A Supporter's perspective
This is no ordinary summer. At this time of year, we'd typically be commencing our annual tour of the Essex non-league scene, contesting warm-up friendlies in scintillating heat to whet the appetite for the eagerly-awaited start of the season that would follow in just over three weeks' time.
Yet we're still embroiled in a frustrating hiatus from National League football, somewhat eased by the promising recent developments that increase the probability of a September restart, albeit with inevitable restrictions which will make the experience very different to how it was in the pre-Covid era. Now there is a degree of confidence that 2020/21 will commence at some point, though, attention can finally turn to on-pitch matters as we aim to put successive lower mid-table finishes behind us.
A promising start under new manager Daryl McMahon meant a brighter future has emerged from the ashes of Peter Taylor's largely ill-fated stint at Victoria Road. He inherited a squad of players whose fitness and quality had justifiably been questioned by a proportion of the fanbase, but managed to oversee an improvement in form as we pulled clear of the relegation zone. Now, he has the chance to build his own team, discarding the dead wood and introducing some better players in their place. The question is: which areas of the pitch are most in need of strengthening? And how, if at all given the current situation, can we do that?
A man who knows where the net is
We lost Conor Wilkinson over a year ago, and it's astounding that we're yet to replace him with somebody even half as good. As a direct consequence of this, we had an alarming absence of quality in the final third last season, our lack of a competent goalscorer as painfully evident as it was bitterly frustrating.
Barrow had Scott Quigley, Orient had Macauley Bonne, Macclesfield had Scott Wilson. History tells you that success at this level requires a decent frontman who will contribute at least fifteen goals across the course of the campaign. As good as the rest of the squad could be, we don't have a chance of doing well unless we find that elusive man.
Alex Reid and Ben House have been referenced often but, although they both bolstered our attacking options in different ways, can anybody genuinely say they can envisage either of them becoming the prolific striker as outlined above? We can't take chances or risks, we need to be ruthless and only lay our hopes on somebody with whom there is little doubt.
A winger...with end product
The arrival of Myles Weston a month before the campaign was curtailed indicates that he'll be McMahon's first choice on the right, his appeal boosted by the fact he can play both as an out-and-out winger but also as a wing-back. This versatility means he can be deployed in several different formations.
Our options on the other flank, however, are less concrete. Another season rotating between Bagasan Graham and Joan Luque is simply unfeasible. Though Luque was capable of very good performances on his day, these were simply too infrequent and we need to be on the look-out for a winger who can produce consistently.
As well as a striker who has a decent knack of finding the net, most sides who do well at this level also have a winger who chips in with between ten and twelve a season. Again, though, these aren't easy to unearth, and aren't easy to prize from another team's grasp without paying big. We're not asking for another Maguire-Drew or Okenabirhie, but a winger who can do a job is a must.
A decent understudy to Justham
I don't underestimate the task of finding a keeper good enough to take the reins if needed, yet not so good that they will be demanding regular first-team football. Either way, though, we need to get another reserve goalkeeper through the door, or I fear for us should Elliot Justham ever get injured.
I haven't seen too much of Josh Strizovic, and yet I've still seen too much. A friendly against Hornchurch nearly a year ago, where he was easily rounded for their first goal then punched the ball directly into the back of the scorer's back for the second. That could be dismissed as a one-off had he not done similar things in several other games. He may be ready in time, but not yet.
Similarly, I didn't see too much of Lewis Moore, besides the odd Essex Senior Cup game and an FA Trophy game away at Ebbsfleet. He did keep a clean sheet against the Fleet though and overall was really impressive, especially for someone with limited game time under his belt.
If you look at the other teams in our division, I doubt you'll find a disparity in the quality of their keepers as broad as ours is. That needs to be addressed. It's a far cry from our first year back at this level, when we had Justham and Cousins, who were both good enough to start in their own right.
Preferably one who can defend set-pieces if that's not too much to ask. McMahon has been able to get more out of the backline than PT, ironic given that Taylor was the one whose game plan was based around defending, but is it good enough for a team aiming to finish in the play-offs?
Some of the goals we conceded last season were comedic to say the least, enough to draw laughter from even our own supporters. Wrexham's goal against us in October, Maidenhead's winner against us in December, Ebbsfleet's opener against us in January, Fylde's second goal in a 3-0 defeat in November. Unfortunately, I can go on. And those are only the worst of the worst.
Luke Croll is a very good defender, Onariase rarely has a bad game. Both, however, are currently out of contract. While Kenny Clark improved under McMahon, a lot of his performances last season were disappointing and that leaves a lot of questions. Another centre-half could do us a lot of good.
I am Joel Page, an avid Dagger who travels across the country watching the club. Over the last few years, I've absorbed the turbulent rollercoaster ride that comes with supporting the Daggers and have seen us both at our highest and our lowest. From 'that' day at Wembley to watching us suffer a devastating drop into non-league, it's all a part of the journey.