Daryl McMahon: A Year At The Helm
Delight. A young, hungry manager whose playing style consisted of: fluid, attacking and exciting football – always looking to be on the front foot. A far cry from his predecessor who had caused anger and frustration – above all – in the months prior.
The fanbase tipped him as a favourite, along with Boreham Wood boss Luke Garrard (of the same mould), Daryl was to be the man to bring excitement back to the club. A clear change in direction from the top, people who ever questioned their (the owners) ambition – dismissed it as all talk – were given an answer.
That change in direction was obvious and a welcome change as we now sensed that the Irishman was someone who could definitely take us to where we want to be. His progress with the team, hindered by the coronavirus pandemic, though the budget didn’t seem to be dented – McMahon getting the players he wanted/ needed to succeed.
A cup run which saw us fall at the last hurdle, prior to the 3rd round, and the playing style, attacking approach being delivered. The latter point was at first, but for whatever reason the attacking style seemed to be temporarily lost, only now beginning to come back into performances.
The blip at the start of the current season did concern some, as I’ll get onto, the underperformance of the team and in turn McMahon saw some doubt his ability. But, now it looks like we’re back on track! That’s the summary; now to the detail…
Click below for the 45 second round-up of the numbers.
Results to date –
L. W. D. D. W. L. W. L.
L. L. W. L. D. W. L. W. W. D. L. D. L. W L. W. W. W
Signings under Daryl
- Bailey Clements (loan)
- Elliot Johnson-Joey Jones
- Callum Reynolds
- Will Wright (re-signed)
- Liam Gordon (loan)
- Charlee Adams
- Abu Ogogo (loan)
- Dean Rance
- George Saunders
- Myles Weston
- Adrian Clifton
- Kai Brown (loan)
- Paul McCallum
- Darren McQueen
- Scott Wilson
The signings have been impressive to say the least, now I think we’re finally beginning to see things come together, the return on the investment – hopefully, just ‘round the corner! Some fan favourites, as recent as Liam Gordon and as legendary as Abu Ogogo, have returned to Victoria Road.
The supporters have picked that fan favourite, Abu Ogogo, as their favourite signing by some margin. His individual performances: work rate and determination have definitely helped the whole team raise their game.
McMahon making the decision to make him captain, replacing Clark who had come under criticism from fans. Nonetheless, everyone was in agreement as his experience and legendary status at the club outweighed all those around him. Though his loan ends soon (whether that is extended remains to be seen) and we’ll have to return the captaincy perhaps, and fill his place in the side – though we all hope he remains (on loan or permanently).
The second place was the signing with the most hype, who has delivered on occasions, though his injuries have hindered his form and momentum. But, the striker now has a system that fits his style of play and is beginning to come into form with the number 9 finding the net more frequently.
Third is Joey Jones, surprisingly, as he was a good signing and impressed in his two appearances- people wanting a centre back to be brought in – a more competent one at that. But, the two games and then an injury which has put him out for a fair few weeks now – a third best signing? That is what surprised me.
What didn’t shock me in the slightest were the votes for Myles Weston, who didn’t get my vote, but has mightily impressed me with the threat he poses and his impactful performances this season.
So yes, Paul McCallum got my vote due to the profile of the signing and the fact he is proven at this level – at the top of the scoring charts. We’d been missing a goal-scorer in recent seasons and this was to be our answer, now fit, he is now looking to live up to the hype.
I’ve given him a 6.5 rating as we’re not where we want to be (yet) but there is something about McMahon and the way we are going that gives you confidence – we will get there. I’m hesitant to compare him with Taylor, as aforementioned, because it’s different circumstances, very different squad.
I’m hesitant in comparing numbers in this case, but not managerial style, on that I think McMahon trumps his predecessor – on probably every aspect. The playing style was what frustrated fans under Peter Taylor, that was immediately changed under Daryl – to attacking, high tempo and high-press football – always eager to be on the front foot.
This gave many a great first impression of the Irishman, as well as the tactics, the set-up pleased Daggers supporters – three at the back, wing backs. The forwards were expected to remain forward, a change from what we were used to seeing, putting pressure on the opposing defenders.
Midfielders were given license to take risks and be creative; looking to play forward – be positive. The likes of Alex Reid brought in up top put emphasis on pace and signalled a want to get it forward to the strikers who were to expect several chances to be created for them.
This was in the initial phase of Daryl’s tenure, in the 8 games he was in charge of last campaign before it was brough to a halt – what changed? That question is something we’ll get onto shortly.
So, that all sounds very positive: why not an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 rating then? I’ll put it down to one word – expectation. This was created by all at the club; driven by the owners’ ambitions and how they reflected that in the market. Every signing was envied by competitors: clubs and supporters alike. None more so than proven goal scorer – Paul McCallum.
He was the pick of the bunch, the ten players recruited in the summer – 16 to date. The recruitment lauded by every Dagger, we all expected play-offs at a minimum – a challenge for the title not out of the question. I quote Steve Thompson, a man cautious with his words, who stated his expectations to supporters of “being there or thereabouts” come the end of the season.
I’ve spoken before of this optimism, everyone expectant (despite their knowledge of the difficulty of this league) of promotion and play-offs. But, we were brought back down to earth quickly, a poor start from Dagenham and Redbridge to the campaign.
Anticipating something different, extraordinary: we got defeats and draws with the odd win in between. Bottom half form.
Same old Dagenham.
The Poor Start:
Those expectations were not met in the first 10 or so games of this season, we are looking at a turn in form currently, though unsure if and when it’ll end. Focusing back on the poor start – injuries played a part. Though some didn’t believe it a sufficient excuse.
