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Academy boss Mike Sandmann steps back from first-team coaching responsibilities at Dover Athletic as boss Mitch Brundle looks ahead to friendly against Gillingham

Academy manager Mike Sandmann has stepped back from his first-team coaching responsibilities at Dover.

He began combining his existing role with a place in Whites’ backroom staff last term and was in joint-interim charge alongside Mitch Brundle after the departure of Andy Hessenthaler earlier this year before the latter took the top job.

Academy boss Mike Sandmann – has stepped back from his first-team coaching responsibilities at Dover. Picture: Richard Harvey/ Dover Athletic
Academy boss Mike Sandmann – has stepped back from his first-team coaching responsibilities at Dover. Picture: Richard Harvey/ Dover Athletic

But Sandmann now has opted to solely focus on his youth job after Dover’s Academy won the National League under-19 Alliance South title last campaign.

“I have made the decision to just concentrate on the Academy,” he explained.

“The four teams coming up and down [in National League South], that increases the travelling time.

“I will still support Mitch but I found it difficult to juggle it all last year and, sometimes, something has to give.

“He’s a good friend. I want him to be successful.

Dover’s 2023/24 National League South fixtures

“Just because I’m not standing next to him on the touchline, that doesn’t mean I will not be supporting him from afar.”

Boss Brundle, who has added Ricky Holmes as the club’s new player-assistant and still wants to bring in a goalkeeping coach if possible, praised Sandmann, who has brought several players from Dover’s youth ranks into the first-team in recent years.

The 28-year-old said: “I thank him for all of his efforts for the period that we were together in the team.

“Obviously, I'm still really close to him.

“He's got a lot of travelling to do with the Academy and then also, with the amount of travelling we've got to do, I completely understand where he's coming from.

“He’s got a family and it’s just hard for him to commit to.

“But we’ll still see a lot of him.

“I'm sure he’ll still be attending training, coming to see the boys and watching all the Academy boys to see what they’re up to.”

Former Portsmouth, Northampton and Charlton winger-striker Holmes, 36, has quickly settled to life at Crabble, though.

He and Brundle were together at Farnborough, with Holmes featuring in Dover’s 9-0 away friendly thumping of Aylesford on Saturday.

Brundle said: “He’s that sort of personality.

“He’s brilliant with the young lads. He progressed four players at Farnborough to go to the Football League or the National League.

“That’s key to the longevity of the club.

“The chairman [Jim Parmenter] will welcome that side of it and so will Mike over at the Academy. Four of them will definitely be with us in pre-season - maybe more.

“We’ll see how they do.”

In front of a crowd of 120, one trialist bagged a hat-trick, with young midfielder George Wilkinson also claiming a brace.

“It was good, getting the players used to finishing and scoring in big goals,” reflected Brundle, who saw winger Imran Kayani sustain a minor ankle injury.

“There’s a different feel when you’re playing in a bigger goal because, obviously, we use lots of mini goals in training.

“They did well, some trialists did well, and I thought Luke Baptiste did well.

“A lot of the players have come back fit and we can now step up our training programme and progress with another strong week.

“We will find out a lot more about the trialists when we play better opposition.

“But we got the workout we wanted against Aylesford.”

Whites welcome League 2 Gillingham to Crabble this Saturday, 1pm kick-off, and Brundle is backing them to challenge for promotion.

Ahead of their warm-up fixture against Neil Harris’ troops, he said: “It’s a local club to us.

“They will be right up there, I believe, with the players they have recruited.

“With the people in the football club, they have a lot of experience.

“They’re not just spending, spending, spending - it’s smart business.

“We can see what it’s like, playing against a team who will be challenging. They will have two 11s, we will have two 11s.

“I’m not so bothered about the result although, obviously, it’s always nice to win.”

The friendly will also see Hessenthaler return to Crabble with his new club after he left the Whites hot-seat.

“It’s always good to see the gaffer,” noted Brundle, who has seen defender Jake Goodman sign for Isthmian Premier neighbours Folkestone after his summer departure.

“I know all their staff really well.

“A couple of my mates and people I played with play for them.”

Dover are recruiting a new kitman who can work 15 hours a week after Bradley Haywood left for Southern Counties East Premier Division Faversham Town. Email jointheteam@doverathletic.com to apply.

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