THE dAGGERS vOICE
With plans outlined for a young and inexperienced squad to fulfil next campaign, it was expected that the Daggers would have to part with their best players in order to raise much-needed cash. Having arrived in 'full knowledge of the situation', new manager Peter Taylor knew that the team he initially inherited certainly wouldn't be the one fighting relegation next term. Therefore, there was a sense of inevitability around the sale of Fejiri Okenabirhie and though that at least softens the blow, there's no disputing that the loss of Fejiri will leave a gaping hole in our side - it's an absence that won't go unnoticed.
With rapid pace, superb strength and a brilliant eye for goal, Okenabirhie established himself as one of the most sought-after figures in the National League last season, and arguably the most promising young player to feature at Victoria Road since a raw Jodi Jones burst onto the scene in 2015. However, particularly in the second half of last campaign when everything seemed to be collapsing around him, the performances of Okenabirhie offered a glimmer of happiness for the supporters in a time period which offered anything but as he played with a maturity way beyond his 22 years.
He scored nine league goals for the Daggers in a scintillating run of form which more than made up for an overwhelmingly quiet start to 2017/18, where he only bagged two. His talent had been evident from the moment he joined as part of John Still's post-relegation rebuild but it was only after a sustained run of games that he really began to hit his stride, and the fact that he was named England C Player of the Year is a testament to his qualities, owing mainly to a fantastic performance against Wales C in which he got a hat-trick.
Another reason he was able to do so well after the Winter period was that he had escaped the shadow of Morgan Ferrier, who previously had dominated the attack, and later Corey Whitely. Obviously these departures weren't ideal for the club but they enabled Okenabirhie to flourish as the main man. For that alone he merits his opportunity at a higher level and though it's a big step-up to League 1 Shrewsbury, he should make the step-up in an effortless fashion befitting of a player with his quality.
His new manager, John Askey, will know a lot about him having faced the Daggers twice with his title-winning Macclesfield outfit. In both games against the Silkmen, Fejiri put in decent displays which obviously impressed Askey, who described him as the best striker in the division upon his arrival at Greenhous Meadow. If he's given opportunity, vocal backing and perseverance then he should do really well, especially for a side who like to play forward-thinking attacking football.
He has the makings of a really successful Football League player. He's scored big goals, including a very-last minute penalty at home to Torquay, which shows that he has composure and isn't overawed by big moments. Like every good winger, he can run at players and often has players backtracking, but also possesses a good football brain which allows him to see the bigger picture and find teammates in good positions. He was a typical John Still signing.
However, like every non-league signing, he does carry a risk because he was disappointing in the earlier stages of the season, and as soon as he fails to perform in League One he'll be labelled as somewhat of a failure. He also nearly got himself sent off in our Play-Off first leg against Forest Green in 2016 but in all fairness he put in a very good performance that evening. It's very hard to predict how non-league players will take to a higher level - like Ricky Miller's catastrophic time at Peterborough - but it can also go very right and after all the Daggers have a very good reputation for players.
As for how we move forward, it's a huge shame to lose Okenabirhie but after seeing so many adored figures depart last season it's not surprising anymore. Just like Corey Whitely, there are several more players like Okenabirhie lurking in non-league and Peter Taylor will do his best to find them. Hopefully, Fejiri does really well at Shrewsbury and justifies the potential he carries with him.