Decision Time: My Retained List
It’s that time of year again! With National League Clubs beginning to announce their retained list, the Daggers will soon follow suit, McMahon has quite the conundrum on his hands.
There are some incredibly difficult decisions to make, after a disappointing start to the season, the Daggers have turned their fortunes around somewhat.
But the ‘failure’ (as Daryl himself admitted) to reach the play-offs, leaves question marks over the current crop – will they have what it takes to make the top 7 next season? How many more need to be brought in to ensure success, and therefore in turn, how many need to make way for new recruits?
All this hangs in the balance as Dagenham & Redbridge football club look to be heading in the right direction. But, who will be on the pitch to continue that upwards trajectory at Victoria Road and ultimately reach the destination – League Two.
Below, is who I think (of the current set of players) should be the ones continuing on that journey, this was a very difficult decision to make!
My Daggers 2021 Retained List:
Under Contract (As far as I know!)
Luke Croll - He hasn’t had as much game time this season, for one reason or another, but I believe he is of the quality to contribute to success next season – shoring up the back line.
Kenny Clark - A MOTM display in his last game, on his return from injury, saw Kenny at his best and a far-cry from a few dismal displays earlier on in the season. The latter came, co-incidentally, when he had the armband and since then he has put in a fair few praise-worthy shifts at CB. Hopefully, we see those performances next season and there will be every reason to have kept him at his solid best.
Myles Weston - Arguably, a Player Of The Season contender up until his injury, as he is one of a few players who have consistently shone at their best this season – from start to finish. Despite his spell on the side-lines toward the end, Myles didn’t disappoint when McMahon tipped him to be a fans’ favourite – that’s certainly what he become.
Unlike a lot of the squad, as I say, Myles shone during bad patches for the team – providing our only bright, creative spark – I’d love to see more of him in fine form next season. A key asset is Myles Weston, to our attacking arsenal, moreover he brings a wealth of experience – helping strike that much-needed balance within the squad.
Matt Robinson - What a player he’s been this season, fighting his way back into the side before making the position his own, adding goals to his game – Robbo has excelled, taking his game to a whole different level. Let’s hope he can take the Daggers to a new level of English Football next season, he’ll have an integral part to play – I’ve no doubts.
Josh Strizovic - Josh has had little to no chance in the team, thankfully due to Justham not being injured. Being second keeper is always a tough job, especially when that keeper is Player Of The Season – there is little competition to take his place. But I think there is no harm in keeping him on and there is no requirement to get a player in to challenge Justham – the number 1 performing just fine.
Will Wright - This time last season, Wright was one I felt we should release, McMahon thinking very much the same way. Therefore, it is weird to be talking about him again a year on as a Dagenham & Redbridge player, but, what a season it’s been for him as well. Will has made no mistake in proving countless people at the club wrong, proving he is more than good enough for this level – going from strength to strength. I can’t wait to see him progress even further next season, so this year I’d definitely offer him a new deal.
Mauro Vilhete - What a talisman and key to a change in form this season. Ever since Mauro arrived, he has seemed to find a way of unlocking opposition defences – transitioning seamlessly from defence to attack. The versatile attacker is a HUGE talking point around this list announcement and we’re all hoping that Vilhete is offered that contract, and importantly, accepts it!
Saidou Khan (On Permanent Deal) - Another man essential to a positive change in performances and results for Dagenham this season, Saidou Khan has quickly settled and become an integral part of this team. His engine in the midfield alongside Sagaf and Robinson, coupled with his calmness and competence on the ball is special – certainly a favourite of mine. All this, in spite of him being there for just a couple of months, mightily impressive.
Dean Rance - The midfielder was integral to the side at the beginning and middle of the campaign, even being named the club captain, but his significance to the team has faded recently. This is mainly down to injury, however, since the likes of Sagaf and Khan have been introduced and had an even bigger impact on this Daggers team. Furthermore, the revitalisation of Matt Robinson this season may make it an even bigger challenge for Rance to reclaim his place in the team – Rance though could still be a strong back-up option in the squad.
Harry Phipps – Harry has been at the club for three seasons now, yet only played 31 games, none in the last campaign and just nine in 2019/20. Granted, this is very much down to injury, but is he someone the Daggers can risk holding onto for another year; Phipps being so injury-prone? I agree with many supporters, there is a talented and relatively young player there with great potential, but I can’t see him getting near the team even if fit, therefore believe it will be best for all parties for him to move on.
