Former Daggers player warns next season's league will be even tougher
PUBLISHED: 12:00 21 May 2019
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Essex club hoping to challenge for promotion next term to end four-year exile from EFL
A former Dagenham & Redbridge player has warned his old club that next season's Vanarama National League will be even tougher.
After finishing a tumultuous campaign in 18th place, Daggers are hoping to challenge for promotion next term.
The make-up of next season's league, though, looks even more difficult with Notts County and Yeovil Town having been relegated from the EFL, while Stockport County have come up from the National League North.
Wrexham and Fylde will look to challenge again after missing out in last season's play-off, while Chesterfield and Barnet will bid to improve on mid-table finishes last term.
All those sides listed will be looking to emulate Leyton Orient, who lifted the title in April.
Former Daggers left-back Joe Widdowson was part of the O's squad that became champions last term and he is relieved his current club went up with next season's National League looking even stronger.
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"It's always a competitive league anyway and there are going to be some big clubs in their next season, like there was this season," said the 30-year-old.
"I'm happy we won't have to be battling it out in the National League again next season because it's so hard to get out of it with only one team going up automatically."
Widdowson was part of the Daggers squad that was relegated to the National League in 2016 and has spent the past three seasons in the fifth tier of English football.
The left-back's first season in non-league's top flight ended in the play-offs with the Essex club, while Orient finished 13th in the 2017-18 campaign.
This season, though, has seen Widdowson return to the EFL with the O's and the ex-Daggers man revealed what was different compared to the previous two terms.
"At the start of the season, there was a hunger and desire in the group and as a group, we've pushed each other all year," he added.
"There's been no let up and we've set a great standard. Every day in training with this group, we're at it and always had the target in mind of where we want to be and where we want to get to.
"We finished mid-table last season and knew that wasn't good enough, so from day one in pre-season this season, we knew what the objective was and how hard we'd have to work."