DAGENHAM and Redbridge captain Mark Arber has backed his side to make the grade in League I next season.
The Daggers, who were playing non-league football only three years ago, beat Rotherham 3-2 in an enthralling League II play-off final to earn their place in the third tier and set up encounters against the likes of Town, Sheffield Wednesday, Charlton and Southampton next term.
It is a meteoric rise for the small East London club, whose average gate is just over 2,000.
But Arber has risen through the leagues with the Daggers and firmly believes they can hold their own next season – even though they suffered a 6-1 setback in their FA Cup first-round clash with Town at the Galpharm this season..
“It’s the biggest level this club has ever played at in its history,” said Arber.
“But I’m sure we’ll be strong. People won’t like coming to play us next year, it’s a tight ground (Victoria Road, with a capacity of 6,000) and we play at a high tempo.
“People won’t look at Dagenham and think ‘that’s an easy game’. We give teams a tough time.
“We are going in the right direction. Hopefully we can sustain it next season. It’s fantastic for this football club and I will cherish it for the rest of my life.”
Veteran goalkeeper Tony Roberts, who is now 40 and played for QPR in the Premier League more than a decade ago, was keen to praise manager John Still for masterminding Dagenham’s quick rise through the leagues.
“You can only applaud the man. He has brought the players in and we have done the business,” said Roberts.
“There’s a lot of teams who would be envious of us.
“We’ve deserved it over the course of the season.”
Rotherham manager Ronnie Moore is likely to overhaul his squad in the summer after the Millers were condemned to a fourth season in the basement league.
Moore, who returned to the South Yorkshire club for a second stint in charge last September after Mark Robins left for Barnsley, was unable to guide his side into League I despite being pre-season promotion favourites after a summer of spending.
And the Liverpudlian in keen to make his own mark on the squad with the exit of several players looking likely.
“We have 12 players out of contract so maybe it’s time to build a new team,” said Moore.
“I have got too many players really and I want to get down to a squad of about 18 professionals, but it is quality not quantity.
“Some of the players I had lined up won’t be coming now, that is for sure. So I will be busy over the next few weeks.”
Despite the expected turnaround, one man that Moore will be desperate to keep is star striker Adam Le Fondre.
The 23-year-old marksman plundered 30 goals for the Millers this season and almost single-handedly kept them in the promotion frame.
Whilst he had a quiet afternoon at Wembley, there is likely to be strong interest in Le Fondre, with Preston, Barnsley and Derby all rumoured to be keeping tabs on the striker.
But Moore insists the club has had no firm offers for Le Fondre and he is keen for it to stay that way.
“We’ve never had an offer. Nobody’s rung me which is strange when you consider he has scored 30 goals,” said Moore.
“But I will not be upset if that continues.
“The ball didn’t fall his way but he is 23 years old and he has all the pressure of scoring goals for this club.”