Published: 06:00, 18 July 2019
Sam Blackman knows comparisons with Elliot Bradbrook are inevitable as he looks to fill the former Dartford captain’s sizeable boots.
Blackman arrived at Princes Park just weeks after Bradbrook had called time on a Darts career which saw him score almost 150 goals over a decade.
The two midfielders both moved to study and play in the United States at a young age before returning to City jobs in London.
Blackman lives a stone’s throw from the ground and, like Bradbrook, is passionate about Dartford being successful.
He said: “Some players are irreplaceable and he was like another striker with the amount of goals he got.
“But the midfield places are open, they’ve brought me in and I’d like to think I go box-to-box, like him. I might not get as many goals as him but I’ll give it a good go!
“He was a fantastic player and a great servant to the club so if I can be around for 10 years and score half as many goals as him, I’ll be happy.”
Blackman came through Dartford’s academy programme, coached by Jamie Coyle and Richard Brady, but never made it as far as the first team.
He said: “I didn’t think I was that close – and deservedly so.
“The first team were smashing it in Conference South at that point and I wasn’t fully developed. I hadn’t played first-team football so, looking back now, if I was the first-team manager would I throw a 17-year-old kid in? Probably not.
“When you’re 17 you’re naive and a bit immature in the way you play. I’m 24 now so I’m a lot more mature, I’ve played a lot of games, had a lot more experience in football and life so it moulds you into a more experienced footballer.
“I’m definitely more of a grown-up as well.”
Blackman’s time in America was central to that, too.
He said: “I wanted to keep playing but I didn’t want to go to university in England.
“I wanted to get a degree so I had something to fall back on and I’ve got a job in the City now so it’s worked out fairly well.
“I went out there and got a soccer scholarship, studied and played all across America. It was like a four-year holiday – unbelievable!”
Blackman played for Leatherhead before and after that period overseas and has since been at Margate and Concord.
He said: “I played with Coylie at Leatherhead and he reached out to me after the season and said there’s an offer on the table for you if you want to come.
“I spoke to a few other clubs but there was no competition. I’ve always wanted to play for Dartford and as soon as he said he was interested, the deal was practically done.”