DAGENHAM AND LEE
This is the twentieth instalment of the ‘DAGENHAM AND ME’ series in which we explore fans’ and former players’ relationship with the club. This will be done over the Christmas period with interesting stories being told daily and debate will no doubt spark over Dagenham’s all-time XI! Behind door number 20 is ex-player and former captain, LEE MATTHEWS, enjoy :)
FULL NAME: Lee Matthews
I played for the Daggers for six years between 1997-2003 after joining from Purfleet. I was a centre back and wore number five for the club over those six years.
My debut was Carshalton away and it was a great feeling, although I was of course a little nervous. I knew a couple of the players and Denis Moore, who was coach at the time, so the debut was as expected.
Funny stories, well, we had a great team spirit. There were so many good times. There were a lot of jokers in the team including Dickie Harper - the physio. On an away trip we went for a walk and stretch in a park near our hotel, when Dickie walked up behind Paul Terry and put a custard pie in Paul’s face that he’d pulled out of his medical bag. Also, I left my 2 front teeth in the back of a centre forward’s head after we went up for a header! I knew they had broken in the challenge, but I found out the lad saw his physio the next day and was complaining about lumps where he had cut his head. They then removed my teeth! The new ones are better than the old ones anyway.
My favourite ever game is definitely THAT Charlton away game in the FA cup, and somehow also one of the most disappointing results to accept. From the exciting build up, to our coach journey when we had a police escort to The Valley. It was the most amazing feeling playing and dominating a Premiership team for long periods. The crowd were unreal, singing through the whole match and when we took the lead - just wow!
Even though we celebrated and it was an unreal experience, I still look back with a certain disappointment that we didn’t get the win we deserved.
Away from the football for a second and as it’s Christmas I have been asked for my favourite Christmas song and it is Nat King Cole, The Christmas song (though a close second is Band Aid).
What is my relationship with the club now compared to when I started – am I still involved as staff/fan?
I’m still a fan, once a Dagger always a Dagger.
I do get over to some of the matches and love seeing the staff and supporters I know from my time as a player. I would love to be more involved with the club if the opportunity was there.
Things do change and the club has lost some great servants over the years since I was playing there. I am happy to see the club becoming more stable again.
My favourite manager is Ted Hardy. Ted was old-school, passionate, honest, did great things at the club and I have always had great respect for Ted and Denis Moore. I was also lucky enough to have Terry Harris as a coach who I have huge respect for.
From favourite Daggers manager to player, I have some great friends from my time at Dagenham. We still keep in touch and meet up when we can. The best player is really difficult, but I’ll say Mark Stein. Such a great goal scorer and for someone who had played at the top level, his work ethic and attitude was outstanding.
Now the best player I’ve played against -John Hartson was unreal. I played in a match against West Ham when I was about 19 or 20. John was so strong and as they say, knew where the goal was.
Best away day. Staying up in Southport always has good memories for me with the team, but the most memorable match was away to Scarborough. We practically stole the win and we had to catch the next train, so we ran out of the ground and got changed on the coach to the station. I had cut my head open courtesy of a clash of heads with Lee Goodwin and got the cut stitched by Dickie Harper in a pub toilet at the train station!
Life after Dagenham. I was lucky enough to play football for a couple of years full-time. That was at Hornchurch and at Grays. I am now qualified as a commercial gas engineer and a supervisor for Birdsall Services. I also manage my son’s football team U12 at Hannakins Farm Youth FC.
If I could some up my time at the Daggers in three words - they would be:
Memories, friends, forever.
My favourite goal was at Farnborough away in the FA Trophy. I tackled their player who went off injured (oops!), we actually got a free kick for the tackle and I scored the kick that helped us get to extra time. We eventually won on penalties. I’ve got that one on VHS somewhere!
Here is my Ultimate Daggers XI:
Paul Gothard, Paul Cobb, Steve Connor, Paul Benson, Stuart Thurgood, Robbie Garvey.
Thanks for reading,
That was ‘DAGENHAM AND LEE’