macdonald

The boys of summer – Part 2

Looking back once more to June signings of the past 20 years we arrived at 2007 – a pivotal point in not just Liam Daish’s reign but for the club as a whole.

Less than a month into the club’s new name as Ebbsfleet United and with a new sponsorship deal inked alongside Eurostar, Daish had to craft an improvement to build on the play-off challenge Fleet had mounted the previous season.

Having lost key players including Charlie MacDonald and Ross Smith to the Football League, there was room for manoeuvre in an increasingly competitive Conference.

Out went the old MacDonald but Daish recruited another in Gary MacDonald (pictured above) from Woking – and if you ever need a good Fleet-related quiz question, then this could be it… that Gary MacDonald was the first ever signing by ‘Ebbsfleet United’.

Daish continued to find Woking a useful source of recruitment as he added Neil Barrett to the ranks that same month, the midfielder having also turned out for Portsmouth and Dundee in the past. Both June signings appeared at Wembley at the end of that season’s memorable FA Trophy occasion, although MacDonald’s Fleet career was curtailed by an achilles injury.

Neil Barrett – June signing, Trophy winner and commercial manager!

Barrett stayed two seasons and returned for a second spell in 2011/12 when he also had a short posting as commercial manager, achieving 157 games in the process.

It was an otherwise quiet month for Daish who during the course of the following weeks would later add key components including Chris McPhee and Michael Bostwick to his squad.

Fast forward a year to June 2008 and with the club’s biggest budget to date, there was plenty of talk about new recruits but the headline purchase of Michael Gash would take until August.

He ended up playing in League One but June loan signing Darius Charles earned his breakthrough at Stonebridge Road

Instead, Fleet added just the two to their squad in June, classy defender Darius Charles turning his loan from Brentford of the previous season into a season-long deal. He was joined by another former Griffin Park youngster who would go on to become one of the mainstays in the side’s defence across two spells – Craig Stone.

Ill luck in his first spell was followed by promotion for Craig Stone

Local boy Stone, signed from Gillingham, was initially drafted in as a midfielder but a broken leg curtailed the first part of his stay with the Fleet. He returned in 2010 to earn promotion with the club as a defender, playing more than 160 games before winning more medals with Dover (at our expense!) and Tonbridge Angels.

June 2009 was devoid of a single Fleet signing, the club more concerned with outgoings as virtually the entire squad moved on (as well as assistant manager Alan Kimble and club secretary Roly Edwards). The on-off saga with York City and MyFootballClub over the transfers of Gash, Charles and Barrett occupied the fans throughout the month and as a result Daish’s recruitment was doomed to a frantic period of late-summer deals that struggled on the pitch.

With relegation in 2010 came another rebuilding exercise for the manager though he wasn’t overly busy in June, signing only one player. But what a player it was – skipper Paul Lorraine who would lift the play-off trophy at the end of his first season and come mighty close to doing so again in his final season. Lorro played 171 times through to 2014 and etched himself in Fleet history in that time.

Not a bad June signing in hindsight…!

As two years before, June 2011 was inactive with no new players signed, though the reasons were very different with newly promoted Fleet concentrating on keeping their star performers for the campaign ahead.

That campaign of 2011/12 was a decent one, Fleet finishing 14th, but despite Daish’s recruitment that summer looking positive on paper, 2012/13 was to be the club’s last at that level for five years.

Liam Bellamy, like Craig Stone, was to win promotion at Stonebridge Road… but with Dover!

Loanee Liam Bellamy signed permanently following his release by Brentford as the only bit of Fleet business in June 2012, but top scorer Calum Willock went the other way after two prolific seasons. Strike partner Liam Enver-Marum also looked like he was on his way, trialling with then League One side Stevenage through June, but he eventually returned for another season.

That brings us to the KEH Sports era come summer 2013 – and probably the busiest June for signings in the Fleet’s history. More of which in our final part this Sunday.

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