Boss Alan Dowson reckons Dartford’s trip to the north-east could help decide who the club’s new captain will be.
Dowson will take the Darts up to Northern Premier East Dunston UTS once again for a friendly next Friday night before they watch Gateshead host Premier League giants Newcastle the next day and then head out for a team bonding session in the city that evening.
The Geordie will need to decide who will take the armband come the start of the new National League South season after popular centre-back Tom Bonner’s retirement.
“I do it every year at every club I’ve been at,” said Dowson.
“We’ll travel up and play Dunston on the Friday. Then, we will watch Newcastle play Gateshead.
“Then, the lads will go out in Newcastle.
“They need to get to know each other off the pitch, as well as on it.
“There’s a few who want to be captain. I’ve not decided on anything like that.
“But who takes the lead on the pitch and who takes the lead on Saturday night and makes sure everyone behaves, I think that might decide who the captain is.”
With Bonner and Connor Essam, who has joined Southern Counties East Premier Division side Faversham, having departed, there’s a significant hole in the heart of defence.
Dowson said: “Bonner, you cannot replace him. I did all I could to keep hold of him. You cannot replace Bonner.
“But the centre-halves I’ve signed, they’ll have big shoes to fill.
“We have to try and replace Bonner on the pitch but, around the club and as a person, he will be very hard to replace.”
Before then, though, Dartford are set to host Charlton in their first pre-season friendly this Saturday (3pm kick-off).
Dowson said: “They’ll be very strong, I gather.
“It’ll be a good game and it should bring a good crowd.”
Young defender Joe Rabbetts has signed for the Princes Park club on loan from Dorking until January after impressing at Isthmian Premier Bognor last term, while defender Manny Adebowale signs for a full season after a short stint in 2022/23.
“He’s a good player,” Dowson noted on Rabbetts. “He can play left-back, left side of three centre-halves and left wing-back.
“He was supporters’ player-of-the-year at Bognor and he’ll be very important for us.”
Another staying is striker Charlie Sheringham, with tall teenage frontman Ashton Day becoming the seventh Academy player signed to the first-team this year.
Dowson, who turned 53 last month, said: “He’s a young kid - only 17.
“His initials are the same as me and his birthday is the same as me!
“He’s just turned 17 and is 6ft 2in. He will get games for us. He’s a big, strong, boy.
“He has got to use his physicality but he’s got a bit about him. He wants to work on his game.
“I’ve seen enough of him in the youth team to get him on the bench against Hampton at 16.
“I think he has a bright future.”
Dowson, who doesn’t expect to look at too many trialists this summer, is due to have coach and close friend Martin Tyler around a bit more.
The 77-year-old juggled commentating for Sky Sports with coaching at Dartford last year - but is leaving his television role with the channel.
But Dowson said: “I speak to him every single day of my life anyway!
“Sky’s loss is our gain. But he has not retired. He has helped me for 20 years.
“He’s too young to retire and too fit to retire.
“I’m sure there will be someone who wants him [to commentate] because he is the best at what he does.”