Non-League: Maidstone United

 

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 2,363-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 ascendency. [Continues…]

 

With a population of 113,000 – bigger 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.

 

As a result, the club earned promotion to the Vanarama National League South, the sixth tier of English football and just two levels off where it was back in 1992.

 

Having recently moved just 10 minutes’ train ride away, I decided to check out my new local non-league team and popped over for the club’s home game with high-flying Bath City FC.

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Maidstone United have equipped themselves well to National League South life, sitting in the top half of the table, and took an sixth-minute lead. They held it until the end too, despite the visitors hitting the bar twice. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the words “they definitely deserved a point” used by fans as much as I did on leaving the Gallagher.

 

The atmosphere was subdued at first but picked up second half to be pretty vocal. It was also great to see visiting subs chatting to fans, the kind of connectivity you simply don’t find in higher leagues.

 

I bought a scarf too, so I guess I’ll be coming back soon…

 

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.

 

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