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Dartford manager Alan Dowson reshaping squad and says players who show hunger likely to get opportunity to impress in National League South next season

Dartford manager Alan Dowson is excited by the progress he’s already made in reshaping his squad.

The Darts have signed striker Harvey Bradbury on a permanent basis as well as landing forward Lewis Manor from Concord.

Dartford boss Alan Dowson will be counting on striker Harvey Bradbury next season. Picture: Keith Gillard
Dartford boss Alan Dowson will be counting on striker Harvey Bradbury next season. Picture: Keith Gillard

Tommy Block is back to full fitness after injury ruined the second half of his campaign while five more players from this season’s squad are already on board.

“There’s people who want to prove stuff in there and that’s fantastic,” said Dowson.

“I like to give an opportunity to hungry players.

“I’ve got two lads who came through the academy signed up, a lad from Concord who wants to prove himself, Harvey is hungry, Jordan Wynter wanted to stay and Tommy Block wants to play.”

Bradbury scored six goals for Dartford at the end of the campaign after arriving on loan from Dorchester. He turned down interest elsewhere to work with Dowson again.

“Harvey had a lot of interest from a lot of clubs,” said Dowson. “I went down to see him, I’ve been there a couple of times to persuade him to sign for us.

“I think it will be one of the best bits of business I do all summer. I’ve worked with him before, he went off the boil a bit but he’s hungry and fit now. He’s quick, strong, tall and good in both boxes.

“When he signed, I said let’s have a pint to celebrate and he went to get them for a change. So, he stands up and gets them and the lady behind the bar wouldn’t serve him as she thought he was too young - he’s 24! With a beard like that I couldn’t believe it.

“So I had to go and get them and he had a coke and I still had my pint!”

Manor came to Dartford’s attention at the end of last season, scoring against them and also netting when Dowson watched Concord on a scouting mission.

He can play in defence if required but Dowson has signed him as a centre-forward.

“He’s very raw but he knows what he is,” said Dowson. “I’m not saying it’s a cheap gamble but it probably is. I’ve got a lot of faith in the lad, I think he’s in the top three in both boxes.

“I don’t think he loses a header, he battered us at Concord this season and in the second half I had to get two players to mark him because he was winning every flick on.

“He hit the post, scored a goal with his head, scored another goal and the week before I saw him against Dover when he scored a back-post header. He just needs a chance and we can give him a platform.

“He’s a great lad, he never once mentioned money, he never talked about it at all. It was ‘offer us what you want and I’ll play’. So it’s not about money, it’s about him trying to prove at this level and I’ve got every confidence that he can.”

Block initially joined Dartford midway through the 2022/23 season but injury meant he never actually kicked a ball for the club. He’s been working with assistant boss Christian Jolley to get back to full fitness.

“He got medically wrongly advised and he needed a tiny operation which he paid for himself - he never took one penny out of the football club when he could have done,” said Dowson.

“He’s got himself fit, Christian Jolley is working with him every other day and he’ll be excellent for us. He can play at a higher level, he can play right-back, right centre-half or in midfield.

“At Woking he did a great job for me and if you ask Hampton, they’ll say he’s the best right-back in the league.”

Jordan Wynter, Maxwell Statham, Tom Wray, Marvin Herschel and Sam Odaudu are also part of Dowson’s squad but keeper Dan Wilks, Kristian Campbell, Keiran Murtagh and Bobby Dunn have all departed while Malachi Napa joined Billericay on Sunday.

Dowson, who has been talking to established National League South players, is still in discussions with a number of players from this season’s squad although some have been on holiday since the end of the campaign.

“I don’t really believe in a retained list,” he said. “If I let somebody go, it stops their chances of getting a better deal elsewhere.

“If somebody leaves then I can’t do anything about that but I think clubs should wait and say who’s not going to be here anymore.”

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