Boro’ have taken on their fare share of opponents over the years and some of those teams have simply been no more than passing acquaintances. Meanwhile, there are also those others that became – well – annoyingly familiar, right? For all the many times that we’ve faced the likes of W*king, for example, there are no shortage of rare match-ups either. So, it makes sense for us to look back through our archives to see how many you can remember. For example, where do Maidstone United stand in the grand scheme of things?
Let’s go back to October 1972 for a moment. Lieutenant Pigeon (erm?) are sitting at the top of the charts with Mouldy Old Dough. More relevant, however, is that the old Maidstone United and the old Stevenage Athletic met in the FA Trophy for the first, last and only time. Both sides were in the Southern League at the time, but the regional structure meant we never met in a league game. Maidstone – who’d go on to become a founder member of the Conference seven years later – won. Athletic, meanwhile, went on to go bust within five years.
Maidstone United: Us and Them?
The use of the term “old” should be a clue as to what became of that Maidstone United side. Now, we won’t go back over Athletic’s tale. It’s well known in these parts, not least if you were around during Boro’s early days. The Stones, however, are also familiar with the grim side of football. After achieving the impressive feat of Football League status in 1989, things started to go wrong in the early 90s. We should also point out the club could have been a League team in 1984, but for the rubbish election system now long since binned off.
It might have been different for the Stones. In their debut League season, the club reached the Division Four playoffs (that’s right young ‘uns, Division Four). Cambridge halted their rise and decline soon set in. The full story is on Wikipedia if you want to read up, but here’s the long and short of it. Their home ground was too small for the League, so Dartford put them up. The move saw attendances drop. Debts mounted, ground plans fell through and a possible merger with Newcastle Blue Star was given short shrift by the folks at the FA.
That Maidstone went under in summer 1992 – and are the most recent club to go out of business while still competing in the Football League. We know what you’re thinking, though. It’s likely to be something along the lines of “why are you telling us this. Just skip to the bit they pulled our pants down in the FA Cup on the tellybox”. Well, there is – believe it or not – a reason. That’s because the chain of events behind the Stones’ demise led to a Football League decision that would have a profound and direct effect on Stevenage Borough.
Maidstone United: Addendum
So, that League decision. Well, you remember Maidstone had to share with Dartford after promotion from the Conference due to their inferior ground? It was a factor in the Stones’ demise and the League didn’t want it to happen again. The League said, therefore, that all Conference champions had to get their gaff up to scratch by 31 December of the title-winning campaign. That’s right. Months before you actually know if you’re going to win the title. And we reckon you might be able to guess one of the teams caught up in that, say, in 1996?
BoroGuide’s Maidstone United club profile – for old time’s sake…