the daggers voice
One of the most tragic weeks in our history had a bizarre end befitting of a club in our difficult position; it was supposed to be a distraction from off-pitch matters but indeed only added to the troubles we have all faced. As the loyal band of fans conjugated at Victoria Road in the early hours, we were determined to get behind the team when they needed us most, but little did we know that the only team we'd be supporting was Ossett Town for 45 minutes of their game against Ramsbottom. This was one of the many matches that somehow managed to survive the extreme conditions and torrential downpours which only existed in the delusional minds of FC Halifax Town, responsible for one of the most pathetic shows of sheer incompetence I have ever seen.
The calm, unsympathetic way in which the club announced the completely-unnecessary postponement certainly showed that they had dealt with this kind of situation before. Their FA Trophy game against Macclesfield fell foul of the weather but from what I heard that was quite justified, although despite the fact that Macc fans hadn't had long to travel the short notice which they gave was ridiculous. Then, just a few weeks ago Orient supporters were informed that the match was off while they were well into their journey, with many having booked accommodation and travel. If Orient were aggrieved, which they would be perfectly entitled to be, then imagine how we felt.
You might think that after these postponements, alarm bells were surely ringing and we should've been expecting the worst. We were assured that the game would be on and there was nothing to indicate that it wouldn't be, especially given that their rescheduled clash with the O's had taken place just four days prior without any concerns. The only potential difficulty, we were told, was one of the touchlines which had failed to fully soak up water, but surely that's not enough to postpone a match which both teams would've wanted to go ahead. The match was called off after the referee examined the pitch for a second time following an earlier pitch inspection that we also very conveniently were not informed of.
That pitch inspection took place at 10.30 so if you were going to cancel the game then do it then, just to prevent as much upheaval as possible. Apparently the surface was playable then so had worsened in the space of just two hours, but if you had enough doubts to constitute an initial pitch inspection, how can you not check the weather forecast to anticipate this weather? Perhaps this is because the conditions they allege then arose simply did not happen and this has been supported by residents of Halifax, Dagenham fans in the area and anybody with half a brain cell. It's also worth noting that the referee apparently called the game off because the ball wouldn't bounce twice but with two hoofball teams, that certainly wouldn't have been a problem anyway.
So as we were in the Shay bar, getting ready to leave and head towards the turnstiles, the game was promptly called off, just minutes after Halifax had advertised the match on Twitter. They continued to advertise it even after declaring the postponement, something which summed up their unprofessionalism and only added to the increasing confusion. Barely had we had time to recover from the 216 mile journey when we were heading back to Dagenham. We had essentially travelled four hours for nothing and paid £25 each for the privilege; it had certainly been an unusual awayday, but mainly because Dagenham hadn't lost. The players were also waiting around having also been left in the dark and they were just as confused, as well as genuinely disappointed that they weren't going to be playing football, which I took as a good sign.
Not wanting to render the day completely wasted, I spoke to some of the players and took pictures with them: after the recent club statement, it was probable that this would be the last time some of the team members would be seen in Daggers clobber. Given our turbulent financial status, shelling out on overnight costs and travel certainly wouldn't have helped things, so I fully expect the team to be reimbursed, but that won't help the fans who committed to the day. As luck would have it, I would win £50 on the coach journey home so essentially the only loss for me was hours of my life, but other fans certainly weren't as lucky.
As we trudged back onto our coach, thoroughly dejected and very angry, we decided that we were going to see a football match after all. We limited the candidates to Harrogate v Billericay, Guiseley v Wrexham (my personal preference) and Ossett v Ramsbottom. The shambles at Halifax was apparently contagious as we struggled to make a decision, but eventually decided on the latter, although it would mean missing the first 45 minutes. I commend the way that the Supporters Club organised this as it would've been easy just to go home but in the end I'm glad we went to Ossett as it meant we saw a club who apparently cared about supporters; we were let in at a 75% reduction and offered a very warm welcome, which we all appreciated.
