Winning 23 trophies over the last six years is remarkable really, says Stones coach Jack Parkinson
The Stones travel to Crawley Town’s Broadfield Stadium to play Conference South club Eastbourne Borough in The Football Conference Youth Alliance League Cup Final.
Eastbourne Borough will go into the game as favourties, simply because of their status as a Conference South club.
“Wednesday’s final will be a great night for the club,” said Parkinson, 24.
“It’s a huge achievement for us to be in a national final that started with over 120 teams and has clubs the size of Luton, Mansfield and Gateshead in it so for us to be walking out at Crawley on Wednesday night is fantastic and we will be giving everything we’ve got to try and beat a very good Eastbourne side.
“Eastbourne are a good side and have some very good players and try to play the right way so hopefully for the fans that are watching will be in for a good game, but we know if we can perform to the levels the boys can, that we should have too much for them.
“This could be some of our boy’s last game in youth football and I know they will be giving every last bit they have to try and come out of the game victorious.
“The club are running a supporters coach to the game so just shows how well supported this club is and that the supporters take interest in our youth teams.
“I’ve had a lot of these boys with me for years now so if we win the game on Wednesday will leave me a proud person as they have been unreal for me and the club over the last six years, winning 23 trophies out of a possible 26 is remarkable really.”
It has been another fantastic season for the successful Academy at the Ryman Premier League club.
The club clinched the Ryman Under 21 League title with a 3-2 win away to Whitstable Town last Thursday, much to the delight of Parkinson, who along with others runs the Academy alongside first team manager Jay Saunders.
“Winning the Conference Youth League for the second season running is a great achievement, along with winning the Ryman Under 21 League,” he said.
“This one for me has been the hardest to win due to the turnover of players we’ve had and the games being on different evenings has made it hard to keep the same team throughout the season so to win it is brilliant.”
Parkinson added: “Our second Conference side look to be finishing in second in their league as well, so the boys have done brilliant again this year along with the Cup Final to come.
“We also made the First Round of the FA Youth Cup and was narrowly beaten away at Southend and on another day may have come away with something all but for a bad start.”
The Stones have been flourishing both on and off the pitch since moving home a couple of years ago.
Saunders guided the club towards promotion out of the Ryman League Division One South last season, finishing runners-up to champions Dulwich Hamlet, going up as play-off winners with home wins over Folkestone Invicta and Faversham Town.
However, this season, the club were among the leading pack throughout most of the season, but slipped down to seventh-place with 81 points from 46 games, finishing two points behind AFC Hornchurch in fifth-place and 15 behind promoted champions Wealdstone, who will be playing Conference South football next season.
Last month The Stones won the Robert Dyas Ryman League Cup following a 3-0 home win over Grays Athletic and Saunders blooded a number of Academy prospects in games throughout this competition.
“What’s also been brilliant is the amount of players that have represented our first team this year,” said Parkinson.
“Charley Robertson has started over nine games, Jack Sullivan 10 and Dan Parkinson has also started 19 games and have all played a big part in what’s happened this year.
“Ben Swift, Will Godmon, Liam King, Ross Bassan and Aidan Hayes have also played their part in our League Cup success and in league games and have all come from our Academy.
“Lee Pleau has had a very good season at Hythe along with Dan Johnson, winning promotion with Leatherhead yesterday along with Steve Lawrence, Brad Webb and a number of others playing games in the Kent League just shows the quality within the club and we have some great lads coming into the club next year as well.”
Parkinson, who signed for Maidstone United as a player from Conference Premier club Woking in December 2013, joked he was to blame for the club having to settle for a place just outside the play-offs.
The former Tonbridge Angels, VCD Athletic, Welling United and Woking defender/midfielder said: “It’s been a mixed season with the first team. They were top when I joined and have been most of the season so to miss out on the play-offs just shows what a bad signing I was!
“Unfortunately too many injuries to key players for long spells didn’t help but to still win the League Cup topped off a fairly good season considering the club only came up last season.
“The crowds have been outstanding again this season and that’s also a huge positive.
“Next season I know Jay will be looking to strengthen and we will be looking to gain promotion out of the division but will again be tough when there are other clubs really splashing the cash to also get out of the division.”
Parkinson was at Cheriton Road yesterday to watch the Ryman League Division One South Play-off Final between Folkestone Invicta and Leatherhead.
Leatherhead took the lead through Tom Bradbrook’s excellent looping strike into the top right-hand corner, to score his 36th goal of the campaign.
Former Maidstone United striker, Paul Booth, headed home an 87th minute equaliser for Folkestone Invicta – the 37-year-old’s 26th goal of the season.
Former Stones goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim, 23, saved two penalties for Leatherhead to deny Matt Newman and Hull City bound striker Johan Ter Horst and Leatherhead won it 3-1 on penalties after Dane Luchford struck the left-hand post.
Tom Parkinson, Jack’s younger brother, played in the game, as did Maidstone Academy player Dan Johnson.
“It was great to see Tom, Dan Johnson and Del, who I know well win the play-off yesterday.
“I was gutted for Tom after being dropped for the semi-final but to see them lift the trophy yesterday was great and congratulations to all at Leatherhead as they’ve had a great season and also to my old club VCD (who won the Ryman League Division One North title).”
There are many unsung heroes that run non-league football clubs and Parkinson was full of praise for one of theirs at Maidstone United.
He said: “I would also like to thank Barry Fenn for all his help with the Academy. He’s been great in all of his help with kit and clearing up after our lads’ constant mess they leave and sometimes goes unnoticed.”
The Football Conference have confirmed the admission prices for the game at £5 (adults, to include a full colour programme), £2 (concessions) and children under 11 go FREE.
Turnstiles will be open from 18:00.
If scores are level after 90 minutes, the game will be settled by penalties. There will be no extra-time.
Eastbourne Borough have reached the Crawley final after beating Gillingham 5-4 on penalties after a 3-3 draw; Kingstonian (8-0); Welling United (3-0); Chesham (4-0); Fulham (4-3) and Colchester United (2-1).
Maidstone United have held their nerve from the penalty spot in a couple of games en-route to the showpiece final.
The Stones knocked out Havant & Waterlooville 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw, before beating Boreham Wood (6-2); Bromley (9-2); Ebbsfleet United (2-1) and beat Ilkeston 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals.
Visit Maidstone United’s website: www.maidstoneunited.co.uk
Eastbourne Borough v Maidstone United
The Football Conference Youth Alliance League Cup Final
Wednesday 7th May 2014
Kick Off 7:00pm
At Broadfield Stadium, Winfield Way, Brighton Road, Crawley, West Sussex RH11 9RX