Last month saw Dartford host Tonbridge Angels at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park. Ben Greenhalgh featured in our matchday programme that day. For those who missed that feature, here is the full article:

Through no fault of his own, Ben Greenhalgh’s Dartford playing career was a short one. His statistics show that he only made 62 appearances in black and white, scoring on seven occasions. However, if circumstances had been different, who knows what the winger could have achieved on the pitch at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park… but more on that later.

Ben arrived from Concord Rangers in July 2018, making his debut at Bath City the following month. The Darts won the fixture 2-1, does he remember it?

“Yeah, I remember it vividly Chris. I think Bradders (Elliot Bradbrook) scored from my corner just before half-time, then we went on to dominate the second-half. I think Bradders actually missed a penalty, but Delano Sam-Yorke stepped up to score the second, so it was a great three points on the opening day away from home. I also remember that there were plenty of songs on the coach, which was the atmosphere I always expected from the Dartford changing room, and one of the many reasons why we all enjoyed playing together!”

Despite his short time at the club, Ben still managed to make some fond memories and mentions one particular game that sticks in his mind as a favourite… “I think that the game which stuck out for all of us as a team that season (2018-19)… We were chasing the top end of the division and we went to Woking. I think Dowse was their manager at the time, and we had a last minute corner. I dropped the corner to the back post for Ronnie Vint, who scored the winner (Dartford won 1-0). It was a vital game at the time, and it was a shock result, as Woking had been flying and obviously went on to get promoted.”

However, that wasn’t the only game that stands out for Ben… “One of the most interesting memories was probably the time I ended up going in goal for the second-half against Maidstone United. I was gutted that it was snowing, as it made the game even harder, but it was a funny experience and one I’ll never forget. It forced me to make myself the number two ever since for when we have no goalies on the bench. I got another chance to do it again at Margate, which I definitely made the most of!”

What about at the other end of the pitch? Ben scored seven times in Dartford colours, does he have a favourite goal?

“It’s difficult to single out one goal to be honest, but I think I have to go with my last league game for the club. It was Tony’s (Burman) last game too, and I went on a run from the half-way line and scored the only goal of the game to beat Oxford City 1-0. (I remember that goal, it was a cracker!) At the time, it was a great high and I was ready to kick on through a different journey with the club. Unfortunately, as things turned out, I wasn’t to be a part of that journey…”

We’ll return to that part of the story shortly but, firstly, Ben elaborates more on his favourite goal(s)… “It (scoring) is one area that I would’ve hoped to have got more of. However, I knew that my role at Dartford revolved more around crossing and getting assists. I managed to get that number up, but I definitely look back and wish I had also got more goals for the club. Other than the Oxford City goal, I’d have to say that scoring the winner against Gloucester City is a favourite of mine. It made for such a good journey back on the bus, and there was a great turnout from our fans in the away end. I think it was around the time when we were actually third in the league and putting a great run of games together going into the crunch moment of the season!”

It’s no secret that the Dartford side contained some gems within its ranks during Ben’s time at the club. So when I asked him who he considered to be under-rated at the time, it’s no surprise to hear him name two of his teammates…

“I have to say Tom Murphy. He had a great attitude and worked really hard, but just found himself to be in and out of the team. But, I always knew when he was on the other wing, when he was going to run or cross, so I’d always be prepared to get myself in the right position whenever he was in the team.

“Keeping it Dartford orientated, and I know he’s highly rated, but I have to mention Jordan Wynter as a right-back. I think he’s seen more as a central midfielder and is more influential there, but when I would come up against him, he was probably one of the best one-on-one defenders I’ve played against. It’s been great to see him excelling in the middle, but from my experience, when he was a right-back he was extremely hard to play up against.”

High praise indeed for one of Dartford’s favourite and vital players who still wears the number two shirt. Moving on, our discussion returns to the proverbial elephant in the room… Ben’s transfer to Tonbridge Angels in January 2020. His love for Dartford is evident as he speaks…

“Having to leave the club a few years ago was a difficult situation Chris. It wasn’t something I ever wanted to do, and I always hoped to put my name up there with the likes of Bradders, Nobes, Hayzie, and many more. In being a player that spent a long time as part of the club and almost becoming part of the furniture, I loved everything about the football club. Luckily, I’ve managed to continue managing the Academy for the last four years, and Tony Burman has given me the opportunity to put my own spin on things with the coaches, etc… I’m sure that the turnaround with performances and results hasn’t gone unnoticed, and since Dowse has come into the club, we’ve managed to involve and help many players within the football club progress, which is brilliant for our role at Dartford. This has then helped send me on a journey, in which I’m now player and Assistant Manager at Margate. It’s a club that has really welcomed me and I’ve managed to get some of my highest statistics that I’ve ever had in my career. So, I really hope to continue this long-term project at Margate, as well as continue helping the Dartford Academy progress.”

And, that’s the mentality of Ben Greenhalgh. A man who’s willing to turn a negative into a positive. Does he still follow the Darts?

“Yes, I’m still a Dartford fan. The club is still kicking on, which can only benefit the youth and the Academy, which is what I’m here for. Also, supporting all the players I previously played with, plus the lads we’ve sent up from the Academy. So, it’s the first result I look for after finishing our Margate games. I’m also on the phone to Dowse every week, so I get more detailed stuff regarding the games. But it’s a much easier phone call when Dartford get the win! They’ve been unlucky with results recently, but I’m sure there’s going to be a game where all the chances will go in the back of the net.”

And now for something completely different to finish with… I asked Ben 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 Dartford five-a-side team would be Deren Ibrahim in goal. I played with Del when we were young and, obviously with coaching, and have kept in touch with him ever since. I’ve always said if, Del was taller, he would’ve been a Football League player, but he’d be perfect in a smaller goal!

“My defender would have to be Bonze (Tom Bonner). Obviously, he’s a very solid and strong defender. I think he’d struggle a little on a small lively five-a-side pitch, but he’s well worth a pick for the team chemistry and team do’s.

“Centre midfield would obviously be between Bradders (Elliot Bradbrook) or Nobes (Lee Noble). I think Nobes would suit the game of five-a-side more, as I’m not sure how many headers Bradders would be able to score. So I’d probably have to pick Nobes because, if I didn’t, he’d probably be knocking at my door and standing there with a fire extinguisher or a blow torch!

“I’ll have to sacrifice myself to play left wing because we all know Hayzie (Ryan Hayes) can only play off the right. But I couldn’t choose another winger and ignore Hayzie. Obviously, I got the chance to play with Hayzie towards the end of his Dartford era, but always when we played against him he’d chip in with an assist to Bradders. Everyone knew he was chopping in but he still managed to do it.

“Up top would then be Charlie Sheringham. I first played with Charlie as a 16-year-old at Welling, and he was very demanding. But, it got the most out of me and taught me a lot of how men’s football can be.

“We wouldn’t exactly have the legs in the team anymore, but we’d definitely have the best laugh and the best changing room any team could ever ask for.”

By Chris Palmer