New Ware FC boss Anwar Uddin has thrown his support behind his former Dagenham and Redbridge manager John Still as the Daggers reach a crucial part of their Vanarama National League promotion push.
Uddin, a former Daggers captain, won promotion with the club just two years ago and believes that Still possesses the qualities required to see his side leapfrog their three main contenders for promotion and secure a Football League return at the first time of asking.
The Daggers sit in fourth position in the National League table after Saturday’s comprehensive 4-0 win at relegation-threatened North Ferriby United.
However, they sit only three points behind leaders Lincoln City.
With Tranmere Rovers and Forest Green Rovers thrown into the mix, Uddin believes that it is going to be one of the most keenly contested title races for many a year in non-league’s top tier.
He said “It is definitely turning into a very interesting title race and any of the four clubs could go up and do well in the Football League.
“I predicted Dagenham and Redbridge would do well in pre-season and that raised some eyebrows, which to be honest surprised me a little.
“There are scoring plenty of goals, defensively they are doing well but they have to carry it on.
“We are now approaching a critical point in the season and if a club goes on a good run now it can change everything.
“There is no reason why that club can’t be Dagenham and Redbridge”.
Uddin can give one major reason why the Daggers are in with a chance, and that is his former manager Still.
The former West Ham defender played under Still when he lead the club into the Football League in 2007 and then they secured a historic promotion into League One in 2010 with a play-off final win over Rotherham United.
In their time together Uddin saw enough in his former manager to suggest that he can land a third promotion with the club, not that he will be thinking that far ahead from the Daggers dugout.
“There will be nothing to surprise John in this run-in” said Uddin.
“He will love the challenge and he will be looking forward to what is coming.
“He has a slightly inexperienced squad but they do have older heads coming back from injury and that will help.
“But John will only think one game at a time, he won’t be considering a play-off push or title challenge.
“He will solely focus on winning the next game and seeing what the best way to do that is. He will analyse who are the best players to face the opposition, who the opposing players that will threaten his side. He will take his time to get it right.
“He is meticulous and he knows the league and the players inside-out.
“His attitude, his calmness will transmit itself on to his players. He can take them where they need to go.
“He will be composed, he will say the right things and he will get things right psychologically”.
One of the success stories of the season so far for Still and his side has been the form of striker Oliver Hawkins.
The twenty four year old has sixteen league goals to his name this season and that has attracted Football League interest.
Championship giants Brighton and Hove Albion, Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town have all been monitoring the progress of the former Hemel Hempstead Town player, with a rumoured price tag of £250,000 being mentioned in the media.
Hawkins has plenty of admirers, including former Daggers favourite Uddin and he admitted that, as a former defender, he doesn’t envy the task that National League defenders have keeping Hawkins quiet.
“He’s a nuisance, he makes defenders think and defenders don’t want to think, they just want to defend.
“He is uncomprimising and to be honest I am surprised he hasn’t gone yet.
“It’s not a surprise people are looking at him because he defintely has the ability to go higher.
“They have a massive job on their hands to keep hold of him.
“But the manager will be prepared if that does happen. When we won promotion we lost Craig Mickael-Smith and Shane Blackett.
“People thought we would drop away but we didn’t. John had plans in place, he kept his head and we got up”.
If Still’s current crop of Daggers stars are to follow the Class of 2007, then Uddin believes that Lincoln City are the team to beat.
Danny Cowley’s side currently sit two points clear at the top of the National League table and hold games in hand over their three rivals.
The Imps have impressed Uddin so far this season and he makes them favourites to win the title.
“Of the four sides Lincoln City have really impressed me.
“They are top at the moment, they have those games in hand and that could be crucial.
“Everything can change, we know it can because we see it every year. Teams lose form, there are shock defeats, refereeing decisions go against teams. Anything can happen.
“It can change but being top is a big help. The pressure is on those below you to get results to catch you and that is why I think Lincoln are favourites”
Although Uddin has one eye on the National League title race he is focusing on his new role at Ryman League First Division North club Ware.
Uddin, a former Sporting Bengal manager, took over from Ken Charlery in the Ware dugout last week and was thrown straight in at the deep end.
In his words “it’s been a crazy start to the new year”.
“It all happened so quickly to be honest. I got the call on Tuesday, had a training session to prepare and then my first game on the Saturday.
“It was the perfect start with a win, a clean sheet and a good performance at Great Wakering Rovers.
“But we can’t rest on that, it’s a massive challenge.
“We are where we are for a reason and the hard work is only just beginning.
“Things need to be changed and we will do that.
“But I couldn’t be happier to be back”.
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Reuters Media (Action Images)