Nestled beneath the wires and pylons of industrial North Kent is a rising force in non-league football. We visit Ebbsfleet United.
Just a stone’s throw from the glass and modernity of the Ebbsfleet International Eurostar terminal is a proper old school football stadium. The Stonebridge Road ground is the home of Ebbsfleet United, formerly Gravesend & Northfleet, for whom Roy Hodgson and Jimmy Bullard played.
The club is possibly best known for being member-led via the MyFootballClub website before in 2013 a Kuwaiti group took over the business. Currently in the Vanarama South (sixth tier), Ebbsfleet United really should have gained promotion to the Vanarama National in season 2015-16, only to lose their home play-off final match on penalties to fellow Kent side Maidstone United.
The 4,000-capacity Stonebridge Road ground is a classic old-fashioned stadium with a standing terrace open to the elements, but the ground is undergoing some redevelopment. Adults’ tickets at Ebbsfleet cost £12.
The match I watched pitted top-placed Ebbsfleet United against fourth-placed Hungerford town, who contributed around 50 to the 1,321-strong crowd. The crowd was chatty if not in full song, although a small band of home supporters with a drum did sporadically strike up.
“The Fleet” played a cultured brand of football compared to long-ball Hungerford, and won through a well-crafted goal midway through the first half. They should have won by a bigger margin but squandered chances.
How to get to Ebbsfleet United
I parked in the Eurostar car park, which offers parking for £3 on match days. Ebbsfleet International is just 20 minutes from London Kings Cross.