JIM PARMENTER is delighted with Whites’ superb start to the season – but was feeling down on Sunday morning after our 100 per cent record came to a disappointing end at Tooting and Mitcham.
Boss Clive Walker has already admitted his side produced a poor performance in South London and deservedly lost 2-0 – ending a stunning run of seven wins on the bounce.
Whites have learned a lot from their opening matches in the fourth step of non-league football and it is clear that Clive’s men are going to face a physical battle against teams busting a gut to take their scalp.
When Jim took over as chairman in January, along with his fellow board members, the brief was simple:
Save Dover Athletic from closing down.
Tackle Whites’ crippling debts by putting a plan in place to clear them completely.
And restore Dover back to the top levels of non-league football by building a successful team.
Few can argue that the board are actively working hard on all three of these objectives and supporters are slowly coming back in large numbers to support the club after years of mismanagement.
The board, along with help from the Supporters Trust, have invested a staggering £180,000 into the club in only nine months to stabilise a critical situation, which would have seen the club fold without question.
Clive was reinstated and so nearly was successful in keeping Whites in the Premier Division last season against all the odds, despite at one stage being 15 points adrift of safety. But his assembled squad have so far amassed seven wins out of eight – and surely 100 per cent of Whites fans would have settled for that before a ball was kicked this season.
Jim jetted off to Chile on business Sunday night but will be back to watch Whites tackle Dartford in the FA Trophy on Saturday. But, before he went away, he spoke about the season so far and his views on how things are shaping up.
He said: “It’s so difficult to be positive after losing a match. We were poor yesterday and everyone at the club was disappointed with the performance and result – but you have to take defeats on the chin.
“Not so long ago, losing was something that happened every week. But this defeat at Tooting was our first dropped points of the season – and to have won seven out of eight is a superb achievement.
“A winning mentality has been restored at Dover Athletic, thanks to the efforts of Clive Walker and Steve Nolan – and not to mention the players, who have been grinding out wins every week.
“Like all other Dover fans, I was disappointed because it would’ve been nice to have seen these hard efforts deservedly rewarded with a place at the top of the table. That would’ve been a fantastic boost – but, as it is, we’re two points off the top, with a game in hand, so we’re in the driving seat still.
“We know that there are a lot of teams in this division who will want to beat us. We’re seen as the big fish in a small pond – with our gate figures reflecting that.
“But we’ve got to remain positive and not get too downbeat after one defeat. It doesn’t matter how good a team you are, defeats are always going to happen at some point – and it just happened to be at Tooting.”
The healthy attendance figures have been a boost for the club and Jim admitted that he was not sure how many fans would come back to support Whites this season following a third relegation in four seasons.
Gates are up 15 per cent on last season and Jim is hopeful that the club will soon be seeing regular crowds of more than 1,000 at Crabble – bringing back fond memories of our days in the Conference and Southern League Premier Division.
He said: “We just didn’t know what to expect. We averaged just over 700 last season and hoped that we could at least hold on to that amount of fans. So it is pleasing to have seen more supporters come through the turnstiles, some of them old faces which became disillusioned with the direction the club was taking.
“As a board, we’re 100 per cent committed to taking Dover Athletic forward again. We’re so determined to get the club back up the ladder because the town deserve a higher level of football.
“Unfortunately, we’re in Ryman League Division One and have to battle through the season to achieve promotion. It’s not always going to be pretty and that’s part and parcel of being at this level. But we’re confident that we can get ourselves back into the Premier Division – and build again from there.”
Jim is desperate to see the club’s CVA debt cleared this season. With £3,000 coming out of the club’s coffers each month, Whites have a huge financial noose around their neck. It was a lot tighter – but, thankfully, it is loosening with every passing day.
But the Whites chairman warned: “It’s vital fans, and ourselves, really have a big go at getting this CVA paid off this season. It will give the club a clean bill of health – and, hopefully with us back in the Premier Division, we’ll be in a strong position to mount a bid to get into Conference South.
“We’ve made some proposals to the Supporters Trust – and we’re waiting to hear their response. But we’re hopeful that the Trust can assist us in getting these debts cleared once and for all.”
The club are once again staging the town’s fireworks night next month – and Jim hopes that as many people as possible attend.
He admitted: “It will raise the club a significant sum and we’re confident it’s going to be a great spectacle for the public. We’ve really been promoting it strongly around the town and I ask all fans to tell all their friends, and get up to Crabble to support the event.”
There will be further details of the Bonfire Night event, posted on the website this week.
Meanwhile progress is being made with a view of possibly bringing a couple of fresh faces to Crabble.
Clive has held talks with a couple of targets but, because the club have spent their projected budget, cutbacks need to be made to free up funds to enable deals to go through.
Some squad members may have to be loaned out to give them first-team experience and save on wages.
Jim said: “We’re working on the situation of strengthening the squad. There may be some news next week after I return from Chile.”
But the clear message from the club in the aftermath of our first league defeat of the season to fans is: “Don’t lose the faith. We’ve got a lot to be proud of and Dover Athletic will bounce back.”