Maidstone United F.C. (1897)

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For the second and current incarnation of the club, see Maidstone United F.C..
Maidstone United
Maidstone-utd-logo.jpg
Full name Maidstone United Football Club
Nickname(s) The Stones
Founded 1897
Dissolved 1992 (Maidstone Invicta are now also known Maidstone United)

The original Maidstone United was an English football club which existed from 1897 to 1992. The club played in the Football League Fourth Division from 1989 until their demise in 1992. During their time in the Football League Maidstone played their games at Dartford's Watling Street Ground. The club also played in various amateur leagues and the Southern League, which was major semi-professional league in southern England until the formation of the Alliance Premier League (a national league now known as the Conference National) in 1979.

History[edit]

Maidstone United was formed in 1897 and played in amateur leagues such as the Corinthian, Athenian and the Isthmian League.[1] They joined the Southern League, the major semi-professional league in southern England, in 1971/1972. Their first season as a semi-professional outfit almost brought instant success as the team finished third in the Southern League Division 1 (South), just failing to win promotion behind Waterlooville and Ramsgate. Attendances were much improved from the amateur days with local derbies against Tonbridge and Gravesend & Northfleet drawing respectable attendances of more than 2000. The following season Maidstone finished top and were promoted to the Southern League Premier Division. They continued to progress and during their six-year spell in the league they finished in the top five on four occasions. In 1979 they became founder members of the Alliance Premier League (now the Football Conference), and won the league title twice, in 1984 and 1989.[2]

At the time of their first championship, Maidstone failed to gain promotion to the Football League because they lost out in the re-election system that the League employed at the time. By the time Maidstone United won the Conference again in 1989, automatic promotion and relegation had been introduced. Maidstone thus became members of the Football League Fourth Division.[2]

In 1988 the Stones left their ground in Maidstone, having sold the land on which it stood to MFI. The ground was not considered large enough for league football, so they switched to ground-sharing with Dartford for their home matches. This caused average attendances to fall from around 2,400 to 1,400.[1]

After a shaky start in their first season in the Fourth Division (1989–90) they reached the promotion play-offs but lost to eventual winners Cambridge United in a dramatic two-leg semi-final which saw Cambridge striker Dion Dublin score twice in the second period of extra time to seal victory. Their form in the following season went from very good to very poor in a short space of time, which prompted the controversial sacking of manager Keith Peacock. The next manager was former Blackpool and Northampton Town boss Graham Carr.

Decline and collapse[edit]

By this time, the club were lurching into serious financial problems. They had spent vast amounts getting into the Football League and the spending continued now they were there. Running costs were huge and gates dwindled meaning the club's finances spiralled out of control, with large debts being run up. The club then took a massive gamble, and without any kind of planning permission, purchased a piece of land east of Maidstone for £400,000 with a view to building a ground on it. With a ground in the town the club believed they would be able to afford to continue in the Football League. However, the gamble did not pay off and the planning application to build on the land was turned down by the council.[2]

The entire squad of players was put up for sale to raise cash. During the 1991–92 season, the club was put up for sale. With huge debts, no ground and a poor team, there was little interest, although a consortium from the north east wanted to buy the club, move it to Tyneside and merge it with Newcastle Blue Star F.C..

On the football side, Graham Carr was sacked after a poor run of results at the start of the 1991–92 season, and former manager Bill Williams had little more success in turning the club around, eventually standing down just after the turn of the year. His assistant Clive Walker (not to be confused with the former Chelsea player) took over, and managed to keep the Stones off the foot of the table. Walker's managerial skills, combined with the efforts of the few capable players left at the club (notably a young Gary Breen, keeper Iain Hesford, Bradley Sandemann and Liburd Henry) saw them through.

There was no threat of relegation in 1991–92 as the Football League was taking an additional member for 1992–93. They finished 18th of 22 clubs in the Fourth Division (the 23rd club, Aldershot, had been declared bankrupt and forced to resign from the league on 25 March 1992 after playing 36 games, results of which were declared void).

The 1992–93 season saw the creation of the Premier League from the old First Division, with the Second Division becoming Division One, the Third Division becoming Division Two, and the Fourth Division becoming Division Three. The Stones would be founder members of the new Division Three, but as the new season came closer it looked more and more unlikely that the Stones would be able to play in it as their financial worries showed no sign of easing.

They were due to play their first game of the season away to Scunthorpe United on 15 August 1992 but by this stage only two players were still registered to the club. They were given until the following Monday to guarantee that they would be able to fulfill their fixtures; unable to come up with the necessary backing, they resigned from the league on 17 August and went into liqudation.[1]

They had been due to contest the Football League Cup first round against Reading, with the first leg played on 19 August, and their demise meant that Reading received a bye to the second round.[1] The final competitive game that the club played had been at Doncaster Rovers on 2 May 1992, the final day of the Fourth Division; the game ended in a 3–0 defeat for the Kent side.[3]

The collapse of Aldershot and Maidstone meant that the Football League decided to revert to a membership of 92 clubs (70 when excluding the 22 members of the new Premier League) and that its plan for 94 members clubs had to be scrapped.[1]

To date, Maidstone United are the most recent club to be forced out of the Football League due to bankruptcy. A number of former league clubs, including Scarborough, Halifax Town, Chester City and Rushden & Diamonds have gone bankrupt and ceased to exist since Maidstone United's demise, but all had dropped into the non-league divisions by the time of their demise, though when Chester City went out of business in March 2010 less than a year had passed since their relegation from the Football League.[4] However, numerous Football League clubs have come very close to suffering the same fate as Maidstone since 1992; these include Wimbledon,[5] Bradford City,[6] Crystal Palace, Sheffield Wednesday[7] and Portsmouth.[8] The void left by the club was filled by the new Maidstone United F.C. who were known as Maidstone Invicta until 1994.

