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Ebbsfleet United player-of-the-year Ben Chapman ready for National League South play-offs

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Promotion-chasing Ben Chapman believes the best is yet to come in Ebbsfleet’s season.

The versatile 23-year-old is popular among Fleet fans who, quite rightly, voted him player-of-the-year after an all-action campaign which saw Chapman shine both in defence and midfield.

Ben Chapman on the ball for Ebbsfleet against Chelmsford on Saturday. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC (56558084)
Ben Chapman on the ball for Ebbsfleet against Chelmsford on Saturday. Picture: Ed Miller/EUFC (56558084)

He’ll be part of the Fleet side that takes on either Dartford or Chippenham in Sunday’s National League South play-off semi-final and he can’t wait for the challenge ahead.

“It’s been an enjoyable season so far but the best is yet to come - it’s not over yet,” said Chapman.

“We’ve played everyone twice and we feel we know what we’ve got to do against anyone who plays us.

“We know our strengths, and I feel we can beat anyone on the day. I don’t doubt us doing what we want to do.

“Every player in National League South wants to be in this position, to get to the final. It’s a memory that we want to look back on in time.

“You don’t want to fear it, you want to embrace it as much as possible.”

On his award, Chapman added: “It’s nice if the fans think I’ve done well throughout the season. I go out every week and give 100 per cent so the fact they can see that and have recognised it makes me happy.

“It’s a big award to get and I’m very grateful for it, hopefully I can continue what I’ve been doing.”

Chapman signed for the Fleet from Dulwich but, due to Covid, it’s actually the first full season in senior football for the former Gillingham youngster.

It’s been a tough grind but he’s embraced the challenge and hasn't let his levels dip throughout the year.

“It’s both physical and mental,” he reflected. “Physically it’s hard training every day and then playing week in, week out, but mentally it’s hard as you have little niggles or you’re a bit tired one week.

“You don’t always wake up feeling 100 per cent but you still have to go and give 100 per cent every day. It’s a big mental battle but I’ve tried to be as strong as possible this year.

“I’ve been happy with my form. This is my first season in a competitive league that I’ve now finished so I’m happy to have played as many games as I have.

“I’ve done a bit of everything, I’ve played at the back, been a bit further forward, scored goals and defended.”

It’s a weekly question among many Fleet fans as to which position is best for Chapman.

He's equally at home in both defence and midfield, either centrally or wide.

So does the player himself have the answer?

“I don’t really know,” he insisted. “If I play every week, I don’t care as long as I am playing and I feel I can have an impact from anywhere on the pitch.

“Throughout my whole career I’ve not known what my best position is, I’ve just played everywhere.

“I see it as an advantage. If the gaffer trusts you to play everywhere then you play more games and playing more games gives you more experience.

“I feel at times I’ve got a lot of energy so sitting in front of a back four can be hard when I want to get up and down, but it’s nice to break up play and pass it off.

“I wouldn’t say there’s one position I like over another. It’s good to mix it up, it makes you a better player all round and you get the idea of where other people are going to be. If I've played somewhere else previously, I know where I want to pass the ball to, and where people want to be.”

There is the prospect of Ebbsfleet hosting Dartford in a semi-final derby on Sunday - if the Darts can see off Chippenham in the eliminator.

That brings back happy memories for Chapman, who netted a late winner when the Fleet beat Dartford in the corresponding league fixture at the turn of the year.

“I wouldn’t mind getting the winner again - it would be nice, definitely!” he smiled, when asked about the potential of playing another derby against Dartford.

“It was probably the highlight of my season as I don’t get that many goals. As we’ve been told by the fans a lot, it’s the big rivals, so to score in that and with it being the winner was huge for the fans and the club.

“We’ve got to play one less game (having finished third) so that’s better because we’re one step closer to winning it. We’ll rest up after Saturday’s win, then get back to training, get our hands down and look forward to Sunday, whoever we are up against.”

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