It’s truly a family affair for the Flishers this season, with men’s first team player Alex being joined at the club by cousin Jess, who signed for the ladies first team in the summer. We sat down with both to go down memory lane and assess their respective seasons so far.
“We are cousins on both our dads’ sides,” says Alex. “I’m 24 and Jess is 23 and we both grew up around Barming at the same time. We went through Barming Primary School and then Astor of Hever School together.”
By today’s standard Jess was something of a latecomer to organised football, starting aged 10. “I was interested in football when I was younger but I wasn’t really bothered about playing competitively,” she reflected. “I just played on the street as you do. That changed when Alex’s mum Donna got me into a girls team at Castle Colts.”
With both players enjoying youth football on Sundays, neither saw much of each other’s progress through the footballing ranks. “I’ve not seen Jess play as much as I would have liked,” admitted Alex. “That said, I do remember seeing her play a few years ago in a cup final at Cobdown. I can’t really recall if it was a good game or not or how she played, it was a very long time ago now!”
“I’ve been down to the Gallagher a few times recently,” added Jess. “The last game I was here was the Rochdale game. I’m a PE teacher and when the kids hear my name they ask if I’m related to Alex. The kids love Maidstone at school so I suppose I am proud of him… a little bit!”
Along with Alex and Jess, some fans may remember Alex’s brother Sam, who played for the club’s under 18 side and was on the fringes of the first team for a while. With Sam now at step 5 Bearsted, Alex is keeping a keen eye on his brother’s progress. “I think their results have picked up lately, they’ve had some good wins recently. They’re getting there, obviously they’ve just been promoted so it’s taken a little bit of time to build a squad. Some of the teams have got ridiculous budgets for that level but Bearsted aren’t paying which shows how well they are doing.
“In both the leagues Sam and I play in there are big gaps between the top teams and the bottom teams. Obviously at our level we have the likes of Tranmere and Lincoln. In Bearsted’s league they’ve got teams like Ashford with very experienced players who’ve dropped down, the likes of Shaun Welford, Danny Lye, Micky Phillips and Rory Hill who obviously played for us.”
Meanwhile, Jess and her Stones teammates already find themselves top of the SECWL Kent Division One, their latest result seeing them put six past Tonbridge Angels without reply. “I signed for Maidstone in the summer. I was going to join them a few years back but unfortunately they folded, but after they started again this year I got involved. We’ve been getting some really good results, and it’s been fun to get back into football again as I’ve missed a few seasons because of work commitments and things like that.”
It has been a comfortable season so far for the ladies, who are eight points clear at the top of the league after 11 games. “It is a little frustrating at times,” said a pragmatic Jess. “You start scoring a fair few goals and it’s boring for both teams. Obviously the other teams don’t like it but it’s not our fault we’ve been put in this division. Hopefully we will win promotion this season and can look forward to more competitive games in 2017/18. Our cup games have been much harder, playing against teams from leagues above, and we’ve already had a couple of great results and performances.”
In addition Jess has been in fine goalscoring form this year, notching up 14 goals so far despite playing in a variety of positions. “This year I’ve played pretty much everywhere. It is good, at other clubs I’ve just played up front but Paul the manager has got me playing all over the pitch. I’m getting lots of experience and it is making me a better footballer.”
Like Jess, Alex has also experienced playing in a number of positions throughout his career, although he now feels he has found his favourite place on the pitch. “I think I prefer playing up front now. I’ve been out wide a little bit very recently and haven’t seen as much of the ball which is frustrating. In the middle I feel like I can affect the game more, sometimes I go wandering and get told off and sent back to my position, but overall down the middle is where I prefer to play now.”