Midfield signing Josh Wright saw the Fleet up close and personal in his two games against his new club for Billericay Town last season – but his links to DA11 go back a little further than that. Wright is more than familiar with Stonebridge Road, having played here as a teenager making his first steps in the world of professional football.
“When I was at Charlton, we used to play our reserve games here,” Wright told the club website in his first interview as a Fleet player. “I’ve got some great, very fond memories of it. I loved that time and really enjoyed playing football here – so to now come and sign for Ebbsfleet and be an Ebbsfleet player and play out there on that pitch hopefully many times to come, it’s quite surreal and I’m excited. It’s weird how the cycle and the circle goes around as they say in football and now I’m just looking forward to getting going.
“When we came to play here for Billericay in December, I couldn’t believe the difference in the place. Obviously with the new stand and the quality of the pitch, everything about it really has transformed because it was so many years ago now since I first played here. I’ve played a few pre-season games here as well so it’s always been a club that I’ve looked out for, kept an eye on and been aware of.”
The former Gillingham and Millwall player spent several seasons in the Championship but there’s no indication of his enthusiasm for the game letting up as he waxed lyrical about how he’s looking forward to the new season and working with Dennis Kutrieb and his new teammates, many of whom he knows from a successful career in the EFL.
“At Billericay, I was so impressed the first time we played Ebbsfleet in December,” Wright recalled. “Even though we got the draw, they were by far in my opinion the best side in the league and so I was really excited about what the club was about, the way and style they’ve got about them with the gaffer. I could really see the style of the side and the way they were trying to play.
“I’ve had a chat with Dennis Kutrieb and his staff about the roles, where they see me fitting in and what they would want me to do and it was music to my ears. That’s what I’m about, I just love playing football and winning and if you can do it in as exciting and enjoyable a way as possible, it suits me. I love getting on the ball and passing, having a lot of the ball and that’s exactly what I feel I can do here. Straight away it caught my eye and I’m pleased that the interest came from the gaffer. I’m delighted now and eager to get going.
“You always seem to know a few players going into new clubs, especially if you stay local you’ll have come across someone that you played with or against. At Charlton I was with Chris Solly who I know very well and I know Lee Martin who has just left here of course, but I talked to them about the move. Shaq Coulthirst was at Billericay and other clubs too with me, Joe Martin another I played with – and there’s probably quite a few more if I went through the squad. Everyone’s spoken very highly of Ebbsfleet and said to me I should do it. So here I am and looking forward to joining them and going into battle with them every week. This club came so close last season and in my opinion, out of everyone I played against last year, this club should have had a promotion. Football’s cruel but we pick ourselves up and take ourselves over the hurdles to the next stage.”
Wright’s spell with Billericay last season was his first experience of non-league football but his aim, much like his ex-Blues teammate Coulthirst, was always to return to a full-time regime.
“I’d never done non-league so it was different getting used to that,” he explained. “But it suited for a while going part-time – I was in a transition period, my wife fell pregnant, we’d moved into a brand new house and the offers to stay in the League didn’t quite work for us. That wasn’t to say I didn’t want to play at the highest level I could but then it didn’t fit for me at the time. Billericay was an opportunity and the manager Jody Brown I had a very good relationship with. It was a good club and a shame how it finished. I had to adjust to the evening training and not being in most days of the week which is very different after being used to the professional game. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity but it was a bit of a short-term fix and I was always going to be looking to get back to full-time and really pushing myself to the next levels again, working towards a successful season to take this club back up to at least where it deserves to be.
“It’s 14 or 15 years I played at League level, I started very young, learned the ropes on loan and then obviously last season I had the six months at Billericay. It fitted and suited at the time and I had a good time there to get going again. And now I feel like I’ve stepped back up coming to Ebbsfleet. There’s a Football League club mentality and direction in terms of the owner and people behind the scenes, what they do and the whole staff here. The group of players I’ve seen is exciting.”
So what sort of player are the Fleet fans getting in their new man?
“If you asked me that question five or six years ago I would say I was more of a holding midfielder, a number four type who loves to get on the football, to tick it over, keep it, get it off your full back and thread the balls into the number 10s and the forwards, “ said Wright. “But then I also like to switch the play, big diagonal passes or drop it over to the strikers. Over the last five or six years, one or two managers have taken those reins off me if you like because they feel I’ve got the energy to get up and down, move it box to box. And when I’m let go like that to get into the box, I’ve also got goals in me. I’ve had a few seasons like, one at Gillingham, where I’ve got double figures plus a few penalties too so I love a goal as well. But to sum it up, I’m someone who likes to be in the middle of the park, likes to get on the ball and likes to dictate and organise. I feel like a leader and an organiser on and off the park and to lead the team as much as I can.
“I really do think from what I’m hearing and seeing and listening to like I’m going to be a part of something. We’ll have a great chance and we know it’s going to be a long season but with the fans backing us, we’ll go for it. And that’s another thing that really caught my eye when I played here in December and when they travelled to Billericay, how loud and passionate the fans were. I’ve seen that across the seasons and the years when I’ve been over here too.”