11 Jun 2021 by John Edwards

What's your main strength? I asked. Scoring goals, came the reply, quick as a flash. That was it - I knew we had our man


*Marksman Marcus .. Phil Parkinson welcomes new signing Marcus Dinanga to The J.Davidson Stadium. Picture by Michael Ripley.

Phil Parkinson admits it has been 'a painstaking journey' finding a new number nine, but he is convinced it will have been worth the wait, once Altrincham fans catch sight of new signing Marcus Dinanga in action.

We brought you an Alty TV interview with Marcus, here on the club's website yesterday, alongside the announcement that he had joined us from League Two Stevenage.

Press and media officer John Edwards also conducted audio interviews with Phil and Marcus, and they are reproduced in full here, starting with the boss.

Phil Parkinson

Q: Brad Jackson looks a great signing, Phil, but all eyes have been on the search for a striker. Are you pleased with the outcome?
A: We have been working really hard right through the season to identify the right person, and the difficulty we have is the financial restrictions we face in comparison to other clubs, which everyone knows about. We have to work within our means, and we have got to get value for money, but we also want players who are coachable, who want to improve, who suit our system, suit our style of play and suit our changing room. So, there were a number of boxes that needed ticking. I know we got through a number of players last season, but it was very much trial and error - who can come in and do us a job or potentially be someone for next season? But I really feel we have found our man in Marcus. We have done due diligence. He has got bags of potential, and the most important thing for me when I speak to a striker is when I ask them what their main strength is. The first thing Marcus said to me was ‘scoring goals’. You don’t always get that answer, funnily enough. They hold the ball up well or hold the line, but the answer from Marcus was he scores goals, and I think everyone knows that is something we are desperate for in that number nine position.
Q: When did he come on your radar, exactly?
A: He has been on my radar for years. He was at Burton Albion and went on loan to Matlock, where he made a bit of a name for himself and scored a lot of goals, so I think he was on everyone’s radar at that point. At Telford, he didn’t start the season, but then he came on against us and scored and really kicked on from there. He scored something like 13 goals when he actually played, so when he is playing, he has an excellent goal ratio. That is not always easy to find, but we have got him here, and I would like to think, if we can get him up and running and in tune with the wingers we have here, and our style of play, he will score goals for Altrincham. I don’t think he is one of those who is going to contribute loads and loads in terms of build-up. He can do that, but the thing for me is that he really comes alive inside the box. He makes great runs and is a clinical finisher.
Q: Would he be comfortable playing the lone striker role?
A: Absolutely. That is our system, and it is certainly something we identified in him that he can play that role. Getting involved in all the build-up play isn’t going to be his biggest attribute. His biggest attribute is when the ball is in the box, getting on the end of things, taking chances and not needing two or three attempts to score a goal. From what I have seen of him, he has a goal ratio of a player who knows how to finish. That is something we were desperate for all last season.
Q: Saying that scoring goals is his main strength suggests he doesn’t lack confidence?
A: He is a confident lad. He wasn’t being cocky when he said that. He was just saying truthfully what his strength is, and that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. That is impressive in itself. I think he’s a bit of a character as well. He may come across as a bit shy and unassuming when you first meet him, but from what I’ve been told around Stevenage and Telford, he likes a laugh and a joke in the changing room. That is important, because we have a really vibrant changing room with big personalities. To go in there and carry the weight of leading the line for Altrincham, you need to be a big personality yourself, and Marcus seems to have that about him. Don’t be deceived by that first impression of being a bit shy - he certainly isn’t.
Q: He seems to have a wide variety of finishing skills in his repertoire, doesn’t he?
A: He has got a lot to offer, and the confidence and self-belief are certainly there. He just needs someone to believe in him, which I certainly do. He will be given the opportunity here to shine, and hopefully he can hit the same heights, or maybe even beyond, as other recent signings, like Joel Senior and Alistair Smith, who we did the same with. People didn’t want to give them a chance, but we did, and they have gone from strength to strength. At 23, Marcus has bags of experience as well as bags of potential. It’s not like we are bringing in a greenhorn. He has scored goals at a level below us and been signed by a club a level above, and he is someone we know really well. It has been a painstaking journey, I know, trying different players last season, but if we have got this one right, he is going to serve us well. I would like to think this one will hit the ground running and last the duration of next season and beyond.
Q: He has had a taste of the Football League and wants to get back there - is that an indication of where the club are heading?
A: That is another box we want to tick. We want to be bringing players in who are looking to keep going up and not just be satisfied with playing here. What you will probably find is that players we are recruiting probably will go again, because, whether we like it or not, and I touched on resources earlier, we are a club who are going to help people to progress, ideally with us but quite possibly without us, if we don’t progress quickly enough. So, we have to keep finding these little gems and turning them into League players, because we don’t have the resources to keep them here long term, like a Stockport or a Chesterfield. But what we can do is improve them, progress them and help them move on. But one of the reasons I signed long term is because I want the club to progress as well, and these good young players we are bringing in can help us do that, as well as helping themselves.