Mitch Brundle – Brundle is not dissimilar to Dean Rance in the way they were nailed on to start matches at the beginning of the season and through the winter. Although, now neither get a look in for one reason or another, and with Brundle perhaps one of the higher-earners – is it worth keeping him on the club’s books? I’d say it’s a case of Brundle or Rance and I’d pick Dean Rance.
Sam Deering – Sam put in some fantastic performances and chipped in with at least two goal of the season contenders, however, he has only played 18 games this season. He possesses great quality but I again, with the new additions, can’t see him getting into the first-team picture. I like Sam but is he of the quality and the consistency to perform at a high level week in, week out – not for me.
Andrew Eleftheriou – A player who has made strides forward, yet another whose place appeared to have been taken with incomings like Vilhete at wing-back. Again, I feel he is almost out of the first-team picture despite being a good talent, there are players ahead of him and feel it would be better for all parties if he moved on.
Darren McQueen – McQueen is a great worker with real desire and determination, but he has not found the goal-scoring form of recent seasons in the National League. I know he may not have had the required game time, but the chances he had, he hasn’t quite grasped them in the way everyone hoped. Is he going to score 10+ next season? I don’t think so, and despite my admiration for his determination, I think he’d be scoring a lot more elsewhere.
Adrian Clifton – Similarly, Clifton has struggled to assist with the goal-scoring as he was brought in to do, and it hasn’t worked out for him. Although, with Adrian it was the injury he sustained earlier in the season which left him out of action. I believe it was only a short-term thing with Clifton at the Daggers and that that term has now come to an end.
Return To Parent Club
Tom Smith – Smith was brought in with other exciting prospects; namely Sagaf and Khan all in the same position. This, all with the John Still recruitment drive at the tail end of the season, and it always seemed to me a case of 'see how they all do and pick the best one for next season'. Tom Smith proved unfortunately not to be that one, and I’d keep Khan and Sagaf next season over him – leaving no place for Smith in the squad next season – seeing him return to Bath.
Liam Gordon – Liam is a massive favourite among supporters, that’s no secret nor surprise, one of our own. There is no doubt everyone at the club would love to have him back either on loan or better, permanently, but at the same time don’t want to halt his career progression. By the same token, Bolton have been promoted to League One so is there game time for him there? I think whether he stays at Bolton or not, he’ll want to play in the Football League, and can’t see us keeping him for next season – but I live in hope!
So, they are my views on the retained list situation – player by player – leaving 18 players under contract at Dagenham & Redbridge by the end. Meaning there is space for perhaps four new arrivals at Victoria Road ahead of 14th August and the new 2021/22 National League campaign.
From that, you can see how I’d put emphasis on retaining the current group as oppose to seeing a flurry of new signings, in my view, that will lead to more instability at the club – leading to another slow start. This, because, synergies and momentum would be interrupted and integrating too many new players into the side (as we’ve seen) can have adverse effects.
Well, who would I like to bring in? I still have my concerns over our central defensive frailties which I feel have remained since Manny Onariase’s departure – Reynolds and Johnson not cutting it for me. We need someone alongside the likes of these players, a commanding, imposing centre-back who is seen as our ‘rock’.
As well as that, with the likely outgoings of Clifton and McQueen, another impact striker off the bench who is proven at this level to contribute 10 or so goals. We’ve gone through a fair few of these types of players in the last few seasons and we’re yet to find someone who can fit this role. Hopefully, we can find someone this summer, to be ready to step in in place of McCallum and maybe Wilson up top.
It’s mainly filling in the gaps in the squad, as oppose to finding some more key players, finding the players who can come off the bench and make an impact – perhaps another midfielder and wing back. Dare I say, another Abu Ogogo return?
Not players which will necessary lead to inconsistent team selection due to McMahon having too many similar players – more strong squad players. The type which make a strong squad with great depth worthy of challenging for promotion.
Well, that’s my take, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments as there is always some great debate to have around the retained list and the direction the club takes in the year ahead.
For now we just await the Retained List expected at the end of this week, then the countdown to the new season is on!