At the end of last month Maidstone United had to perform something that hadn’t needed attending to for around seven years, appointing a new manager.
After a poor start to the season which followed a disappointing end to the last, Jay Saunders and the Stones agreed to part by ‘mutual consent’.
Harsh maybe on Saunders who turned down the chance to move into the Football League with champions Macclesfield Town and saw his long love affair with the Kent outfit ended less than a month into the new season.
Saunders had led the club from the now Bostik League to one promotion away from the Football League they resigned from back at the end of the 1980’s. Since then it’s been a long journey to return to where they left, and Saunders played a huge role on and off the pitch during that time.
Last season saw a turbulent campaign for the Stones and despite a re-shaping of the squad over the summer and Saunders having his loyalty tested, the club is sitting in the bottom four with seven defeats from the first 10 games and only Dover and Braintree below them.
Enter Harry Wheeler. Those in non-league circles will know Wheeler has suffered more than most managers performing last season and until a few weeks ago at the ‘circus’ that is known as Billericay Town.
Wheeler is one of the brightest managers coming through outside of the Football League and away from the testing times in Essex, he now has the chance to lead the Stones away from relegation danger and show how talented he is.
Despite all the troubles of being constantly one game away from the sack last season and having to deal with owner Glenn Tamplin’s fall out week after week, Wheeler and his coaching team led ‘Ricay to a treble and into the National League South. A first defeat in 29 games at Woking led to Tamplin sacking Wheeler and this time there was no coming back.
Whilst some on the outside would see this as a gamble for a young coach yet to be tested at this level, the Stones see it as ‘giving someone a chance rather than taking a chance’.
It remains to be seen who Wheeler appoints to his coaching staff, whether Tristan Lewis and Danny Hazle will join him, the former already having left Town.
Whilst there is never normally a good time to be the new manager, Wheeler starts at the weekend with a trip to current league leaders Harrogate Town, who have yet to taste defeat since their promotion to the National League over the summer and follow up that game with a trip to bottom placed Braintree.
With no transfer window operating in the National League, Wheeler can call on favours from pro clubs and further down the pyramid as he seeks to move the Stones up the table and who knows he might be the man that eventually takes Maidstone United back to the Football League.
Written by Trevor Knell
Follow Trevor on Twitter @trevk37
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