Upcoming MatchDartford v Yeovil Town/December 9, 2023/Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park

DARTFORD FC | IN CONVERSATION WITH MARCUS BETTINELLI

Bank Holiday Monday saw Dartford host Dover Athletic at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park. Goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli featured in our matchday programme that day. For those who missed that feature, here is the full article:

Dartford have been blessed with some great goalkeepers over the years. Whether they’ve been permanent squad players or loanees is irrelevant, their names are written down in the history books for eternity.

One such shot-stopper is Marcus Bettinelli. He was a young lad when he arrived at Bericote Powerhouse Princes Park on loan from Fulham.

He arrived initially on a month’s loan to gain First Team experience and the “official” word is, that he arrived on the 17th of August. However, Marcus explains that that’s not actually correct…

“I actually joined the (Dartford) team on the morning of the Macclesfield Town game (18th of August). I remember that I was meant to train with them on the Thursday or Friday, but couldn’t do it because Fulham needed me. So, yeah, I literally met the boys on the bus on the morning of the game when we drove up.”

Does he remember the rest of that day? “Yeah, I actually do remember my debut against Macclesfield Town. I remember it was a really hot day. We lost 2-0, but I played okay to be fair. I was definitely, definitely nervous Chris, but it was a nice feeling to make my debut for Dartford for sure.”

After going on to make seven further appearances, the club extended his stay for another month, before extending it further until he was recalled by Fulham on the 26th of March 2013. By that point, Marcus had made 42 appearances in all competitions for the Darts, placing his name in the club’s history books. Does he remember his time here though?

“Yeah, of course I do mate. I remember a lot of my time at the club. I’ve got some great memories, and I was a part of a great changing room. I really felt that that was the period in my career where I became a man… Coming from a football academy into that changing room, which had some big personalities… Players fighting for their lives and their positions every single week. I remember everything Chris… from Princes Park itself to the people, from the kit man to the staff that worked behind the bar… Everyone. I have really fond memories.”

Does Marcus have a favourite memory of his time at the club? “My favourite memory would have to be Luton Town away mate. We won the game 2-0 (with goals from Lee Noble and Tom Bonner), and I made a string of really good saves… Especially one in the first-half from a volley really close. Luton were a huge team in the Conference at the time, and they were paying players a lot of money. We used that as an incentive to win, and we got a standing ovation after the game, even from some of the Luton fans! I really remember that. It has really stuck in my memory the most for me… A great day and a great win. This has to be my favourite memory and favourite game that l played for the Darts.”

However, that close-range volley save isn’t the shot-stopper’s favourite save. Having appeared 42 times for the club, he’s made a number of top saves. Do any stand out for him?

“To be honest Chris, I remember the ones from corners and crosses more. Those were the occasions where I’d be helping the defence more, by coming out to catch the ball or punch it clear… Especially late on in games where we were winning away from home. So, I wouldn’t say there’s any particular save that stands out for me.”

During his short time at the club, Marcus faced some fierce competition, which is typically of Non-League football. And, being a young lad thrown into a man’s game is what he says made him a man. Not to mention the players that he played alongside. Because of this, when I asked him who he thought was under-rated during his time here, he prefers to name two ex-teammates instead of any other opponent… and there’s absolutely no hesitation in his voice…

“Definitely Ryan Hayes. At the time, he was scoring free-kicks and goals from either side of the pitch. Everyone knew what he was going to do, but nobody could really stop him! Another one is Tom Bonner. He was massively under-rated. He was a fantastic centre-back to have in front of me, and he’d always put his body on the line for his teammates. If I made a mistake, he was there putting his body on the line!”

Having left the Darts back in 2013, life’s been rather busy for this goalkeeper. Not only on the pitch, but off it too, as he continuously apologises for the fidgeting little one that interrupts our conversation (congratulations to Marcus and his family for their new addition by the way)…

“Yeah, it’s been a good few years since I left Dartford. I obviously went back to Fulham and managed to break into the First Team. I had a good couple of years there, which included a couple of promotions. I had a good few years playing in the Premier League and Championship. I had a loan at Middlesbrough, but came back down to join Chelsea two years ago. So, yes, it’s been busy since I left, but it’s gone quick.”

Now, fresh from Chelsea’s pre-season and ready to step in when required for the Premier League outfit, does Marcus still keep an eye on Dartford’s results?

“Yeah, of course I still follow Dartford and their scores. It’s good to see that Tony Burman is still there, as are a lot of other good people. I’m definitely hoping to come back again at some point to see some of the old faces.”

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

“That’s a tough question mate! (after much deliberation…) Myself in goal! HaHaHaHa! Erm… I’d have to go with Harry Kane (Bayern Munich) up front. Reece James (Chelsea) in defence, Jorginho (Arsenal) in midfield alongside Mason Mount (Manchester United).”

By Chris Palmer