Martin Hayes' boys welcome Arsenal to Dover
Tomorrow night sees Arsenal come to town, here in Dover, for the first time since 1994. On that occasion Paul Davis had had one of his fall-outs with George Graham and was sent to Crabble with the Reserves on the same day that Tony Adams had his testimonial against Crystal Palace at Highbury. Some people in the town seem to have convinced themselves that Cesc Fabregas may be on the end of a similar punishment tomorrow - I think not.
The Arsenal team has been affected over the past few days by the departure of a few players. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas has been sold to Ipswich, Rhys Murphy is on trial at Glasgow Rangers and Samuel Galindo has today been loaned to Gimnastic in Spain. I was particularly looking forward to seeing Galindo and getting some idea of whether he might have the necessary ability. The fact that he is being loaned outside of the Primera Liga again probably answers that question for me. Goalkeeper James Shea has also been loaned out for experience, his destination being Dagenham and Redbridge where he is set to replace his own coach Tony Roberts (who may well be named among the Arsenal subs tomorrow).
So who will be playing for Arsenal? With Shea gone it is likely that Reice Charles-Cook will be in goal again (Damien Martinez is still not available following his involvement not only with his national age-group team, but with the full Argentina squad). Henri Lansbury seems likely to play at Crabble as he continues to try and catch the eye of Arsene Wenger, and Kyle Bartley should lead the side following his own-goal against New York Red Buls. Sanchez Watt, fresh from his loan spell at Leeds (and a hat-trick last week at Borehamwood) will appear in the front line, possibly with Benik Afobe (who played in the first-team against New York on Sunday) and former Gillingham man Luke Freeman. Reserve Team Captain Ignasi Miquel played for Spain U19 as they won the European Championship on Sunday so he is now on holiday. The rest of the squad will be made up of scholars from the Youth Academy, including Chuks Aneke who looks a real prospect.
Dover Athletic have undergone major changes on the playing side since last season. They have lost their 40-goal striker, former Arsenal youth Adam Birchall, who will be very difficult to replace. Various new signings will be on show for Athletic tomorrow, who come in to the game after a 12-1 win against Ostende on Saturday. I must admit to knowing very little about the new players as, despite living here all my life, I have seriously little interest in the town Club.
I do know, however, that Dover Manager Martin Hayes faces a big season this year. The former Arsenal top-scorer (1986-87) took charge last Summer and led the team to the third-round of the FA Cup, but some pretty bizarre team selections at the back end of the campaign saw Athletic miss out on the play-off places for the Conference. The knives have been out for Hayes in some quarters and a bad start to the League season would see him under real pressure. I think all local Arsenal fans should make the most of the opportunity to see the side as Hayes' departure from Dover could easily make it another 17 years before they return. At £12 for adults it's an expensive evening when you consider it is free to watch Arsenal Reserves play at Barnet in the season (even more so when you know that Arsenal are not taking a fee from Dover) but it will be entertaining stuff. The Reserves will play their football with pace and style, on a good pitch. It should be fun for us local Gooners.