Darts' chairman relishes homecoming - EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Sunday 21st May 2006

Dartford co-chairman David Skinner has revealed the club have an “agreement in principle” with another club to play their home matches before the Ryman League Division One South outfit move into their new Princes Park Stadium on either the 16th or 23rd September, writes Stephen McCartney.

There is an air of excitement around the club as the opening date of their impressive 4,100 all-covered new stadium in the town centre draws nearer.

And Mr Skinner reveals the club hope to announce where they intend to play their first few games of the new season “in the next ten days.”

They’ll certainly be a few tears when skipper Tommy Osborne leads out the Darts’ side in front of an emotional crowd. Let’s hope the Ryman League allocates the club a high-profile fixture on their return home.

During it’s 14-year exile the club has played at Cray Wanderers, Erith & Belvedere, Purfleet (now Thurrock) and Gravesend & Northfleet.

And in an EXCLUSIVE interview with www.kentishfootball.co.uk Mr Skinner was quick to praise Dartford Borough Council and especially Cllr Jeremy Kite, who communicates with fans on their fans’ forum.

“What more could be said,” said Mr Skinner. “Immense respect for Jeremy and his colleagues, not only for having the faith and foresight to improve facilities for Dartford as a whole, rather than just talking about it as most politicians do, but also having the faith in us as a football club that we can make the whole project work.”

During last season’s Southern League Division One East campaign, an average of 291 watched their matches at Gravesend & Northfleet’s Stonebridge Road and players like wingers Dave Martin and Ryan Hayes entertained the crowd, but the club unfortunately missed out on a play-off spot by just one point, finishing in seventh place.

And Mr Skinner thanked the people whose effort has kept Dartford in existence over the years.

“There are so many people to thank, it’s difficult to name everyone, but they know who they are,” he said.

Mr Skinner anticipates an average crowd of at least 500 will flock through the Princes Park Stadium turnstiles next season and the club will reap the benefits of sponsorship.

“We are hopeful of announcing a major sponsorship deal shortly and without doubt Princes Park is generating a lot more interest in this area,” he said.

“But I must thank all our previously sponsors, large and small, for donating enough funds to keep us going in the past, particularly when you consider how little we have been able to offer them in return.

“As regards to an increased playing budget, we have been able to offer Tony Burman some more, which I’m sure he will utilise very effectively.

So who will be in charge with the day-to-day running of the club?

“A management team will operate the facility on behalf of the council,” said Mr Skinner. “One thing that we will require as a club are volunteers for match day duties, such as sellers, stewards, turnstile operators, so if anyone would like to offer themselves to take up these posts, please contact me or the directors.

“On the subject of stewards, we hope to offer training up to a NVQ qualification in this skill at Princes Park, as part of the new facilities.”

Dartford will be relishing six Kentish derbies in their division next season, against Ashford Town, Chatham Town, Cray Wanderers, Dover Athletic, Maidstone United and Sittingbourne.

“Looking at the league as a whole, I think it’s going to be a lot tougher than last season so anther top half finish would be good, but after just missing out on the play-off’s this year I would like us to at least make them next year,” he said.

Bigger crowds? “Yes, bigger crowds certainly,” he replied. “Just look at the local Kent derbies alone but also other sides who usually bring a good away support with them.”

The club were expecting to increase their admission prices next season as they’ll be playing VAT due to their increased turnover.

Mr Skinner added: “On the financial side I would like us to at least break even, which would be a first for many years and then begin to build for the future.

“I would like us to continue to find talent through our youth system, and hopefully set up our academy to fulfil this dream.

“Finally, I would just like everyone to come along to Princes Park and marvel at how good a facility it will be, and that we continue to play good entertaining football, as we have this year and that they will then come again and again for many years.”