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Dover Athletic boss Andy Hessenthaler accepts there is pressure back on him to get results as Whites prepare for National League South

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Manager Andy Hessenthaler accepts there is pressure back on him to perform as Dover prepare for life in National League South.

Whites endured a tough 2021/22 season which saw them finish bottom of the National League, although they were always up against it after a 12-point deduction.

Dover Athletic manager Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Andy Jones
Dover Athletic manager Andy Hessenthaler. Picture: Andy Jones

Nevertheless, Dover still only managed two wins all season and Hessenthaler knows fans will expect better during their 2022/23 campaign.

He said: “Listen, there is a bit of pressure now. Probably the pressure was off a little bit, there wasn’t much pressure on us.

“But next year, listen, like the chairman [Jim Parmenter] said - and I’m not silly - we’ve got to win games of football. We can’t have another season like we had.

“There are no excuses next year. The budget will be competitive but it won’t be the biggest in the league. Generally, if you have money, you get the best players in any leagues.

“We will just work the budget with a few younger ones, try and get the blend right, and go again.”

Koby Arthur has said he has left Dover. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Koby Arthur has said he has left Dover. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Hessenthaler also hopes to have learnt from a difficult 12 months and admits recruitment this summer will be vital with plenty of changes in personnel expected.

He said: “The top managers go through really tough times, don’t they? I think, in normal circumstances, everybody knows I wouldn’t have been here.

“Even if we had started on zero points, it would have been tough with all the budget cuts and the chairman knows that. But we are in a league that we can compete in next year.

“But yes, I think you do [learn from tough experiences]. Obviously recruitment is key and that’s down to me.

“Was the recruitment right? Probably not. Not all of them, no.

"But not every player is going to work and you’re going to get injuries sometimes and, unfortunately, that was the case.

“I can go home at night and say I’ve done my best. I think the players, generally, can say that over the course of the season, they’ve given their all for the club. I wouldn’t question that at all.

“We’ve lost games through real naivety and poor decision-making at times, not through lack of effort. It’s been a tough season but one you won’t forget.

“We are all learning still - players are learning and managers learn. The fans, I’m sure, have learnt a lot with what we’ve got to go through.

“There will be fans who still don’t understand why we’ve gone down, but real fans and even fans away from this club understand the reason why.”

Hessenthaler also expects some of Dover’s academy players to be capable of having first-team roles in his new-look squad.

The challenges Hessenthaler and his squad faced in 2021/22 allowed them the opportunity to blood through several young players.

The likes of frontmen Noah Carney and George Nikaj, midfielders Kieron Agbebi, Jack Nelson and George Wilkinson, and defenders Harrison Byford and Will Moses were all given first-team chances - and did their chances of playing more senior football at Crabble little harm.

Wilkinson impressed enough for a trial with Championship club Stoke while Nikaj and Byford this week became the latest youngsters to sign professional terms with the club.

“I’m sure they’ll be a bit of interest for the likes of those players,” Hessenthaler admitted.

“But at the moment, they have got to go and have a break and certainly aim to be part of our team next season in National South.

“We have got some good players.

“The majority of them have held their own at this level and should be able to hold their own at the league below.”

Dover have announced they will host League 2 Gillingham on Saturday, July 9, 1pm kick-off, and a side representing Premier League Brighton on July 20, 7pm kick-off.

They have also organised games at Deal (July 12, 7.45pm kick-off), Margate (July 16, 1pm kick-off) and Folkestone (July 30, 3pm kick-off).

Playmaker Koby Arthur, meanwhile, said on Twitter he has left the club.

Dover are also searching for a new physio after George Ashby’s decision to leave and they want volunteers to join their media team, as well.

For details about the media team vacancies, email enquiries@doverathletic.com and, if interested in joining the club as their new physio, email chairman Jim Parmenter at jim.parmenter@doverathletic.com.

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