CLIVE WALKER was put on the spot by Dover fans’ emails this week. Here he answers ALL your questions.
JOHN SHEATHER: (1) What is your reaction to those that label Dover as a long ball side?
(2) Do you feel that fans have a right to air all of their views on the website’s forum or do you think that it would be more helpful to the team if they were to grin and bear it and pleased with the team’s points haul and league position so far?
(3) Does any of the moaning on the forum have a detrimental effect on the team and their performances?
CLIVE WALKER: (1) I think the long ball is a fallacy. Most players at this level are only accurate at about 15-20 yards passing range.
Nobody at this club is encouraged to play long hopeless balls up the field, we need to pass the ball in the right areas (middle to attacking thirds) to create attacking options.
It’s all about making the right decisions on the ball, forced or unforced, but I will not accept players giving away possession in our defending third, which I call the “red light area”.
(2) Fans have a right to their opinion as long as it is constructive.
As for the points and position, I think we should be in a better position than we are at present (we have games in hand though).
But we are still playing for 78 points, which is nearly a season and a long way to go with a lot of swings and roundabouts for all the teams involved.
(3) As for the moaning, it should not affect the team’s morale. You have some for you and some against you.
NATHAN O’FLAHERTY: (1) On Saturday we were missing Dave Clifford at left back. Why was the decision taken to play about five players out of position just to cover this deficiency? Surely Marc Cumberbatch is better at centre-back, Tony Browne better at right back, Danny Chapman better in centre midfield, etc?
(2) How many times was Carl Rook watched before the decision was made to sign him? Is he still suffering from lack of fitness or are we seeing him at full fitness?
(3) Congratulations on signing James Dryden – hopefully he’ll be able to score at least 25 goals between now and the end of the season (he’ll need to if we are to stand any chance of being promoted this year). Do you have any other transfer targets for the near future and will we need to ship players out to balance the books?
CLIVE WALKER: (1) The positional changes I made were with Dave Clifford AND Daniel Braithwaite injured. James Rogers is not comfortable at left back, Tony Browne has played in the Football League as a left-back and short-term should be able to deal with it, which has left us with a problem in his right-back position.
Marc Cumberbatch started his career as a right back and can play the position well.
I needed Danny Chapman to play in the central defence for his strength, organisation and communication skills, giving me the chance to play Kevin Lott in central midfield. He is a good passer of the ball, and will improve with games.
And obviously we’ve got Craig Cloke and Dean Readings also missing through injury.
(2) I watched Carl Rook on six or seven occasions and was a threat each time. His fitness is getting better but is not quite there yet and he must come to terms with the expectation at this club to win matches.
(3) James Dryden is a great signing for this club and I’m hoping it’ll be the icing on the cake. I am looking at a couple of positions to strengthen the side and I’ll have to offload certain players to balance the books.
JAMES BEST, Dover: Why did you sign Carl Rook?
CLIVE WALKER: I signed him because we need four quality strikers to hopefully progress through the leagues.
JOHN ANDERSON, Chestfield: Clive, I was wondering with the major injury crisis the club has had to overcome this season, what players from the reserves do you think would be first in line for the call up? Also have you had chance to see the reserves
CLIVE WALKER: I think the most effective players are Kevin Lott and Dave Clifford, who have both played in the first team this season.
The problem with the reserve team this season is they play Saturdays, and not midweek. That would give me time to see them on a more regular basis.
NIGEL MOSELING, Ashford: I, as a lot of Dover fans have said on the terraces, am concerned that we don’t appear to be pressuring and killing off sides in the first 30 minutes of a game.
Is this a tactical ploy or an attitude that needs redressing before the game starts and what is your desire from the side in the first 30 minutes? Goals or a clean sheet? Both is the easy answer of course.
My observation is, when we have gone a goal or two behind, we seem to up our game and start to look like league winners when it is too late. The Banstead, Molesey and Tooting matches being cases in point.
Also I believe the whole team has at times drifted “sheeplike” to beyond the centre of the pitch so that all 10 outfield players are crammed together with no outlet, whereas opposition sides have retained an outlet either to the opposite flank or ahead.
