Last weekend saw Dartford host Farnborough at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park. Andy Hessenthaler featured in our matchday programme that day. For those who missed that feature, here is the full article:

The Dartford Academy has produced a few gems during its existence, one of whom is the renowned Andy Hessenthaler.

During his playing days, Andy graced the midfield for a few teams across the English Football Pyramid. The same can be said about his non-playing days, as he’s coached and managed across the pyramid and is now the Head of Recruitment for his local team Gillingham.

Rewinding back to the beginning, a young Andy Hessenthaler was a product of Dartford’s Youth Scheme and left for Corinthian in the early 1980s. Does he remember his time at the Youth Scheme?

“It’s great to think that I came out of the Dartford Youth Team and went on to achieve what I did in the game. I follow the Dartford Academy now and things look very good in terms of the setup. I keep in touch with Tony Burman a lot, which is great. He has done a top job.”

As I mentioned previously, Andy joined Corinthian after leaving the Youth Scheme in the early 1980s, and has enjoyed a distinguished career both on and off the field.

However, before it had really began, a young Andy returned to the Darts in October 1986. He became a key figure in Peter Taylor’s Dartford midfield unit for the next four seasons. Does he remember that moment?

“I do. When I signed for Peter Taylor from Corinthian, I was over the moon. I remember playing in a cup game for Corinthians against Dartford. I must have done well because I got the call from Secretary Dick Mace about signing for Dartford, which I did a week later.”

Andy made his Dartford debut on the 11th of October 1986 in a 1-1 draw at Bedworth, but he remembers very little of the game itself… “I can’t remember too much about my debut to be honest. All I know is, that my family were there and it was a great occasion for me.”

However, he does remember winning the Southern League Cup in successive seasons, as well as reaching the FA Trophy Semi-Finals twice…

“Oh yeah, it was great to win the Southern Cup. But, I was obviously gutted that we missed out in the Semi-Finals of the Trophy. The Macclesfield one was overshadowed by the Hillsborough disaster, which was obviously a very sad day for football in general. I was gutted that we didn’t get to Wembley at that time. Fortunately for me, I appeared twice at Wembley for Gillingham though.”

Having made 208 appearances for the Darts (193 starts), Andy has many good memories of his time with the club… “Yeah, I’ve got great memories of my time playing for the club, with great players, and winning cups. Dartford played a big part in my football life and the fans were amazing. I thank them so much for that.”

During his four seasons at the club, Andy scored thirty goals, yet says that his goal in the FA Cup against Exeter City is his favourite. He also came up against some tough opposition during his career. But, who does he believe was under-rated during his time?

“I’d say that Steve Sidwell didn’t get the credit he deserved, even though he did go on and have a great career.”

And what about a player he played with? “I’d probably go with a lad that I played at Gillingham with, Mark Saunders. He never got enough credit.”

It’s no secret that Andy Hessenthaler has been an extremely busy man since the day he left Dartford back in 1990. What has his journey been like since that day?

“My journey since leaving Dartford has been pretty busy! I left the club to sign for Redbridge Forest under John Still, where we got promoted to the National League as it is now. I then turned professional and signed for Watford, where I remained for four years before moving on to play for my home town club Gillingham… I became the player/Manager there. I also had a loan spell at Hull City as a player and I finished my playing career at Barnet. I’ve also managed Leyton Orient and Dover Athletic.”

Does he still follow Dartford’s results? “I do, and I keep in contact with Tony Burman and the Manager Alan Dowson, who I know well. Great people. Great club. I wish them all the best, Hessy.”

And now for something completely different to finish with… I asked Andy which five players (that he’s played alongside/against) he’d pick if he was involved in a five-a-side tournament. This is what he said…

“My five would be David Seaman, Didier Deschamps, Gianfranco Zola, Paul Gascoigne, and Thierry Henry.”

By Chris Palmer