In this time, Halifax had promised to issue a statement in due course, though they even managed to mess that up, taking about three hours to produce a very basic article which left more questions than answers. It cited heavy rainfall between 12.30 and 1.30 as the cause, but given that we were already in the area during that time, we can confirm that apart from light drizzle, there was nothing of the sort. It was also worth noting that this game was the only in the region called off, with Guiseley, Harrogate and Ossett - all smaller clubs who would be more likely to call a game off - deemed fine. Infact just a few weeks ago Guiseley did the completely unbelievable thing and had a pitch inspection the day before the game, which was then called off but thankfully saved visiting fans money and time. Imagine that, Halifax.
This is the third time Halifax have done this and it's obviously no coincidence. I obviously understand that home fans would've been just as frustrated at having as many games off - i certainly would - but for us it was obviously worse. Halifax will obviously lose out when the rescheduled fixture, which will obviously be a Tuesday, draws a much smaller figure than would've attended Saturday's. This isn't an unfair, disrespectful rant at Halifax because the whole setup of the club struck me as very nice and decent, but the way they've handled things is ridiculous. Obviously this kind of experience is part and parcel of football: we're not the first to experience this and certainly won't be the last, but that doesn't make it acceptable. Not just to Dagenham, but anybody who has been shafted by Halifax or any other team this season, it's not good enough and the National League should do more to ensure this does not happen again.
We are next in action on Saturday when we host Aldershot Town at 5.30pm in a fixture live on BT Sport.
When Daggers and Halifax met in the league for the first ever time, back in September, everything seemed good. We had recaptured the form that propelled us to the 2016/17 play-off semi-finals and, even at that early stage, were looking like title challengers. On that sunny afternoon, goals from Craig Robson, Corey Whitely and a Scott Garner own goal saw us win comfortably as we produced another devastating attacking display.
Since then, though, so much has changed. Not only have things declined on the pitch, but we've suffered a similar financial collapse behind the scenes which appears to set up a worrying future for the club. Many rumours have been circulating but with White and Lokko now gone, possibly to reduce the wage bill, it's certainly a concerning time for the club.
Back on that gentle Autumn day, where our only worries were directed towards the on-pitch action, this current situation seemed miles away. When it was revealed that Hartlepool and Chester were in trouble, needing to raise a lot of money, I remember imagining if that was ever us. What would we do? What would happen to our great club? These then-hypothetical thoughts have presumably turned into a devastating reality.
However, this is the time where we need to get behind the club. This all starts in Yorkshire, where it's vital we all stick together as fans and give the players as much encouragement as we can. Our play-off ambitions must take a back seat as the long-term future of the club becomes our priority. That said, to win at the Shay Stadium would be brilliant, and hopefully would take our minds off this predicament.
It won't be easy though. Halifax have had a disappointing season by their expectations but in all fairness they've done well to consolidate their position in the National League after promotion last campaign. In Matty Kosylo they have a fantastic winger, we saw that when his wonder-strike knocked us out of last season's FA Cup.
He is that type of player who can really make something happen from nowhere with his skills and trickery. Our defence, I'm sure, will have a very difficult time, as they always seem to do. In addition to this is powerful forward Tom Denton who one might describe as the typical non-league target man; he's tall, strong but can also finish.
He's one of the main reasons why Halifax are now seen as a very physical team. We'll certainly be in for a battle at The Shay and the Shaymen will be desperate for points. Like the Daggers they are in poor form and Tuesday's narrow defeat to an improving Orient side saw Billy Heath sacked as manager. Personally I see this as quite harsh, they're not in immediate danger of relegation and Heath masterminded their promotion last year, but it shows that they have much larger ambitions than 19th in the National League, which is very respectable.
Should a new manager be appointed by 3pm on Saturday then they'll be out to impress, and will be confident ahead of the fixture given our poor form and various problems. We've had a poor start to 2018 but a win here could really kickstart an upturn in form. Hopefully as many supporters can turn up in Yorkshire, the team need it more than ever right now.
