Dover delighted with Dryden capture
|James Dryden has today signed for his home town club Dover
Athletic, writes Justin Allen - www.doverathletic.com
The Folkestone Invicta goalscoring machine, a real hero on the terraces of Cheriton Road, moves to Crabble with Walid Matata going in the opposite direction.
James, 25, has been a long-term target of Whites boss Clive Walker and a deal was struck this week when Invicta came in for promising striker Matata, a fans' favourite at Crabble.
Although it is a wrench to lose Matata, who Walker rates as a promising prospect, James' goals are seen as vital in helping get Whites out of Ryman One - and play a part in shooting the club out of the Premier next season.
Chairman Jim Parmenter said: "We've always said we wanted to bring good players to Crabble, players that are hungry to succeed for Dover Athletic. Players that have that desire to win matches.
"James is first-class and has been scoring goals for fun at Folkestone. He's a Dover lad and wanted to come here.
"Folkestone boss Neil Cugley wanted Walid - and we were reluctant to let him go. But we see this as a good deal for both clubs. We both lose good players but gain someone who will improve the side."
James has known about his departure from Cheriton Road all this week and was determined to turn out for Invicta in an away match against Wealdstone last night.
In what was an emotional last match, he duly signed off his six-year first-team Invicta career with two goals that helped his side win 2-1.
Jim added: "That sums up James' attitude. He knew it may be his last game at Folkestone, yet was professional and scored a couple of goals.
"We're hoping for more of the same here and sure that will happen."
He is already among the leading scorers in the Premier Division this season - having netted 19 goals in all competitions.
James progressed into Invicta's first team squad from the reserves and made his full Southern League debut at Burnham during December 1999.
He was Supporters' Player of the Year last season with 24 goals in all competitions, an award he also won in 2001-02 when he finished as the club's top goalscorer.
James once completely turned a youth team game around with a hat-trick in the last five minutes against a Furness youth side managed by former Gillingham boss Andy Hessenthaler.
He also broke the club's senior appearance record when he made his 224th start in Invicta's home game against Hampton and Richmond during January and broke the club's all-time senior goalscoring record with his 89th goal at the Easter local derby at Dover - a match Invicta won 1-0.
James will make his debut for Whites, team selection permitted, at Whyteleafe next Saturday.
Delighted Whites boss Clive Walker said: "I've been after James for years. He's a player I wanted to bring here when we were in the Dr Martens Premier. He was someone I thought good enough to help get us back into the Conference a few years ago.
"Unfortunately, he wasn't available at that time and was going to be too expensive.
"James will always score goals. He gets on the end of things and can play at a much higher level than this. So he is someone we believe will help us get back up these leagues."
James is sorry to be leaving Folkestone - a club which has helped him develop into a proven goalscorer.
He used to play for the Dover youth section before moving to Cheriton Road - and always thought he would return one day to Crabble.
The striker said: "A lot has changed since I left Dover. I am so grateful to Folkestone and their fans. It's been a wonderful time there and I'd like to thank manager Neil Cugley for all his help in making me the player I am today.
"But I needed a new challenge. Dover are a big club, one which shouldn't be playing at Ryman One level. We really should be in the Conference or Conference South, with the gates we get at Crabble.
"I see Dover as a step forward in my career because the ambition is there to get back up to the level they should be at.
"But I'll always have fond memories of my time at Cheriton Road and I'm going to write to all my friends there to thank them all."
Folkestone's players did not know that James was playing his last game last night.
He said: "I hope they understand why I didn't tell them. It's because I didn't want to distract them from beating Wealdstone.
"I am definitely going back there to say goodbye properly.
"Now I am a Dover player and can't wait for the new challenge to start. I am a Dover lad, this is my home town club and I always wanted to play for them. I'm now here and want to score loads of goals in what hopefully will be a very successful time for Dover Athletic.
"I've had lots of offers from other clubs but Dover was always my No 1 choice."
DEAL: James Dryden (left) shakes hands with Whites chairman Jim Parmenter after signing from Folkestone Invicta on Saturday