BY EDMUND BRACK
Experienced defender Mark Ricketts has insisted he is not coming to Dulwich Hamlet to “see away” the final years of his playing career.
The 38-year-old, who has made more than 500 appearances at National League and National League South level, was one of Hakan Hayrettin’s first signings of the summer as the South Londoners look to bounce back after their relegation to the Isthmian League Premier Division.
Hayrettin and his assistant Terry Harris have agreed to stay on at Champion Hill after only being in place for the final 13 games of the last campaign.
“They’re both winners and I love that mentality,” Ricketts told the South London Press. “Those two were a huge influence in me wanting to come to Dulwich.
“I played against them over the years and Hak’s teams are always tough to play against. He’s a winner and his teams have the same mentality. It’s something, as a player, which you’re attracted to.
“They have a real desire and passion to get the club promoted again. It’s something I want to be a part of. A club like Dulwich Hamlet – a big non-league club in London with a lot of history – seems like the perfect move for me. I wanted to go part-time at this stage of my career to build a second career as well, so it was the perfect fit.”
Dulwich conceded 89 times in 46 matches – the most in the division – as their five-season stay in National League South came to an end last season.
“The fanbase is massive – they have got a big following. It’s a massive community club that has got huge potential,” said Ricketts. “I’m not coming here to see away my final years, or anything like that. I’m coming here because I want to achieve and win something. I want to add it to what I have done in the years gone by.
“Promotion is the main goal and focus.”
Ricketts became a club legend at Boreham Wood, captaining the side during his seven seasons at Meadow Park and helping Luke Garrard’s team continually attempt to punch above their weight in the National League table.
“It was difficult,” he admitted of leaving the Wood this summer.
“There was talks about staying on in a coaching capacity, but I didn’t feel that was right for me at this time – I feel as though I still wanted to play.
“I had been there so long and played so many games that it became a home. It was a club I’ll follow going forward and will always be a fan of. But sometimes things have to change and you have to move on.”
He etched his name into the Boreham Wood history books after scoring from the edge of the box against Bournemouth in the fourth round of the FA Cup in the 2021-22 campaign.
Ricketts’ strike was the only goal of the game as the non-leaguers knocked out the Cherries, flying high in the Championship at the time.
“It was a massive part of my whole career – the highlight of my career to be involved in that,” said Ricketts, who started in the 2-0 fifth-round defeat at Everton.
“You watch Match of the Day and the FA Cup as a kid and wonder what it’s like to be the player who scored that goal and then it becomes a reality. It is something you can only dream of.
“It’s a memory I’ll take with me forever.”
Ricketts’ playing career has finally brought him back to South London. The Sidcup-born versatile defensive midfielder started his career off at Wimbledon before Charlton snatched him away as a teenager following a tribunal.
He came through the Addicks academy alongside the likes of Stacy Long, Barry Fuller and Lloyd Sam before being brought closer to the first team under Alan Curbishley.
“It was a massive part of shaping me as a player and the way I try to carry myself,” Ricketts explained of his time in SE7.
“Watching professionals around you, seeing how hard they work and what they do, instilled a lot of traits in the player I am now. I got to train and play with some amazing players – the likes of Paolo Di Canio, Danny Murphy and Scott Parker.
“Di Canio was a massive character – very bubbly and confident. He played some reserve games for us, and he would twist and turn defenders inside and do things you wouldn’t even think of. He was a genius on the ball.”
Ricketts left Charlton in 2006 without a first-team appearance for the club.
“It was difficult because you knew opportunities were going to be hard to come by – their goal every year was to survive every season (in the Premier League,” said Ricketts.
“The focus was on stability. So with Curbishley at the time, there were limited opportunities for the younger players to break through. That was a little bit frustrating, but training with those players can only make you better.”
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