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Dover Athletic midfielder Joe Bedford admits he almost quit football during time at Southend United

Dover midfielder Joe Bedford admits he considered turning his back on football prior to his move to Crabble.

The 21-year-old was approaching the end of his deal with Southend United when he was left to question his future in the game.

He was eventually signed in December 2018 by Whites boss Andy Hessenthaler, who has since had a significant impact on Bedford's rejuvenated approach.

Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler. Picture:Chris Davey
Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler. Picture:Chris Davey

Bedford said: "I still had a year left on my deal (at Southend) and I wanted to quit football, before I came to Dover I wasn't coming in to sign, it was just to train for a week.

"I trained well and saw it was a really good group of boys.

"The manager is the first manager who has really put a lot of effort into me and I feel like I'm respected by the players in the dressing room, even when I wasn't playing.

"At Southend, it was more like 'you train over there with the 23s, you'll get your chance, if you don't take it that's you done.'

"I had a year left and I really wasn't enjoying football, I didn't want to play but I can honestly say I'm enjoying my football now more than I ever have really."

Bedford was handed a rare start on Saturday as he helped Dover towards a 2-1 win at Weymouth in the FA Cup.

He had been due to feature in the league against Barrow earlier this month before the game was postponed because of travel problems following a fatality on the line at Milton Keynes.

Having been made available to go out on loan earlier this season, Bedford is now hoping he can vie for a regular spot in the first-team.

He added: "They wanted me to go out and get some games and a few things were hit and miss and didn't happen.

"I just kept training well and said to the manager (Hessenthaler) 'do you think I can get in your team?' and he said 'yeah'.

"At the time when you aren't playing and there are a lot of players in midfield getting games you're thinking 'maybe I'm not going to get in the team', but he's trusted me, he's thrown me in.

"I was supposed to play against Barrow who are a good side, I was dying when we didn't get there, I was gutted but the boys told me I'd get my chance.

"Football changes quicker than anything. I haven't even been on the bench yet and I've started."

Saturday's win marked Bedford's first appearance since signing a new two-year deal at the club back in June.

Reflecting on his performance, he said: "I think I played well.

"It's been hard for me coming from Southend where it was more ball-playing to here where it's also ball-playing but it's a bit more physical.

"I've had to adapt and I'm starting to do that now and it will benefit me in the long run to be honest.

"My job wasn't to mark space, it was to help out the full-back when the ball went to them and when the midfielders start pressing I squeeze up with them, overall just get around the park, break up play and move the ball.

"Passing is more my game but I've had to start running and heading, everyone has been saying they're surprised but I can do that as well."

Dover faced the prospect of a shock cup exit when Jake McCarthy put the hosts ahead in the 82nd minute, before a Jai Reason equaliser a minute later and Anthony Jeffrey's winner turned the game on its head.

"I wasn't thinking the best but when we got the goal back I thought we'd go on to win the game, even if there was a replay I thought we would have beaten them," said Bedford.

"In the first half it was hard to get going but in the second half we started to play a bit more, it was a scrap but that's the FA Cup, there were a lot of fans here and it was quite hostile at times but I enjoyed it."

"You have to want to keep getting on the ball because they're going to want to run the game down which is frustrating, we just had to keep doing what we do.

"We've got players who can score goals like Jai (Reason), Inih (Effiong), Ricky (Modeste) and even Roberto (Ratti) when he came on I thought he was good.

"After we scored the first goal I knew we'd go on to get a chance that somebody would take."

Speaking ahead of Monday night's FA Cup draw, Bedford welcomed a tie with former club Southend, saying: "If we play Southend, I've got to be playing if I'm honest."

As it happened, they were, with the sides scheduled to meet at Crabble between November 8-11.

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