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Dartford FC boss Tony Burman concerned by huge amounts being spent in non-league football

By Steve Tervet

Dartford boss Tony Burman has spoken out against the culture of excessive spending in non-league football.

Burman made Lyle Della-Verde his first summer signing this week but has been shocked by the wages some of his other targets are being offered elsewhere.

The inflated transfer market is an issue Maidstone manager Jay Saunders and his Ebbsfleet counterpart Daryl McMahon have also raised recently and Burman admits he is starting to fear for the future of the game at their level.

Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture: Andy Jones
Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture: Andy Jones

Burman said: "We’ve been speaking to people through the summer and I hope there might be someone else in before pre-season starts but we’ll have to see.

"It’s been tough. What’s happening at the moment is not very pleasant to be involved in on the football side of things.

"Managers are under a lot of pressure to make signings because ‘it looks good’. Sometimes it might not be the right signing, who knows?

"It’s a strange feeling out there at the moment where players are coming in to you and it’s not £25 or £30 any more, it’s three-figure sums in the difference of what’s being offered. It’s very scary and I’m a bit concerned for what’s going on out there at the moment with the finances that are being offered to players.

"You can’t blame the players if clubs want to pay that sort of money, above the odds.

"I’m not too sure where it’s going to go.

"You’ve just got to be patient and wait for people to come in and start talking normally again. The closer you get to the season, the more that will happen."

Burman is in a stronger position than most managers in National League South, having re-signed the majority of his squad soon after the season finished. He only wants to add a handful of new players but even that has proved harder than normal and he says the problem is widespread.

"I’ve spoken to a lot of managers," he said.

Tony Burman with new signing Lyle Della-Verde
Tony Burman with new signing Lyle Della-Verde

"You’re speaking to players and you’re making them good offers. I feel we make players good and reasonable offers and so do other clubs but when you’re getting that player coming back and saying he’s being offered three figures more than what I’m offering, that’s a lot of money.

"I can understand why the players take it but I’m concerned where it’s all going to end up.

"How can we sustain that? I know it happens at the top and it’s filtering down to where we are and even in the divisions below us.

"This year has been a real eye-opener as to what clubs are spending."

Burman has been in the job long enough to know good business can still be done days before the season starts but playing the long game is a tactic he's been forced to adopt by football's changing financial climate.

He said: "When I first started, we wanted to get the team sorted before pre-season and it was disappointing if you didn’t do that.

"Now, young managers out there have got to be careful and patient and not just go because the first player’s come in and you feel it’s a good thing to put out there that ‘I’ve signed someone’.

"You’ve got to make sure it’s the right one and try not to buckle under the pressure of who you ‘should’ sign because ‘it’s a good thing to do’. You’ve got to be patient.

"There are some gems out there. On our list, there’s some gems who I want to sign, they’re still available and I’m hoping that after I’ve spoken to them they are going to come back to me and sign for us.

"But you just have to be patient and now, that window of ‘it’s all got to be done before pre-season’ is not there any more - as long as you get it done before the start of the season.

"Last year Luke Wanadio signed for us in the middle of pre-season and Duane Ofori-Acheampong was the week before we started the season. It took a long time for him to sign but he signed in the end.

"I think there are gems out there and those two have proved it."

Duane Ofori-Acheampong (left) celebrates a goal for Dartford Picture: Andy Payton
Duane Ofori-Acheampong (left) celebrates a goal for Dartford Picture: Andy Payton

Finally, a word of advice for Burman's contemporaries.

"Don’t get involved too much in spending what you can’t afford because 'it looks good for other people.'" he said. "You’ve got to do what’s good for you and what makes you comfortable.

"Managers are being put under a lot of pressure, especially with the money that I’m talking about, in and around the game and in our area at the moment. You’ve got to walk away from it, unfortunately, even if it’s a player you would love to have at the club."

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