Published: 06:00, 28 January 2021
Dover’s Ryan Hanson has more reasons than most to help the club climb the table.
Not only is the on-loan Hull midfielder trying to impress his parent club, he is a boyhood Dover supporter who grew up less than half a mile away from Crabble.
No wonder the 20-year-old jumped at the opportunity to join Whites.
“As soon as I found out Dover were interested, I was sold straight away,” said Hanson.
“Andy Hessenthaler is a really good manager. I spoke to him and he explained what he wanted from me. As soon as I knew it was Dover it meant I could come back home as well.
“It’s my hometown club and I used to go and watch them with my dad and my mates. It means a lot to me, and when we lose it does affect me. It was definitely a pull with it being Dover.”
Hanson played club football with Dover Rangers and then Dover Athletic at under-13 level, before joining Crystal Palace. He switched to Hull in 2019 and became a regular in their under-23s side before an ankle ligament injury halted his progress.
Dover have spent most of the campaign at the wrong end of the National League. When the offer came to move to Crabble, Andy Hessenthaler’s side had just shipped five goals for the second time this season.
But Hanson’s determination to improve and succeed meant it was never a challenge he would turn down.
“Dover came in just after they’d lost 5-1 at home to Woking,” explained the former Dover Grammar School pupil.
“It was perfect for me, I wanted to come in and help them improve. I felt it was the right thing to do as I wanted to play games.
“I’d got to the age where this season I’m weighing up my options and my game time at Hull was going to be limited with the amount of money they’ve invested in the squad to try and gain promotion. So, I looked at it in November and thought that the best thing for me was to go out on loan.
“We’ve had lads come back to the under-23s who are two or three years older than me after loan spells. They say it’s completely different from 23s football and you do question it – what’s so different or so good about it?
“It’s not until you experience it for yourself that you realise. There’s everything to play for in the National League, of course you have tables in 23s football but it’s not the same.
“It’s the first loan that I’ve had and it’s been a good experience so far.”
If Dover’s start to the season has been tough, the same can be said of Hanson’s brief time at Crabble.
He collected a red card on debut at King’s Lynn, has had to self-isolate twice due to Covid-19 outbreaks and only played consecutive Saturdays for the first time last week – a staggering statistic two months into a loan spell.
“It’s been tough this season,” noted Hanson. “I want to get wins to help the team out and then parallel to that are my performances – I want to do well and showcase myself at the same time.
“There’s plenty of games to go – we’ve got six or seven in hand on some teams. You can’t fault the work ethic in the squad, the performances haven’t been that bad.
“We’ve been unlucky with decisions or silly mistakes that have led to goals. I’m sure once we get one result things will start to pick up for us. I’ve no doubt that we can still get out of it.
“The first game against King’s Lynn didn’t quite go to plan but playing the first couple of matches was completely different as I had to adapt to the style of the team and the players around me.
“It also took a few games to get up to the pace of the National League. It’s not been ideal with the self-isolation and breaks. In fact, last Saturday was the first time I have played a game one week after the previous one. That hasn’t helped us get any momentum or match fitness.”
Hanson brings a great range of passing to Dover’s midfield and is a calm and mature figure in the middle of the park. But he wants to bring more to the party and was disappointed not to get his first goal in the weekend defeat to Solihull Moors.
Now he’s settled into the team, Hanson hopes he can become a major player after extending his loan spell for the rest of the season last week.
“That’s something I’ve been looking at and watching clips so I can see how I can influence games more,” he admitted.
“It’s something I can work on and look at. I want to get goals – I was gutted that I didn’t score at the weekend with the header that was cleared off the line at the end of the game.
“It’s a great experience for me and I’m happy to extend the loan. If I can play 30 or 35 games then it will put me in good stead for next year. Otherwise this season could have been a bit wasted in the 23s or just training on the fringes of the first team.”
If Hanson can have a big impact, he might well leave Crabble with a similar reputation to his favourite Dover player as a kid.
Striker Adam Birchall scored 45 goals to earn a move to Gillingham. He caught the eye at Priestfield by knocking them out of the FA Cup – a game that Hanson watched from the away end with father Simon.
“Dover was my local team and I used to go down there and watch them, I remember some of the FA Cup runs,” said Hanson.
“Adam Birchall was my favourite player – that FA Cup tie at Gillingham when he scored that screamer was amazing. I was in the away end with my dad.
“We were near the front but the thing I remember most about the day was my dad being hit on the back of the head by a pie that someone threw! It was a class day though, and a great win.
“Every kid wants to play at the highest level and that’s Premier League football. I always had a feeling about Dover, though. My dad used to say it would be great to play at Crabble one day even when I was eight or nine and playing for Dover Rangers. It’s crazy how it’s turned out all these years later.”