Marcus Dinanga

Q: Welcome to The J.Davidson Stadium, Marcus - how does it feel to be an Altrincham player?
A: I’m really happy to have got it over the line. The gaffer and I spoke last summer (before signing for Stevenage), and it’s a shame we couldn’t get it sorted.I was a free agent at the time, and I was keen to come here, but it didn’t work out that way. I’m happy to get it done now - it feels like this is the right time.
Q: Did you manage to see much of Alty last season, on our return to the Vanarama National League?
A: Yes, I did. Once I heard the gaffer was interested again, I started taking notice of how the team were doing. I looked out for the results and watched highlights of quite a few games. I actually came to the last-but-one home game against Eastleigh, and it just confirmed what I thought about you guys - you play a style of football I like and that suits my game. You move the ball very quickly and to feet, and I like that.
Q: You had a couple of fantastic seasons at AFC Telford United, finishing as top scorer each time, and you made a point of saying how much you thrived on the service from wingers Ryan Barnett and Brendon Daniels. So, how important is it to you that Alty have real quality on both flanks?
A: When the gaffer told me about the team, he said we have got players who are going to put the ball where you want it, and that got me a bit excited, I must say. As a striker, you need the service from different types of wingers, and I love to hear that. When I came to the Eastleigh game, it was obvious there are so many players who can create and make things happen, and that has to be good for me. I can’t wait to get started. I’m sure I will benefit from the wide players Alty have. If they put the ball in the box, I’m going to be there to finish it off. If they lay on chances, there are going to be goals. I’m here to do that.
Q: You don’t lack confidence in your own ability, then?
A: I always back myself. Always. That may come across as cocky, but I don’t see myself as cocky. There is a difference. I back myself all the time, whether it’s the second minute of a game or the last. I always want to make things happen, and I always back myself to do it.
Q: Strikers can make a name for themselves in many different ways, can’t they? Some have a knack of being in the right place at the right time, others rely on pace and power and there are those who are strong in the air. You seem to score all kinds of goals, don’t you?
A: Yeah, I’d say so. I consider myself an all-round striker. I try to do everything. I have my weaknesses, which I’m not going to tell you about, but I feel I can do all sorts. If I see a chance or get a sight of goal, I’m going to stick it away, whether it’s from close range or distance.
Q: Do you feel you can work on those weaknesses and iron them out here?
A: When I spoke to the gaffer, he said he was going to try to improve me and work on things I could do better, and that was a good discussion to have. I believe he is going to help me in that way, and that is another reason why I’m here. I’m really focused about that. If I did not believe he was a manager who would help me move forward as a player, I would not have signed for him. So, signing for this club now shows how much belief I have in him.
Q: You’re only 23, so presumably you still have a lot to aim for in your career?
A: I wouldn’t say I’m young any more. I don’t see myself as still being a young player. In a way, I’m in a rush to achieve my aims. I need to get to where I want to be, and I’m confident I can help the team out along the way.
Q: Does the fact you’ve had a taste of League football with Stevenage provide a clue as to what your aims are?
A: Yeah, for sure. The target has to be to get back to where I feel I belong, and the gaffer is going to help make that happen. I have a good feeling about that.
Q: You’ve seen the new pitch that’s being laid, and there’s much more going on behind the scenes as well to take the club forward - did that play a part in convincing you were making the right move?
