ANTHONY HOGG has been playing through the pain barrier to help Whites’ fight – but he isn’t getting any sympathy from boss Clive Walker.
The midfield ace broke a bone in his left foot a few weeks ago and has been having injections to ease the pain.
He had complained to the Whites management team about the injury but soon faced the hairdryer treatment from Clive.
Tony said: “He had a right go at me. He told me to stop moaning, get out there and play.”
So that was the end of that debate and now he is preparing to play through the pain to face his old team-mates at Tonbridge this Saturday in what is a huge game for both clubs.
But Tony, 25, who has also played for Gravesend and Welling, is not worried about possibly sending his old chums down into Ryman One next season.
He said: “I made quite a few friends there – but I’ve been in football long enough to get used to that sort of thing happening.
“It won’t be difficult to concentrate on the task at hand, especially when you know how important the game is.
“I can’t see it being a classic because we’re both fighting for our lives. A lot of the players know each other – Craig Wilkins and Nicky Humphrey have had spells there, too, which always adds a bit of extra spice to the occasion.
“We want to play in the Premier Division next season – as I’m sure they do – so victory is the most important thing. The performance is secondary to the result. If we play crap and win 1-0 with a fluke goal at the end, I’ll settle for that now.
“I am supremely confident we’ll win. I have to think that way – all the lads must.
“From seeing the way we played against Hampton on Saturday – and looking at the team we’ve got – on paper, we’re stronger than them but we’ve got to turn up on the day.”
Tony already has had a dose of losing to another of his ex-clubs, Folkestone, on Easter Monday.
He said: “That defeat stung a bit. It was a big game and seemed to have 0-0 written all over it. They’ve got one cross over and Jimmy Dryden has headed it into the net for a late winner.
“It was bad enough losing such an important game, but to then get a bit of stick from the Invicta fans at the end just rubbed it in even more. I don’t want a repeat this Saturday at Longmead.”
Tony signed for Whites as soon as Clive was re-appointed manager in January. Tonbridge were having financial worries of their own and could not afford to keep the midfielder.
As soon as Clive called him, he jumped at the chance of returning to Dover, where he made his debut eight years ago in the Conference against Southport.
He said: “I made my debut aged 17 when Bill Williams was the manager. I got to aged 18 or 19 and wanted to play a bit more and went to Folkestone. Then I came back and went to Welling with Bill. I had a lot of time for him.
“Clive is the same kind of manager and that’s the only reason why I came back to Dover. I wanted to play for him.”
Of course, since Tony departed, Whites have gone from being one of non-league’s top clubs – beating the likes of Rushden, Doncaster, Kidderminster and Hereford – to a side facing possibly a third relegation in four seasons.
He said: “When I first came back, I couldn’t believe the club were so far adrift at the bottom of the Ryman Premier, with the kind of players we had.
“It’s hard to believe that Dover are at this level. I remember beating Rushden 4-1 in front of a few thousand fans and Danny Hockton scored twice. We were near the top of the Conference at the time.
“We’ve gone from playing at Hereford and Yeovil to, no disrespect to teams in this league, Harrow and Cheshunt – places you never thought Dover would be.
“But things are going in the right direction again. You can’t underestimate how much chairman Jim Parmenter has brought to the club and Clive is back where he belongs.
“All the games since I’ve returned, it’s felt like we’re a top 10 side. It just shows what a difference Clive has made. Good managers are important to a team.”
Saturday’s comfortable 2-0 win against promotion-chasing Hampton and Richmond illustrates that Whites have nothing to fear in the remaining three matches. Tonbridge and Wealdstone are both towards the foot of the table – while play-off hopefuls Eastleigh are beatable.
Tony said: “I thought we cruised to victory on Saturday. It always felt as though we’d win. In the warm up, we were very confident and thought we were much stronger than them.
“Their manager, West Ham legend Alan Devonshire, had been saying before the game that they would be coming down to put a final nail in our coffin. It was in a newspaper and Clive pinned it up on the dressing room door.
“When Craig Cloke took a throw-in near where Devonshire was standing, he reminded him of his comments, ‘So you’re going to send us down today, are you?’ We forced those words back down his throat.
“It’s still game on as far as we’re concerned. We’re four points behind the safety zone but there are still nine points to play for.
“Every game will be different but I’m confident with Craig Wilkins back in the side, Matt Carruthers playing well – along with Victor Renner and Clokey back – we’re very strong and capable of winning the last three games. That has to be our aim.”
Tony is one of the eight players to have already signed a new deal. He did not take any time thinking it over before putting pen to paper.
He said: “Whatever league we’re in, I’m happy that I’ll be at Dover next season. I’m staying because I know the potential here. It’s a Conference club really. We’re always thinking, with Jim and Clive here, we can start realising Dover’s true potential.
“I’ve played for Welling, Gravesend, Tonbridge and Folkestone and there’s no better fans than those at Dover. The crowd are always there – big support and noise. Even while struggling at the bottom, we’re getting 700.
“Yeading might win the league and they get 50-100 fans a week. They’re a good team but don’t have the crowds you’d necesarily want to play in front of.
“Clubs come down and cannot believe the set-up we’ve got. I’ve told the younger lads about going to Hereford and playing in front of 4,000 fans and winning with Dover. I remember all those games and you can never underestimate how big a club Dover were and can become again.
“It’s great to see the London lads driving down to play. I live in Blackheath myself but the others, like Daniel Braithwaite, Ali Heselton and Narada Bernard, come from North London. They put the time in and come down. It’s great they’re talking about signing new deals. It’s the effect of Clive really. He makes you want to play for him.”