Monday, 30 April 2012


One of Ebbsfleet United's unsung heroes stepped into the limelight on the final day of the regular Blue Square Bet Premier season when defender Joe Howe picked up four 'player of the year' awards.  Ranked top of the class by manager Liam Daish, his team-mates, the Fleet Trust and MyFootballClub, the 24-year-old was rightfully recognised for a host of consistent displays which epitomised the Fleet's dogged determination in their first season back at non-league's top table.

To bring a touch of perspective to his trophy haul, it is worth remembering that Howe was not in the Fleet's starting line-up at the start of the season. In October 2010, he wasn't even playing Conference football. Part of the Croydon Athletic side promoted into the Ryman Premier Division, Howe and his team-mates were then left reeling by Mazhar Majeed's role in the cricket spot-fixing scandal which would land the co-owner a prison sentence and eventually force the club to close.

Howe's talents had attracted the attentions of Daish and Ebbsfleet, however, and he earned himself a move to Stonebridge Road. His versatility soon made him an indispensable squad member and after featuring in midfield and at right-back, Howe made the left-back berth his own in the early weeks of the 2011/12 campaign. The rest, as they say, is history...

Firstly, how does it feel to have reached the end of the season?

It feels good to get to the end of the season and have a bit of a rest now. All the boys deserve it, it's been a tough season.

You finished 14th, 13 points clear of the relegation places. Does that represent success for Ebbsfleet?

Yes, it does. People were tipping us to go straight back down and to finish comfortably above relegation is a great achievement.

Being a part-time club in a full-time league: what sort of challenges has that thrown up for you over the last few months?

Having better fitness levels and being able to work with each other every day certainly gives them an advantage.

I get the impression you guys quite enjoy playing the underdog role. Is that fair?

I wouldn't say underdogs, but it's been good when we've beaten a lot of full-time teams.


What's your earliest memory of football?

My dad taking me to watch Charlton when I was very young. Instead of watching the game I just ran up and down the terraces.

Classic stuff. Do you still have a soft spot for the Addicks these days? And who were your footballing heroes growing up?

Yeah, I always look out for their results. It's pleasing that they have won the League One title and are back in the Championship. My footballing hero would probably be Ryan Giggs.

What is the best pre-game meal?  


I personally have two poached eggs on toast, but chicken and pasta would also be best pre-game.

To walk away with four awards at the end-of-season bash - what did that mean to you?


A bit unexpected but obviously delighted! 


Where will they be displayed? 


I really don't know. At the moment they are just on a coffee table in the living room. I will have to make room for them somewhere.

As I recall, you were a very late inclusion for the play-off final a year ago. What are your memories of that day?

Great memories of that day, but sitting on the coach thinking "I'm starting, I'm not starting" was a bit nerve-wracking.

And then taking Derek Duncan's place when he got injured in the warm-up... What on earth was going through your head then?

Well, the gaffer said to me to prepare as if I was starting, but there were a few nerves and bit of excitement.

I bet. Tell us a bit about your journey since leaving Croydon in 2010. Do those days seem a long time ago now?

Winning the Ryman South division in 2010 to being caught up in the cricket scandal which ended with the club being liquidated. But it led me to the Fleet and I haven't looked back since.

Who are your best friends in football? And the best players you've played with and against?

I don't really have a best friend in football. Best player played with: Jason Puncheon. Best player played against: Aaron Lennon.

Liam Daish has been nominated for non-league manager of the season. Why should people vote for your gaffer? 

For the resources he's had, he's done an excellent job in keeping us the division and built a squad that always gives its best.

Are you coming down with Olympic fever yet?


Not really. I tried to get tickets but was unsuccessful like so many others, will just have to watch on it TV.

Team-mate questions: Who's the hard man, who's the joker and who decides what music gets played in the changing-room? 

Hard man: Preston Edwards. Joker: Clint Easton. Ricky Shakes is the DJ. 

Where do you expect to be playing your football next season?


Hopefully Camp Nou haha, but I'd settle for Stonebridge Road.

