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Dover Athletic keeper Mitch Walker hopes return can help inspire change in Whites’ fortunes after two relegations in three seasons

Goalkeeper Mitch Walker hopes his return can help inspire a change in Dover’s fortunes after a disappointing few years for the club.

Walker has reunited with Whites boss Jake Leberl for their 2024/25 Isthmian Premier campaign.

Dover goalkeeper Mitch Walker - has made his Crabble comeback this summer. Picture: Martin Apps
Dover goalkeeper Mitch Walker - has made his Crabble comeback this summer. Picture: Martin Apps

The former England C international, who originally joined Dover from Brighton in 2012, made 279 appearances throughout his initial seven-season stay.

He made his last Whites appearance in a 3-0 win over Sutton in April 2019 but is now back for more.

Following the Covid pandemic, Dover have suffered two relegations in three seasons, having been an established National League team when Walker last turned out for them.

Walker said: “It’s been a disappointing and frustrating period for the club over the last four or five years, hasn’t it? Especially when you compare it to where they were when I was previously there.

“But it’s still a massive club. The stadium and fan-base is excellent.

Mitch Walker has reunited with Whites boss Jake Leberl. Picture: Randolph File
Mitch Walker has reunited with Whites boss Jake Leberl. Picture: Randolph File

“It will be one of the - if not the - best stadiums in the league next season. There’s going to be a lot of teams that are going to want to come and beat us.

“We’re going to need to turn the tables after what has been a difficult period for the club.

“I very much hope this coming season is going to be a lot more positive for the club and the town as a whole.

“Hopefully, we can put things right.”

Walker was impressed by the standard in Isthmian Premier during the 2023/24 season when he played in the division for Whitehawk but he said: “Winning is a habit.

“I think it’s one of those where, as soon as we start winning games and picking up points, which I’m confident will happen early on, it will be a good season.

“Obviously, I played in the league last year with Whitehawk and was pleasantly surprised with how good all the teams were and how good some of the players are.

“I knew there were going to be some good teams and some good players but every game was hard. Every game was competitive so it certainly won’t be an easy ride at all.

"But I’m confident, if the recruitment is right in the summer, we can have a good season.”

Walker had been close to staying with Whitehawk, only for the situation to change.

“It sort of all moved quite quickly in the last week or so,” he explained. “I’m very happy.

“I was relatively close to signing a contract at Whitehawk - but things changed quite quickly there from upstairs.

“Then, Jake got in contact and it was a bit of a no-brainer.”

Walker previously worked with boss Leberl at Crabble as then-manager Chris Kinnear’s No.2 and Academy manager Mike Sandmann and he knows them both well.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with Jake and learnt a lot from him when I was a young lad,” he said. “Mike was doing the Academy and would regularly come up to training, so I know them both very well.

“I live around the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells area. Where the training base is, that’s not too far for me.

“I have got a young family, so that’s something I had to take on board when making my decision for the coming season.

“As soon as I realised things weren’t materialising at Whitehawk, and Jake got in contact, it sparked an interest from my side.

“I feel as though there’s some unfinished business there.”

Others who have agreed to stay are midfielder Henry Young, defender Matty Holness and forward George Nikaj, while an option has been taken up on the contract of teenage attacker Archie Hatcher.

Walker, now 32, is excited at the prospect of getting to work with Whites’ young crop.

“For a few reasons, they want to go down the route of younger players, which is great,” he said. “If you can get the recruitment right with young players, it’s absolutely wonderful.

“He also mentioned that he does want to get a strong, solid, spine of the team with a little bit more experience which, potentially, was lacking last year. I’m really looking forward to it.

“I know, over the years, Mike has produced a lot of good young players through the Academy.

"I’m sure that will continue.”

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