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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 April 2007, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Daggers delight at promotion prize
By Chris Bevan

Dagenham and Redbridge

After a lifetime trying to get Dagenham and Redbridge into the Football League, chairman Dave Andrews has finally fulfilled his dream.

The Daggers' 2-1 win over Aldershot on Saturday confirmed them as Nationwide Conference champions and ensured they will be playing in League Two for the first time next season.

Andrews told BBC Sport: "We have had some highs and lows before - but this is the highest of the lot.

"I have been attached to the club since I was 14 and I have been chairman for 35 years so this means a tremendous amount.

"Everyone here has been on tenterhooks for the last few weeks just waiting for this moment.

"It has not been enjoyable - wanting to win so much is not really healthy. Obviously you always want to win games but when you are so desperate it is not really that enjoyable.

"But now we are up, we have been going potty - and we will have a little party when we get the trophy on the final day of the season too."

We don't have any fears about going up. The Conference is a fantastic league and the worst that could happen is that we come straight back down

Dagenham chairman Dave Andrews

Their achievement was also greeted with pride and elation by Barking and Dagenham Council.

Council Leader Charles Fairbrass said: "This team's achievement cannot be underestimated. Their efforts been the talk of the town for months now, and now that it has finally happened there is a certain disbelief.

"The team has brought a new sense of pride to the borough, and on behalf of The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham I sincerely congratulate John still and his wonderful players."

Dagenham and Redbridge have only existed since 1992 - but they can trace their origins back to four of the most famous amateur clubs to come out of east London and Essex - Ilford, Leytonstone, Walthamstow Avenue and Dagenham FC.

Ilford and Leytonstone merged in 1979 and then joined forces with Avenue in 1988 to become Redbridge Forest.

When Forest won promotion to the Conference in 1991 they moved into Dagenham FC's Victoria Road ground - and the final merger took place a year later.

Between them, the club's forebears were not exactly short of success at amateur level - they won the FA Trophy once, the FA Amateur Cup seven times and the Isthmian League on 20 occasions.

Andrews, a former England amateur international wing-half who began his career with Avenue, played his part in some of those glories - helping Leytonstone win the FA Amateur Cup in 1968 - before joining the club's board.

But under the mantle of Dagenham and Redbridge things have not always been plain sailing.

Current manager John Still guided them to third-place in the Conference in their first season in 1993 before leaving for Peterborough.

And a swift decline in fortunes led to the Daggers being relegated to the Ryman League in 1996, which resulted in a four-year absence from the Conference, with only a losing appearance in the 1997 FA Trophy final to lighten the gloom.

Veteran manager Ted Hardy steadied the ship before Garry Hill led the club back into the Conference in 2000 and to a third-place finish in 2001.

Then came a double heartbreak from which the club have only just recovered.

In 2002 they lost out on promotion to the Football League on goal difference to Boston, who were later found guilty of improper payments to players - but who were deducted points from the following season instead.

Dagenham & Redbridge manager John Still
John has done a fantastic job. He did not have the greatest of budgets for this campaign because we insisted that we did not get in debt

Dave Andrews

Then in 2003 the Daggers finished fifth in the Conference and lost out to Doncaster in the play-off final on a golden goal, the only year that way of deciding a winner was used.

"We were so unfortunate," added Andrews. "That is why we were determined to make it this time.

"The Boston saga is gone now. It was not so much what Boston did that rankled as the decision to deduct the three points off them in the league above.

"But that is dead and buried. The perfect way to put it to bed was by going up ourselves."

That promotion is now in the bag, although Andrews is the first to admit that going up was the last thing on the cards for Dagenham at the start of the season - not that he is complaining.

"None of us expected to be here," he stated.

"John has done a fantastic job. He did not have the greatest of budgets for this campaign because we insisted that we did not get in debt.


"We were realistically thinking we could finish halfway - there was no conscious decision that this is our year, let's give it a bash.

"But we just got on a roll and kept rolling.

"When you think that at one stage Oxford were eight points ahead of us, for us to be so far clear is a fantastic achievement."

The promotion party is in full swing at Victoria Road - but the planning for next season has been going on for months.

And Andrews is confident the club are ready for the challenge of the step up to League football.

"We can't wait. We will have a go, that is for sure," he said.

"We will give John all the backing we can but we won't put the club in jeopardy.

"But we don't have any fears about going up. The Conference is a fantastic league and the worst that could happen is that we come straight back down."

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