David Le Dante laid out on top the park grass with an empty bottle of Kronenberg in his left hand and another divorce letter in his right. It had been finalised. The I’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed. He was no longer married, and newly single – though they were separated for the majority of the relationship.
As the clouds gathered above, Le Dante could only think back when his life wasn’t such a constant stream of disappointment. To when he had a demanding job and was relied upon. When he had fewer wrinkles, a fuller amount of hair, and a less bulge on his belly.
To when his life really started to change, back in 2001…
The year of 2001 was the end of Clinton’s controversial run as president, the end of America’s first cat – Socks – and started with the horror of the foot-and-mouth crisis. But after all that, it wasn’t that what matter to the younger Le Dante, nor was it the second term of Blair’s Labour, it was fact he would be starting his second season with English Conference side, Gravesend and Northfleet.
It was the only time that Le Dante has stayed at a club longer than a season, though his career had been relatively short to that point with the forthcoming being his fifth as a ‘professional’ footballer. At the age of 26, Le Dante knew that the number couldn’t grow much further but didn’t really care. He was getting a pay-check each week, and was doing something that seemed to content him. A win-win for the man.
But, this season would be the test for him and Gravesend after being promoted after winning the Isthmian Premier division – though Le Dante was able to salvage only 11 appearances after injuries, bans and not showing up.
Le Dante was a non-league celebrity, in the sense that he had won accolades with his previous clubs Hemel Hempstead – twice in two tenures – and at Canvey Island. He was seen as a good luck charm for the club by manager Andy Ford, who had continued to indulge the behaviour.
In actuality, Le Dante was one of the better players at the club and seemed to be a possible key feature for the club’s attempt to keep their league status in the forthcoming season. With two other possible key players in midfielder/wing-back 29-year-old Jimmy Strouts and forward Paul Booth, it was more down to the formation that was used to supplement the team than anything.
The younger Le Dante had always been sufficient with the numerous (and numerous) amounts of jobs he had since leaving school at 16. The jobs contained a various amount of differing roles within the five years before he became a ‘footballer’.
From a food packer in a factor in Castle Donnington, to a Sales Assistant at WHSmith; Le Dante was always a satisfactory worker but never stuck with a singular job. His interested would wander elsewhere, to be a bartender at a nightclub to then an office cleaner. Each path was a new venture to the eager explorer Le Dante, and even after finding a ‘career’ he had only found one club that he had thought was alright to stay twice at.
Hemel Hempstead was the town that Le Dante lived at for two years – albeit a break to Canvey Island which he saw as a yearlong vacation – and had the longest relationship he had with a club, fans or even with a female.
But that was history that no longer mattered to the elder and new Le Dante, he wanted to see what would be brought to him… while trying his least effort possible.
On the pitch, it was all about passing the ball off to his teammates as soon as possible and as far away from him as he could. This was helped with a nice touch, and a competent close quarter dribbling skillset. A cushion player between defence and midfielder, Le Dante preferred to have a pocket of space that was small and close to no distance to cover.
It was hoped that with the three additions made during the summer, it would be enough to extend Gravesend’s stay within the Conference. And, as Le Dante was able to pop up with a single goal – a header from a corner – and an assist – from a long ball forward – from the five preseason games, it seemed like there might be more from Le Dante for the season then they initially thought.
To add to this, the signing of former Manchester United youth Alan Tate was the player that Le Dante wanted to be his ‘back-up’ if he couldn’t be bothered to back track.
Tate was enthusiastic about forming a commanding line with Le Dante when he first arrived at training for preseason, but as the games went past he started to learn about the man, especially after his first proper contact with him as he approached him as he sat out during one of the training sessions.
Hey, your David Le Dante right? You play in midfield, like right in front of centre back?
I could be. Whose to say I’m not? What can I do for you?
Just wanted to introduce myself man, like properly, heard some promising things about you.
Well, guess that’s good.
Yeah, played quite well so far, protected our asses a few times, guess you can say we’ve done the same!
Well done on doing your job. You know, I just do it if it needs to be done. Fifty-fity chance I will, or I won’t.
Yeah, I guess so…
Tate learnt how it seemed to work between Le Dante to the rest of squad. The relationship between them was respectful, in the sense that they learnt the best way to deal with the lazy midfielder was to keep away from him as much as possible and to focus on what really mattered. They knew, that no matter what, it was on the day if he would either turn up and play, or stay out and do something else.
In the end, that was what David Le Dante was about at the time. He had a flat he was renting, a steady income to afford the odd shop for ready meals and a travelling job that made it easy to any woman he fancied in each town that they stopped in. He could perform to an adequate level and have a career. He had tasted the fancies of life. He had been married… a few times, but that didn’t matter. In that year, David Le Dante was ready to accept whatever life was going to offer him, and whatever Gravesend would allow him to experience.
In the end, he was content how things were back then….