For my 16-year old son, following Charlton recently has not become so joyous. His first Charlton memories were of Paulo DiCanio and Darren Bent. How things have changed, and although I am pretty sure we have gone through the stage where the Addicks might lose him to someone else, he has in the last season or so taken a little shine to his local team Maidstone United.
He has been to a number of matches with his mates, and their relatively new Gallagher Stadium is just around the corner from his school. I have encouraged him to go along and enjoy some grass roots local football as I did at the same age when me and my mates used to nip along to watch Bromley and Welling whenever Charlton were away.
He is completely engulfed in his GSCE’s at the moment so he asked me yesterday afternoon to give him regular updates as I followed the National League South Play-Off Final on social media. I don’t think he saw the the irony in the fact that he lives in the county of Kent and I live here, yet it is me giving him breaking news! Anyway despite being behind twice to Ebbsfleet, the second equalizer coming in the last minute of extra time, the Stones won on penalties 4-3 in front of a sell out crowd at Ebbsfleet, who were I expect being cheered on by plenty of people with Charlton connections.
Fleet and their owners will be kicking themselves that they missed out on promotion again and have spent heavily in their ambitions to move up the football ladder but it will Maidstone who will play in the National League, just two divisions below the Addicks, next season and they will replace Welling and join fellow Kent sides Bromley and Dover.
My memories of Maidstone are of floodlight failures and Hales ad Flanagan punch ups, but that was a lifetime ago in the timeline of the club.
The previous incarnation of Maidstone United folded due to financial problems on the eve of the 1992/3 season, the same year as Aldershot fell out of the league and the same year as multi-millionaires were founded as the Premier League was born. After 95 years of existence Maidstone United died, but a youth team called Maidstone Invicta was used as a home for the existing Maidstone United’s youth team and was a sanctuary for the club’s existing fans.
In 1993 Invicta were elected to the Kent County League Fourth Division, the 14th tier of football’s pyramid, the year after they changed their name to Maidstone United and their team colours back to the more recognizable amber and black. 9 promotions later including winning the Isthmian League Premier Division a year ago takes the Stones to the top table of no-league football.
I hope to get to the Gallagher Stadium with my son next season. Congratulations to them and their loyal band of fans.