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Dover finding their feet again as manager reveals plan and signs ex-EFL keeper

Dover Athletic are finding their feet again it would seem as their manager reveals his plan for 2022/23 and the club signs an ex-EFL keeper.

With a new season just around the corner, the Kent outfit are getting the Crabble prepared as they look get things back on track the best they can after a tough few years.

During the 2020–21 season, they only played 15 fixtures, with none played after the 30th of January 2021, due to staff being furloughed because of the costs associated with the pandemic.

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As a result, the club had all of its results expunged in March and was fined £40,000. In addition, the club was handed a 12-point deduction for the 2021–22 season and fined £40,000 by the National League.

In May 2021, the club had released all but four players, who were reduced from full to part-time.

The 2021–22 season saw Dover start with the points deduction and after picking up only eight points in 33 matches, a 2–0 home defeat to Yeovil Town confirmed Dover’s relegation back to the National League South after eight seasons in the top flight of non-league football.

So what state are they in now? What is the aim? We take a look below…

Manager Andy Hessenthaler has revealed he has been offered a new year to stay at Dover.

A number of deals should be tied up in the next couple of weeks and in the meantime, he has been busy recruiting existing players for next season’s squad to compete.

Hessenthaler also disclosed that Brighton & Hove Albion and Gillingham would be coming to the Crabble for pre-season friendlies and that the club are changing from two nights a week training which could affect who is able to bring in.

“We are going to go three mornings a week which is something the chairman has been wanting and I prefer it personally,” said Hessenthaler. “It will work with some players. A lot of the teams still go for that model. For some players the problem might be what they are doing for those other two days and it will depend on what sort of jobs they’ve got. We’ve got quite a bit of work to do. We’ve got to try and get the spine of the team done and build around that.

“It will still be a fairly young squad. We’ve still got a budget to work to and it won’t be anywhere near the biggest. We know what budgets are out there. We’ve got to manage it and get the balance right [experience and youth].”

Hessenthaler said the club will soon be issuing a retained list and that he already had five youngsters signed on while a big plus is that last season’s player of the year, centre-back Jake Goodman, wants to stay. He added: “I’ve spoken to all the players we had last year. We’ve got the players we’d like to keep and some we’ve had to let go. Jake had a good year and was pretty consistent. That’s a real plus that he wants to stay and when he gets back from his holiday he will sign.

“Youngsters George Wilkinson, Luke Baptise and Noah Carney have all signed earlier. We’ve now signed George Nikaj and Harrison Byford too. Harrison especially was involved pretty much the whole season. So that’s a good mix of players in different positions. We’ve also had an option on Will Moses and we have taken up that option so he will be with us again next season.”

Hessenthaler wants Danny Collinge to stay at Crabble, after holding talks with him, while Koby Arthur is one who won’t be returning. He expected to sign for Maidenhead United to stay at National League level.

TJ Bramble and Myles Judd will be given another chance to prove themselves in pre-season after suffering injury, Hessenthaler said.

“We will try and bring in what we can to make the squad up,” added the boss. “My phone hasn’t stopped ringing from agents. There’s going to be loads of players out there. We don’t want to rush too much but also we don’t want to miss out on players we could potentially get. As much as I’m going away for a week, my phone will be ringing and I’ll be working.”

Hessenthaler accepts there is pressure back on him to get results, saying: “Listen, there is a bit of pressure now. Probably the pressure was off a little bit, there wasn’t much pressure on us.

“But next year, listen, like the chairman [Jim Parmenter] said – and I’m not silly – we’ve got to win games of football. We can’t have another season like 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 money, you get the best players in any leagues.

“We will just work the budget with a few younger ones, try and get the blend right, and go again.”

Hessenthaler also hopes to have learnt from a difficult 12 months and admits recruitment this summer will be vital with plenty of changes in personnel expected.

He said: “The top managers go through really tough times, don’t they? I think, in normal circumstances, everybody knows I wouldn’t have been here.

“Even if we had started on zero points, it would have been tough with all the budget cuts and the chairman 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 recruitment is key and that’s down to me.

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

“But not every player is going to work and you’re going to get injuries sometimes and, unfortunately, that was the case.

“I can go home at night and say I’ve done my best. I think the players, generally, can say that over the course of the season, they’ve given their all for the club. I wouldn’t question that at all.

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

“We are all learning still – players are learning and managers learn. The fans, I’m sure, have learnt a lot with what we’ve got to go through.

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


Dover Athletic Football Club are delighted to announce the signing of goalkeeper Stuart Nelson.

Our new number one most recently played for League 2 Sutton United after a short spell with National League South side Dorking Wanderers.

‘Nels’ as he likes to be called, has made well over 500 appearances in his career including 223 for Gillingham during a five and half-year stay at Priestfield.

He joined the Gills from Notts County in 2012 and was a key man for Martin Allen’s League 2 title-winning side, playing every game.

In Nelson’s second season with Gillingham, he won the Player of the Season award.

After leaving Gills, Nelson signed for then League 2 Yeovil Town in 2018 and made 43 appearances for the Glovers during a two-year spell.

After starting his career with Cirencester Town, Nels joined Millwall in 2000 and had spells with Doncaster Rovers and Hucknall Town before joining Brentford in 2004, where he made 133 appearances for the Bees.

In 2007, he joined Leyton Orient for a year before leaving for Norwich City. One year in Norfolk was followed by a year with Scottish Premiership side Aberdeen.

Nels then joined League 1 side Notts County, where he established himself as the first-choice goalkeeper, making 90 appearances before he joined Gillingham.

He also made three appearances for Crawley Town in the 20/21 season after leaving Yeovil.

Welcome to Crabble, Nels!


Meanwhile, Alfie Pavey arrives permanently, Noah Carney has signed his first professional contract, attacking full-back Alfie Paxman joins, midfielder Jordan Higgs is the club’s second summer signing and Jake Goodman has re-joined.

Fans reacted with Dover finding their feet again as manager Andy Hessenthaler reveals his plan and signs the ex-EFL keeper…

@ConnorJames___: Solid signing by looks of his history 🖤🤍

@harvey67217023: Good signing for this level

@steveysey: Great work! Welcome Nels!

@JAMIEISHERE5: Great experience, 500+ appearances and has seen a lot, this will help us as we need more leaders in the dressing room. I’m sure it will benefit our other keeper (especially if they’re young)

@MarkyGriggs: Judging by his history he’s a great signing for this level. Need someone who can command the box..

@gazmorgo: Top signing that is

@theWishyman80: Some signing that

@JosephAndSynne: Dang, I remember watching him at the Gills… With a solid defence we should be keeping a lot of shots out this season

Favourite GK ever.
No debate.
Gills legend.

@EJTaylor99: welp, that’s me considering a Dover season ticket

@cliffking11: #nailedit it’s beginning to look like business!!

@tomcdafc: Take that

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