It’s great to be the one causing FA Cup shocks. But being on the wrong end? Well, we found that out thanks to Maidstone United. And it wasn’t a nice sensation. The Stones brought some role reversal to us in2014; the then-Conference side doing for us in a First Round replay on their artificial pitch and in front of the TV cameras. We’d be extremely grateful if we don’t have to go through anything like that again.
Just like sides including Aldershot and Newport, the Stones are a club battling to ‘return’ to the Football League. Before Bury, the Kent side were the most recent Football League side to go out of business. It sounds like it was a right mess at the time. And it’s been a lengthy and not entirely happy absence. Back they came, however. As of now, the path back to the top four divisions is stalling in-between the National League and National League South.
Maidstone United: The Facts
The Gallagher Stadium
James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1LQ
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.
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.
Sorry – what direct effect on Boro?
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?
How to get to Maidstone United – Travel Information – Distance: 72 miles
We’re going to suggest the shortest route for this, which might be a little less quick but means less time on the M25. Therefore, a win. It begins by heading to Ware on the A602, before heading south on the A10. Join up with the clockwise M25 and go right round and over the Dartford Crossing.
At Junction 2, exit the M25 and take the A2 towards the coast. Continue onto the M2 for around five-and-a-half miles, before leaving the motorway at Junction 3 for the A229. Take the third exit at the roundabout and follow the signs for the southbound A229.
After around four miles and a roundabouts, there will be another roundabout. James Whatman Way is on the right hand side, with the ground down here.
You won’t be able to park at the ground, however. The nearest car parks can be found at Invicta House, Maidstone East Train Station and Fremlin Walk; all of which will require you to hand over some monies.
Station: MAIDSTONE EAST
Services to: LONDON VICTORIA
Maidstone East is the station you want and, fortunately, it’s the nearest to the ground. Come out of the station and turn left onto Week Street. Head up towards and past Invicta House/County Hall, before heading left at the roundabout past RBS on Staceys Street.
Get across the next, and larger, roundabout and you should have arrived.
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