Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Defenders often get overlooked when it comes to media coverage. Match-winning strikers, flamboyant midfielders and eccentric goalkeepers tend to jump the queue when it comes to interviews, and I realised this blog was in danger of falling into the same trap. A quick tweet to Ebbsfleet United right-back Craig Stone easily put that right, though.

Stone, formerly of Gillingham, is in his second spell with the Fleet, having spent time with Maidstone United to aid his recovery from a broken leg. His consistent displays for the Conference Premier club have made him a fixture in Liam Daish's side. A world away from the triallist who showed up at Aveley for a pre-season friendly in 2010, looking for a second chance to launch a career with his hometown club.

Among several topics, I had one burning issue to address in this twinterview. In a division dominated by northern professional clubs, Ebbsfleet remain part-time. The price they pay for dining at non-league's top table is an unforgiving fixture list of long coach journeys, often without overnight stops. On the way back from their 6-2 drubbing at leaders Fleetwood last week, some players were still sending tweets from the team bus well into the not-so-small hours of Wednesday morning. Full-time players would be given a day off training and could sleep through lunchtime. Stone has to do a day's work. So - how on earth does he cope?

What's your earliest memory of football?

My earliest memories of football are when I was a prolific goal-scorer playing up front for Cobham colts!

How long did your centre-forward career last?

It lasted till I was about 11/12 then I became a goal-scoring centre midfielder!! Then I continued to go further and further back!!

Preston [Edwards] had better watch out then... Who are the best players you've played with and against?

He's definitely safe!! Crofty [Andrew Crofts] is obviously up there, also Matty Jarvis was frightening at times when I played with him at Gills as well! Against, Darren Anderton still had a bit when I played against him at Bournemouth!

You've had some seriously late nights recently (Fleetwood, York). How do those midweek away treks affect your life outside football?

It doesn't make it easy, to be honest. Getting home at 5am and back to work on the Wednesday at 7am isn't easy but that's how it is. We knew it at the start and we get on with it! We are in a national league and that means them sort of trips I guess.

Remind us what you do for work? Are they quite good at giving you time off when you have to travel up on a weekday?

I teach PE and work as a mentor in a primary school in Gravesend. I'm very lucky they are quite lenient with me. They were made aware beforehand also.

How hot do you have your chicken at Nando's?

Medium. Don't mind a bit of spice but can't be dealing with sweating up when I'm eating!

Very wise. What would happen if one of your team-mates 'did a Tevez' and refused to come off the bench?

I don't think any of us lot would try that with the gaffer to be honest!! Would you?

Not in a million years. Whose results do you look out for on a Saturday evening?

I obviously check all our league's results. Then I look out for Gills and how my mates in football got on at their clubs.

Speaking of which, who are your best friends in football?

Apart from the lads in the team who are all good lads, Andy Crofts is a good friend of mine, as is Andy Pugh at Cambridge.

What team should England pick for their first game at Euro 2012?

To be honest, I think there's so many places still uncertain, I'm unsure! [Scott] Parker should defo be captain though and [Paul] Scholes and [Ledley] King should defo go!!

Interesting. It has been a season for the returning old guard... What's the best game you've ever played in?

The play-off final last year. It has to be!!

Certainly up there for me too. Team-mate questions: who's the hard man, who's the joker... and who's the biggest moaner?

Preston [is the hard man] because that title means a lot to him! The joker is Clint [Easton]. Even though he's injured he still keeps up with his banter. Phippsy [Tom Phipp] loves a moan but Baz [Neil Barrett] runs him close now! He's getting worse as he's getting to 30! If he's not already there!!

Note: 'Baz' turned 30 on Christmas Eve last year.

Tough time for the club with the break-ins etc. Obviously football is your focus but do the lads talk much about the off-field stuff?

No, not really. It may come up in conversation every now and then but we don't really know much to be honest. We get on with what we are there for!!

Fair enough. Last couple of questions. From your experience, does football still have a problem with racism?

I've certainly never experienced it first hand, but if it's completely out the game I'm not sure! I can't really answer that.

Of this Fleet squad, only Ricky Shakes has started more games than you. Do you feel like the old man of Stonebridge Road yet?

Yeah I do, to be honest. I feel like I've been there forever!! Have enjoyed every minute of it though!

And finally - you've got one tweet to tell the world about Ebbsfleet United. Go...

Preston Edwards nailed it with his!! A family club worldwide!! I can't beat that I'll join it!

You can follow @stone_craig on Twitter

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