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Exodus

Must-read returns to the Stones store

Exodus: Maidstone United 1988-2012, which tells the story of the 24 years the club spent without a stadium of its own, is being reprinted.

Written by local author and lifelong Stones fan Fred Atkins, the book lifts the lid on a quarter of a century of drama at the club from treachery and incompetence, through to faith and redemption.

Copies flew off the shelves this time last year, with many missing out on this must-read, which runs to more than 70,000 words and includes a series of images and graphics, many courtesy of the club photographer Steve Terrell and the Kent Messenger.

Fred said: “Hopefully the reprint will allow everyone who missed out on a copy last year to get one this time around.

“I was really pleased with the reception when it first came out. I really didn’t know how people would react to it because the story was so controversial, but it did have an unexpectedly happy ending.

“I re-read it recently and still struggle to believe that it all actually happened, even though I lived through it.”

The story starts in the 80s when Maidstone United were known, without deliberate irony, as ‘the Manchester United of non-league football’. It covers former chairman Jim Thompson’s attempts to get the Stones into the Football League and the unintentionally disastrous consequences of his success.

The full story includes:

  • the demise of the old London Road ground
  • winning the Conference in 1989 and the three seasons in the Football League
  • the Woodcut Farm Stadium saga
  • the abortive Mark English takeover and the absurd plan to move the team to Newcastle
  • the painfully slow rebirth as Maidstone Invicta in the Kent County League
  • the resurrection under Jason Lillis and the Kent League triumphs under Jim Ward, Alan Walker and Lloyd Hume
  • the near-collapse in 2010 that led to the Ash/Casey takeover
  • the return to the Gallagher Stadium in 2012

Club chief executive Bill Williams, who witnessed many of those events first-hand, added: “If this was a television drama, people would say it was far-fetched. How could all this have happened to one football club but it really did.

“Fred brings the story to life with such vivid detail and it brought back countless memories for me – some good, some not so good but as they say: all’s well that ends well.”

The book, which is priced at £10, will be available from Monday 1 October to buy online or from the club shop on match days.

Fred, a former Kent Messenger sports editor, has written three books previously – two about Arsenal Football Club and one on the Tour De France when it came to the garden of England. His first novel, Welcome to Kent, a fictionalised story of the UK’s worst newspaper, was published earlier this year.

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