So two out-of form teams meet at the MBI Shay Stadium in a meeting between two weak defences. All is set for an entertaining fixture, but events in the week mean that this game doesn't seem as important as it should. Some fans want John Still out, but right now as I've said, we need to get behind the team as much as we can.
Transfer Deadline Day often turns out to be one of the most disappointing days in the football calendar. Much is expected and the prospect of eye-opening signings joining for ridiculous fees is one which not only captivates a football fan, but often leaves them glued to their TV in anticipation of something which ultimately very rarely happens. Yet despite the fact that it underwhelms year after year, Transfer Deadline Day remains as entertaining as it is unpredictable.
Yet, amongst the hype of Aubameyang to Arsenal, Giroud to Chelsea, Moura to Spurs and alike, there was a lesser-covered deal which is one of the strangest. Just minutes before the 11pm deadline, it was announced that Joe White had left the Daggers to join League 2 outfit Stevenage. It was the only deal in an uneventful Deadline Day for Daggers which centred more around Glyn Hopkin's potential exit than any incomings or outgoings.
When, at the eleventh hour, a notification saying 'Transfer' in big bold letters came up on my Twitter, I feared the worst. There had been apparent interest for a number of our players across the entire window, with Hartlepool manager Craig Harrison saying that he knows for a fact a couple of Championship clubs were looking at 'two or three' of our players.
Therefore, it seemed inevitable that one of our big players would be making an exit. Apparent interest for Okenabirhie and Ferrier aside, it seemed as if Corey Whitely was poised to leave the club amidst interest from Gillingham, Bristol Rovers and potentially Peterborough (unconfirmed). Even one of his teammates admitted personally that he expected Whitely to leave.
Therefore, to keep Whitely was pleasing, although he's been largely ineffective for months now as his four-month goal drought drags on. However, if we can get him playing to those standards again, it could be key to reigniting our season. Whitely is a confidence player, just one goal could get him firing on all cylinders again, which we desperately need.
You have to wonder if this was the bid John Still mentioned in his Solihull Moors post-match interview, where he wouldn't reveal any details. It's good that Dagenham are showing a bit of ambition and rejecting offers to show that we're no pushovers. Any bid has to be right and, although by our own admission we supposedly don't stand in a player's way, that doesn't mean we'll be weak to the demands of players.
However, this argument of us showing ambition was quickly dispelled by the Joe White transfer. The fee was rumoured to be either 3k or 15k. It is understandable that Stevenage would only be willing to pay a small fee for a risky, unproven player, but for us to sell a potential future star is really disappointing. When he signed a new three year contract only in August, we thought it was the future. After the setback of our academy closing, players such as himself and Tyrique Hyde would hopefully have been the fresh blood of Dagenham.
But obviously not. Joe White leaves with a rather incredible record: 1 start, 1 goal. His goal came against Gateshead in September and shows that what he currently lacks in strength and experience, he makes up with good positional sense and an eye for goal, which he backed up in his recent loan spell at Hendon. It's not like he would be the next Dwight Gayle in a long line of players whose rise we've contributed to, but he certainly has the potential to have a very good career, so it feels like we've been a little bit robbed.
When he made his only start, against Gateshead, it was because he'd earned it. He had the determination and desire which this club prides itself on. That 'Daggers' mentality that can't really be taught, you either have the passion or you don't. It will probably be a while before he's ready to make appearances for Stevenage but, playing alongside a better calibre of players, he'll learn well.
And so all that's left to do is wish him well for the future. The huge potential we've lost is Stevenage's gain, and I really hope he does well for them. Hopefully for us it won't prove to be a case of 'look at what you could've had'.
The Daggers head to Halifax Town on Saturday in their latest Vanarama National League fixture.
I am Joel Page, Dagenham & Redbridge FC fan. Here I will share some of my experiences.