With the Daggers’ unexpected elevation to the third tier of English football, John Still has found himself with plenty to do in the transfer market. Whilst our thin squad was stretched to its limit in the middle part of the previous campaign, it seems there is no chance of similar problems this time around. Already 7 new players are confirmed on contract for the coming season, with other possibilities from an array of trialists.
At the back, Anwar Uddin’s departure left a sizeable hole and hopefully the signing of Luke Wilkinson will go some way to filling it. After being released from Bristol City at 17, the 6’2″ centre half certainly fell on his feet with a contract at Premiership Portsmouth. He was given a squad number of 44 with the south coast club but never made a first team appearance. He can at least claim to have played against the very best, having been a substitute in a friendly against Benfica in which he managed to score an own goal. Despite a short loan at Northampton he is yet to make his senior debut but it is believed the management have high hopes for the 18 year old who has signed for 3 years.
A further addition to the back line is Histon left-back Gareth Gwillim. The 27 year old has long been admired in non-league circles and first impressed against the Daggers for Bishop’s Stortford; five years ago the Blues ran out 2-1 winners in an FA Trophy tie at Victoria Road with Gwillim imperious in the visiting defence. His abilities aren’t limited to his own half, and he brings with him a reputation for his excellent set-piece delivery and long throws. He should provide excellent competition for Damien McCrory, or even allow Damien to revert to the left wing position he occupied as a youth team player at Plymouth.
The several new faces in midfield are Stuart Lewis, Danny (J) Green and Damian Scannell. Stuart is still only 22 despite having earnt a good reputation with Stevenage a couple of years ago, where he won England C honours. A move to Gillingham saw him win the League 2 playoff final at Wembley but various injuries meant both his seasons with the Gills were disrupted. This ultimately led to his release but his whole-hearted approach should suit the Daggers down to the ground. He has already spoken of how well he has settled into the club and can also provide cover at right-back.
Damian is another who has had injury problems recently, having suffered from swine flu and a broken metatarsal. Formerly of Fisher and Eastleigh, Southend had high hopes for the pacey winger when they signed him in 2008, and the Daggers will be hoping he can stay fit after being restricted to 23 starts in his 2 and a half years with the Shrimpers. He can play on either wing but seems set to play mainly on the left given recent comments from Still, and he also provides and emergency option up front.
Danny Green number 2, who will forever be cursed with the lengthened name of Danny J Green given our existing player of the same name, was signed back in April from Billericay Town. He is approaching his 20th birthday and is a small but tricky left-sided player. Given the presence of Nurse, Monty and Scannell it seems he may have to bide his time before a first-team appearance comes his way but time is certainly on his side. His former clubs include Harlow and, just like his namesake, Bishop’s Stortford where they played together on a handful of occasions.
Up front, Grays’ 16 year old striker Alex Osborn was snapped up in May and John Still has already stated his ambition that the youngster can graduate to the first team this season. He was picked up by Grays only last season from local club Boca having previously played junior football for Ridgeway Rovers. His first season in senior football yielded 2 goals, against AFC Wimbledon and Forest Green Rovers.
The final confirmed signing is striker Gavin Tomlin from Yeovil Town. Having failed to nail down a place at Gillingham and Brentford earlier in his career, Gavin spent time in non-league with Staines and Fisher, the latter of which brought him under the guidance of current Daggers coach Wayne Burnett. Although Yeovil offered him a new deal which he initially agreed to sign, the offer was later withdrawn and he signed for the Daggers at the end of June. He can play in a variety of positions including on the wing and behind the striker, and has started his Dagenham career in the best possible way with 2 goals in 2 friendly matches so far.
It seems that Duran Reynolds will also be announced as a new signing, the former Southend youth player being given squad number 32 on our most recent list. The lanky blonde defender has previously played for Histon at U16 level and played 7 matches on loan at Grays last season. It seems he could find himself playing for our local rivals again this season, having turned out for the Blues in a friendly this week alongside other Daggers Stephen Demetriou, Alex Osborn and youth teamer Lee Wootton. Another young player to be given a squad number for the first time is defender Femi Ilesanmi who spent last season on loan at Ashford Town (Middx). He will wear 29 but is another who may find himself loaned to Grays for further experience.
Other players to have trialled for the Daggers so far include former Welling right-back Sanchez Ming, Sierra Leonean international Ishmael Kamara, former Eastleigh winger Sam Butler, and former Lille duo Molami Bokoto and Goffin Boyoko. Whether any of these earn a deal remains to be seen.
So the squad has definitely taken shape for the new season, with plenty of competition in every position which we perhaps lacked in recent seasons. Most of the new faces are young lads looking to prove themselves at this level, and with John Still’s record of finding players, you would back most of them to succeed.