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The Vanarama Big Interview: Oliver Ash

League sponsors Vanarama meet the man who helped bring new life to Maidstone United when the club needed it the most…

Little short of ten years ago a fortuitous meeting between Oliver Ash and Terry Casey, brokered by long-term Stones stalwart Bill Williams, enabled Maidstone United to be saved from almost certain bankruptcy.

Ash had become involved as a minority shareholder in the club two years previously but no serious financial plan for a new stadium had ever been tabled. Then in August 2010 the money had run out.

Casey and Ash decided to trust each other and throw caution to the wind. Both agreed that in order to recover and then prosper the club needed its new stadium to be built and needed a 3G pitch capable of bringing the local community, supporters and revenues back into the club.

A success-filled decade on, he and Terry Casey have served notice of their intent to pass the Maidstone United baton on.

Be it through attracting outside investment or by finding a buyer, a new era appears to be dawning.

“It’s been an incredible journey, you have to pinch yourself really when you consider where the club was, where we were playing and in what division, to what we have now,” he explained.

“Terry and I own the club 50-50 although it’s no secret that living a lot closer to the stadium than I do he does at least 80 per cent of our work!

“I think we have delivered what we set out to. To take the club from a groundshare at Sittingbourne and return it to Maidstone, playing in front of two or three thousand of our fantastic supporters, is something we are very proud to have played a part in.

“We always hoped there would ultimately be a positive outcome and there was. But maybe it’s the right moment for the next chapter to begin, while the club is in a good place and financially strong.

“We’re not getting any younger, and don’t forget we are just looking after the club on the way through.

“Maybe it’s time for some younger people to now take hold and take things to the next level. It’s all about the club being able to grow sustainably faster. That probably needs to happen through further stadium development and for that there is a need for substantial new funds.

But it won’t just be anyone arriving in the directors’ box.

“The key thing is for us to find the right person or the right people,” he outlined. “It has to be someone with Maidstone United at heart, although having said that Maidstone United weren’t in my heart when I first got involved in 2008 and it didn’t take long for the club to work it’s way in there!

“We will hopefully find someone who aligns perfectly with our hopes and ambitions for the club to grow at a pace which excites the supporters without putting it at any financial risk.

“Terry and I could be happy to stay on if the situation is right – all options are open, it depends on who wants to get involved and how.“

Of course, it will be sad to say goodbye should it come to that, but whatever happens in the months ahead the club will still very much have a fan in Oliver.

“We have invested a lot into the club,” he added. “Time as well as money. There’s a love there, that’s for sure.

“The very last thing we want to do after more than ten years of hard graft is hand this fantastic club over to an unscrupulous investor.

“Football is littered with terrible tales. We are playing Blackpool in the FA Cup next weekend. Of course their fans will tell you all about their experience of a charlatan running their club.

“The awful situation at Bury has further highlighted concerns from within the game.

“We are in contact with a few people already, and when the time is right we will take a view. There is no time limit for finding somebody. What cannot happen is for the club to fall into the wrong hands – and it won’t.”

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