Dover manager Andy Hessenthaler knows there is a lot to be done to bring the feelgood factor back to Crabble - and the work has already begun.
Last season’s relegation was a slow and painful one, coming off the back of the Covid seasons and fears of going bust. But 2022/23 is a new start and the Whites were warmly clapped off at the end of Saturday’s 2-0 pre-season win over Gillingham.
Ten new signings have given the team a fresh look, with experienced heads joining talented youngsters, and Hessenthaler is looking forward to better times ahead.
He said: “You won’t survive with just youngsters and we know we have to have a year of winning football matches again because it has been really tough for the last two years. Not just last year but the year before when we stopped playing, for everyone concerned - fans and players and staff.
“It was always going to be tough for two years but it is time to rebuild this year and get some smiles back on our faces and win some matches.”
Hessenthaler is making no promises with the club back in National South, saying: “Is the remit to win the league? We are coming up against teams that are spending money as well, the remit is to rebuild and win some football matches.
“I know that dressing room wants to win games and be successful this year. We are aiming to have a good season.
“We don’t want to make targets and make predictions, we just want to get some fans back because we have lost a few fans because of what has happened. We want to get the smiles back on their faces.
“Fans want to watch matches when we’re winning games. Last year they were going to games feeling like we were going to lose.”
Dover ended the season with just two wins from 44 games, with a solitary point after wiping out the 12-point deduction for failing to fulfil fixtures the previous season.
“We won two games but we deserved to win a lot more than that,” said the manager.
“We were in a lot of games and it didn’t reflect the season with the amount of games [we won] but maybe that came because we had a lot of younger players and that league is getting harder and harder.
“There are players not playing in League 2 now because the money is better in the National League, like the lad at Cambridge, Paul Mullin, who went to Wrexham. Money is getting ridiculous, it is tough.”
Dover lost 1-0 at Deal Town on Tuesday night in a friendly infront of a crowd of 782 at the Charles Ground.
Next up for Hessenthaler's men is a trip to Margate on Saturday (1pm).