New signing Chris Haigh jumped at the chance to join the Fleet on learning of the club’s interest in him – and he’s been encouraged by all that has gone on behind the scenes before he was unveiled yesterday.
Speaking in his first interview (see below) after becoming an Ebbsfleet player, the 24-year-old said, “The chats I’ve had with the gaffer and also Damian were brilliant, they really made me feel at home. Something you don’t get a lot of everywhere is player welfare, how much they care about you as a person, how they want you to make sure you’re in your best possible space. That really really impressed and it’s something you don’t get a lot of these days so it was fantastic to hear
“I knew for a fact after Concord how important it is to have that team spirit and that’s something that was pretty much all built on. I know how strong and valuable that is within the team from speaking to Dennis. Some of the chats that we had he made that really clear and that’s something they were interested in. From talking to him, I think the first chat we had down here, it seemed like they were kind of just sussing me out as a person and I really like that because you know that your personal qualities are just as important as what we do on the pitch.”
What Haigh does on the pitch will, of course, be what Fleet fans are most invested in and the signing from Concord Rangers wants to be right up there on a personal and collective level.
“I’m still young as a keeper and I’m getting to a stage now where I’m starting to establish myself as a very good goalkeeper,” he said. “Now it’s about playing at a high level for a big club and making sure I’m showing what I can do. My personal goals are just to try and be the best keeper in the league. I feel like I’m good enough to do it and I want to make sure I can perform and show that week in, week out. The club’s a big club, they obviously want to move up the division so that’s got to be our team goal. We’ve just got to go into every game wanting to win. That’s why I’m here, I just want to win games of football and get this club back to where it belongs.”
And as the first line of defence against the opposition – and opposition fans! – the new keeper can’t wait to hear the familiar catcalls from behind the away end.
“I connect really well a lot of the time with fans of different clubs,” he said. “Fans really care about people that show an interest in them and they want to feel connected to the team so that’s really important. And as a goalkeeper you get the brunt of that with the away fans which is the fun bit. And you get the good side of it when you’re with your home fans as well. I can’t wait to get the abuse behind the goal, I love it, I can’t wait for that bit. The first game of the season when we get that is going to be a really good moment!”
Fleet’s new goalkeeper has worked his way up the divisions, having played for East Grinstead Town, Merstham, Maldon & Tiptree and Heybridge Swifts, while also turning out for Watford’s U21s. At Heybridge he was voted player of the season under manager Julian Dicks and won the play-off final with them – even though promotion was denied the club due to FA restructuring at that level. Add in the FA Trophy Final earlier this year where Haigh was voted man of the match in an excellent performance, and it’s clear the goalkeeper is riding the crest of a wave ever upwards.
“I started playing non-league at step four, I did well [at that level] and got my games in because I just wanted to play games,” explained Haigh. “I got picked up by Concord and had a really good year there and then obviously at Wembley last year and now here. [My agent] got in touch and said Ebbsfleet were interested and at that point it was just like, OK, and I was interested straight away. Obviously the club’s a massive club and to be able to be part of such a big club, training full-time being part of and playing for a big club, it’s huge for me.
“The FA Trophy was brilliant and definitely one to tick off the bucket list. It was a great end to a bit of a rubbish season with Covid so it was brilliant to finish on a high. All went well for me on the day and it felt like a lot of hard work had paid off. The season as a whole for the division and football in general wasn’t very good so for me it was great to have that kind of memorable moment and game to finish on such a high.”