MY MOST MEMORABLE SEASON – KEVIN SPRIGGS

    Kevin played for Dartford from 1996-1997 to 1999-2000, 2001-2002 to 2002-2003 and 2005-2006.

    He progressed through the youth system, to the reserves and then first team.

    Made 131 starting appearances, scoring 15 times.

    What is your most memorable season in a Dartford shirt?
    My favourite season in a Dartford shirt is 1997-98

    Why does this season stand out for you?
    This was my first full season as a first team squad member after making my Debut and several appearances in the previous season. I was also named ‘Young Player of the year’  which was a very proud achievement especially as there were a strong influx of young players this year like Clayton Probets, Stuart Abbott, Mitchell Crawley and a certain Jimmy Bullard!!

    The manager that season was Gary Julians. What was it like working under Gary?

    I have a lot to be grateful for as Gary brought me through to the senior side via the youth and reserve teams. He was very demanding and you sometimes played with fear of failure. Tony Pamphlett was assistant and I liked Tone, he came out of retirement for a few games at the end as we had an injury crisis, so it was a pleasure to play with the self named ‘Ledge’.

    Who would you say was Dartford’s standout player that season?

    Standout player this season for me was Steve Robinson, with his experience and ability. And having watched him as a youngster it was a pleasure to play with him and try and add things to my game from him and the likes of Paul Sawyer, Danny Evans and Paul Hennessy. Phil Collins and Mark Greatorex were also good performers this season.

    Why do you think we did so well that season?

    We seemed to do well against the better sides this season, we had a good mix of young and experienced players if we could of kept this squad settled over the coming seasons we could of done even better but there were to many changes to come. 

    Do you have a favourite goal you scored for Dartford?

    I scored my first senior goal in the ‘Landlords v Tenants Derby’ against Erith & Belvedere on Boxing day, it was the winning goal in a 2-1 victory, a nice little chip over the onrushing keeper!!

    Other stand out games were FA Trophy games against Cambridge City a 1-1 away draw and a narrow 0-1 home defeat in which a young Neil Harris(Millwall) scored in both ties.A Friday night encounter at Chelmsford City was a highlight of the season they required a win to win the league and we went there and dominated the game playing some exciting football, I think we ended up winning 4-2 to thwart them winning the title.

    Do you still keep in touch with any of the team from that season?

    I still keep in touch with a few of the squad from this year, mainly via social media. I still play Vets football with Mark Greatorex, Clayton Probets and Stuart Abbott.

    Did anything unusual happen that season that you can share with the fans?

    Most unusual thing that happened this season was the last away game Vs Newport (IOW), we met at the old Princes pub(now Harvester) for the coach Saturday morning and Steve Irving and Dave Skinner were on the phone to Newport as it was heavily raining and the game was in doubt. Thing was we had booked a hotel to stay there after the game for an end of season night out!. The game was in fact postponed for 24 hours. The senior players had a vote and we travelled and stayed over anyway!!We arrived and did a drive by of the ground and it looked playable to our annoyance and it was rumoured that they had their end of season awards on the Friday so it was a bit of a stitch up.

    With the continued rain and lack of things to do we find ourselves venturing into a pub with Sky Sports on and a pool table. I recall being somewhat promoted to the senior players circle as I had family on the Isle of Wight  and knew places to go! Gary Julians said ok you can have 2 pints few games of pool then back to the hotel.

    Around 5 pints later we ventured back to have a swim and loosen up. I was rooming with Robbo, assuming he is the model professional i’d be alright but it was the penultimate game of the season and he and Paul ‘Skip’ Sawyer had convinced Gary to let us go to a club but with a midnight curfew!!!

    It was a great night and I remember Gary flying around this club around 11.50pm trying to round up all the players, me and Robbo were hiding at the bar and got back around 2am or so. But got to our room without being spotted!!Needless to say we lost the game the next day 3-0 I think and the dressing room was a very stale place to be lets say. 

    The end of season weekend at ‘The Belfry’ was also a very good memory!!

    SEASON 1997/98 Review

    The Darts’ management structure was subjected to a series of events which would have tested the patience of a saint. There were no signs of tro uble ahead as the pre season was pretty well routine.
    Manager Tony Burman went about the business of bringing more quality into the squad in order to mount a serious challenge on the league title despite the tight financial restraints.
    For various reasons Dean Bowey, Clayton Proberts, Kevin Randall and Micky Simmons either were not offered new terms or decided to leave the club.
    Meanwhile home landlords Erith & Belvedere started their programme with a home fixture. Then came a major blow. The ‘Deres’ main stand was ravished by fire and Darts immediately became without a home ground. The league decided that the Park View facilities were just about acceptable for the Deres to carry on playing their home fixtures at Park View after sufficient remedial work but that Dartford would have to find alternative (at an acceptable level) accommodation.

    Eventually the Southern League decided in December that Park View had been restored well enough for home fixtures to be played at Belvedere up to the end of the season BUT not beyond! With this in mind the Dartford Board arranged in principle to share Purfleet FC the following season.
    It was a nightmare situation but a basic agreement with Barking was struck which was acceptable to both the Southern and Isthmian Leagues. It was a sticking plaster arrangement and whilst Barking’s and Dartford’s fixtures dovetailed into each league’s schedules it didn’t mean that they were always
    compatible with the other league’s schedules. Thus, quite frequenty, a Dartford home league fixture venue was still in doubt on the Thursday prior to the fast approaching Saturday!

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there was a light hearted interlude in the pre season period when a friendly against Lordswood took place with both Referee’s Assistants being provided by supporters Micky Austin and Andy Clark (Gary’s father) who were praised post match by the referee for
    their totally unbiased decisions!!
    After a productive pre season 1997 98 got off with an away fixture at Weston super Mare. The match, played on a baking afternoon, ended 0 0. Points were hard to come by and, come the end of September, Darts had won two, drawn two and lost four league fixtures.

    The FA Cup saw Dartford start with wins over Horsham YMCA and Herne Bay which led to a controversial Second Qualifying Round tie against Staines Town played on a Sunday at Slade Green. Staines won by 2 1 and each goal was disputed as to whether the ball had fully crossed the goal line
    or not! One Dartford supporter , a Member of the London Stock Exchange, had to be restrained from chasing after the referee after the tie by club officials! The incident is still recalled with amusement by Staines officials to this day!

    League results continued to a mixed bag but enough points were won to allow Darts to finish in a mid table position. Cup and Trophy progress was rather disappointing. Due to business commitments Tony Burman had to relinquish the Club Manager’s job and was replaced by Reserves
    manager Gary Julians who had cut his teeth with Darts’ Reserves in Kent League Division Two. He was ably assisted by another former Dartford stalwart Tony Pamphlett!