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Dartford manager Alan Dowson wants former Oxford United and Woking winger Malaki Napa to impress during pre-season

Dartford manager Alan Dowson wants talented winger Malaki Napa to reignite his career at Princes Park.

The 23-year-old is expected to start pre-season with the Darts and Dowson believes he’s got enough ability to make a big impression.

Player-of-the-year Dan Wilks has agreed to stay at Dartford for the new season. Picture: Keith Gillard
Player-of-the-year Dan Wilks has agreed to stay at Dartford for the new season. Picture: Keith Gillard

Napa first featured in Oxford’s first team five years ago and had loan spells with Dowson at both Hampton and Woking, eventually joining the latter permanently in March 2021.

The Darts boss wants Napa to make the most of his latest opportunity.

“Malaki’s coming along with a view to signing,” disclosed Dowson.

“Let’s see how fit he is, let’s see if he wants to be here, because if we get him right he’s a good winger.

“He was going to be a million pound player but he had a setback. He played a lot of games at Oxford’s first team but he broke his leg playing for Oxford and he got depressed about it.

“He’s getting himself right now, he’s running at six o’clock every morning so I’m looking forward to him coming down.

“He came to me at Woking and did okay but he can do better. He scored a great overhead kick in the quarter-final of the FA Trophy for us but he’s got to come here and show what he’s worth.”

Dowson revealed he’ll only have “two or three” trialists joining the squad at the start of pre-season, along with some players from the club’s academy.

One player definitely there will be popular goalkeeper Dan Wilks, who put pen to paper to remain at Dartford on Thursday night.

He’s not one for having too many bodies around, knowing that very few of them will actually start the season with Dartford.

“I’ve always tried to have tight-knit squads at the clubs I’ve been at,” stated Dowson.

“When you have big squads, you’ve got six or seven sitting in the stands. I’m not paying people to sit in the stand, I’m paying them to play so I’d rather they went out on loan than did that.

“Some people have 30 players at pre-season, but I’d rather have 16 or 20. If not, a lot of people get the benefits who shouldn’t.

“It should be the first-team players that we want to play who get the benefit and that includes the young lads who we believe will come through from the academy. I’m not one for 20 trialists around the place, I want a small squad so we can get the benefit out of them.

“You get these trialists who tell me they’ve been at Manchester United or Liverpool but the only thing they’ve done at these clubs is watch them play. The agent says he’s a good player, and some you have to follow up.

“But I’m not having 40 of them out on the training ground. I’ve got the basis of the squad and signed the players I wanted to keep but I’m not having these trialists knocking about or people coming off the street thinking they can play. I’ve got to let them get a club and we’ll watch them then.

“Otherwise the whole training session is pointless. You’d get someone like Tom Bonner, for example, who needs the work and the benefit of training but they’re not getting it because we’ve got other people around. I’d rather get it right for the lads that we’ve signed.”

Dartford’s players return for pre-season training on Saturday.

It’s their first chance to work with Dowson although the boss admits pre-season has changed since his early management days.

“We’ll get the balls out quickly,” he said. “In the early days I used to take players out on sand or up the hills and in our day we did a pre-season run and then had five pints - that’s what we used to do at Millwall. We used to train at the bottom of Greenwich Park.

“Times have changed now, we used to have eight weeks off and do nothing. But now players keep doing bits so we don’t have to push them to burn them out.

“Yes, it will be hard, of course it will be. There will be a few people sick and the normal stuff that goes on but the days of making people run and run are gone.

“My teams are always fit and the ones that aren’t fit enough will get extra training so they’ll all be fit by the time the season starts. I’m looking forward to it, it’s come around very quickly.”

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