Ive thought long and hard about what I think the Daggers will need to survive in League 1 next season. I think personally we will survive, its not going to be easy make no mistake about that, we face some difficult times ahead as we enter League 1 for the first time, but I believe we can do it. So here are my 10 reasons why I think we will, we’ll have to see at the end of the season whether I’m right hope, I am.
Reason 1: John Still
Lets start with the obvious one first, John Still the manager. The mans a legend at Victoria Road and rightly so. He has taken Dagenham up into the league and survived that all important first season. He then led Dagenham to 8th last season, just missing out on the play-offs on the last day of the season, and this season after losing key players in the summer he got Dagenham into the play-off final for the first time in our history and won. The club is in his blood, he was a player for Dagenham, he is in his second spell as the manager, he is a fan of the club and knows how to make it tick, but more importantly he has an eye for talent along with his staff that is unmatched at this level. He takes non-league players and turns them into stars. This season alone we have Danny Green, Josh Scott, and Damien McGrory all who are now regular first team players. As big a loss as some of the players were we lost in the summer, as well as Scott Griffiths at Christmas, John Still knows what he’s doing ,so for that reason he is Number 1.
Reason 2: Experience
Experience is the second reason I believe we will stay up. Not experience of playing in League 1 as we don’t have that yet but the spine of the team is very experienced. In goal we have the ever young Tony Roberts, 40 years young and been there and done it with QPR and Wales, vastly experienced who is always communicating with those around him like all good keepers do. In front of him we have Mark Arber our captain surrounded by youth in the defence he is our rock. Talking,encouraging those around him and leading by example as all good leaders do. Next we have in midfield Peter Gain a battling midfielder who never gives up, also has that silky touch to add to his steel, he encourages the younger players to express themselves. Up front we have Paul Benson, top scorer this season and been at the Daggers for 5 years now an ex non-league player himself and another John Still gem. So when you look at the spine of the team at the moment, you’ve got to think that there’s a few league 1 teams that would want what we’ve got.
Reason 3: Youth
Youth is on our side here, we have a large amount of players under 24. The beauty of youth, joined with a level head, is that they have no fear on a football field, they see everything as a new experience and attack it with that pure joy. If we start at the back we have Chris Lewington as cover for Tony Roberts in goal, Ive seen Chris play a few times and he has impressed me so definitely one for the future. In defence we have Scott Doe, started the season as a full back but switched to centre half alongside Mark Arber and grew and grew as the season went on. The full backs are Damien McGrory and Abu Ogogo, McGrory had big shoes to fill in replacing Scott Griffiths but has done an excellent job in doing so. Ogogo had a few issues at the start of the season but has turned into a very good player. In midfield we have on the right Danny Green, another non-league gem, has had an excellent season and not afraid to attack the full back and get his crosses in. He has also become a free kick specialist as well, his goal at Chesterfield was superb, and a worthy man of the match at Wembley. Up front we have Josh Scott not every-one’s cup of tea, as some say he misses more than he scores, but has grown in confidence over the season and has worked very well with Paul Benson in the latter stages of the season. So if you add the experience to the youth, you have a team I believe that is capable of keeping us up next year.
Reason 4: The Club
The way the club is run is a credit and model that other clubs should be following. Steve Thompson works miracles behind the scenes and makes sure we have the finances in place. We don’t spend money we don’t have, we don’t pay wages we cant afford, like some clubs continue to do. The club is always thinking up ways of attracting new fans to the club, kids for a quid was one such scheme this year, a huge increase in our regular attendance for that game. The club understand the area they are from, they respect the history of the club as well. The volunteers that work the club shop, to the volunteers that work in the bar, and the supporters club all deserve real credit for what they do. They work long hours because they love the club and want to do it, that makes a huge difference. Special mention must go to Dave Andrews the Chairman, in an age when owners of football clubs are sometimes better known than the manger he quietly goes about his business, he has shown support to the manager as well and I’m sure he could walk around the club mixing with many fans and a few wouldn’t know who he was. That’s a credit to him and the way he continues to run the club.
