Michael West is hoping for his “best Ebbsfleet season” following his return to the club from Eastbourne Borough – and for anyone who remembers his contributions from 2010-12 especially, a reinvigorated West can only be a good thing.
“I probably haven’t really enjoyed my football as much as I could have over the past few years,” the latest Fleet signing told the club website. “So to get the chance to come back home with what’s going on here now, I’m really excited and determined and I want to have the best season with the club.”
The midfielder’s contract with Eastbourne was up at the end of the 2019/20 season and things moved quickly once he received the initial approach from the club.
“I had a chat with Steve Lovell and came in, talked to Dennis Kutrieb online as well, and it fell into place quickly, everything worked out and it was an easy decision to come back here. Things didn’t quite work for me during my second spell but I think Ebbsfleet now is a club that wants to go places again.
“Everyone knows the club aimed for the Football League last time I was here but that was then, this is now. The squad building going on here that Steve and Dennis have outlined, it’s going to be a good time to be involved at the Fleet.”
West’s knee-injury woes curtailed his appearances after rejoining the Fleet in January 2014 before he spent a period on loan with Whitehawk prior to joining the Sussex club permanently in summer 2016.
“There was a lot going on that didn’t work out for me, not just injuries last time out,” West said. “The club had big plans back then but coming in now six years later, with everything I can see happening and talking to Damian, Dennis and Steve, I think it’s every bit as exciting, more so in fact, and I’m thrilled to be back again.”
There is more than a hint of familiarity about Fleet’s position as West comes back to his former club. In his previous two spells, when he broke through in 2010 and then returned in 2014, a recently relegated Fleet were looking to bounce straight back.
‘Unfinished business’ may be a phrase trotted out rather too easily ahead of West’s third spell at Stonebridge Road and the player is clear he just wants to focus on the task ahead, not what’s behind him.
“People say how much experience I have at this level now and I just want to bring that into the club this time around. There’s a good feeling here now, like I say it’s different to my previous spell, I’m in a different frame of mind to make the most of coming back here again.”
As a teenager fresh out of the Fleet youth side, West would serve teas to the press box and almost 14 years on, the 29-year-old will return as what will likely be one of the more experienced players in the camp. He has played more than 130 National South games since leaving the Fleet last time out, not to mention the 50-odd he played at this level in a red shirt. That experience is something he will use to his and the club’s advantage in 2020/21.
“If I can come in and help younger players develop and help them out on the pitch, then I’m happy to do that,” says West. “A bit like when I was a young player here and people like Paul McCarthy would be there for advice, show me the right way to do things. That influence is really important.”
Having spent the past five seasons with Whitehawk, Chelmsford City and Eastbourne, West has an intimate knowledge of the levels for success in the National League – not to mention having achieved such once with the Fleet already – and he’s confident that the squad-building plan in process will yield more than a challenge this season.
“It gives you confidence talking to the staff here about the plans in place,” he said. “And getting messages from people and the fans since the news broke on Friday, it’s all positive.”
Having rerun the Farnborough play-off final from 2011 on the club’s YouTube channel this summer, West was certainly back in the minds of his many well-wishers on Twitter as exploits from 2010/11’s individual heights were recalled.
“My aim is to have my best Ebbsfleet season and scoring at the rate I did that season wouldn’t be too bad, would it? I’d rather do without play-offs, but another six goals like that would be good if we do!”