Cllr Kite: We've shown long term faith in Dartford
Wednesday 23rd August 2006In just EIGHTY days time there will be floods of tears being shed when proud Dartford skipper Tommy Osborne leads out his team-mates at five-to-three on Saturday 11th November, writes Stephen McCartney.
This is the day when 14-years of groundsharing comes to an end and the Darts play their first ever game at the stunning £6.5m, all-covered 4,100 capacity Princes Park Stadium.
The first game should have been against arch-rivals Maidstone United on 23rd September, but delays meant this game, and the others in their last few weeks of their exile, will be played at the home of Nationwide Conference South outfit Thurrock.
Thurrock’s ground at Ship Lane, Grays, does have an excellent playing surface, and three sides of the ground, a goal-kick away from the M25 motorway, are covered.
Former Dartford player and manager Tommy Sampson will, however, make an emotional return when his Horsham YMCA side become the first team to grace the stunning stadium, unless Tony Burman’s side reach the first round proper of the FA Cup and are handed a plum home tie, of course!
Cllr Jeremy Kite, the Leader of Dartford Borough Council, has kept fans up-to-date from day one, and he explained 11th November is the best date for all-parties.
“I appreciate that it’s an exciting thought to open the Stadium with a scorcher against Maidstone United or Dover Athletic but the fact is that Maidstone were simply too soon and I think Dover (9th December) would be just too late,” he explained on www.dartfordfootballclub.co.uk
“Tony Burman and the directors were keen to get into Princes Park as soon as possible and I can understand why.
“It’s also important to remember that Princes Park is the ultimate act of long-term faith in the club.
”It represents the stability and future of a club that has really only been kept going by the extraordinary support of fans, directors and fundraisers.
“So, while the opening day is important, and will certainly be emotional, it’s what happens in week two, week 22 and week 202 that really matters.”
Cllr Kite, his team and the Ryman League Division One South club, are planning special events to mark the occasion.
He said: “Princes Park is a major step up for all sorts of people. I'm not sure it would be wise to throw an explosive mix of pressures at the Stadium on its opening day.
“We want it to be YOUR day and for you to come home in a way that concentrates on the football. Naturally, I want it to be special, and it will be, but I want it to be ordinary too. This is a long term home, not a short term rent.”
And what’s wrong with opening the stadium with a game against the Sussex County League champions instead of high-profile clashes against the Stones or Dover.
“There will be lots of big games there over the years, and lots of small, wet, drizzly and cold ones too. That's what football is all about,” said Cllr Kite.
“In deciding on November 11th, we have brought you home at the earliest possible date and in a way that is manageable and sensible.
”The day will be big enough as it is and we have a great opportunity to deliver a sample of the Princes Park experience without putting too much pressure on the stadium on day one.
”I think you will find that the paying crowd for the Dover game will still be there in December, just as it would be for the opening game.”
But Darts chairman Mr David Skinner is still hoping for a sell-out 4,000 crowd against Horsham YMCA – as football finally comes home to Dartford.
Back on the pitch, the unbeaten Darts welcome Kingstonian to Ship Lane on Saturday (3pm).