*BS*DARREN HARE this week has been busy answering fans’ questions for a special doverathletic.com feature.

*BF*Here are all the questions and answers where Darren reveals his thoughts on Premier Division football next season, the long-term objectives of the club and the secret of stopping John Keister talking.

Also he speaks about formations and how there is one player who would keep Palace’s John Bostock out of the Dover team!


*BF*How long do you foresee staying at Dover with Hess?


*BF*Reading into the future is always difficult in football. It is a fickle business. One minute everything is rosy, as it is now but the next minute things can change.

What I would say now is that both Andy and I are committed to improving the fortunes of Dover Athletic and we are both extremely happy to be working for such a great club.

Our immediate plans are to try to improve things on the field to make a challenge for the Ryman Premier next season.


*BF*One of the problems the side faced in the previous season was our inability to take full advantage of all the chances that we created. On many occasions, our strikers were not decisive enough in front of goal.

With new players arriving during the close season, do you think this is an area we must strengthen?


*BF*A good question Frank and one Andy and I have discussed at length.

Our “goals to chances” ratio this season has not been as good as we would have liked. For all our creativity, too often we did not get our just rewards.

Our forwards have been excellent, but they know that next season we may not create as many chances as we go up a level and therefore need to be more clinical in front of goal.

Having said that, I would be more worried if we were not creating chances.

Strengthening is a natural progression for us as we have gone up a level. The current players are aware of that and we will be looking to add to our firing line in addition to the signings we have made so far

*BS*JAKE ALLCHIN, from Darren’s A-Level PE Class!

*BF*I know we are meant to be learning but you have taught us so much we have already completed the course. We read the article on the website and thought we would ask you some questions

*BS*(1) *BF*Do you and Andy have a good working relationship?

*BS*(2) *BF*What player would you most like to play with if you could?

*BS*(3) *BF*What is your proudest moment, apart from teaching us?


(1) *BF*Yes, we do lads! It is vital for a manager to have an assistant he can trust, and as you may be aware, he did marry my sister!

On the football front though, Andy and I have known each other for a long time. We played for Kent youth together and against each other when I was at Dover and he was at Dartford. I also took him on his first coaching badge. He passed – of course! We share very similar views on how the game should be played.

*BS*(2) *BF*As a striker who loved to attack crosses, I would have to say David Beckham. I would also wait for him to be first to the bar.

*BS* (3) *BF*Apart from winning promotion with Dover, it has to be being in charge of Gillingham’s youth team when we beat Liverpool 1-0 at Anfield in the FA Youth Cup. That season we reached the last 16, finally getting beaten by Blackburn Rovers by a last minute goal.

A certain Jon Wallis was captain of that team (and for some fans forum members, Akwasi Edusei scored the goal at Anfield!)


(1) *BF*Do you think that following our promotion we will be able to play as much passing football as we did this season?

*BS*(2) *BF* What formation do you anticipate us using next season, 4-4-2 or wing backs with three central defenders?

*BS*(3) *BF*How difficult is it to properly prepare the players with the limited time you have with them compared to the full-time game?


(1) *BF* That’s the way we will always try to play, but sometimes we have to be adaptable. I love to see passing football and I know the Dover faithful do, but it depends on the surface we play and against which team we play. We will have each team watched and then decide on a game plan.

*Q2**BS*(2) *BF* Neither Andy or myself are great lovers of playing three at the back. However, with the number of teams that came to Crabble this season and got 10 players behind the ball, we had to change our thinking to try to gain the advantage.

The first time we played it was against Kingstonian at home, and that was without any prep! It worked for us on the night, but I think you will see a more structured 4-4-2 approach next season.

As well as players like Keister and Ball have done in that 3-5-2 shape, I prefer us to have a back four in place. Next season, we will have some very tough games, so we need to be strong defensively

*BS*(3) *BF* I think that is the most frustrating part of being part-time without a doubt, and not just during pre-season.

The players have done fantastic this season with really one technical/tactical session per week. In that session we have to talk about our shape and practice it, talk about the opposition’s dangers, and prepare our set plays. Not long enough really.

This pre-season we will have four sessions per week, two in the evenings and a double session on a Saturday. We aim to be very fit and as prepared as possible.

*BS*MARTIN, Kingston-upon-Thames

*BF*You are obviously enjoying your time here at Dover and a great asset to Andy Hessenthaler. Do you see yourself being a manager as opposed to being an assistant manager in the near future?


*BF*At some stage, yes, I would like to be a manager.

