Former Dartford manager Alan Dowson has spoken about his departure from the club for the first time.
The personable 53-year-old was sacked by the Darts just three weeks ago with the club sitting seven points outside the National League South play-off places.
After finishing second in his first season at Princes Park, Dowson felt he could have been afforded more time given the injuries, late goals and bad luck that he had to contend with.
But he accepted the decision of Dartford co-chairman Steve Irving and his board, and has no grudges to bear.
“I won’t go into the ins and outs of it because I’ve got too much respect for Steve Irving,” said Dowson.
“The bottom line was they wanted to get rid of me because they wanted to get into the play-offs.
“That’s the only thing I’m confused about because if you look at my record in Conference South, I got Hampton into the play-offs, then into the play-off final, won the play-off final at Woking and then got into the play-offs at Dartford.
“My record is up there with the best of them in this league, game per game.
“They said the crowds were down a bit and they wanted another push to get to the play-offs.
“When people go against you, and supporters run the board, then there’s only going to be one winner. But I do wish them all the best and I’ve got a lot of time for Steve Irving.”
Despite a successful first season in charge that saw Dartford’s play-off bid end on penalties against St Albans, Dowson revealed that he never felt totally accepted by the club’s fanbase.
It was a feeling only heightened when he picked up a bucket collection from a local pub, having raised funds for the different teams at the club by completing a marathon around the Princes Park pitch in July.
“The buckets had a photo of me printed on them and I went and picked one up and it said across my face ‘You’re a s*** manager’ and I’d just finished second-top a few months earlier,” explained Dowson
“That’s when you wonder what the hell is going on. I knew my days were numbered. That’s when I thought, and I knew, that my face didn’t fit.
“I had a great first year but then they started to turn after four games this season. People were saying we just whacked the ball long, I’ve never done that in my life. I’ve never once told a player to do that.
“We used to laugh about that in training. If you look at the goal we scored against Ebbsfleet last season, we had 19 passes before we scored that goal and it never got mentioned. Even though we beat Ebbsfleet twice and finished second, I never felt everyone bought into what I was trying to do.
“You make friends wherever you go and there are enemies wherever you go. But there’s some good people at Dartford, like Geoff Ashburn (Dartford Supporters’ Association) and Jay Berkhauer (groundsman) who did so much for us and were both excellent to me.”
Dowson is - and will remain - very much a community-focused manager. He spent plenty of hours each week bringing the club together, raising money for teams and watching games at all age groups.
He’s started to question whether that was the right approach but knows he leaves the club in a better place and walks away with his head held high.
“I did everything I could to try and bring the club together,” he added.
“You do feel hard done by as a manager but I was trying to please everyone off the pitch. I wanted to be the man of the people around the club.
“I feel as though I have filled a lot of gaps and hopefully someone can take that on even more.
“When I go to a club I try to give my whole life to it but maybe I’m best off concentrating on the football only. When I got the job, the whole club needed a bit of love and care.
“Before I got the job none of the academy boys were getting a look-in, we got them training with us, I gave seven of them debuts and now Sam Odaudu plays every week.
“My week was watching the kids on a Saturday morning, I watched 90% of academy games, watching the women play on a Sunday and tried to do everything.
“Maybe I took my eye off the ball with the first team but I wanted to build the club up again. If I’ve failed in that then people can think that but I’ve got messages from the youth teams, the academy and the women thanking me.
“I tried to put the club first. I had my best mate putting money in through a sponsorship deal, I had other people sponsoring the club, I couldn’t have done any more for that club from that side.
“It’s a learning curve and when I did these things at other clubs, I always got on fantastically well with everybody. But I felt as though I was getting on well with most people at Dartford but not all after they had a successful time with Steve King before me.”
As for the future, with six promotions already under his belt few would bet against more success for Dowson in his next managerial role.
He’s ready to get back involved again when the right challenge presents itself.
“I’m still hungry, I’ve still got that desire and while it’s not good that you’ve been sacked on your CV, it’s up to me to come back and prove myself again,” insisted Dowson.
“We all made mistakes, it was just one of those seasons. Even in the last few weeks things went against us like 96th-minute equalisers to Welling and Weston and that’s when you think maybe it wasn’t meant to be this time. I heard people say we left a mess but we were seven points off the play-offs.
“I’ve got to dust myself down and go again. I’m looking to get back in straight away, I’m not one to push for jobs but my CV is out there and people can see what I’ve done. I’m available and the quicker I get back in, the better.”
Dartford’s search for a new boss continues and Dowson believes his successor should be someone from within the club.
“Tom Bonner should come in and if him and Tony Burman work together then I think that’s the best scenario for everyone, that’s just my opinion,” said Dowson.
“I think they feel more comfortable having people from within the club rather than the outside in charge of the first team.”