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Striker Dan Bradshaw hopes Sheppey United can mount a promotion challenge in Isthmian South East next season after committing to another season – Departing the club are captain Richie Hamill, James Bessey-Saldanha, James Taylor and Connor Wilkins

Sheppey United striker Dan Bradshaw is agonisingly close to a big personal milestone but knows time is ticking on his career.

Bradshaw, who turns 34 this year, wants to see out his playing days with the Ites and has already committed to another season - one which he admits might be his last.

Dan Bradshaw celebrates a Sheppey goal against Sittingbourne Picture: Marc Richards
Dan Bradshaw celebrates a Sheppey goal against Sittingbourne Picture: Marc Richards

The predatory striker is on 144 goals for Sheppey and would love to make it to 150 while also helping push for promotion next season.

Bradshaw said: “I started my career there and I always said I wanted to finish my career there. That is what I am hoping to do, that’s the plan.

“This could very much be my last year playing and I don’t think we achieved our full potential last year in the league.

“The FA Cup run took our minds off the league and we dropped a lot of points during that period. The amount of players injured through that process, pushing themselves, dying to play. It pushed injuries a little bit too far and we were down to half a squad in the league. We did lose a lot of points.

“I want to take Sheppey into the play-offs and into the Isthmian Premier, play my part in getting them as high as possible before I leave.

“The club is special to me. I know it is coming to an end, I am not stupid, I want to finish with the club I started at.”

Bradshaw was 22 when he first moved to the island, making a name for himself as a Sunday League hotshot.

He said: “When I first got down here I knew nobody, no one at all, not a single person. I started playing Sunday League and my name got banded about.

“I was about 24 when I first joined the club. It was my first real senior club since coming out of the military and it’s where I made my name.”

Nobody in the modern era has scored more goals for the club than Bradshaw and he’s regarded as their all-time leading scorer. He’s planning on going into coaching when he hangs his boots up and hopes to take some sessions next season with the under-18s.

But he admits trying to play and coach is something he’s already tried.

He said: “If I did coaching as well I would never see my kids or wife! I did it for a season and it was a nightmare. I enjoyed it but I can’t do both.

“Next year, if I do decide to retire, I can go in and do it a little more full-time but it is not something I am going to rush. If I get another season then the coaching can be put on the back burner. I will do it when the time is right.

“I am on 144 career Sheppey goals, six to go. I would like to finish at least on 150, I would like that next to my name when I go out. It is a big personal milestone for me.

“I am hoping to go into coaching at Sheppey once I hang my boots up and I’ll want someone to go on and break my record.

“I would like to teach a kid certain things and then watch them go on and break my record. That would be quite nice.”

Dan Bradshaw scores for Sheppey United against Ashford United Picture: Marc Richards
Dan Bradshaw scores for Sheppey United against Ashford United Picture: Marc Richards

Bradshaw got 16 goals last season - a decent total by most people’s standards but not quite what the striker’s used to.

He said: “I haven’t really hit those lower numbers previously, even at Chatham when we played two thirds of the season (due to Covid) I still got 25.

“Last year I was disappointed but I have spoken to the management and coaching staff and they have been like ‘don’t take it to heart, you’ve been in and out through injury and others came in, so you were benched and then in, then benched and in again’. It was a stop, start season and I couldn’t get into a rhythm.

“It is quite hard to get into a rhythm when you are in and out of the squad.

“I was disappointed with the amount of goals I got, but we finished just outside the play-offs, so it wasn’t horrific.

“I know the club can do better than we did last year. If we get the right players in we should be hitting the play-offs and I want to be part of that.

“The body is starting to tell me ‘Dan, you need to chill a bit,’ but if I look after myself right I am hoping to get another couple of years but you never know.

“I would like to go out on a high, so we’ll see.”

There’s been several departures from Sheppey recently with captain Richie Hamill moving to Swale rivals Sittingbourne.

Hamill leaves The Ites after an “unbelievable five seasons at the club” where he had helped them clinch a quadruple trophy haul and promotion from the Southern Counties East Premier Division.

On X, he said it had “been a pleasure” but that it was “time for a new challenge.”

Hamill scored from 30 yards against The Brickies last season in the derby match at Holm Park.

Sheppey’s departed skipper Richie Hamill celebrates a goal with Dan Bradshaw Picture: Marc Richards
Sheppey’s departed skipper Richie Hamill celebrates a goal with Dan Bradshaw Picture: Marc Richards

James Bessey-Saldanha has also announced his exit from the club, describing last season as “a year I will never forget.”

His big moment came in the FA Cup, scoring the opener for Sheppey against Walsall in round one of the competition, live on TV. The Ites eventually lost the game 4-1.

James Taylor is also moving on after a season with Sheppey. He scored five goals for the team including late winners against Broadbridge Heath and Littlehampton Town.

Connor Wilkins has also announced that “it’s time for a new challenge.”

Midfielder Josh Wisson has agreed to a Sheppey return, having left the club for Hythe Town last season.

Manager Ernie Batten was glad to have him back.

He said: “I know what he can bring to us and he also brings a voice on the pitch.

Connor Wilkins has announced he’s left Sheppey United Picture: Marc Richards
Connor Wilkins has announced he’s left Sheppey United Picture: Marc Richards

Goalkeeper Aiden Prall, meanwhile, is staying for a third season at Holm Park.

Batten said: “Aiden is without doubt one of the standout keepes at this level and that has shown in his previous two seasons.

“He’s never really let us down. He can earn you points with the saves he makes and he’s a character we all love at the club.”

“One of his core strengths is his heading ability, you rarely see him lose aerial battles and that’s important to have when playing some of the teams who use their aerial strength.

“I’ve made it no secret to Wisso that he has to be fit and maintain that for the new season, and knowing how much he wants to be back here I’m sure he’ll keep his side of the bargain.”

Wisson said: “I’m looking forward to coming back nice and fit and playing with some of the boys who were part of the fantastic FA Cup run last year. More importantly, I’m eager to have a competitive and successful season this year.

“It’s a club that feels like a perfect fit for me and I’m buzzing to get started again.”

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