I did have a very brief go at it when I was younger and did quite well at Canterbury City as player-manager. I had a great assistant in Micky Crowe, who helped me enormously, and then had a disaster at Folkestone where I was sacked after six weeks!

However, I was first to admit that I was a bit too young and inexperienced at the time to take on a job with such high expectations.

Dennis Hunt took over from me and invited me back to play, which was the best thing I could have done. I really appreciated him asking me to do that.

Thirteen years on, and having worked in the professional game for 11 of them, I feel more comfortable dealing with players and I’ve learned an awful lot from the managers and coaches I have worked alongside.

Andy aside, I have been like a sponge alongside the likes of Stan Ternent, Iain Dowie and Peter Taylor and quietly picked out the tips and skills.

However, I am really happy working with Andy. We get on well and, to be honest, he gives me much more responsibility with the team and the decisions around the team than most assistants would have, so I get the best of both worlds really.

*BS*ANDY, River:

*BF*A work mate of mine is interested in coming to train with Dover. He is 20-years-old and is looking for a way into football.

*Lpic2*What would he have to do to get that chance with either the first team or the reserves?

Do Dover have any open training sessions lined up for the pre-season?


*BF*We are always keen to offer new players the opportunity of performing at a higher level, so if you email Justin this lad’s details, I will make contact with him and invite him along to a reserve training session during pre-season. Justin’s email is justin.allen@doverathletic.com


*BF*I have a number of questions – sorry for being greedy!

*BS*Question 1*BF*

Darren, your presence was noted at a few Premier Division games towards the end of last season. What are your early impressions of that level? And what do you think is required to get out of it – and I don’t mean Folkestone’s method?


*BF*A very good question. One of my main concerns about going up next season was the performances of the two that went up from our division last season.

Maidstone struggled and so did Hastings for a period.

While I think our current squad would do well the next level up, I wanted to see how the teams were organized, how they played, the tempo of the game, and any particular differences from our level.

One thing I noticed is that the tempo is slightly faster, a bit more frantic, but there was also the quality.

Another thing I noticed is that the top teams were extremely well organized and hard working, and this can be said definitely of Ramsgate.

The quality of player was also higher, you would expect that, and the level of physical strength and power was clearly a factor.

I saw 13 goals at that level, seven of which came from set-plays, or secondary scoring opportunities from set-plays, so this will need to be an area we will need to be aware of.

Finally though, there wasn’t a single team I saw whom I thought we couldn’t beat – I wasn’t particularly worried by anything I saw, but next season the Premier will be a very tough nut to crack.

To get out of this league, we will need to be well drilled, well organized, inventive and have a bit of luck with injuries and have a depth of squad which will not weaken the team if we have to make changes.

It is important the seven or eight we have not starting the game are as good as the 11 we have out on the pitch, and that is what we are trying to achieve at this moment in time. It is not going to be as straightforward as we would all like it to be I’m sure of that.

*BS*Nathan’s second question:

*BF*Do Hess and yourself see Clokey as a central defensive partner for Olly Schulz or do you see him playing more games in midfield this year, where I thought he was superb in the games he played there last season?


*BF*If you ask Clokey, he’d play in goal if we asked him to.

Whoever our defensive pairing is will depend on who is playing the best at the time in the gaffer’s opinion.

For me, Laurence Ball has done superbly well for us this season and Andy will pick his best team on the day. Schulz, Cloke, Ball … whoever is competing for that place knows they will have to perform.

Strengthening this area was a key target for us and we are thrilled to have got Olly. For me, competition for places is the key to maximizing performance levels, let’s hope they all stay fit.

As for Clokey in midfield? Personally I’m not sure about that, but who knows!

The same could be said for all the other defensive positions with the arrival of Dean Hill, this creates competition for Sam Gore and James Rogers. Ball can also play at full-back, so Fishy (Matt Fish) will need to be on his toes too. Competition is healthy!

*BS*Nathan’s third question is:

*BF*With Cloke, Schulz, Hill, Ball, Fish, Rogers, Gore and Keister (as well as Graeme Andrews) are we likely to play 4-4-2 next season or is the plan to go with 3-5-2.

My main reason for asking is with Sam Jones in mind, who I am led to believe is a real old-fashioned winger, where would he fit in to the side?


*BF*4-4-2 would be the shape of choice, but this would vary depending on pitch surface and size, and the opposition.

Sam Jones has the potential to play on either flank, and I believe with some good players around him, could be a real star in the making.

*Q3*I also believe he has the ability to be quite versatile. A lot has been said of this lad and the gaffer has signed him on my say really.

Some people think it is a gamble, I personally don’t think it is. What I saw of this lad in 70 minutes leads me to believe otherwise, and if he is able to handle the pressure of playing in front of bigger crowds, then I think he could be a real asset to the team.

