Published: 06:00, 12 August 2021
| Updated: 09:55, 13 August 2021
Dartford manager Steve King insists that this season’s National League South will be the toughest it’s ever been.
King is the standout manager at this level, winning the division with Lewes, and reaching the play-off final with Farnborough, Whitehawk, Welling and Dartford.
But any team that earn promotion this season will certainly deserve it with so many big guns aiming to reach the promised land of the National League.
“Everyone has recruited well at this level,” said King. “It’s the hardest year it has ever been.
“Everyone has got good players, some have dropped down a level or two. Players have gone from the Football League to the National League, and that’s resulted in players going from National League to National South, and so on.
“There’s a lot of good strikers in this division, I certainly think it will be exciting and there could be goals galore this year.
“It’s not just one good striker per team either, you can look at so many sides who have got top forwards, Dorking, Havant, Ebbsfleet, Maidstone, Bath, Hungerford, St Albans, there’s others as well.”
King wasted no time in turning Dartford into a major force at this level again. He guided them to the play-offs in 2020 and they were battling at the top of the division last time around when clubs voted to end the season.
He’s strengthened his squad again this summer. Jake Robinson and Dan Roberts are proven goalscorers at this level, Keiran Murtagh could still do a job in the National League, and he’s kept hold of the likes of talented midfielder Noor Husin.
Fans are back in stadiums this campaign and Dartford’s big following could give them an extra edge over their rivals.
“Come in your numbers,” added King. “That’s my message to the Dartford supporters, come and back us, back your local club.
“Hopefully it’s an exciting side that we’ve put together again, I think people have seen that in pre-season.
“I think it will be an exciting year and the fans are back as well which is great.”
Forward Ade Azeez is fit after a hamstring injury ahead of this Saturday’s opener at St Albans.
Luke Allen (Achilles) is being assessed after coming off in Saturday’s final pre-season friendly, a 2-1 defeat at Lewes.
“It’s a tough start for us,” said King, as he prepares to visit a St Albans side who lost only once in the 15 league games they played last year.
'I think it will be an exciting year and the fans are back as well which is great'
“They’ve had a good pre-season and we’ve got our work cut out. They’ve got an experienced manager and a goalscorer in their side, when you’ve got that then you’ve always got a chance.”
King has never predicted that his team will win the league title at the start of a campaign.
But he does believe Dartford need to at least be in the play-offs come the start of May.
“We’ve got to set our stall out and try to get to the play-offs,” said King. “Anything more than that will be a bonus.
“I think there are as many as 12 sides who can realistically get into the play-offs so it’s going to be tough for everyone.”