MY MOST MEMORABLE SEASON – Tony Burman

    Tony Burman made 490 starting appearances, scoring 159 goals for the Darts.

    What is your most memorable season in a Dartford shirt?

    I have been fortunate to play in many good seasons in a Dartford shirt but I think it was 1983/84 that stands out.

    Why does this season stand out for you?

    Winning the league and as a striker scoring a few goals.

    Was there a specific game that stood out during the season?  and Why?

    The games against Fisher that season were very tough but massive games I used to get kicked from start to finish in those games.

    The manager that season was John Still. What was it like working under John?

    John brought a winning mentality to Dartford and some very  good players I think he has gone on to prove what a good manager he was and still is. 

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

    To be fair to the squad that season you could name so many of the them but because they created many chances for me Terry Sullivan and Paul Powell were not bad.

    Why do you think we did so well that season?

    John Stills organisation and winning mentality, good players who wanted to be the best and a great team spirit on and off the pitch.

    Do you have a favourite goal you scored that season?

    Again I have been fortunate to have scored many goals for Dartford but one that stands out is against Sutton Coldfield in the last game of the season when we won the league. I should have passed the ball to Dave Smith who was clean through but decided to take a defender on I went around him scored to make it 2 0 it wasn’t my best goal but we knew then we won the league. Great feelings and great memories.

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

    Not really. Most things in those days were shared with the fans in whatever club house we were in over a couple or more beers Anyway what goes on in the changing room or on tour stays there. What I will share with you is that believe me plenty went on.

    1983/84 Season review  

    New players drafted in by new Manager John Still included the Leytonstone/Ilford quartet of John Holmes, David Jacques, Henry Clark and Paul Powell, the vastly experienced Bobs – Makin and Arber – from Dagenham, Francis Cowley from Tooting & Mitcham, Martin Coates from Dulwich Hamlet and the Bishops Stortford duo, Joe Simmonds and Terry Sullivan.

    The new blend settled down at once and an encouraging start was made in all competitions. Three league wins in the first four fixtures, a 4-2 aggregate win over Chatham in the First Round of the Southern League Cup and a 4-0 result at Hoddesdon in the First Qualifying Round of the FA Cup pleased the management team, players, directors and supporters alike.

    In the home league fixture against Witney Town, Dartford were awarded three penalties; Joe Simmonds missing the first. It mattered little as Darts ran out 4-1 winners. September finished with Dartford progressing to the Third Round of the League Cup thanks to an outstanding performance by the whole defence and two well taken goals by Joe Simmonds and Terry Sullivan as Chelmsford City were eliminated 2-0 at New Writtle Street.

    A comfortable 2-0 home win over Dorchester and a crushing 0-3 defeat at Cheltenham sandwiched between three FA Cup ties was the extent of the Club’s league activity in October. In the Cup it was progress all the way. Firstly, a difficult win was the result of a trip to Epsom & Ewell, the 2-1 scoreline being just about right. In the next Qualifying Round, Dartford were at home to Kent League pace-makers and eventual champions Sittingbourne. It was one of those games where you had to be in your place early. Sittingbourne made nonsense of any disparity between the two leagues and claimed a 2-0 lead after just six minutes in a game played in driving rain and a swirling wind. The visitors continued to press but Darts levelled as Tony Pamphlett and Tony Burman took the two chances Dartford had in the half despite the advantage of slope and wind. In the second half, Dartford kept the visitors out to earn a draw. Sittingbourne ran the opening stages of the replay, delayed by the failure of the referee to turn up, but spurned their chances. Not so Dartford, and a flattering 3-0 half time lead was established. A fourth goal was added with Sittingbourne netting a late consolation. Over the two games there was little in it except the ability to take chances.

    October ended with a home FA Cup tie and a win against Tooting & Mitcham who included ex-Darts Alan Budden, Colin Powell and Tommy Sampson. A sixth minute goal from Tony Burman and a 20th minute penalty from Joe Simmonds ended the game as a contest, particularly as Tooting lost their goalkeeper in the penalty incident.