I heard Pep Guardiola was having you scouted. Too bad, eh... What team should England pick for their first game at Euro 2012? 

Hart, Walker, Ferdinand, Terry, Cole, Lennon, Parker, Gerrard, A Johnson, Rooney, Welbeck. Oxlade-Chamberlain should travel as well.

Rooney's banned for the first two games, so who takes his place? 

Oh yeah, forgot. Ummm.... Crouch.


Finally, you've got one tweet to tell the world about Ebbsfleet United FC. Go...

Great worldwide family club with a fighting spirit.

You can follow @Howe88 on Twitter

Friday, 27 April 2012


One of the more heart-warming sub-plots behind Woking's promotion back to Conference Premier was the role played by midfielder Kevin Betsy in the latter weeks of the campaign. Betsy, snapped up by Kevin Keegan's Fulham in 1998 after exploding onto the scene at Kingfield months earlier, re-joined the Cards in February 2012, having turned out for 11 different Football League clubs during the interim period.

Now 34, Betsy made his 'second debut' in Woking's 1-0 win over their closest title rivals, Dartford, and started the next nine games. A red card at Eastbourne Borough was a rare blot on his copybook, but his three goals in the space of four games helped the Cards tighten their stranglehold on top spot, before the championship was finally sown up with victory at Maidenhead United.

A terrace hero of mine during his days as a flying wing-back under Geoff Chapple and John McGovern, Betsy's triumphal return further enhanced his reputation as a legend of the red and white halves. Strange, really - when you consider he's made just 58 league starts for Woking over a 15-year period - but then that's the beauty of football, isn't it?

What was your first pair of boots?


Adidas L2000, black with green stripes. Lush.


Nice. What's your earliest memory of football and who were your heroes growing up?

My uncle gave me a 1982 World Cup football and it never left me. I lived a stone's throw from Upton Park so used to go and watch West Ham, [Tony] Cottee and [Frank] McAvennie. But John Barnes was my hero #inspiring

I've been enjoying your blog. What prompted you to start writing and who are your favourite sports writers?

My father worked in the industry for 25 years at the Daily Mail and Today, so it's in the family. My degree is helping me develop my writing. Football was always my priority growing up - I didn't have time for much else. Nowadays, I can do things I never had time to do. If people like my writing then that is great. We all have things to say. When I got my first byline in a national paper, it was like scoring a goal #delighted. Graham Hunter is my favourite, as my Dad introduced me to him when I was a boy, and I've followed his career develop. Gab Marcotti is decent as well.

Congratulations on winning promotion. Describe how it feels to have helped Woking back into Conference Premier.

Fantastic. I owe the club my career, as without them I would not have had the opportunity to make it in the pro game. The club has been down over the last few years and it's great to help them back up to the level they should be. A crowd of 4300 at our last home game shows what can be achieved in the future. Football clubs should be a massive part of the community. Woking are doing things right even in non-league.

Was it always in your plans to return to Woking one day?

The best plan is to be happy in life. It's natural to gravitate back to places of happiness and people that help achieve this.

How hot do you have your chicken at Nando's?


I rarely go Nando's as my parents' chicken is the best. All I can say is hot and spicy.

You were in the Fulham squad for their first ever Premiership game - at Old Trafford. Your memories of that day?

Unforgettable! Childhood dreams of playing in the top league, realised coming on as sub at a full Theatre of Dreams. Great game, lost 3-2, with the magnifique Louis Saha scoring two for us. Beckham and Van Nistelrooy (two) for United.

Barry Hayles got a start that afternoon - did you grab a word when he came down to Woking with Truro [on April 21]?

Of course, I replaced him in that game. He is one of my closest friends. We speak often.

I was just going to ask... Who are your best friends in football?


Darren Byfield, Stefan Oakes, Lloyd Owusu, Steve Kabba.


And the best players you've played with and against?


Played with: Saha, Dean Gorre, Chris Coleman, Danny Senda. Against: Andy Cole, David Beckham, Ashley Cole, Ryan Giggs.

You can follow @kevinbetsy on Twitter