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Fleetdown F.C. was formed from a junior side of under 11’s leaving Fleetdown Primary school in 1971. Initially, the club began with a U11’s and u15’s team training on the school’s field and joining the IJF league. It was decided that the team colours would be tangerine as no other them played in that colour and this would allow for the fledgling club to save on not having to buy an away kit. Even in the early days of the club, it was reliant on fundraising and goodwill as the first kit was financed by Fleet Estate residence association at the cost of £50.00.
The IJF league proved to be a tall order, and the early Fleetdown teams were on the end of a few humbling results. With the gulf in level and the fact that game where played all across the South East from Hackney Marshes to Essex it was agreed that the club would join the Bexley League, shortening distances in both instances.
By the late 1970s, early 1980s the club had junior sides from u11’s to u17’s and had introduced a senior team playing in the Dartford League. It had begun to represent the format that is apparent today.
As the club grew in the number of teams it was increasingly difficult to keep the teams in one location and the teams found themselves playing home games across the area from Waller Park, Bourne Road, Stone Lodge, Crayford Corner to name a few. Training also became a problem with teams using local school fields, halls, and recreational grounds.
In the early 1980s, the town of Dartford was twinned with the German town of Hanau. Hanau had an established junior football team with its own ground. Tours both ways were organised between the clubs during the Easter holiday with team managers and players’ parents putting up the travelling players in both towns. Trips against Calais were also organised during this period.
During the 1980s the club continued to grow adding more senior teams and with some of the junior sides having two sides to an age group. The club was having regular charity nights and fun days to raise money for the club for new kits, finding sponsorship from local businesses, and using local halls including Crayford town hall and Fleet estate Community centre to host presentation nights. On the pitch, Fleetdown teams across the board were beginning to win trophies and become a recognised competitive football club.
With so many teams playing at numerous locations it was becoming increasingly difficult to organise and run the club both for the managers and the committee members. So in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the club embarked on an ambitious project of finding its own home like many of the clubs in the area. A few sites where discussed and at one point the land at Stone Lodge was promised to the club but for a water park to be given the go-ahead instead.
The club was then offered a 20-year lease of the landfill site at Heath Lane. The immediate need was for the changing rooms as the senior teams’ leagues were requiring a standard to be allowed to compete and times were moving on when getting changed in the car or a container with no showers were no longer acceptable.
The club had no funding for the changing rooms or the clubhouse so a long process of fundraising and investment began most notably with the Buy a Brick campaign. A tea hut was one of the first buildings to be constructed and has continued to help fund the club. Members of the club along with associated businesses were asked to purchase the bricks for the build. Having the funding to buy the materials was the easy part, the club was now reliant on the member giving over their own time and skills to construct the buildings. All this whilst still running the teams on a weekly bases.
The first game was played at Heath lane in 1992 though there was not much else on-site at this time. The changing rooms were opened in 1997 by the Mayor of Dartford and the clubhouse in 2004 giving the club a permanent home, great facilities that all could be proud of. Money was also raised to maintain the pitches and ensure the teams had the best possible playing surfaces. A 12-year gap of fundraising and effort by all involved.
Since then the club has grown in the number of teams, the quality of the coaching as members are encouraged to qualify at FA level 1/2. In recent years the club has built an all-weather pitch with floodlights to allow training at night all year round and the lease to the Heath Lane land has been extended, and in 2001 the club celebrated its 40th birthday. In the future, the club plans to raise the money to improve the car parking area and develop the changing rooms.
Currently, at the club, there are kids club soccer, mini soccer, junior football, and 4 senior sides playing over the weekend. Training for all these teams is organised during the weeknights and fun days are arranged over the closed season.
Many of the committee members have been at the club from 1971 and their social lives have been entwined with the club and its development for over 40 years. There has been a multitude of manages past and present that have devoted their time to training and managing groups of kids and senior side. The fundraising never stops and people have and are giving their time to run the tea bar, event nights, and fun days.
In all cases, these people have and are continuing to use their time and energy to give the kids of the local community a safe, healthy, and fun experience.