    The least said about November’s league results the better, two draws and two defeats being Dartford’s haul – 0-0 at home to Bedworth and away to Kings Lynn plus defeat at Hastings, 1-2 (Hastings missed two penalties) and 0-1 at home to Kings Lynn. A mid-week trip to Dover yielded a 2-0 win in the Kent Senior Cup.

    Another mid-week journey, this time to Bermondsey, to face Fisher Athletic in the League Cup handed a footballing lesson and John Still a present to celebrate the birth of a daughter as Fisher were swept away by 4-1. The only other cup tie was the little matter of an FA Cup First Round trip to Third Division Millwall. The Lions took an early lead thanks to the old “leave it” trick which froze the Dartford defence resulting in a tap in goal. For much of the rest of the half, Dartford attacked the home side but just failed to find the scoring touch. Joe Simmonds did level the scores with a second half penalty but Millwall restored their lead a few minutes later from a free-kick which took a deflection An honourable defeat watched by

    almost 5000 spectators.
    Four away league fixtures in succession in the early weeks of December provided Dartford with the opportunity to make up any lost ground and the chance was taken. A 1-1 draw at Gloucester was followed by wins at Stourbridge (3-1) and Alvechurch (4-0) with the game at Gosport providing a 2-2 draw. Now embarked on a sequence of eighteen league games without defeat, Darts were faced with Christmas holiday fixtures against Gravesend & Northfleet and Welling United. The home game with the Fleet saw Dartford puncture the best defence in the division. Tony Pamphlett unlocked that defence with a third minute header, but any anticipated flood of goals did not materialise until after the interval. It was worth waiting for. Tony Burman, Joe Simmonds and Paul Powell added goals before Fleet pulled one back. At Park View Road Dartford ran in another four, this time without reply and Welling United, watched by their best league gate to date, could only stand and stare.

    Rivals Fisher Athletic were finding Christmas not entirely to their liking and a New Years Day defeat did their confidence no good. Dartford in the meantime had Paul Powell to thank for the points in the home game against Sutton Coldfield. Atrocious weather conditions were not conducive to good football but Paul set off on a mazy dribble which beat tackle after tackle and ended with a well struck goal, the only one of the game. Newcomer George Borg scored in the 2-1 home win over Hastings one week later and converted a spot kick in the 1-1 draw at Hillingdon in the Third Round of the League Cup. Sadly, defeats at Barnet in the FA Trophy (0-3) and at Maidstone in the Kent Senior Cup (1-2) fuelled pessimism about the side’s ability to cope at Alliance Premier League level. Home league wins over Stourbridge and Chelmsford, each by 3-0 stemmed the flow of pessimism whilst a 2-0 replay win over Hillingdon set up a two leg Semi Final against Welling United in the League Cup.


    John Still maintained that the league championship race begins in February and his charges obviously heeded his words: Cheltenham, Witney, Folkestone and Fareham were beaten in turn and for good measure Welling were ousted from the League Cup. On St Valentine’s Day, a mini-massacre took place at Welling when goals from Terry Sullivan and Joe Simmonds gave Dartford an anticipated cushion for the return leg. Any thoughts in the second leg of an easy passage to the Final were soon dispelled as Welling’s skipper Ray Burgess cut the deficit with a sixth minute goal. Welling pressed for the aggregate equaliser but their search for the goal was handicapped by the dismissal of Adrian Foley for a tackle on Paul Powell. A surging run by Terry Sullivan was halted at the expense of a penalty which Joe Simmonds blasted into Watling Street, but in the end Dartford’s anxieties were ended when Tony Burman restored the overall margin eight minutes from the end.


    A League Cup Final rehearsal took place at the Windmill Ground when Dartford visited AP Leamington in early March. Dartford ran up a 3-0 half time lead and spurned twice as many chances into the bargain, only for the rampart Brakes to pull level in the last half hour. The addition of George Borg quelled the recovery and in the closing minutes, Dartford were awarded a free kick around the home penalty area. Terry Sullivan got the vital touch allowing Dartford to creep home by the odd goal in seven.

