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Dartford all set for new season in non-league's top flight
DARTFORD finally kick off life in the Conference on Saturday at home to Tamworth.
It may only have been three months since Tony Burman’s side defeated Welling in the play-off final but the wait for the first game is finally about to end in what promises to be a memorable occasion at a packed Princes Park.
This will be the first time Darts have played in the top flight of non-league since 1986.
But what makes the achievement even more remarkable is the fact the club only ended a 14-year exile from the town in late 2006 when the new council-owned stadium was opened, as co-chairman Bill Archer explained.
“Of course we are looking forward to Saturday,” he said.
“It is another step on what has been an incredible journey.
“The initial plan was hopefully to be there within 10 years to be in the top flight of non-league football.
“Football League status is still the long-term goal.
“We haven’t got any real plans for that yet, but the year 2020 has been mentioned by a few people.”
Dartford have regularly attracted four-figure crowds since their return home but they are now entering a division where this is generally considered normal, not the exception.
But it isn’t only big attendances which are the stock in trade of Conference sides because the majority of them also operate as full-time professional outfits, something Dartford have opted against – for now at least.
Mr Archer said: “We are staying part-time.
“We are going to stay part-time in this league at the moment anyway.
“We obviously did think about going full-time but we felt we could function better part-time.
“Not every good player wants to be full-time if they’ve got a good job.
“We’ve got some really good players here who also have really good jobs, so we don’t lose them and they get the opportunity of playing in the top flight of non-league football.”
The co-chairman also denied the club have lost out on potential summer signings as a result of their decision.
“We’ve always made it clear at the beginning we were going to continue on a part-time basis,” he said.
“We aren’t saying we won’t be full-time in the future but only when we think it is the best time to do it.
“The biggest difference this year of course will be the travelling because the away games at this level will take a lot of time travelling to and a lot of money.
“We will stay overnight for some of the games but we always leave those kind of decisions to the manager.”
On Saturday’s opening fixture, Mr Archer added: “It will be a good test for us because Tamworth are a middle of the table side.
“It is pay on the day and hopefully we will get a crowd around the 2,000 mark.
“We were delighted to get a home game on the opening day and it is a good first match to have.”
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