Special Feature: Now Coyle Knows Darts Can't Miss The Target

Jamie Coyle knows things could have been different at Dartford this summer. Very different.

“It does go through your mind,” the joint-manager accepts. “It’s only natural that it does. Football sometimes makes you fear the worst.”

That’s because his team pressed the self-destruct button at exactly the wrong moment.

Sailing into the National League South play-offs with a month to go, eyes turned towards home advantage.

Then it unraveled. In spectacular style the wheels can off and hit bystanders as they came loose from the vehicle.

One win in their final eight games meant the club who had held a top seven spot for nearly all of the season missed out.

They chucked it away on the final day, even though at half-time at Oxford City they had shoehorned themselves in.

Few relative rookie managers, although Adam Flanagan had previously been in charge Concord Rangers while Coyle had time at Welling, survive such a collapse.

But that they did, and the backing couldn’t have meant any more.

“Within a few weeks the club have released a statement saying we were staying and that belief meant an incredible amount,” he said.

“When you aren’t involved in a club day-to-day you sometimes don’t get the full picture.

“The board and, I think the fans, respect that the injury situation we had to contend with was like nothing any of us have seen before.

“We were missing seven players for extended periods and that would test anyone. We don’t make excuses but we also can’t change facts. It was difficult.

“I think they respected the situation we were in and while clearly we were all gutted not to be involved in the play-offs, it was a little bit uncontrollable.

“What is great is that the board are in constant correspondence with us. We are invited to directors’ meetings. They allow us that privilege.

“They have put their faith in us and we’re determined to move this club forward and give everyone a season to remember.”

The fact they they have both worn the shirt helps, and has maybe bought a bit of time.

Members of the successful Dartford sides between 2007 and 2010, the new campaign is a clean slate.

It probably doesn’t help that they are following a legend. Tony Burman left last summer after 14 years but there was to be no David Moyes-style quick parting of the ways.

“We know we need to be better than last season,” Coyle said.

“We feel we are already in a lot stronger position than this time last year.

“It’s been a productive summer. We know where we needed to be stronger and hopefully we will be.”

He means up front. Dartford had one of the best defensive records in the league last season.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We didn’t score enough goals last season - a huge part of that was because we lost Andy Pugh in pre-season and he didn’t return until April.

“You would hope your main source of goals wouldn’t be out for nine months after doing the damage in a friendly but that’s the cards we were dealt.

“Our luck can’t be that bad again, touch wood, but we also need to make sure we’re creating more - it’s not only about the boys up front.”

One source of goals has sadly called it a day.

Captain Elliot Bradbrook retired at the end of last season, their inspiration leader for ten years bringing the curtain down on a career which has surely seen him leave a Darts legend.

“How do you replace someone like that?” Coyle said. “We can only try and we need players to step up.

“It’s a big league again. There are a lot of sides who will fancy their chances and some big signings being made.

“We maybe need a left-back and maybe - possibly - one more. But we feel we are in a good place and with a bit of luck we can make up for what happened in the final month of last season.”

Where next?

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