Colours and Badge[edit]

Since the formation of Maidstone United the club's main colours have been amber and black. Records show that the club's first home kit consisted of an amber and black striped shirt with white shorts, however between 1922 and 1955 the kit was changed to amber shirts with black shorts.[9] From 1970–1973, Maidstone adopted an all-white home kit, but returned to their traditional amber and black colours after this time. All white became the club's traditional away kit, although the club also had purple and blue away shirts over the years.

The new Maidstone kept the same badge. Unlike some clubs, Maidstone have stayed away from 'logo' type badges, instead sticking to tradition with the same club badge being displayed for their whole existence. The badge is the same as the towns coat of arms, except that the town's motto, "Agriculture and Commerce", is replaced with "Maidstone United FC".[10]

Stadiums[edit]

The original Maidstone United played at the Athletic Ground on London Road. However, the ground was sold for development and the club relocated to Dartford's Watling Street in 1988. In an attempt to return to Maidstone, the club's board purchased a piece of land east of the Town in Hollingbourne. However the council rejected the club's planning application to build on the purchased land, claiming the refusal was down to the site being in a conservation area.

Years Ground
1898[11]-1988 Athletic Ground, London Road
1988–1992 Watling Street (Groundshare with Dartford)

Notable players[edit]

Honours[edit]

  • Football Conference (known as Alliance Premier League before 1986)
    • Champions (2): 1983–84, 1988–89
    • Runners-Up (1): 1982–83
    • Challenge Shield Winners (1): 1989–90
  • Southern League
    • First Division South Champions (1): 1972–73
  • Athenian League
    • Runners-Up (1): 1957–58
  • Corinthian League
    • Champions (1): 1955–56
    • Memorial Shield Winners (1): 1955–56
  • Kent League
    • Champions (3): 1898–99, 1899–1900, 1900–01
    • Division One
      • Champions (2): 1921–22, 1922–23
      • Runners-Up (3): 1897–98, 1919–20, 1920–21
  • Kent Amateur League
    • Champions (1): 1978–79
    • Cup Winners (2): 1978–79, 1979–80
  • East Kent League
    • Division One Champions (2): 1897–98, 1898–99
  • Thames & Medway Combination
    • Winners (5): 1905–06, 1906–07, 1912–13, 1920–21, 1921–22
    • Runners-Up (6): 1901–02, 1903–04, 1911–12, 1919–20, 1922–23, 1955–56
    • Section B Winners (1): 1910–11
  • Essex & Herts Border Combination
    • Champions (2): 1983–84, 1986–87
    • Cup Winners (1): 1983–84
    • Sportsmanship Shield Winners (1): 1986–87
  • Eastern Floodlight League
    • Winners (1): 1976–77
    • S. Thames Section Winners (1): 1975–76
  • Kent Senior Cup
    • Winners (18): 1898–99, 1900–01, 1902–03, 1906–07, 1908–09, 1910–11, 1912–13, 1913–14, 1919–20, 1921–22, 1922–23, 1965–66, 1975–76, 1978–79, 1979–80, 1981–82, 1988–89, 1989–90
    • Runners-Up (11): 1898–99, 1900–01, 1920–21, 1963–64, 1973–74, 1974–75, 1977–78, 1979–80, 1983–84, 1986–87, 1987–88
  • Kent Senior Shield
    • Runners-Up (2): 1919–20, 1921–22
  • Kent Intermediate Cup
    • Runners-Up (1): 1986–87
  • Kent Amateur Cup
    • Winners (3): 1955–56, 1960–61, 1961–62
    • Runners-Up (4): 1947–48, 1953–54, 1956–57, 1964–65
  • Kent Floodlight Cup
    • Winners (1): 1972–73
    • Runners-Up (1): 1968–69
  • Kent Floodlight Trophy
    • Winners (2): 1976–77, 1977–78
  • Kent Victory Cup
    • Runners-Up (1): 1919–20
  • Kent Messenger Trophy
    • Winners (1): 1973–74
    • Runners-Up (1): 1974–75
  • B&W Champions Cup
    • Winners (1): 1987–88
  • Bob Lord Trophy
    • Runners-Up (1): 1984–85
  • F. Budden Trophy
    • Winners (1): 1984–85
  • Eastern Pro-Floodlight Cup
    • Runners-Up (1): 1979–80
  • Stutchbury Fuels Challenge Cup
    • Winners (1): 1986–87
  • West Kent Challenge Cup
    • Winners (1): 1979–80
    • Runners-Up (1): 1982–83
  • Anglo-Dutch Jubilee Cup
    • Winners (1): 1977–78
  • Bromley Hospital Cup
    • Winners (1): 1961–62
  • Chatham Charity Cup
    • Runners-Up (2): 1920–21, 1921–22

Records[edit]

League positions/cup runs

Other records

  • Most appearances – Fred Baker 383
  • Highest transfer fee received – Warren Barton (£300,000)

References[edit]

External links[edit]