for each other. I think we could squeak a 1-0.
Elliott Romain has made a difference since signing for us on loan from you, why do you think he hasn’t made an impact at Daggers?
I can only assume the manager felt he didn’t carry enough goal threat. Sections of our crowd quite liked him, as he was one of the hardest working forward players in the squad. It felt like he’d have a decent game, get left out, get recalled; he was never really given a run to find consistent form. Personally, I would have picked him on the wing a bit more than we have done, as he gave us more balance in terms of defensive work.
Given his lack of game time, once our financial problems became apparent he was probably quite an obvious one for the management to find a move for.
Thanks for talking to TT and good luck to the Daggers in finding suitable new investors.