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Jake Leberl on becoming manager of hometown club Dover Athletic, how he came to take up the top job with the National League South club and working on the training ground with the players

Jake Leberl always felt he would end up becoming Dover’s manager - as he embarks on his fifth spell with the club!

Leberl took charge of the struggling National League South side earlier this month.

Jake Leberl, pictured in his playing days at Dover, took charge of Whites for the first time on Saturday. Picture: Paul Amos
Jake Leberl, pictured in his playing days at Dover, took charge of Whites for the first time on Saturday. Picture: Paul Amos

Being at the helm of Whites for the first time on Saturday - for a goalless home draw against Bath - was a proud moment for Leberl, who was legendary boss Chris Kinnear’s assistant during the club’s days at the top-end of the National League.

Leberl said: “It was a proud moment.

“If I’m brutally honest, I always thought it would happen.

“This is my fifth spell at the club. I was a youth player here and then I went away. Then, I came back as a player - the chairman got me a trial - and I think I had five years in the National League with Bill Williams. We had some great times.

“Then, I went away again and came back and played a season under Hess (then-manager Andy Hessenthaler). Obviously, I came back again to help Chris, so this is my fifth time back.

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“It feels like I’ve not been away, to be honest! There’s the same old faces here - and it would be nice to get some more back, wouldn’t it?

“I’ve got memories of this place being full from Chris’ first spell here.

“It’s a club with a lot of history, a lot of pedigree.”

Leberl replaced Mitch Brundle at Dover’s helm after a brief stint as Brundle’s No.2.

“It came out of the blue a little bit,” the father explained on how he was offered the top job at Crabble. “I’ve been out of it a while.

“I’ve been doing youth football - which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed - and an opportunity came along. I did ‘um and er’ because I have other responsibilities with work, who have been brilliant, and a young family. It’s been a big commitment.”

Leberl and Academy manager Mike Sandmann have been working hard to drill roles and responsibilities into the first-team players - although the duo have attempted to ensure they mix some fun into things, too.

Leberl said: “They all have specific jobs. It’s about drilling those jobs into them and it’s not going to happen overnight.

“There were a few incidents on Saturday where they forgot or weren’t quite sure (what they were meant to be doing) - but that didn’t cost us. We do need to keep drilling it home.

“We’re trying to keep training bubbly, the boys are travelling quite a long way, so we don’t want it to be stop-start.

“We just try to keep training bubbly but to get them to understand their roles and responsibilities.”

Their stalemate with high-flying Bath wasn’t enough to prevent Dover from falling to the foot of the table.

But Leberl insisted: “When I came in, I was shocked, actually, with what a good group they were.

“Maybe they weren’t all together as such - but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. They had picked up quite a few draws so it wasn’t as if they were losing every week. I was pleasantly surprised with the mood in the camp, if I’m honest.

“Saturday, you’d think they had won with their mood in there.

“If you’re a defender and you haven’t kept a clean sheet in so long, it’s a bit embarrassing for them.

“So, they were delighted with that.”

They visit sixth-bottom Weymouth this Saturday before successive games against play-off occupants Aveley over the festive period.

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