It’s not going to get much more local for Fleet fans than new defender Jake Goodman. The former Millwall youth lives in Gravesend and has played at the Fleet for Margate, Maidenhead United and Bromley (pictured) – and what’s more, he almost signed for the club once before.
“A couple of years ago, after my stint at Margate, I spoke to Daryl McMahon,” Goodman revealed. “We were ready to make a deal happen but then it was just down to me wanting to play as high as possible. I went for a trial at a League Two club, which didn’t work out, and eventually I ended up with Braintree Town instead in the National League.
“But I’ve played down at Ebbsfleet, I’m used to the surroundings. I’ve usually had stick from the home crowd but hopefully that’ll change now and they’ll be on my side for the coming season!”
Living in Gravesend, Goodman’s not the first Kent-based player to be recruited this summer in a squad with more than a hint of local flavour. And while the 6ft 2in centre-back thinks locality helps connect with a club, he says it’s as much about the squad bonding together within and outside the training ground.
“I was in Bexleyheath as a youngster but I moved out to Gravesend about two years ago,” he said. “So I’m a real local lad now!
“I don’t think location has that much to do with it, the spirit will come from the characters that will arrive into the club. Being local, for me, it does help perhaps give you that connection with the crowd but regardless I think it comes down to the players wanting to come here and I’m sure we’ll bond well. That’s what will take us through as a new squad in a new environment. We create that amongst ourselves with the guidance of the management and the aim is to create a nice atmosphere around the club and with the fans.”
Goodman’s career to date has included numerous highs. He was part of a Maidenhead side that finished in the club’s highest ever position – 12th in the National League – and it was a team the player felt could have challenged for the play-offs that season.
He’s also come up against world-class players in an FA Cup tie for AFC Wimbledon that also featured ex-Fleet midfielder Frankie Sutherland.Embed from Getty Images
“I played against Steven Gerrard and Mario Balotelli versus Liverpool,” said Goodman. “It was a massive game and a massive learning curve but it was tough, seeing how evolved they are in comparison with us. Looking back at that game with Wimbledon, I don’t think we deserved to lose but Liverpool’s big players stood out after half-time and Gerrard really turned the game. If it wasn’t for him, I believe we’d have caused an upset.
“I’ve had positives in all the seasons I’ve played. At Maidenhead we achieved a lot for the size of the club with an excellent group of players. Then Bromley was another excellent learning curve for me the season before last, getting back into full-time football. Even last season when I was not playing because of an injury, I was learning the coaching side in the academy which, again, was thoroughly enjoyable.”
Goodman received the all-clear from his injury earlier this year and was ready to dust himself down when lockdown hit.
“I was literally just about to sign for a club on loan and then the meeting happened with the National League stopping football because of coronavirus. That was absolutely the right course of action but obviously frustrating on a personal level because even with another week’s delay I would have got a game or two under my belt to say ‘Here I am, I’m back’. But I’m fit now and with a pre-season to come and the season ahead, I want to show what I’m about.”
And what can Fleet fans expect now from their new central defender?
“I like to head it, I like to defend by putting my body on the line. I like to organise the players in front of me. But I’m also one to try and get the ball down and pass, get the midfielders and the so-called technical players to do the work from there. We’ve got to be sensible, understand the situation of the game we’re playing, when to go long and when not to. Being a defender, doing that role is obviously the most important bit for me and the other side of that game will come as the season starts and we know our jobs and our teammates.”
Goodman comes into the Fleet squad out of Bromley alongside Adam Mekki but he knows a few more of his teammates as well.
“I know Tobi [Adebayo-Rowling] from his time at Bromley. Lee Martin was a senior pro at Millwall while I was up and coming there. It’ll be good to see those faces but whoever comes in, we’ll have the same goal. We know pre-season will be tough, we’ve had a longer break so we know we’re going to have to work double-hard to hit the ground running.”
Goodman also paid tribute to his former club as he departs Hayes Lane after two seasons.
“Bromley were excellent looking after me from my injury and making sure I got back to fitness. They showed a duty of care and massive credit to them for that. I then was in contact with Steve Lovell, Ebbsfleet were interested, here I am and now it’s just about moving Ebbsfleet back into the National League.”