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Dartford FC supporters put questions to manager Tony Burman, captain Elliot Bradbrook and co-chairman Steve Irving

By Steve Tervet

Dartford supporters quizzed club bosses at an open meeting on Monday night.

Co-chairman Steve Irving led the meeting, which was attended by around 60 fans at Princes Park.

Also on the panel were manager Tony Burman, club captain Elliot Bradbrook, co-chairman Dave Skinner, youth development centre manager Phil Murray, commercial manager Lauren Webster and operations manager Jack Smedley.

Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture Andy Payton

Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture: Andy Payton

Mr Irving said Dartford's long-term plan was to be a sustainable National League club within five years and pushing for promotion to the Football League by 2025, something which depended on greater commercial income to strengthen the overall structure.

Dartford are replacing their 3G pitch and erecting a 75-seater stand which could make it a viable option for another club wanting to groundshare.

Mr Irving also confirmed the Darts would run a fourth boys academy team in 2016/17, in conjunction with Leigh Academy and offering A Level education. For the first time this season, the club will also run a girls academy side.

Burman spoke about the deal which took Ebou Adams to Norwich City on transfer deadline day in January. The manager was asked whether the club could have kept hold of their academy graduate until the end of last season before allowing him to move to Carrow Road.

"I would love to have kept him but they wanted the deal done then," Burman said. "We can’t be seen to stop people (progressing) and, at the time, we didn’t have any other financial offers.

"Norwich were serious with their two offers and we accepted one. We probably couldn’t have turned that down at the time.

"If he plays for England, it will be a six-figure fee coming to us. There were a lot of add-ons in the offer which are great if he reaches those targets and there was a down payment. There are more payments if he makes an appearance and if he signs a new contract."

Asked about scouting players in lower leagues, Burman told supporters that he and assistants Paul Sawyer and Steve Mosely often use Tuesday nights to watch other games - a big reason for Dartford training on Monday.

However, he said: "Because I’m working with (academy players) I trust them a little bit better than I might do with a new guy coming in who someone’s recommended."

When asked about his attempts to sign a new striker this summer, Burman again insisted Dartford had made good financial offers to several players only to be turned down.

Dartford captain Elliot Bradbrook Picture Steve Crispe

Dartford captain Elliot Bradbrook Picture: Steve Crispe

In response to a supporter who said his methods in this department weren't working, Burman pointed straight to Bradbrook.

"It’s working for the guy next to me," he said. "He scored 18 goals last season from midfield and I don’t think the club got enough credit for re-signing these players. We signed 12 players within two weeks of the end of the season and I think that was a good bit of business. There are players who don’t walk out.

Bradbrook added: "If you want to play for this club and Tony wants you to play, you’ll play here. If you just want to get as much money out of it as you can, the chances are you won’t be here because there’s a lot of clubs around where you will get more money.

"For me, that’s never been an issue and that’s probably why I’ve been here for so long.

"If you look at some of the other lads that have been on the team, unless Tony doesn’t offer you a contract, nine times out of 10 those players stay here and there’s a reason for that. Loan players like Keaton (Wood), he got released by Millwall and he’s come back because he wants to be here.

"Tony’s met with 10-odd centre-forwards and they’ve gone for more money somewhere else but I’d much rather have someone who’s earning less money, who may not be as good as that player but if they want to be here, they’ll play well for this club.

"I’d much rather be in a dressing-room full of those sort of players, which is how this club’s always been run. That’s why our meetings in the summer take five minutes."

Burman admitted increased competition from other clubs in Kent was making his job more difficult.

He said: "A few years ago we were probably the big attraction because of this facility.

"But other clubs around us, and very close to us, if you include Maidstone, Ebbsfleet and Margate a little bit further down the line, they’ve had new grounds built and their finances, whether it’s through a crowd of 2,000 people or 800 season-ticket holders, they’ve caught up with us and probably overtaken us in the finance stakes.

"It is worrying. I’m not going to lie, it’s a concern but we’ve got to stick to our guns and carry on.

"Money doesn’t get you everything. It helps but what we’ve got to work on is getting back to having a team, signing contracts and getting them together as a group. Over the last few years, we’ve not had that. We had it in the first year in the Premier but we’ve not had that as a club.

"We’ve done eight years here, being together and then it stopped. We hit the barriers and, in my opinion, went off in different directions. The culture within the place has broken up a little bit and we need to get it all back together. We need to get the football team back together and it’s not always the team with the most money that wins the league."

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