Welcome to my first Dartford Sports round-up, a monthly column that will give you a glimpse into the wide range of sports played in the area. I hope it not only provides you an opportunity to keep up-to-date with local sports teams and to learn about some of the alternative sports the area has to offer, but to also inspire you to get involved.
An obvious place to start is arguably the main sporting attraction of the area, Dartford FC. The winds of change blew through Princes Park this summer and, after the disappointment of narrowly missing out in the Vanarama National League south play-offs, manager Tony Burman stepped down after 14 years in the role. Burman is somewhat of a legend for Darts supporters, amassing 880 games on the touchline for the club in three spells as manager as well scoring 159 times in 535 appearances in his playing days.
Another man whose long-standing association in football came to an end this summer is Arsene Wenger, who enjoyed/endured (describe it how you best think) 22 years with Arsenal. Longevity in football management in the modern era is a rarity and despite standing 5 leagues apart in the footballing pyramid you could draw parallels between both.
Both Wenger and Burman enjoyed long periods of relative success that adored them to supporters. But by the end of their tenure there was an air of staleness and a cry out for change (perhaps in Burman’s case less so). The appreciation for both their efforts following their respective announcements was a testament to how highly they are regarded in the game, but football is a dynamic environment in which you constantly have to look forward.
Much like Unai Emery, the duo who had the unenviable task of stepping into Burman’s shoes was two more former players in Jamie Coyle and Adam Flanagan. The coalition was formed after their respective departures from local rivals Welling United and Concord Rangers and they came in with a fresh footballing philosophy (pardon the cliché) and the ultimate goal of promotion to the National League.
It was a tricky start for the pair with indifferent results and indifferent performances combining to an indifferent position in the league table. Whilst you couldn’t question the effort in the early displays from a thread-bare squad, there was a clear lack of goals; as the old saying goes, ‘goals win you games’.
After a 3-0 home defeat to Wealdstone United in August the fickle nature of football meant questions were beginning to be asked of Coyle and Flanagan. It was unrealistic of supporters, however, to expect to see a significant change in style return the desired results immediately. The duo stood firm, reiterated their intentions and have overseen a gradual up-turn in results and league position.
Heading into a congested Christmas period the Darts sit 6th in the table, a position I imagine both Coyle and Flanagan would’ve snapped your hand off for in August. It is no coincidence that the return of Charlie Sheringham, son of Spurs legend Teddy, in early September triggered a remarkable improvement on the pitch as the striker has notched 5 goals in his first 9 games back at Princes Park.
Whilst there is still a long way to go of a season that is sure to be full of plenty more highs and lows it appears that things are on the up at Princes Park. With youth talent like Taylor Fisher being afforded first-team opportunities, all signs would point to a bright future for the club. But Coyle and Flanagan will be all too cautious to be caught up in the thought of the future as they take each game at a time in their new venture.
Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark on Twitter) www.youngsportsjourno.wordpress.com