Published: 06:31, 01 August 2018
Dr Abdulla al-Humaidi is ready for his most exciting season yet as the owner of Ebbsfleet United.
Five years on from the KEH Sports takeover which saved Fleet from extinction, the club is well-placed to push for promotion to the Football League while stadium redevelopment is about to continue.
Dr al-Humaidi has invested millions of pounds during that time and has once again reiterated his long-term commitment to both the club and local area.
It took Ebbsfleet four years to get out of National League South following the buyout but now things on the pitch are picking up pace.
"I’m actually quite excited this year," Dr al-Humaidi said. "I have a very good feeling, seeing the team and the new additions Daryl McMahon has made and I think we’ll be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
"I don’t want to make the mistake of saying what to expect but challenging for a top-five finish would be ideal and I think we’ll be able to do that this year. Maybe, if we’re lucky, we can take it one step closer and get promotion.
"Ultimately, that’s the goal. If we do it this year, great, if not, there’s always next season.
"We’ve seen some of the players come back in completely different shape, physically and mentally. The obvious one is Sean Shields - he looks much bigger than last season.
"With the core of the squad improved under the guidance of Daryl and having these additions, it should be an exciting season ahead."
The club is almost unrecognisable from the one Dr al-Humaidi took over in 2013.
A new main stand running along Stonebridge Road is the most obvious change but with the team now training full-time and attracting players from the Football League, things behind the scenes are very different too.
Dr al-Humaidi said: "I always wanted to be involved in a non-league club, take it up the pyramid, develop it and give something back to the local community.
"I was looking at a number of clubs but then Peter Varney gave me a call and said 'there’s an exciting club called Ebbsfleet, it’s within the right area, the community there has an affection for the club and lots is going on in that area'. We looked at it and the decision was made quickly to purchase the club.
"When I first went there, the club was in a horrible condition. The stands were rusty and it was a depressing sight.
"But we made the purchase and it’s been a good five years. I've enjoyed my time and my relationship with the fans is good. Hopefully there are many successful years to come as well."
But has the reality of owning a football club matched Dr al-Humaidi's vision?
"It’s similar to everything else," he said. "You have one thing in your head but once you get inside, it’s much more difficult than you’d expect. There are lots of moving parts and lots of people involved so it's quite difficult managing or owning a club.
"But, looking at the five years, we’ve done well both on and off the pitch. Yes, it has been slow on both ends but slowly growing is much better than having success for one or two years and then spiralling down.
"I’m quite happy with what we've achieved and I think we’ve built a great team and great atmosphere both on and off the pitch.
"Peter Varney, as a personal friend, has been instrumental in helping us get to this position and he’s left behind a great team in Dean Pooley and Dave Archer. It’s a very good set-up and Peter Danzey has been great as secretary.
"On the playing side, we are building an exciting management team in Daryl and his coaching staff.
"The atmosphere in the dressing-room is great. There is a will to win and this is what matters.
"The players enjoy their time as well. They come really happy and not forced into training or playing. That tells you a lot, having the right atmosphere and I think this year will be very exciting as a club."