For the second in the Know Your Enemy series, I talked to an excellent fellow up-and-coming writer and loyal Dagenham & Redbridge fan Nick Murphy (@NickDRFCMurphy).
After reaching the heights of League One, how disappointing was last season?
Considering all of the injury problems we had (13 operations in total), it was more of a relief to finish where we did rather than a disappointment. Before the season we were optimistic of mid table/ play offs, but the injury situation curtailed that. I think the best way to describe it, is that it was acceptable in a disappointing way.
Do you feel that had you not had any injuries, you would have done better last year?
Definitely. When we had a steady squad of players we done well, both in the Christmas period where we were unbeaten in six, and the end of the season where we went unbeaten in eight. We had something of an inexperienced side which obviously hindered us- Brian Woodall who jumped six leagues was forced to start weekly, where ideally he would have gone out on loan. Needless to say we would have done better as we wouldn’t have had to re-jig the team on a weekly basis.
John Still is the fourth longest-serving manager in Britain. Do you think it is time the club changed direction?
Not at all. There’s a reason he’s the fourth longest serving, he has the best knowledge of the club and to sack him would be ludicrous. He’s the reason that we’re in the Football League, he continuously finds rough talent and develops them into better players. This not only gives us some quality, but also allows us to earn some money when they move on – we’ve earned £1.5Million in transfers with Stilly at the helm. John Still will always be what’s best for this club in my view, and when the time comes that he does decide to call it a day, it will be a very sad day.
Still came very close to joining Bradford when Peter Taylor left the club. Do you think he would have done well at Bradford?
We’ll never know – thank god. He’d have had some degree of funds, but his ability to find players is what’s always made him stand out from the rest. His partnership with Archie Christie may have been fruitful as well, whereas without Still at Bradford it wasn’t. Would he have been able to do at Bradford what he did at Dagenham? I don’t think so.
How big a loss would it have been had he left/were he to leave?
A massive loss, simple as that really. He’s built in previous seasons for the coming years and with his influence gone it would have been disastrous. Not to mention the fact that he inspires the players and gets them extremely motivated, something I don’t think another manager would have the ability to do.
Do you agree with the tag that has been given to you as a “long ball team”?
In a sense, yes. Our ethos has always been to get the ball out wide and swing it into the box which has contributed to the tag. We’ve always been a very attacking team and sometimes that does include a lump up field. In recent times though we’ve been attempting to play it more on the deck as well as playing to our strengths in the air. Our first team coach Wayne Burnett appears to want to play the ball more on the floor though so it could change in the future.
You are going into your sixth season in the Football League. Is it about time the club developed its infrastructure?
The key thing for us is that we have to live within our means; it’s always the way we’ve had to operate. The club has grown both on the field and commercially/financially, this will be evident once more as a new club shop that actually looks ”the business” will be opening shortly. Things such as the scouting network have always been top notch and have been a contributing factor to our success so we don’t need to change there. With the introduction of EPPP things are obviously going to be harder, so I think it’s a case of doing things when we can – something that applies to nearly every club these days. We’re run by a supporter of the club so I know nothing would ever be risked which is always reassuring.
Obviously the club has a great reputation for spotting non-league talent and then selling them on. Are there any players currently at the club to watch out for in that respect?
I’d be very surprised if Dwight Gayle is here in just one season let alone two. He scored 42 goals in the Blue Square North last season for Bishops Stortford and has been touted as our “next big thing”, perhaps even bigger than Craig Mackail Smith. Brian Woodall also looks promising, as do midfield anchor Billy Bingham & goalkeeper Chris Lewington, not to mention our defensive cover Luke Wilkinson who will be looking to impress.
Do you feel the squad is complete? Is there any more business to be done in the transfer market?
The key message from this transfer window is that, we can’t bring anyone in until we let someone go. Gavin Hoyte has been signed at right back and looks good, as well as (former Bradford City defender) Andrew Burns which adds much needed defensive depth. The only way we could possibly strengthen is by signing another winger or possibly a left back, but I’m content with the squad we currently have. We may bring in one loan signing as cover, but I feel it’s very unlikely.
An opposition player you secretly admire?
Jermaine McGlashan is a fantastic winger at Cheltenham, as is their centre midfielder Marlon Pack. Jordan Bowery also looks like a very effective striker at Chesterfield.
An opposition player you despise?
Nathan Stanton of Burton Albion. He got Abu Ogogo sent off at the Pirelli last season and in the return fixture he tried to confront one of our supporters. Not someone who I have a particular fondness for.
How big a blow would it be if you were relegated to the Conference?
You ask any club that has been relegated and you’ll get your answer, a massive blow of catastrophic proportions. Reality is that if we were to go down players would leave, crowds would drop and the fear among fans is that we would catapult back down the leagues. Whether that would happen or not remains to be (never) seen hopefully, but it would undeniably be a massive blow, especially when you consider what the club has achieved in recent years.
How do you assess your chances this season?
I think we’re capable of making a play off push at the most providing our inexperienced side come together well. It’s one of those ones where if it all clicks, it clicks – if it doesn’t then we could struggle. With an average age of around 23 it’s going to be tough, realistically I’m hoping and would be satisfied with a mid table finish to the campaign.
What would be your starting XI?
This is the side that will probably begin league games for the start of the season. There are various other options available though with Ogogo able to revert to right back & Kevin Maher slotting into midfield to add experience. Other striking options available are Josh Scott & Sam Williams who would likely partner Gayle. Preferred formation is a 4-3-3 although this can and probably will revert to a 4-2-2 at some points during the season.
In one number, where will you finish this season? 13
What are your predictions for:
Premier League: Can’t look beyond Manchester City, however their defence looks suspect. Manchester United will be up there as will Chelsea. Everton to nick the final Champions League spot as well.
Championship: Bolton, or Wolves if they invest the money they’ve been given from Fletcher & Jarvis transfers. Don’t rule out Sheffield Wednesday.
League 1: Sheffield United & MK Dons are the standout favourites.
League 2: Moneybags Rotherham United are the clear favourites and I wouldn’t back against them.
FA Cup: Everton are due an FA Cup win.
League Cup: Whoever treats it as a proper competition, Fulham maybe as an outside tip.
Champions League: Barcelona have got into the habit of winning it every other year, so I’ll opt for them. Chelsea will want to retain their crown though and I think they’ll be in the final once again.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Nick for this fantastic interview, and give you another point in the direction of his twitter page @NickDRFCMurphy and ask that you give his blog The Daggers Scale a look. He is a fantastic writer and someone who I expect to go on to good things in his career.
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