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A decade of Champions: A look back at the 2009/10 season when Tony Burman's Dartford clinched the Ryman League Premier Division title

It takes something special to win a league title and Dartford manager Tony Burman did it twice.

We're looking back at some of the Kent sides who have managed it in the last decade. Burman talks us through his second title season with the Darts, recalling the journey to the 2009/10 success in the Ryman League, Premier Division.

Manager Tony Burman with the trophy Picture: Nick Johnson
Manager Tony Burman with the trophy Picture: Nick Johnson

BACKGROUND TO THE SEASON;

Tony Burman had already built a winning team.

The Darts had won the Ryman League, Division 1 North title in 2007/08 and followed up the next season with a creditable eighth place Premier Division finish.

Burman recalls his second Dartford title, saying: "It was a memorable season and we started off really well.

"We had some top, top players who I had brought together and they hit it off. You could tell there was a buzz about the place in pre-season.

"We made a few changes, not loads, but there were a few which we felt we had to do. We brought in good players, like Lee Burns and Billy Burgess.

There was a buzz during pre-season for the Darts said Tony Burman, here up against Gillingham at Princes Park Picture: Keith Slater
There was a buzz during pre-season for the Darts said Tony Burman, here up against Gillingham at Princes Park Picture: Keith Slater

THE START OF THE SEASON;

The Darts made a winning start to the season and were scoring plenty too, 15 in their first four league matches.

Burns' arrival had, unexpectedly, helped fill the void left by Cody McDonald, sold to Norwich City the previous season.

Burman said: "He had signed for us back then as a midfield/utility player and he ended up playing upfront and in that spell he scored near enough every game.

"I can’t recall why he played upfront, we must have been short through injuries, but we took a gamble and played Lee up there and everything he touched went in!

"He was a big strong lad, he was into his fitness, he just ran and he caused havoc in other defences. He was enjoying himself, he was scoring goals and I don’t think he has had a better season.

"We were winning games and the standout thing for us was that we could score goals. We scored over 100 that season.

"It was quite a while into the season before we didn't score a goal in a game. We just kept looking at targets and reaching them. It was a real good season when we look back at it."

The title-winning Dartford team Picture: Nick Johnson
The title-winning Dartford team Picture: Nick Johnson

WERE THERE ANY HICCUPS?;

Dartford's first away defeat in the league came in February and the Darts lost the next match too, at home to Sutton.

"It was probably the only time we lost two games in a row all season," Burman said.

"We went out early in the FA Cup to Chelmsford City. They were a good side the league above at the time.

"It was just about having that belief in the side and we had some real good characters, the likes of Adam Flanagan, Dan Dafter, they were winners.

"I look back and Billy Burgess didn’t have a long time with us but he was excellent and he played anywhere. They were all good guys, they could play and they wanted to win.

"Adam Gross played a lot of games for us at left-back, he had played first team for Charlton. We did ever so well with the players recruited that’s for sure and they were good, honest lads, they went out an tried to win and wanted to give their all.

Adam Flanagan was the Dartford skipper as they won a second title under Tony Burman Picture: David Couldridge
Adam Flanagan was the Dartford skipper as they won a second title under Tony Burman Picture: David Couldridge

WHO WAS THE CAPTAIN?;

"Adam Flanagan played in a lot of games. He didn't have many injuries, he is a big lad, a big stature and a good captain for us.

"Players respected him big time and what he said went.

"I think back then we had signed Elliot Bradbrook in the summer and we knew he was going to be a good signing for us. I think Elliot learned a lot off Adam and the guys around him, that made him mentally a good players as well."

Dartford players thank the fans at Princes Park Picture: Nick Johnson
Dartford players thank the fans at Princes Park Picture: Nick Johnson

WHO WERE THE STANDOUTS?;

"Rob Haworth was excellent. He had played in the pro game but he loved it at Dartford.

"I think he was one of the players who had the most rapport with the supporters. He loved to get them going and he enjoyed scoring, he showed it when he scored, it was fantastic for him that he could score goals.

"He fancied the challenge and Dartford and I am pleased he did. He was a top guy who really enjoyed his football and wanted to be in there winning things. Him and Burnsy up there did really well.

"There were unsung heroes as well, like Billy Burgess, Jamie Coyle was in there too, Danny Harris was upfront as well and Lee Noble was in the side, we had a good team, John Beales as well was excellent and loads of clubs were after him.

