CLIVE WALKER loves Dover Athletic and jumped at the chance of returning to the Hoverspeed Stadium when he was contacted by new chairman Jim Parmenter.
The newly-installed Whites boss was sacked by the club’s previous board in October 2003 after a poor start to the season in the Dr Martens League Premier Division.
But Parmenter could not think of anyone better to help steer the club back on an upward trend than Walker when he decided to part company with Steve Browne on Saturday.
And Walker admitted: “This has all come out of the blue to be honest. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d be coming back to Dover.
“I had seven years at the club as assistant to Bill Williams, Gary Bellamy and Neville Southall, as well as just a little more than a season in charge myself. I loved being at the club and was disappointed to leave.
“It was not my choice to depart. We had a good squad of players at the start of last season and we got off to a poor start, by our standards, although we were only five to six points from the top.
“I told the board at the time that I was setting myself and the team a target of so many points from x-number of games. I told the board that they should sack me if we didn’t reach that target.
“I did this as a motivational tactic. I was p****d off with my team at that time. We had a good side but they were not performing to the standards I expected. So I told them they had to win games or the club would sack me.
“As it happens, the lads fell short of the target, but I never realised the then board would actually sack me. They held me to my word and met with me in Sittingbourne to discuss my dismissal.
“I was gutted because I never wanted to leave in the first place. But that’s history now, things happen in football and I’m delighted that Jim has given me a chance to come back.”
The squad has changed drastically since Walker departed and he admits that most of the players are unknown to him. But the new Dover boss will be assessing the squad’s strength at training tomorrow night, and over the coming weeks, before deciding on what action to take to improve performances.
Walker admitted: “I’ve only seen 45 minutes of these lads in action. I got over to Folkestone over Christmas at half time and watched the second half. It would be unfair to comment on the squad based purely on those 45 minutes.
“I need to have a good look at them before deciding what we’re going to do. It’s all just happened at the last minute, me coming back to the club. So I’ve not had any time to watch them.
“It goes without saying that something must be wrong for Dover Athletic to be bottom at this level of football. We shouldn’t even be in this league in all honesty, so makes it even more baffling that we’re bottom of it by some distance.
“When I left the club, Dover had a strong squad – one that would comfortably end top half of the Dr Martens League Premier Division, or even win the title. So it was a shock that they managed to get relegated last season and even more of one to see the club struggling in this league – although it’s not the same squad.
“I am sad to see what’s happened to the team’s fortunes since I’ve left but hopefully I can get this reversed and get Dover Athletic winning matches again. That’s what we’ve got to do.
“Relegation isn’t certain yet but of course it’s a huge, huge task to stay up. I think what we need to target now is winning games. Get a winning mentality back at the club and take things from there. That will be my first task, I think.
“Once I meet the squad and get a look at them, I will be in a position to comment more on the situation. But I am just glad to be back.”
Clive has enjoyed a successful spell at Chatham since leaving the Hoverspeed Stadium, saving them from relegation last season and guiding them to mid-table in the Southern League Eastern Division this season on a tight budget.
He admitted: “I’ve enjoyed the past year and a bit at Chatham and Dover were the only club I’d leave them for. As soon as Jim told me they wanted me back, my mind was made up.
“Dover is one of the biggest non-league clubs and now needs to be built up again. It’s a challenge and one I’m going to relish.”