Published: 05:00, 13 January 2022
Dan Wilks’ desire to return to full-time football means there’s no chance of complacency with Dartford’s number one.
The 25-year-old has impressed in goal for the Darts this season, his form meaning boss Steve King was willing to make Craig King’s loan switch to Hemel Hempstead permanent last week.
It means there’s no direct competition for a starting berth at Princes Park but Wilks still harbours hopes of moving back to the full-time ranks.
Having started his career at Watford, Wilks has since been at St Mirren and Colchester, and with time on his side he’s not ruling out a return to full-time football if the opportunity presents itself.
“If I want to make that move back into full-time football, it’s down to me,” said Wilks, reflecting on King’s departure to league rivals Hemel.
“I can’t rely on someone else training and pushing me, I have to push myself. Hence, why I train elsewhere as well and do extra bits.
“Fitting everything around football and work can be tough, you have a few late nights. The only way you can combat not being complacent is to be your own competitor to an extent.
“We’ve got two young keepers that train with us and they are coming on leaps and bounds and let’s be fair, if I have a dip in form or get injured, then they need to step up.
“I go into every training session and every match knowing I need to do as much as I can, as well as I can, to affect the scoreline.”
Wilks has made 24 appearances since linking up with Dartford a year ago. No stranger to National League South having played over 100 times for Welling, Wilks provides a safe pair of hands behind the division’s meanest defence.
He’s happy with the Darts as he juggles football alongside working in security systems but does not rule out a return to the professional ranks.
“In the world of goalkeeping, I’m only 25 and have played about 200 games,” explained Wilks, who worked with Darts boss King previously at both Welling and Whitehawk.
“Some say your prime as a keeper is your late 20s, although everyone’s got their opinions.
“I’m enjoying it here at Dartford. Obviously, the end goal is to progress as high as I can, whether that’s with Dartford or getting a move elsewhere. But of course, I want to quit my job and go back into full-time football.
“It’s a decent level that we’re playing at so I am content and happy but if the opportunity did arise then I’d grab it with both hands.”
Underlining his desire to improve, Wilks is doing extra training away from Princes Park to help maintain an extra edge.
At the same time, he knows there are no guarantees so is developing a career away from the game.
“When I was at Welling it was on the back of coming out of full-time football so you still carry that little bit extra fitness and sharpness,” said Wilks.
“The longer you stay out of full-time, you have to work that bit harder to keep sharp and fit.
“That’s why as well as training twice a week at Dartford, I do a bit extra elsewhere plus some gym work.
“These are the sacrifices you’ve got to do. I want to try and get back into full-time football so these are the things (that help).
“I could just sit at home and do nothing with my day but with football it’s such a short career that you need to have a back-up plan as well.
"Some say you don’t need to do that but I’m thinking of the long run.”