Daz drives for a higher high – Ebbsfleet United Football Club

Darren McQueen’s return knows Fleet fans won’t need to remember the moment his goal in the 2017 Class Final made a remarkable comeback and won the club promotion – and he has the intention to surpass that this coming season.

“Winning the promotion final and my game-winning goal is still the highlight of my career,” the 27-year-old told the Fleet website after his signing was confirmed. “It was a brilliant time. So I want to help the club get back to where it should be and for me personally make up for the time lost since my first spell I guess as well.

That first spell saw McQueen score 20 goals in his debut season of 2016/17, his remarkable pace paired with a cool and calm disposition in front of the net. But just as he was looking to step up to the next level in the National League, a knee injury against Halifax put an end to that development.

“When we came back to the National League, I think I had something like three goals in seven and I was pushing and the knee injury killed me,” McQueen recalled. “It took a long time to come back from that type of injury and I wasn’t where I left off and the change of direction was another factor, he hadn’t really seen me play, it was a new situation for me to try to re-establish myself in this context.

McQueen had to watch from the touchline as Fleet progressed to the National League play-off semi-finals and the following season new boss Garry Hill let him go to Sutton United.

“I was never going to be the main man coming back and trying to establish myself, so it just felt right to move on,” McQueen said. “But even when I left it was not something I did easily with the memories I had and Ebbsfleet was always in my heart afterwards.”

So much so that McQueen has often floated the idea of ​​a return, despite having played for Dartford, Dagenham and Dulwich in the meantime.

McQueen and Ben Chapman fight at Dagenham in 2020

“I feel like I had conversations with the EUFC after I left about coming back, even when I signed for Dagenham. And now, since Dennis took over, I’ve always liked the philosophy of the game he plays, total football and the style of play, I think that suits me it’s a full time return for me, it’s a club that I know very well and a club which I had success in and I have a lot of great memories so it made a lot of sense to come back and I’m really glad it’s done.”

McQueen will have the chance to reconnect with former Dartford team-mate Elliott Romain, with the pair scoring 30 goals between them as they fired the darts in the 2019/20 promotion final.

“Elliott is the one I’ve talked to the most about coming here and he has nothing but good things to say about the club,” McQueen revealed. “I was enticed by the prospect of coming back anyway as I said for all the reasons already mentioned, but his enthusiasm for it made it absolutely safe for me.

“And I played with Shaq at Tottenham, with Kieran Monlouis at Maldon, I also know Jack Paxman and Alex Finney, so I know a few boys. But the surroundings, the stadium and the fans will be the same!

McQueen has scored three goals in the past against Fleet, two for Dagenham in 2020 and one for Dulwich last season, but his penchant for a goal against former clubs will be funneled in the opposite direction this year!

“Given some of our boys at Dagenham had played for Ebbsfleet, when you play against your old team you always want to do well, so that’s an incentive to score against an old team – so I guess I’ll have a few chances to do it again this year for Ebbsfleet this time and against the others!

The last time he wore a red shirt, McQueen was instead an outright favourite, plying his trade in and around the box. He has developed over the next four years, however, and it may be a different McQueen that Fleet fans will see in 2022/23.

McQueen celebrates a hat-trick in the club’s record 8-0 win over Bishop’s Stortford in 2017

“Our main formation at Dulwich was attacking, three up, so I was a striker but a bit inside, a narrow striker if you will,” he said. “At Ebbsfleet my role can be similar, coming from the right or from the left. I think the gaffer thinks that’s my best position. So I might not get as many chances as the last one. times I’ve played a different and more direct role at Ebbsfleet – although in this team with the attacking players I could well do that! – but I feel like I can give more to the game coming from afar. Poleon and Rakish Bingham. I haven’t played with them but they’re both very good players and they’ll be good to nurture and fuel. That’s the thing with this team, there’s a lot of talent there- in it so I know there will be a lot of competition but it’s still healthy. I stayed in shape in the off season, I’m back from vacation and now I’m ready to go back to Ebbsfleet!”

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