Manager Andy Hessenthaler accepts there is pressure on him to play as Dover prepare to live in the National League South.

The Whites endured a difficult 2021/22 season which saw them finish bottom of the National League, although they still faced after a 12-point deduction.

Andy Hessenthaler, Dover sporting director. Photo: Andy Jones

Nonetheless, Dover have managed just two wins all season and Hessenthaler knows fans will expect better in their 2022/23 campaign.

He said, “Look, there’s a little pressure now. The pressure was probably a bit off, there wasn’t a lot of pressure on us.

“But next year, listen, like the president [Jim Parmenter] said – and I’m not stupid – we have to win football matches. We can’t have another season like the one we had.

“There are no excuses next year. The budget will be competitive but it won’t be the biggest in the league. Generally if you have the money you get the best players in all the leagues .

“We’ll just work the budget with a few younger guys, try to find the right mix and start over.”

Koby Arthur said he left Dover.  Photo: Barry Goodwin
Koby Arthur said he left Dover. Photo: Barry Goodwin

Hessenthaler also hopes to have learned from a difficult year and admits recruiting this summer will be vital with plenty of personnel changes expected.

He said: “Top managers go through really tough times, don’t they? I think under normal circumstances everyone knows I wouldn’t have been here.

“Even if we had started with zero points, it would have been difficult with all the budget cuts and the president knows that. But we are in a league that we can compete in next year.

“But yes, I think you do. [learn from tough experiences]. Obviously recruiting is key and that is up to me.

“Was the recruitment good? Probably not. Not all of them, no.

“But not every player is going to work and sometimes you are going to get injured and unfortunately that was the case.

“I can go home at night and say I did my best. I think the players, in general, can say that during the season they have given everything for the club. I wouldn’t question that at all.

“We lost games because of real naivety and poor decision-making at times, not for lack of effort. It was a tough season but one you won’t forget.

“We are all still learning – the players are learning and the managers are learning. The fans, I’m sure, have learned a lot from what we have to go through.

“There will be fans who still won’t understand why we fell, but real fans and even fans away from this club understand the reason.”

Hessenthaler also expects some of the Dover academy players to be able to have first-team roles in his new squad.

The challenges that Hessenthaler and his team have faced in 2021/22 have allowed them to shed blood on several young players.

Leaders like Noah Carney and George Nikaj, midfielders Kieron Agbebi, Jack Nelson and George Wilkinson, and defenders Harrison Byford and Will Moses have all had first-team chances – and done little harm to their playing chances to more senior football at Crabble.

Wilkinson has impressed enough for a trial with Championship club Stoke while Nikaj and Byford this week became the latest youngsters to sign professional terms with the club.

“I’m sure they will interest players like these players a bit,” admitted Hessenthaler.

“But at the moment they have to go for a break and certainly aim to be part of our team next season in National Sud.

“We have good players.

“The majority of them have held their own at this level and should be able to hold their own in the league below.”

Dover have announced they will host League Two Gillingham on Saturday July 9, kick-off 1pm, and a side representing Premier League Brighton on July 20, kick-off 7pm.

They also held matches at Deal (July 12, 7:45 kick-off), Margate (July 16, 1 p.m. kick-off) and Folkestone (July 30, 3 p.m. kick-off).

Playmaker Koby Arthur, meanwhile, said on Twitter that he had left the club.

Dover are also looking for a new physio after George Ashby’s decision to leave and also want volunteers to join their media team.

For details of vacancies in the media team email [email protected] and if you are interested in joining the club as a new physio email Chairman Jim Parmenter at [email protected]