Reason 5: The Ground
Lets be honest it isn’t the prettiest, or the smartest ground in League 1 but we can use that to our advantage next year. When we play the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton and Charlton, they wont be used to the fans being so close to the edge of the pitch. They will be able to see the whites of the eyes of the supporters cheering on the team. It will be a huge shock to a few of them and it may put them off their stride a little bit. We need to use this to our advantage next year as I think this will play a key part. We need to turn the ground into a fortress and hopefully pick up a few away wins to add to the points total. By doing this we could surprise a few teams and what could be better than that.
Reason 6: Being a Dagger
John Still speaks aboutthis a lot and type of player this is. I think hes right, we need to use this like the old Crazy Gang did in the 80’s to make people respect us and perhaps fear us a little. Being a Dagger is about team spirit, putting the needs of the team before your own needs, wanting to improve and be part of the club. As a supporter this is what makes me proud to say I’m a Dagger. I know when those players cross that white line for the next 90 minutes they will give everything for the cause, there’s no ‘ I don’t fancy it today’ play like you get in the Premiership. These players leave everything behind on the pitch. There aren’t any spoilt, I’m in this for me so let me kiss the badge then leave a few months later, at Dagenham that doesn’t happen. I haven’t never seen players that are happy to talk and sign autographs, say hello to fans like they do at Dagenham. That’s what being a Dagger is about and we are lucky to have a manager that instills that into the players, and players that follow that through to the end. Long my that continue as its what makes this club so special.
Reason 7: Play-off win
The win at Wembley has I believeinstilled belief into the players that they can handle the pressure of a big occasion. The win would have boosted confidence, and sent the players onto their holidays believing that as a group they can achieve so much more. Momentum gets spoken about a lot and we certainly built towards the seasons end culminating in the win. It will also have raised the clubs profile hugely and may attract new fans to the club next season. More fans means more money through the gate, which means we can attract some new players and keep the club on its excellent financial position. The play-off win could be the difference between us coming back down as to staying up it could have that big an effect on us, the calibre of player to the amount of fans that we attract, plus lets be honest here us as fans who where there will never forget it will we?
Reason 8: Derbies
We have a few this season, Leyton Orient, Charlton, Colchester, Brentford to name but 4. A mixture of London/Essex games that will be huge for us and the players. Form to be honest does go out of the window for most of these games, as ts about passion most of the time. I must admit I am looking forward to these greatly. The atmosphere will be electric at home and the players have shown they can handle the pressure of a big game. Who wouldn’t want to be involved in these games?. To win a few of these will be a huge confidence boost to the team and I believe some of these clubs will be over confident of beating us and we could pick up points here. We need to use the Dagger factor and make it work for us which I’m sure they will. Something to really look forward to I feel with these games next season.
Reason 9: Fixtures
The 17th June at 10am will play a big part I believe in how our season is going to pan out. Why? well that’s when the fixture list is out. Never underestimate the power of a good fixture list. Get some of the big games early and you can pick up points as they wont know what to expect. Avoid teams stuck in the relegation places or going for promotion at the end of the season and you can pick up some wins to help yourself. So a good fixture list is important for building momentum at the start and end of the season. However we have no control over this so we will take what we are given and go from there, but picking up points early is going to be the key, get that first win under your belt and who knows where you’ll end up come May. Survival is going to be the key but it wont be easy!
Reason 10: Expectations
Be honest we don’t have any do we? Survival of course, ut anything else is a bonus isn’t it. We know we aren’t going for promotion so lets go out there and enjoy it. If we had been told at Christmas we would win the play-off final we would have laughed as we didn’t see it happening. We aren’t going to be expected to win at the big clubs so we will have the element of surprise wont we! If some of the older supporters would have been told 10 years ago where we would find ourselves on August 7th this year they would have looked at you as if you were mad! Us in League 1 who would have thought it?. We are there though because we deserve to be, we have won the right to play these teams, so why cant we beat them. There’s no law that says we cant is there? So low expectations means less pressure on the players, which could mean more wins. What a way to start the season.
So there are the reasons I think we can survive in League 1 next year. Have I missed any? Do you think I’m right? If not say so that’s the beauty of this blog. Its my opinion but it doesn’t make me right does it.