JIM PARMENTER is looking forward – not back – after Whites’ relegation to Ryman One was confirmed last night.
Our 3-2 defeat at Tonbridge means we will have to take a step down next season but the Dover chairman says that the club is in good health to challenge for the title.
Although initially gutted to have dropped out of the Premier Division, Jim has collected his thoughts and looked at the facts in the cold light of day.
He said: “I’ve accepted it. You have to take a step back and look at what we expected to get out of this season when we took over the club in January, realistically. It was always odds on that we were going to get relegated.
“But if you look at what has been achieved in the past three months, we’re on target to revive Dover Athletic.
“We were 15 points adrift in January and to have taken the relegation fight to the last couple of weeks was a fantastic effort.
“We set out to do two things when we took charge. We set out to stabilise the club financially and improve things on the pitch. We’ve paid the club’s bills, are servicing the CVA and bank overdraft – and we’ve seen a phenomenal improvement on the field.
“OK, it wasn’t quite enough for us to stay in this division – but we were nearly there.
“Every match since January has been like a cup final. And, with so many cup finals in three months, that ultimately ended up being too much pressure for our young, inexperienced players. Yet if you look at their run since January, they have hit promotion form.
“It’s true that we don’t have enough experienced players in the side and that will be addressed for next season.”
Ideally, Whites would have brought in more experienced players during January but the immediate financial situation made that impossible, not to mention our helpless-looking league position that would have put a few players off.
Jim said: “People have got to understand how low the club was when we came in. It had literally been run into the ground.
“We had to get players back who had been released. Confidence was on the floor, morale was on the floor, players weren’t getting paid, the creditors weren’t getting paid, the club faced two winding up orders – and here we are aggrieved because we’ve not kept championship form up for more than a few months to stay in the league.
“We’ve all got to take a step back and look at it objectively – had we had that form throughout the season we’d be in the play-offs.
“The board had to sort out the financial side of things before we could sign players. Players are not available generally from February onwards. Players don’t want to come to a side in relegation trouble.
“I think anyone who criticises the current players at the club should take a good long look at themselves. The lads, since Clive Walker has been back as manager, have put in some brilliant performances. It’s not fair to criticise them.”
But Jim is now looking ahead to next season. Promotion back to the Premier Division is the absolute minimum target and the club will be pulling out all the stops to make sure that happens.
He said: “There is a budget in place that is sufficient enough to win the next level down. I don’t care what anyone says, we’ve got a good squad of players. We do need to add three or four experienced players, which we will be doing.
“We have to wait until the end of the season until we can reveal who we will be signing. Clive has his budget and targets. I shall give him my opinions but decisions on players will be down to Clive. I am sure he will spend money wisely. You’ll certainly see signings across the park – defence, midfield and up front.
“I think, at this moment in time, we’d probably not be good enough to win the Premier Division but certainly could have made the play-offs.
“If you transfer this side into the league below, add some experienced quality to the side, I’d say we are in with an excellent shout of winning the Ryman One title next season.
“Everyone will see us as the big club next term and want to beat us. We’re not going to expect easy games and if there are any players who want to have an easy time here, it’s best they go elsewhere. Our players will be well prepared, fitter and just as keen and enthusiastic as well as more experienced.”
Three relegations in four seasons have now been suffered but, thankfully, the club have a board in place who are equipped to run it professionally and take it forward.
Jim added: “I can understand fans being miserable after three relegations. But the new board can only be judged since January. We came in largely because there was a request and huge support from the fans and Supporters Trust. We came in to save the club. Lots of people said at the time, they don’t care what league we’re in, they just wanted a club to watch.
“It is a terrible travesty that Dover Athletic is where it is. But we’ve got to work together to deal with this. We cannot sit around dwelling on the past. What is gone is gone. No-one at the club can do anything about that. We’ve cleared out the dead wood from the club now and will take it forward.”
Jim has been delighted with the response of fans since he and his fellow new board members took over and says that has made it all worthwhile. Despite our relegation, Dover Athletic boasted the best average home attendance by some distance in the division. The fans also raised a huge chunk of money to help Jim’s rescue package.
The Whites chairman said: “Lots of people come down and say what a fantastic club this is. The difference between Dover as a club and Tonbridge is chalk and cheese. It’s been unfortunate that since January, we’ve not won enough games.
“Everyone who has been involved in the club should be proud of themselves. A lady, of senior years, came up to me at Tonbridge yesterday and shook my hand and told me she and her husband had been lifelong Dover supporters and were delighted with what was happening at the club now. And she told us to keep up the hard work. That kind of thing makes it all worthwhile to me.”
Narada Bernard, meanwhile, has been offered a one-year contract at the club and Clive will be sitting down with keeper Paul Hyde next month, as his current deal expires.
Jim said: “He is out of contract and Clive is due to talk to Paul very soon. It’s between them. Clive’s only got a certain amount of money to spend and it’s up to him how he spends it.”
Finally, Jim would like to make it clear that both Dover and Margate will be donating their prizemoney from the Kent Senior Cup Final to Paul Sykes’ young family as well as all the net profits from the game.
He said: “Margate chairman Keith Piper and I have approached the KCFA to agree that all money will go to Paul Sykes’ family.
“I understand that Dover fans have already raised nearly a grand for his family. That’s the brighter side of football. Knocking and criticising is the easiest thing in the world. Dover Athletic have come in for a lot of it recently but when you see this sort of effort and selflessness, football is a great environment to be in.”