The current Maidstone United is the second incarnation of the club in Kent’s county town. But it’s a football club on the up, so we took a trip to the Gallagher Stadium to see ‘The Stones’ for ourselves.
By the banks of the meandering River Medway tucked between parkland and a roundabout is the recently-expanded, 4,200-capacity Gallagher Stadium, home of Maidstone United. Built in 2012 and featuring a 3G artificial pitch to avoid match postponements and provide new revenue streams, the Gallagher Stadium is the mark of club in the ascendancy.
With a population of 113,000 – larger than Burnley, Blackburn and many other football towns – Maidstone is a town worthy of a league club. And it had one – briefly – between 1989-1992, when the original Maidstone United featured in the old Division Four.
The club was bankrupted in 1992 and resigned from the Football League, the last league club to do so. Players in that first incarnation included England manager Roy Hodgson, Warren Barton, Gary Breen and Peter Taylor.
A new incarnation – Maidstone Invicta – started life in the fourth division of the Kent League, reverting to ‘Maidstone United’ in 1997. The club made its way into the Isthmian Leagues and rose through those between 2006-15, winning the championship in 2014-15 season and a promotion play-off from the Vanarama South in 2015-16.
As a result, the club earned promotion to the Vanarama National, the fifth tier of English football and just one level off where it was back in 1992.
I moved into mid-Kent in 2015 and have made regular trips to the Gallagher.
Maidstone United have equipped themselves well to Vanarama National life after flirting with relegation for much of their first season there. The beer, supplied by Kent brewer Shepherd Neame, is good and the atmosphere can get pumping.
How to get to Maidstone United
Naming rights belong to construction firm Gallagher Group, but some fans still refer to the ground as James Whatman Way, the road off which the stadium stands.
The ground is handily just five minutes walk from Maidstone East railway station, and Maidstone is close to both the M2 and M20 motorways.