Dagenham & Redbridge changes looking for the better

There is a recognition that things have changed around Victoria Road, evident in the preparations for the new campaign now a little under two weeks away. Importantly it appears they’ve changed for the better. 

The last couple of weeks have seen Manny Onariase as the latest to depart, rumoured to be another top earner off the wage bill. Manny remained popular among supporters throughout his second spell but there is widespread acknowledgement of the frustrations of his inconsistency last campaign.

This departure again made way for another top-quality signing, which has seen Ben Strevens’ recruitment only receive further praise, as midfielder Jake Hessenthaler was announced as the latest arrival at Victoria Road. 

Again, we see a player with a wealth of Football League experience join the ranks and bolster a new-look midfield – completing a trio alongside Josh Rees and Frank Vincent in the middle of the park. 

The highly-anticipated friendly on Saturday, where the Daggers played host to West Ham, allowed supporters a first glimpse of that midfield trio in action and they didn’t disappoint. 

They reflected the energy and intensity evident throughout the side that Strevens has worked hard to implement, notably absent last season, and this tenacity coupled with good technical ability on the ball was refreshing to see.

There are still a couple of areas where improvements would be welcomed, perhaps another defender and support at the other end of the pitch for Inih Effiong – the striker who also impressed and chipped in with a goal on Saturday. 

One of these additions may come from the trialists on show in pre-season, the likes of left-back Lewis Page who has looked promising.

However, a striker is notably absent and that is a position where the depth is lacking, even if Aaron Blair is more involved this season than last. I feel a supporting striker is required to ensure that as well as being ‘difficult to beat’, as Strevens insists, we are also able to grind out results along the way.

The summer transfer activity is not yet over and hopefully there are one or two more players brought in before the opening game on August 5.

However, the current progress under Strevens is nonetheless encouraging with each signing improving on what we had last season, Hopefully the teamwork and togetherness present in recent friendlies persists.

Elliot Justham, announced as the new captain last week, will be key to maintaining that team spirit and ensuring his teammates buy into Strevens’ ethos. Justham is certainly a popular choice as skipper among supporters and hopefully his seventh season at the club is his most successful yet. 

There are two more friendlies this week, at home to Leyton Orient on Tuesday before playing host to Gillingham in the final home game before the Daggers’ 2023-24 National League journey gets underway. 

The excitement builds with every new signing and encouraging displays of tenacity and togetherness amongst the squad. Let’s hope this positive feeling that things are different now at Victoria Road is justified and Strevens really has just started to turn the tide. 

Come On You Daggers!


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