He is two-footed, creative and only 20-years of age, and in his own admission, has never been coached. Let’s just wait and see!!


(1) *BF*Who was your player of the season last year?

*BS*(2) *BF*What did you think about the grounds in the Ryman South – I bet Hess wasn’t impressed?

*BS*(3) *BF*How far can you and Hess take this club?

*BS*(4) *BF*Does John Keister ever stop talking?


(1)*BF*I think you lot called it right in John Keister (even though we had one or two disagreements!), but Laurence Ball did very well, would have been a close call if he was here from the start.

*BS*(2) *BF*Some good ones – Met Police, Cray, and some shocking ones! And yes, the gaffer was not impressed!!

*BS*(3) *BF*How long is a piece of string? That question is a toughie.

The answer I would like to say is all the way to the Football League. We have the ground already, the support is there at our current level, I believe it would grow as the team grows, and I believe we have a chairman and manager who share the same dream and same ambition.

However, we must be pragmatic and appreciate that this would require substantial investment from the club, a fantastic support never before seen in Dover’s history, a move towards investing in developing our own home-grown players and a little bit of luck. It is possible!

*BS*(4) *BF*Yes, John stops talking when it’s his round at the bar!

*Ppic1**BS*SUE SHEPPARD, Folkestone

*BF*Does Darren and Andy have a target period for promotion to the Conference?


*BF*Not exactly Sue. Next season may surprise us and we may bounce up again, and that would truly be fantastic.

I’m expecting it to be a tough campaign though, but we are definitely targeting the play off spots.

If we achieve that, we will be pleased and wiser, and better prepared to mount an assault the next year.

Growth has to be balanced against spending and this club, under its present ownership, will not put the club in a difficult position financially and that is how it should be.

Also, sometimes clubs, teams and managers need a season to adjust to realize their ambitions. I think this is what Maidstone are doing now, I expect them to be up there next season, one below us!

Having said all that, if we have a good start and come out of the Christmas period in real contention, then I’m afraid no-one will stop the gaffer going for it again. He’s a winner and bloody hates losing – and the chairman will support us, we both know that.


(1) *BF*Darren, you said a few weeks ago that Tonbridge’s set-piece work impressed you.

How are attacking set-pieces (especially corners)
valued by part-time clubs, which have a limited amount of time to work?”

*BS*(2) *BF*Which team do you think was the best we faced last season, and why?


(1) *BF*Set-plays are important as nearly 50 per cent of goals come from them.

We will have each team watched and hopefully they will not be able to pull any surprises on us like Tonbridge did to Hendon the night I watched them!

Our offensive set-pieces for this year have been OK, but I will be working hard on some new ones for next season in the hope we are more effective.

*BS*(2) *BF*Cray for football, I thought they passed the ball well at their place. Tooting gave us two good games though and I’m pleased they have come up with us.


*BF*Darren, where do you see Dover Athletic in five years time and would you hope to still be a part of this club at that time?


*BF*Hopefully in the Conference Dave and yes I would like to be part of that. However, it is often dangerous making predictions so I will say that this is an ambition of mine, Andy, the chairman and every Dover fan to see the club back where it belongs in five years time, and we would all like a part of that.


*BF*Where do you stand on the question of which day to play midweek games? Is Monday too soon for the senior players? Would Wednesday disrupt midweek training?


*BF*Both Andy and myself would like Tuesdays.

*Ppic2*Wednesday would be a pain in terms of routine and training and, yes, we did question whether the older campaigners would struggle with two games in three days on a regular basis.

That’s why we have asked for Tuesdays this season.


*BF*Was your position with Dover reviewed following the appointment of Neil Warnock at Crystal Palace? And does Neil (or indeed anyone involved with the first-team set-up) show much interest in what is going on at Crabble?

Finally, what are our chances of getting John Bostock on loan for next season?


*BF*Well, I’m no longer at Palace now. I’m now teaching PE, but was gutted to see them go out in the play-offs this week.

Neil Warnock was supportive while I was there, especially regarding the loan signing of David Wilkinson, and obviously agreeing to a pre-season friendly again with us.

As you can probably appreciate, he had slightly more important things on his mind than worrying about Dover and myself, but that suited me while I was there.

I didn’t let my work with Dover affect my job with Palace because that’s just not me, and some may say keeping a low profile actually helped me where Dover was concerned.

I still keep in firm contact with all that are there and I was the first to know who was released and retained. As for John Bostock, he wouldn’t get in the side ahead of Hessy!