    Fisher Athletic came to Watling Street on 6 March nicely placed in the league knowing that a win would put them in a very strong position. A crowd of 1591 saw a cracking game in which Dartford always had the edge, particularly after Tony Burman smashed home a George Borg cross after just six minutes. That was TB’s 21st goal of the season. Although Terry Sullivan made mugs of the visitors’ defenders, Darts failed to take advantage of his work and no addition to the score occurred before the break. At the other end, Tony Pamphlett dealt with all that Fisher could muster and it was fitting that the central defender should increase the Dartford lead with a powerful header in the 65th minute. Fisher did reduce the arrears soon afterwards when former Dart Derek Brown tapped in from six yards, but Joe Simmonds and Dartford had the last word though with a third goal in the 84th minute. It was a most important victory for Dartford and, as often happened during the season when the crunch came, John Still’s men came up with the goods.


    Four days later, lowly Gloucester City visited Dartford and put an end to the Darts’ eighteen match unbeaten league run, Mick Bruton giving a virtuoso display capped by the only goals of the game. The short trip to Chelmsford did nothing to alleviate the post Gloucester gloom as the home side, despite being reduced to ten men, won by the only goal of the game.
    March ended with two wins for Dartford. Firstly, Gosport Borough were beaten 2-1 at home, Paul Lazarus scoring his first goal of the season. One week later he again found the net at Bedworth scoring a suspiciously off side looking goal in the first minute of a game which started badly and fell away.

    On 3 April, Dartford made the trip to Leamington for the first leg of the Southern League Cup Final. In a game dominated by two goalkeepers, Dartford must have been content with the 0-0 scoreline as the referee blew his whistle at a shade after 9.30. This was due to a long hold up late in the first half following an injury to Paul Powell, who was stretchered off after sustaining a nasty knee injury. A vital local derby against Welling United was the meat in the League Cup Final sandwich. In a tension packed game, Dartford fell behind in the 21st minute and the Darts’ support was muted for a while. Tony Gibson restored parity shortly before half time. In the second half Welling, who had been reduced to ten men with the dismissal of Stuart White, were on the receiving end of incessant Dartford pressure and finally cracked. A defender handled the ball to present Dartford with a penalty which skipper Bobby Arber put away to the relief of the home crowd.


    On the following Tuesday, AP Leamington came to play out the return leg of the League Cup Final. Again it was an end to end game dominated by outstanding goalkeeping. The full time whistle came with neither side able to break the deadlock and the obligatory extra time ensued. As often happens in extra time, the side which scores first adds further goals and it was the visitors who did the scoring. An enthralling Final which brought credit to the League.


    Five league games were all that were left for Dartford and points were precious. Never had the maxim ‘points in the bag are better than games in hand’ rung truer. Fisher had the games in hand and by all standards should have taken full advantage of the situation. Four successive draws followed for Dartford. Firstly, 1-1 at home to Alvechurch (‘Church equalising late in the game), then a similar scoreline for the local engagement at Gravesend on Easter Monday. Then came a trip to Fisher where anything less than a Dartford win would seem to spell disaster. In the end it was another 1-1 draw with the Docklanders equalising in the dying seconds.

    The sequence of score draws continued on the last Saturday of April as Corby came to Dartford. Darts were feeling the stress associated with a long season chasing the title. It was little wonder that the Steelmen took a first half lead playing some relaxed football during the opening 45 minutes. A John Still half time pep talk and news that Fisher were 0-2 down at Alvechurch had a galvanising effect in the second half. Despite a penalty miss, Dartford found the net twice and looked set to gather maximum points only to be thwarted at the last by the visitors.

    Several Darts’ fans made the trip to Chelmsford and cheered the home side to the echo as they held the rapidly deflating Fisher side to 1-1. This gave the Darts the lead they needed and it boiled down to the last Saturday of the season. Fisher had to win at Welling and hope for a Dartford slip up at Sutton Coldfield. In a very tense ninety minutes, Dartford scored a goal in each half to bring the Southern League Championship Shield to Watling Street for the fourth time. It was fitting that the last minute goal which ended the anxieties was scored in typical fashion by Tony Burman who was making his 300th appearance. His goal was his 100th for the Club. A most fitting end to an exciting season.