Fleet­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties can make dreams come true

The Non-League Football Paper - - RESULTS SERVICE - By MATT BAD­COCK

DARYL McMa­hon is the per­fect guide of Ebb­s­fleet United’s new stand. Just three hours be­fore Tues­day night’s visit of Torquay United, we’re walk­ing across the pitch for the grand tour of the build­ing that houses new chang­ing rooms, con­fer­ence rooms, sup­port­ers’ bar, me­dia fa­cil­i­ties and board­room.

It’s im­pres­sive and sig­nals the club’s pro­gres­sion. In the home chang­ing room there will be a TV they can use to put live in­for­ma­tion across to the play­ers to en­hance half-time team talks.

McMa­hon, 34, jokes his new man­ager’s of­fice might not be big enough for the fridge he has in his cur­rent one, but the big open­ing isn’t far away.

Fans are us­ing the seats for games and soon the inside will be ready for use. The de­lay has been caused by the build­ing con­trac­tor go­ing bust part­way through the job, but they’re as good as there now with just plas­tic sheet­ing to be pulled from car­pets and some last minute tidy­ing up.

Club owner Dr Ab­dulla AlHu­maidi, the man who has made it all pos­si­ble, has two flat screen TVs in his board­room and his own box that over­looks the end Fleet tend to kick to in the sec­ond half.

Not that he should be con­fused with hav­ing the ego of some club own­ers. He’s of­ten spot­ted walk­ing to matches from the train sta­tion and had to be en­cour­aged to take the ap­plause of the sup­port­ers when they won the Na­tional League South play-offs last sea­son.

The next stage of ground de­vel­op­ment at the newly-named Ku­flink Sta­dium is to re­build the ter­rac­ing be­hind the goal which will in­clude a ho­tel. With this area of Kent go­ing through a housing boom and, even­tu­ally, a mega Para­mount Stu­dios theme park set to be built, the club are look­ing to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion.

What bet­ter way to spread the word than a big date in the FA Cup first round proper on Satur­day when League One side Don­caster Rovers come to town.

McMa­hon was busy watch­ing clips of Bar­row when the draw – which he ad­mits will be tough – was made, but he ap­pre­ci­ates what big days like this can bring from his Ley­ton Ori­ent play­ing days. And how they can help foster what he de­scribes as the most cru­cial fac­tor at any club: spirit.

In­sight

“We beat Ful­ham at Craven Cot­tage and lost at Charl­ton in the fourth round in the last minute,” he says. “It was a de­flected free­kick from Jay Bothroyd.

“That was the year we won pro­mo­tion as well and the cup run helped us as a team – we were a very to­gether squad. In that year, in League Two, it was us Wy­combe and Northampton who went up. Other teams prob­a­bly had bet­ter play­ers but we were a very good team and very to­gether.

“You don’t win any­thing without spirit. You can have the most money or the least money, if you haven’t got spirit it doesn’t mat­ter, you won’t achieve any­thing.

“To­geth­er­ness is the most im­por­tant thing of any foot­ball club. And it’s not just the play­ers, it’s the team be­hind the team. Like here. Peter Danzey, Ch­eryl in the of­fice, Dave Archer, the com­mer- cial man­ager – all the peo­ple here who, when they come to work, ev­ery player says hello to them so every­one feels part of the same thing.”

It’s not some­thing that just hap­pens. But there’s an in­sight into how he op­er­ates be­fore kick-off as he takes in­di­vid­ual play­ers aside be­fore the game for a quiet word in the ear.

“We’ve been lucky that we’ve been able to go to Por­tu­gal in pre­sea­son for the last three sea­sons and it’s def­i­nitely been a mas­sive thing for us,” he says. “It set­tles every­one down and brings every­one to­gether. They’re al­most forced to­gether ev­ery day for a week. We have quiz nights and do things to­gether but they have their free time as well. If they want to play golf on their af­ter­noon off they can so­cialise to­gether. That’s re­ally im­por­tant.

“I’m fairly re­laxed apart from, when we’re work­ing, we’re work­ing. Out­side of that I’m very re­laxed as long as you’re re­spect­ful of the en­vi­ron­ment and every­one in it. I’m chilled out with the play­ers, I trust them.

“They also know they’ve got an open chang­ing room. There’s no se­crets. I speak to peo­ple face to face, I’ve got an open line to ev­ery player and they do to me.

Car­ing

“The man­agers I liked the most, I had that re­la­tion­ship with. They just take a bit of car­ing. Know­ing what you’re like, what your life is like and try to un­der­stand things.”

