Last Saturday saw Dartford host Oxford City at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park. Dartford FC Women’s Milly Penfold featured in our matchday programme that day. For those who missed that feature, here is the full article:

Central Midfielder, Milly Penfold, has recently arrived on the scene for Dartford FC Women, and it was a pleasure to speak with the new signing after she’d witnessed her new team reach the Semi-Finals of the League Cup…

“After a few weeks of being poorly with the flu and tonsillitis, I’m now back to full health and delighted to be here.” She said, “…There’s been a lot of change recently, but I’m now settled into a great team and I’m so happy for the girls reaching the Semi-Final. I’m obviously gutted at having missed out though…” …Milly is cup-tied unfortunately.

Despite her young age (Milly is 20-years-old), she has accumulated quite a history within the beautiful game since beginning at the tender age of five. Two years later she joined her local side, Dartford YMCA, where she was one of the very few girls in a predominant boys team. From there she moved to Gillingham RTC where she remained from the age of nine until she reached sixteen.

Milly’s journey then took her up a level to the Gillingham Ladies Development Team. After trialling for the Gillingham Ladies First Team during pre-season, she picked up an unfortunate injury which temporarily halted her progress… “I then decided to go out on loan to Aylesford but, after a season and a half, I decided it was time to move on, so I signed for Millwall Ladies, where I remained until now.”

What influenced her decision to leave the South Londoners and join Connor Dymond’s Dartford FC Women then? She continues, “I decided to join Dartford because, from my very first training session, the girls and coaching staff have made me feel so welcome. I’ve been through a tough time recently and was lacking in confidence. But, as soon as I spoke to Conner, he reassured me and I know that under his guidance, as well as the rest of the coaching team, I can continue to develop. Dartford just felt right to me.”

Having been welcomed by Connor, his staff and team, it’s clear that her new manager has had a positive effect on Milly. Is there anyone else who has been an inspiration for her? She responds with fond memories about her brother… “I got into football mainly due to my brother, Charlie. I can still remember when I was little and we’d spend so much time watching him play football. He would always have a ball with him, kicking it at me! So, I had to learn to do it back, and harder!”

She continues, “Charlie was my biggest inspiration. I think, if it wasn’t for him pushing me so much to play when I was younger, I wouldn’t be where I am now. He has always been harsh on me and I now see the impact it has had. Mum has also been a huge inspiration, just because of how much time she’s given up over the years to drive me up and down the country.”

It’s no secret how tough it has been to become successful in football, especially in the women’s game. Yet, Milly hasn’t been put off in the slightest. It was during her trials with Gillingham RTC that she realised that a good career within the beautiful game was possible… “I was also so happy and surprised to see so many girls playing football and enjoying it.”

But, she does confess to having her superstitious moments as well… ‘Up until recently, I didn’t really have any superstitions. I have my pre-match routine that I stick to every Sunday, even if I don’t play! My Mum comes to every game and I went through a period when I was playing well, scoring goals, and enjoying my football. I then realised that Mum wore the same jumper during that time. So, I make sure that every week she turns up in her lucky jumper!”

Naturally, Milly also has a busy life outside of the game. She’s currently doing an apprenticeship in a local nursery and will become a fully qualified Nursery Practitioner once she’s completed it. “…This was something completely new for me. I always wanted to be a part of the police, but didn’t want to commit to the hours due to still wanting to be committed to my football. The apprenticeship is a lot of hard work, but I’m currently loving it and am so glad I decided to try something new.”

With that being said, it’s quite obvious that her daily life revolves around work and football. During the week, she’ll work throughout the day before going straight to training in the evenings. If she’s not training, then she spends time in the gym. Saturdays are then spent watching her brother play and is also Milly’s day to relax, before she has her game the following day… “Yeah, my life consists of football, gym, and work! It’s very busy. But, when I do get the time, I love to shop… especially for new football boots!”

One of her favourite moments in life is when she won the PlayStation U14 Inter County Trophy with Kent. She captained the team and was able to lift the trophy after they’d beaten favourites Lancashire, who’d won the tournament consecutively for four years… “It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.

Another moment that Milly will never forget took place here at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park… “I’ve actually supported Dartford since I was young, due to my Grandad being a huge fan. I went to one game down at Princes Park and the players were warming up. I ended up getting smashed in the face by the ball!”

Well, most of us can certainly relate to that turn of events! At least Milly can now return the favour if she so desires! As our conversation reaches its conclusion, I ask her what her hopes and expectations are and if she has anything she’d like to say to the Dartford faithful. I’ll let her finish off…

“I now want to hit the ground running and get back to playing football with a smile on my face, whilst growing as a player in order to become the best I can be. I want to help the team push on. I want to win silverware and believe that, under the current management team, we will continue to kick on and do this. I want to do my bit and contribute to the success by playing well and scoring goals again.

“There are big things to come from this team, and the fans have such a huge impact on us as a team. Dartford is a great environment and team to back, so show your support and get involved.”

By Chris Palmer