This is the story of Maidstone United, the last club before Bury to be expelled from the English Football League. For the past 27 years they have been trying to return to the pinnacle of their football existence.
But this is not a club that sees itself as a football tragedy – not with more than 20 trophies and eight promotions won since 1992 and an England international among its alumni.
“It is a tragic episode in our story. That is what it is, because the story is still going,” said John Still, Maidstone’s head of football who returned to the club last season after 30 years away.
Still says there was no “romanticism” in the reunion, despite them being back in the fifth tier last term, the level he left the club at in 1989 having been the boss that took them to the old Fourth Division.
He simply felt his former club had run out of “momentum” – the sort that gets a team from Kent County League Fourth Division to the top tier of the non-league system. The 69-year-old, however, was not able to guide them to safety last season as they were relegated to the sixth tier.
“For me to try to play even a small part in one day getting the club back would be fantastic,” Still told BBC Sport. “Our dream, 100%, is to again be a Football League club.”
Maidstone were a Football League side for just three seasons and never played a game in their home town.
The day after the first-ever round of Premier League fixtures – a weekend that ushered a lucrative new era for the English game – the Stones resigned their place in the league.
Debts of £650,000 for a club that was ground-sharing in Dartford – having sold their home in Maidstone in the late 1980s and then failed with 47 planning applications to build their own ground – saw them unable to start life in the Third Division in 1992.
The then 95-year-old club was not even the first to go out of business that year, as Aldershot went bust a season earlier.
Like scenes in Bury almost three decades later, there was a sense of disbelief that a club could go under when a football gold rush was being enjoyed by others nearby. Read More