Dartford celebrate the title at Princes Park Picture: Nick Johnson
Dartford celebrate the title at Princes Park Picture: Nick Johnson

THE RUN IN;

"I think we played seven games in 14 or 15 days at the end, but the good thing is we had already wrapped up the league.

"The Kingstonian game was the one when we won it and we had a lot of people there."

The Darts were away from home against a team who at the time were sitting second. They won it 6-2.

Burman added: "We could have relaxed after that but we wanted to finish the season with an unbeaten run and I have a feeling we did win those final games.

"We played the whole squad in those last games, playing Tuesdays and Thursdays, everyone turned up whether they were playing or not, and everyone still wanted to beat us. It was a bit like after the Lord Mayor's Show but we still managed to have a great day at Princes Park, when were presented with the trophy, it was really good."

A white winter meant a busy run-in but the Darts sealed the title early Picture: Nick Johnson
A white winter meant a busy run-in but the Darts sealed the title early Picture: Nick Johnson

STANDOUT GAMES;

"That Kingstonian match was really memorable and we were really up for it.

"We knew if we won it we would win the league that day.

"Everyone was up for it and the big characters came out in the changing room, Adam Flanagan and Danny Dafter, Rob and Burnsy. They weren’t going to let us lose. We were up for that game, the most we have ever been probably.

"Ryan Hayes that season was excellent. I think Elliot scored the first that day and Hayesy volleyed one into the top corner. It was a special goal, it was infront of our supporters and it was a real big memory for me, the day we won the league.

"Kingstonian were second, they were a good side, but Alan Dowson was the manager but he knew that we were strong. We went out on the pitch and felt we could beat anyone. We weren’t arrogant but we had the will to win, it was good to see as a manager to see your players perform like that.

"We also played away to Chipstead and won 6-1 in the FA Cup. We were exceptional that day, we played really well.

"Some of the local games stood out too. We went to Margate in our second game and we bashed them. That was a real tough place to go on a Tuesday night but we were controlled and we played really well, winning 4-0.

Dartford are presented with the trophy after playing Aveley Picture: Nick Johnson
Dartford are presented with the trophy after playing Aveley Picture: Nick Johnson

WHY SO GOOD AWAY?;

Dartford's away form was exceptional that season.

"As a unit we were organised," Burman said.

"With the players I had we were strong in defence and midfield. We were quite a big side and I had never had a big side before! We were reasonably big all over the park and when we played away everyone knew their jobs.

"Players would get behind the ball and they could break on people. When they broke we had players like Hayesy and when he got the ball he would do his bit and we had strong, powerful runners. If the forwards weren't there it would be the midfield players. Elliot would come into it, if he was forward, Danny Harris would come into it and Danny Dafter would hold.

"It was about good organisation and a lot of that was credit to Flan at the back. He was the captain and he organised things."

Dartford lift the Ryman League, Premier Division trophy Picture: Nick Johnson
Dartford lift the Ryman League, Premier Division trophy Picture: Nick Johnson

KEY TO SUCCESS;

"For me, it comes from the start of the season. When you build a team you want to do well. Every manager should think they can win the league or at least be successful, when they are doing their wheelings and dealings.

"We knew that we had recruited really well but it is a big thing for me that if players are happy off the field then they will be happy on it.

"They were a group and if they were left out they accepted it. They respected the decision. That is the mentality we had. They were good characters off the field, really good characters and we have had that with any teams I have been involved in.

THE BACKROOM TEAM;

"Paul Sawyer and Steve Mosely were the guys I turned to more than anyone else, because we had all played and we had all been successful in our playing careers. They were my backbone.

"We would always talk and have a chat about things. I do ask the players for their opinions and what they think, now and again, and that would have been Adam. I expect that Adam now and Jamie Coyle and Danny Dafter (all who have become managers), they would look back and they might have learned things from myself.

"Jamie Day was in our squad as well at the start of the season before he went off to Welling. He was a real good player and he knew how good the team was off the field and he would have learned from that too."

More from the 'Decade of Champions';

Part 1: Herne Bay 2011/12

Part 2: Folkestone Invicta 2015/16

Part 3: Faversham Town 2009/10

Part 4: Welling United 2012/13

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