If I may make an observation – if we are under pressure and being muscled out of a game there will be a need for strength in numbers, but, having no viable width or outlet repeatedly breeds annoyance for the fans, so much so that we now have a game on the terraces as to who can bag the moment in a game when ALL of the Dover players are furthest together on the pitch?
So far this season the winner has nabbed all 10 players within five yards to the side of the corresponding goal post, or back 18 yards from the halfway line in depth.
CLIVE WALKER: (1) We go out to pressurise and play to a high tempo early on, because 67 per cent of teams that score in the first 30 minutes win or draw the game – that is a fact.
But sometimes teams make it difficult and it does not happen.
(2) When the opposition have the ball you make the field as compact as you can to win the ball back.
When we have the ball, we try to make the field as big as we can, with width and mobility – and I agree it does not happen enough at times, which we are trying to address.
JAMES PEARCE, Dover: (1) With the club’s finances in the back of your mind, do you focus on just the team and games or do you personally consider the club’s off-the-pitch matters and how they can be helped?
(2) Do you have any say or look in to the club’s finances? Merry Christmas Clive.
CLIVE WALKER: No, my only responsibility is the team and trying to get the best out of the players as I can at this level.
The money and finances at the club are solely down to the chairman and directors at the club, so it does not affect me that much unless I am looking to sign a player – then I have to keep to a budget.
Merry Christmas to you too.
BOB, aka Ramsgate White: What do the players feel about the content of the club’s website forum? Are they ever tempted to respond? Do they agree that paying fans have the right to “have a go” from time to time? Should the contributors to the forum temper their opinions at all?
Is it possible that too much one-way communication via the forum could actually be detrimental to the Whites’ cause? Do the players want to win their games as much as the fans want them to?
CLIVE WALKER: (1) I don’t know if the players read the content of the forum. Players, managers and coaches have to take criticism on the chin as it is part of the job. Good or bad, overpraised or over-blamed. That’s the game we are in.
(2) Whatever people think, it hurts players deeply when they are beaten. Sometimes it seems they don’t – but I have been in the game all my life, and it hurts – take it from me. Just ask their wives and girlfriends.
LUKE, Wingham: (1) What do you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the squad you are building?
(2) How does he hope to combat the team against the heavy handed tactics of less gifted teams?
CLIVE WALKER: (1) When we have a fully fit squad, we have strength and experience all over the park. We lack a bit of pace in wide positions but hopefully this will be addressed.
(2) Be more physically and mentally tougher and match teams for that and hopefully our talent will come through the longer it goes through 90 minutes.
ROD: I’ve lived in New Zealand for the last two years and have followed DAFC on the ever increasingly impressive club website.
I have no doubt we will bounce straight back out of this league and iron out our current blip in form. Any chance of a pre-season friendly in Wellington next year? Best wishes for a successful season.
CLIVE WALKER: We would like to come to New Zealand for a friendly but it’s all down to finance. It’s great you get the website out there. All the best to you.
ANGUS, Madrid: (1) What has taken you most by surprise in this league?
(2) Have the team performed as you expected them to?
(3) How do you see the youth reserve set-up and, without naming individuals, have you seen anyone that could make the step up to Ryman One or Premier?
(4) Has the geographically isolated position of Dover caused problems when trying to sign new players?
(5) Will Hydie continue on into his fifties?
CLIVE WALKER: (1) Every team seems well organised and physically strong.
It’s a stronger league than it has been for years and, when playing Dover, it lifts other teams’ games because of the stature of the club, but we are at this level and have to deal with it.
But I am not surprised. I have been at this level with Chatham Town.
(2) Early season, we started well. I only made one change to the line-up. Injuries have cost us points at times with a few young players coming in and, having lost some good players, we have been up and down with results, which disappoints me.
But we have 26 matches to hit a consistent spell and push on for promotion.
(3) With Lott and Clifford coming through the reserves and playing at this level and doing well, hopefully more will break through. People like Smidmore, Hudson, etc.
(4) It is a problem because of the travelling. While you can get a player in the London area for reasonable wages, he is looking for more because of the location.
(5) Definitely not!