Yesterday’s game against Tonbridge Angels saw Dan Wilks feature in our matchday programme. For those who missed it, here is the full article:
Dan Wilks arrived at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park during the previous manager’s regime, and the goalkeeper has established himself as the definite number one since. However, a terrible challenge on him at Taunton Town earlier in the season has kept the goalkeeper out of action with an ankle injury, leaving him having to watch youngster Joe Young (on loan from Wolves) from the side-lines while he awaits treatment from the NHS.
Despite the setback, Dan has no regrets re-signing for the Darts, “The decision to stay was a no-brainer. Together with the new manager and the opportunity to work with the vastly experienced Jim Stannard, I wanted to remain. We have a great environment around the club, everyone gets along and we’ve all got smiles on our faces…most of the time…! Also, the fans and the people are the ones who really make this club tick.”
And, as soon as he’s declared fit to play, Dan intends to put a few things right this season, despite putting on a good display last term. “To collect two awards after my first year at the club was a great feeling and achievement. I have the Dartford fans to thank for that. However, I picked up a slight groin injury towards the end of the season, and the unfortunate end to our play-off campaign was disappointing. I’m hoping to help put this right this season!”
That fighting spirit is why many of the Dartford faithful enjoy watching the current incarnation of the squad. It’s a spirit that oozes down from the Captain, Tom Bonner and senior players like Dan, on through to the youth players included in the squad. That never-say-die attitude of which has been evident despite a slow start to the current campaign.
But where did the journey begin for Dan?
“I started playing football around the age of five, playing with others above my own age group. I was playing for my local neighbourhood team before getting scouted by Watford.”
As his potential was noticed by that scout, a young Dan was recruited into the Watford academy, and he remained with the Hornets from the age of five until he turned 18. He then upped sticks and moved on to pastures new, deciding to move north of the border to ply his trade with St Mirren. “Living on my own in a new country was a great experience. And being a part of fixtures against the likes of Celtic and Rangers at both Celtic Park and Ibrox was amazing.”
That experience led to the goalkeeper returning to good old England and Maldon & Tiptree. That was followed by a move to Colchester United where he was sent out on loan to the National League South with Whitehawk. Dan then signed for our local rivals Welling United, where he experienced two successful years before signing on at Princes Park.
As he reminisces fondly, Dan says that “…I started to believe that there was serious potential for me to do something within football after my loan spell at Whitehawk. I was impressed with how I’d managed to deal with the men’s game in non-league despite my young age for a goalkeeper.”
Unlike many of his peers, Dan admits that he wasn’t really inspired by anybody within the sport. However, he does state that his main inspiration comes from his family and “…all their sacrifices made to help me to succeed.”
The goalkeeper is in good spirits as our discussion continues and he gives me a glimpse into his private life. For Dan is a busy man, “I’m a Security Engineer and have just started a new role within my company. Coming out of a full-time environment in football was tough. Like all young professionals, we think it’ll be football, football, football. But with going part-time, I decided not to waste my days. I decided to get a backup to give me something to fall back on and to financially boost me in order to take the next steps in life.”
Outside of football and work, Dan tends to spend time with his family and girlfriend. During the off-season he even took a long weekend to Budapest with his girlfriend, who’d treated him for his 26th birthday. He also got to spend time with his one-year-old nephew in-between keeping himself fit. Dan also likes to play a round of golf, saying that “We have a golf group chat within the squad with past and present teammates. We try to meet up and play whenever we can.”
Between balancing all that, Dan also enjoys playing a game of snooker as well as enjoying watching a bit of motorsport, such as Formula One and Formula E. He’s also a qualified scuba diver… “I did my qualification in Egypt. Dad was a keen diver back in the day, so I enjoy it too and am looking forward to diving in Bali in June next year.”
Returning to football, like most within the sport, Dan has his little superstitious tendencies… “A few teammates will laugh at this one… When I’m in the squad, I’ll always be sure to have a certain energy drink. I’ll drink half before kick-off and then the other half at half-time”. He is also a self-confessed atheist but, “…I believe in people who believe.”
As we return to the current campaign Dan thinks realistically, “I always try to think ahead and to continue from my first season here by taking my form onwards into this season, regardless of my recent setback. I want to progress each week and perform well on the pitch. I also hope to return to the full-time game.
As for Dartford FC and its fans, Dan is optimistic… “I really hope the club can get promoted as soon as possible and have successful seasons.” And to the Dartford supporters Dan urges, “Please stick with us, through thick and thin like you did last season. It’s a long season ahead and every single one of you will be the twelfth man at every game! Get behind us and make yourselves heard. Up The Darts!”
Fighting words indeed!
By Chris Palmer