Tuesday evening saw Dartford host Hampton & Richmond Borough at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park. Legendary winger, Ryan Hayes, featured in our matchday programme that day. For those who missed that feature, here is the full article:

The sight of Ryan Hayes bombing along the flanks of the Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park pitch must surely live long in the memories of Dartford supporters. The memory of the pacey winger always concluded with the expectation of a wicked cross, or long-range thunderbolt which had goalkeepers stretching towards the top corner.

The winger’s statistics speak for themselves, as he currently occupies sixth position in Dartford’s all-time goalscorers list with 109 goals. A figure that was reached in a whopping 627 appearances (456 starts). Those numbers see Ryan sit in third position of the club’s all-time appearances list (627), as well as fifth place in the all-time starting appearances list (456).

Not to mention the countless assists he must have created for his teammates during his two spells at the club. His first of which began back on the 16th of April 2005, as the Darts hosted Tilbury. And Ryan? Well, he scored a brace in an emphatic 6-2 victory!

Does the winger remember the game? “Oh yeah! I remember it like it was yesterday! Such a great game!”

And, what about those statistics of yours? How do you feel about your place in the Dartford FC history books? “Yeah, very proud Chris. However, I would have loved to have been able to add to those statistics, as well as made more memories in Dartford colours.”

You see, during the previous manager’s campaign (Steve King), Ryan’s services were “no longer required” and the winger left the club to join Concord Rangers in the summer of 2018… “Yeah, that wasn’t the best decision for me mate! I tried everything to get back (to Dartford), and managed to return for a final spell between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.”

We all know what happened next, as COVID-19 reared its ugly head, and the world came to an abrupt stop. Like everyone, Ryan felt the full impact of the lockdown but, since then, life on the football pitch has improved for him…

“Yeah, after I left Dartford COVID hit, so after the break I signed for Chatham Town, which I really enjoyed. I then moved over to Phoenix Sports (where I currently remain) and we won promotion in my first season!”

As our discussion has reached the topic of the beautiful game on the field and the positivity that can bring, does Ryan have a favourite memory of his time at Dartford? “It’d have to be my first game back at Princes Park to be honest. It was just a really special day and it probably wasn’t until then that I actually realised what it meant to everyone connected with the club… and, I always look out for the club’s results and try to get to games when I can.”

And, what about goal? Does he have a favourite goal that he scored in black and white? “My favourite would have to be the one against Luton Town at home. However, the best one that I scored was against Mansfield Town at home… it just flew into the top corner!”

Having played so many games for the Darts, against so much competition, is there any particular player that Ryan came up against that he thought was under-rated? “James Meredith at Bradford City in the FA Cup. He was a left-back and, when I watched him play, I thought he was rubbish… I played against him in that game and didn’t get a kick!”

What about teammate(s)? “That’s tough because, there have been a few that went under the radar. Bur, I’ll go with Jacob Erskine. He was brilliant for us in that first year in the Conference, and I don’t think he got the credit he deserved.”

And now for something completely different to finish with… I asked Ryan 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…

“Against is a toughie Chris! We were lucky to always have really good pre-season games, so I’ll go with Emiliano Martinez (at Aston Villa) in goal. He was a young keeper at Arsenal at the time who went on to become a World Cup winner of course. Adel Taarabt (at Al-Nasr SC)… he was a magician. He nutmegged everyone that went near him! I think Spurs went 6-0 up within thirty minutes! Next up I’ll have Victor Moses (at Spartak Moscow). He was at Crystal Palace at the time and had pace and power like I’d never seen before. Me and Tommy Osbourne still talk about him to this day! I’ll have Serge Gnabry (at Bayern Munich) who was at Arsenal and was unplayable in the first hour! He’s at Bayern now and is such a great player. Finally, I’ll have Danny Ings (at West Ham). He was at Dorchester Town on loan. They beat us 4-0 at home, and he was ridiculously good that day!”

By Chris Palmer