So, what do I put it down to? Injuries and fate – yes, partly. McMahon’s mistakes – yes, partly. Having players injured, not least your star player and goal-scorer Paul McCallum, is bound to have an impact on the team’s performance and results on the pitch.
But those criticising Daryl had a point, saying he has the squad – irrespective of injuries – that he should be doing better with. My view was he should be getting more out of the players at hand, taking into account the injuries, I was hesitant to pass true judgement – that true judgement I’ll get to shortly.
Though some were rash and through the anger and disappointment began the ‘McMahon Out’ messaging. You could see the reasons by looking at the table alone, but it really wasn’t reason enough 10 games into the season. Also, what separated Daryl from everyone else in such a ‘Sack Race’ was we had seen glimpses of what he and the team were capable of and those glimpses were what we expected – the highest of our expectations.
The Mansfield game in the FA Cup, among others, and I took those glimpses as a sign of things to come. Though, that specific game was seen as a false dawn with the ‘disgrace’ of a performance at Aldershot – to use McMahon’s words. In an honest interview, something the Irishman has also gained credit for (his honesty), in stark contrast to his predecessor.
|Peter Freund reacting to the Aldershot defeat and McMahon's fiery post-match interview on Twitter|
Though this honesty and acceptance of the blame in his team selection in the Shots fixture annoyed some who claimed, it was all well and good admitting these mistakes but we need actions and results to back them up! Following that game, we were two points off the drop with two wins in 10 games.
Not the sort of form we were braced for going into the 2020/21 season. That fiery display of anger, Daryl fuming, the fans ln his back – the Irishman demanded a reaction.
That’s what he got, an immediate one, with victory over Weymouth – 3 goals to 2. Albeit an expected victory against a struggling side; we were struggling to an extent. The Daggers’ dominance not reflected in the score-line exactly, with lots of possession and control for large spells.
Though that calmed the fanbase somewhat, Paul McCallum on the scoresheet also pleasing, one win wasn’t enough and what needed to be done – what hadn’t yet been done – was to back it up with another win. The Altrincham game just fuelled the fire that had been partially out in the McMahon-sceptic camp – an uninspiring performance leading to an uninspiring one-nil defeat.
No game plan so it appeared. A lack of creativity, it was a poor showing and poor result on the supporters’ long-awaited return to the ground – not what Daryl needed – not at all.
The Reaction. And Turning Point (fingers crossed):
The jury very much out on McMahon, questions as to whether he was the right man for the job, able to get a tune out of his players – deliver some consistency! The worst part of the injury crisis behind him, the onus was on the Gaffer and his players to start grinding out results… and FAST!
The feelings and demands of every frustrated Dagger was encapsulated by a tweet from a man at the very top – principal owner, Peter Freund. More popular than the manager, without question, which isn’t always the case in football. Even more rare, many feel sorry for him and his consortium that they are getting little return on their investment with results on the pitch.
That tweet demanding: “Intensity. Passion. Commitment.” Saw all those demands met and more against league leaders Torquay, who had lost just one game all season - until they faced a determined Daggers side. A side that defeated the Gulls 0-1!
The best performance under McMahon, without doubt, to date. A fantastic first-half display saw the Daggers nick a goal early on through McCallum – withstanding early pressure – then, from there on in, it was all Dagenham up to the break. Despite a red card to Mitch Brundle on 40 minutes; giving Torquay a one-man advantage.
Dagenham’s second half performance eclipsed the first in the south-west, though for different reasons, a heroic defensive display with the work-rate, grit and determination shown – admirable. Some tactical prowess from McMahon also helped the Daggers on their way, and such a colossal victory away to the league leaders, only helped his cause – winning fans, including myself, over.
These are the tweets I put out following the victory and McMahon’s post-match interview – such interviews have become a spectacle and must-watch in the Daryl era.
For those needing more consistency and quality to be convinced of McMahon’s ability to succeed at the Daggers got a 5 goal-haul in a seven-goal thriller. Two goals for Darren McQueen, a player who has mightily impressed me since his arrival, and a great header from Paul McCallum were the pick of the 5.
Then, a double header against Dover saw McMahon get a 4th win in 5 and back-to-back league wins, were things finally beginning to click?
The Boxing Day game itself wasn’t the most wowing performance against ten-men Dover – but, it was three points and now we begin to close the gap on the play-offs. McMahon, in his interview with Jeff Brazier on BT Sport afterwards maintained his line on the play-off push.
“That’s where we want to be at the end of the season,” continuing, “that’s the only time the league table matters.”
The Aims: Looking To The Future…
Looking ahead, and as in those above tweets, it’s going to take time to get where we need to be. As Daryl has rightly said, this is about changing the mentality of the club – from small to big-club – a winning mindset. Not merely just the philosophy of the team itself.
So, that’s the big aim I think, changing that mentality which in turn will see results and hopefully promotions in the seasons to come. The main thing for me is that we keep improving, the moment it seems we’re going backwards is when I’ll raise concern.
One of the big things for me with McMahon, is that he is learning and he rectifies his mistakes to improve the side, performances and results. I cite the example of McCallum, Daryl realising things weren’t working – he wasn’t scoring goals – so he changed the style and putting emphasis on width and wing-play. Now, it looks like Paul McCallum is starting to hit form – crosses and wing play is what he thrives off – a menace in the air.
So, still more to come from the Irishman at Victoria Road; in pursuit of bringing success to a club with an underdog mentality he looks to reverse. Play-offs this year? Hopefully. Promotion? Well.. I’ll let you decide on predictions.
A year in charge and I think progress has been made, a lot – no. But progress is progress and I’ll take that, with play-offs not out of the question.
Watch out for more articles and Daggers reading, as we approach the midway point in an interesting season to say the least. The team’s capabilities looking to come to the fore as we bid for play-offs.
For now, stay safe and COYD!