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Dartford's Ryan Hayes expects this to be his last season at Princes Park

Ryan Hayes expects to leave Dartford at the end of this season.

The winger, 34, has been at the club for 14 years minus a brief spell at Concord Rangers.

Hayes wants to go into management but hasn’t ruled out playing further down the pyramid.

Ryan Hayes in pre-season action for Dartford against Leyton Orient. Picture: Andy Jones
Ryan Hayes in pre-season action for Dartford against Leyton Orient. Picture: Andy Jones

Speaking on this week’s KM Football Podcast, Hayes said: “I think this is probably my last season at Dartford.

“Me and Flan (joint-manager Adam Flanagan) have spoken about it and I said ‘I think it’ll be my last year at this level.’

“I don’t want to be one of those players that gets talked about like ‘he’s past it but he’s still there’, I want to try to end on a high.

“I want this to be a good season for me and the club. As far as the future is concerned, I want to keep playing but I really want to manage one day.

“I love football and I do want to manage in the near future.”

Hayes insists the physical demands of National League South didn’t influence his decision.

He said: “This pre-season, I feel the best I’ve felt. I’ve lost weight and I’m still doing the minutes they want me to do so physically I feel fine.

“It’s probably mentally getting to me that I don’t want to be a player who people call a has-been. I want to leave when I want to leave, I don’t want to be forced out.

“I just think, at the end of this season, that will be it for me at Dartford.”

The sight of the finishing line approaching will serve as extra motivation for Hayes this season.

“That’s why I’ve come back,” he said. “I had to get my head right because I want to play well and I want the team to do well.

“I still think it’ll be hard, emotionally, leaving Dartford, because all my close friends are there.

“It’s not that I want to leave, I just think it’s the right time, after this season, to let someone else have a go and see what they can do for the club.

“The club were surprised but Flan’s been supportive. I’ll probably sit down with Tony Burman in a couple of weeks to see what he thinks.”

Hayes has scored 109 goals in 606 appearances for Dartford and is one of the club’s all-time greats.

He said: “I still want to play because I love football but I love managing too. I don’t like coaching and I think there’s a difference between coaching and managing.

“I like the tactical bit of football and I’m 34 now, still playing at a good level so if an offer did come to play lower, I’d obviously think about it.

“I do want to get into management as soon as possible If there’s a chance, I think you have to take it.”

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