A: For a long time now, I’ve felt this is a club going in the right direction. Whenever I’ve noticed Altrincham under the gaffer, going back to the Evo-Stik and National League North, they have always come across as a team who want to play good football. So to see the club investing heavily to provide the best possible playing surface to play on every week says everything, really. It’s fantastic, and I want to be part of this team and part of the journey.
Q: You do realise, don’t you, that your position has been something of a poisoned chalice for a succession of players who have tried to fill it since Jordan Hulme left at the start of last season?
A: I don’t feel under any pressure, if that’s what you mean. I don’t see it as trying to replace someone who went before. I’m just here to do my job and do what I can do. I don’t like to compare myself to other strikers. I’m here to get the job done that the gaffer has brought me in to do.
Q: How would you describe your strengths? The words ‘pace’ and ‘strong’ seem to crop up quite often when reading about you online.
A: I’m known mainly for being pacey and having an eye for goal, I guess. I’m good at one-on-ones as well and just try to contribute as much as I can.
Q: You take penalties as well, don’t you?
A: I’m here to take everything! Anything that involves goals, I want to be responsible for. Penalties, free-kicks, you name it. I’m up for taking penalties, for sure. I was the penalty-taker at Telford and I never missed. I had a 100 per cent record. I know Josh Hancock takes them for Alty and has a great record, but I think I might be having a word with him. We will have a word, see if we can sort something out.
Q: Josh is good from the spot, but we sometimes struggle when he’s not playing, as you may have noticed from the game at Chesterfield, when we missed a pen that would have made it 1-1?
A: Yes, I remember that after going on as sub early in the second half. But the thing I remember most is again being impressed with how the Alty team played. I said to my agent straight after the game ‘they play good football, don’t they?’ I’ve always admired the Alty way of playing, and going back further, I always said it was a tough game against Alty when I was at Telford. I remember the manager, in his team talk, always warned about pressing and said ‘they will just pass it through you.’ So I’m glad to be part of it now. I know I’m going to get chances, and, as a striker, that’s all I can ask for.
Q: Players of your height (around 5ft 9in) aren’t always renowned for being an aerial threat, but you win your share of headers, don’t you?
A: I have scored a few with my head, yes. I have won a fair few balls in the air, too, so I can play as a target man, if need be. Scoring headers in the box and being a handful and headache for defenders is all part of the game and something I can offer the team. That is one of the things the gaffer brought me in for.
Q: Have you set yourself a target for how many goals you want to score next season?
A: Yes I have, but I’m not telling you what it is. It’s for me only, but if I hit my target, we will be up there. We will have had a good season.
Q: We all dreamed of the play-offs for a tantalising moment or two last season after winning at Torquay and moving to within a point of second place. Would the ideal scenario be for you to achieve your ambitions in tandem with the club next season?
A: Exactly that. It would be ideal, and why not? If I can push the team on and we can get into League Two, it would be a massive achievement for all concerned. I am here to try to do that.
Q: You come across as a fairly quiet lad, but rumour has it you can be a bit on the lively side?
A: I’m definitely not quiet! You will notice if I’m not there, because I’ve usually got something to say. I get along with everyone most of the time. If you don’t like me, that’s probably your problem! Literally, I banter with everyone. It’s important we are all together as a team, so I hope everyone is going to get along with me. I’m sure they will, because it’s only banter - nothing too serious!


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