Tues­day night’s 1-0 de­feat to Torquay was only the 13th in McMa­hon’s 101 league games since he took charge. In his first full sea­son they fin­ished run­ners-up to Sut­ton United and lost out in the play-off fi­nal to Maid­stone United on penal­ties.

McMa­hon gauges the spirit and char­ac­ter he has in his chang­ing

room from the way they bounced back. Even 96 points last year weren’t enough to pip Maiden­head United to the ti­tle and in the play-off fi­nal against Chelms­ford they had An­thony Cook sent off in the first half as they also found them­selves a goal down. But they came back to fi­nally win pro­mo­tion to Step 1 four years af­ter rel­e­ga­tion.

Pro­mo­tion had been the club’s be all and end all for a long time but McMa­hon in­sists on a squad that doesn’t feel like it can re­lax just be­cause they achieved their goal.

A lot of that comes from the young play­ers he says are “dy­ing to play in the Foot­ball League,” the ex­pe­ri­enced Non-Lea­guers who are “top play­ers now in their own right,” and the older heads in the chang­ing room, who have been there and done it. Char­ac­ters like Andy Drury, Danny Ked­well and ex-Premier League for­ward Aaron McLean, who re­cently be­came the strik­ers’ coach as well. “Macca will be the first one to ad­mit that, he’s got tech­ni­cal abil­ity and scores goals, he did it through hard work,” McMa­hon says. “Train­ing harder than any­one else, work­ing harder in games – he still does it now. Watch him in a game and he’s ev­ery­where. It’s just built into him to be like that and it sets ex­am­ples to young play­ers. ‘If I do it and I’ve played in the Premier League, then you’ve got to do it be­cause you’ve been play­ing in the Con­fer­ence South’.

Analysis

“That might sound a bit harsh, but it’s true. If you want to go to that next level you’ve got to be pre­pared to put the miles in. Whether it’s man­ag­ing and go­ing to games, get­ting on the phone, re­search­ing train­ing, or a player mak­ing sure you’re ready to per­form.”

McMa­hon says Drury plays like he’s in McMa­hon’s brain, while striker Ked­well has led from the front since the day McMa­hon took the man­ager’s job.

“It’s in­cred­i­ble to keep go­ing, not so much the matches but the train­ing ev­ery day,” he says. “The three of them, bar­ring in­jury, don’t miss a day. The big­gest one is Ked­well. In my two-and-a-half years he might have missed three train­ing ses­sions be­cause he’s never in­jured ei­ther. Keds is the one player we

have, I don’t care what any­one says, who de­fies sports sci­ence! He does! No mat­ter what you do to him. He runs at over 80 per cent for 90 min­utes, which is un­heard of re­ally.”

What about the young play­ers, are they dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters these days?

“Def­i­nitely,” McMa­hon says. “They’ve got a lot more than we had and they’re def­i­nitely bet­ter at analysis and self-analysis.

“Prob­a­bly my age com­ing through, if some­body told you you’d done some­thing wrong you’d want to have a row with them and fight your own ground.

“Now, younger play­ers es­pe­cially, want crit­i­cism to get bet­ter. Jack Powell is one who, nigh on ev­ery Mon­day, comes in to chat about his game from the Satur­day and talk through his video clips. The things he’s done well, the things he hasn’t, the games he’s seen – he just loves foot­ball. You’ve got to have that time to help their de­vel­op­ment.”

McMa­hon’s own de­vel­op­ment as a man­ager is only just be­gin­ning. He hung up his boots aged 31 be­cause he wanted to walk on the man­age­ment and coach­ing path.

His own ap­proach is re­lent­less, he says he’s lucky wife Alex, who he met in a Rom­ford club when he was 16, un­der­stands how he ticks. Last week they wel­comed the lat­est ar­rival into their fam­ily, with daugh­ter Marnie joined by baby sis­ter Aspen.

“I’ve got a very set­tled home life,” he says. “I live 50 miles away so any stresses or strains I can leave on the drive back and when I get home be a hus­band and a dad. It’s hard at times. My wife un­der­stands some­times my mind will be else­where.

“I’m still a novice in man­age­ment. Hope­fully, touch wood, it’s the start of a ca­reer, but you can never tell in foot­ball can you? It’s so volatile but so far so good and hope­fully we can build on what we’ve started here.”

TEAM SPIRIT: To­geth­er­ness in a squad is cru­cial to Daryl McMa­hon’s ma cel­e­brate vic­tory in the Na­tional League South play-off fi­nal against Che

PIC­TURE: Pin­na­cle

antra. In­set: Ebb­s­fleet elms­ford City STANDING PROUD: Ebb­s­fleet United’s new-look Ku­flink Sta­dium. In­set: Daryl McMa­hon

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