Teenager Henry Young has spoken glowingly of his relationship with Dover skipper James Dunne.
Young has been one of the standout performers for a Whites side who again appear to be battling to avoid National League South relegation this season.
The 18-year-old midfielder returned to Dover’s starting line-up after a three-match ban for Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to promotion-chasing Hampton & Richmond Borough and was reunited with his captain, 34-year-old former Football League player Dunne, in the engine room.
“We have played a fair few games together,” said Young. “We know how each other plays.
“He has been in my position before. He’s always trying to get the best out of me. He doesn’t treat us as young boys at this level but he has tried to teach me and push me on.
“Off the pitch, we have got a good relationship as well. He has a bit of banter with me but, also, a more serious side. It’s been good.”
Young’s first-team return didn’t quite go to plan last weekend, though, after a successful pitch inspection on a miserable day.
The second-bottom team again held their own against a club at the other end of the division, but were undone by Jake Gray’s second-half strike, despite a stoppage-time sending off for away defender Dean Inman.
Young reflected: “Definitely in the first half, I came in and I felt we were dictating the game. We were playing good football, changing the point of attack.
“Second half - I don’t know why - but we sort of changed how we played.
“As Brunds (manager Mitch Brundle) said in his interview afterwards, they sucker-punched us. We just didn’t get the goal we wanted.
“The way we played was positive at least - that’s been the same against the top sides. We have been playing well and competing. We just have to be more ruthless.”
Young wasn’t expecting to be thrown straight back into the first team.
“I was kind of surprised,” he admitted. “I didn’t know if I would get straight back in.
“But I’d got some minutes, playing for the Academy. I feel like I did all right.”
Boss Brundle was a midfielder and the 28-year-old can count Cheltenham, Gateshead and Dagenham & Redbridge among his old sides.
On working with his manager, Young said: “He has a great understanding of what I’m seeing. He’s always giving me pointers. He has been good to work with.
“I’m pleased he has the confidence to keep playing me.”
Young’s first-team emergence has coincided with that of close friend Archie Hatcher, the pair both having already agreed professional terms with the Crabble club.
“It’s really good,” revealed Young. “We have been playing together since we were eight. He knows what I’m like, I know what he is like.
“He’s usually more of a striker - not a midfielder like he has been - and he was a striker again on Saturday. We just know each other so well. I have got so many assists for him!”
Young also gained valuable first-team experience with Isthmian Premier Margate last term, helping them win the Kent Senior Cup.
He said: “At that point, I was just happy to be involved in the first team and it was nice to get a trophy at Margate.
“Last year, I was happy being in the first team but, now, I’m just trying to improve myself more. I’m trying to kick on.”
Indeed, one of his Margate team-mates last year, James Bessey-Saldanha, hit the headlines over the weekend after he got off the mark for Sheppey United in stunning style in their televised FA Cup First-Round tie with League 2 Walsall last Friday night.
Young said: “I have got loads of mates at Ramsgate in the squad - not necessarily starting - but they get involved with the squad.
“Ramsgate have AFC Wimbledon away next so all my mates are buzzing for that away day.
“The player who scored at Sheppey, James Bessey-Saldanha, was at Margate with me. It was nice to see him score.”
Dover remain on a single league triumph this campaign.
Young is optimistic Whites will stay up, though. They are set to have tricky away clashes at Yeovil this Saturday and Maidstone on Tuesday, having fought back for a 2-2 draw against fellow strugglers Welling on Tuesday.
“We’ve put in the performances throughout the whole season,” he said. “It’s hard to say ‘We just need a bit of luck’ - but that’s what we need.
“I have got no doubt we can compete with the top teams. We just need that one win.”
Trailing 2-0 to Welling at half-time, AFC Wimbledon loanee Paris Lock pulled one back and defender Charlie Naylor got a stoppage-time equaliser. Fellow defender Sinn'Kaye Christie also started in midweek as he joined on a dual-registration agreement from FA Cup giant-killers Ramsgate.
Dover opened a matchday sensory room on Saturday.
It’s designed to be a quiet, safe space for fans with additional needs to watch games if the matchday experience becomes too much for them.
It’s thought Dover are the first non-league club to offer such a facility.
Contact the club’s community engagement and inclusion officer Vikki Pawley by emailing email@example.com for more details.