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Ashford United sign defender Craig Stone following his departure from Ramsgate | Centre-half adds further experience after arrival of James Dunne

Ashford have won the race to sign experienced defender Craig Stone.

The 35-year-old had plenty of offers after leaving Isthmian South East runners-up Ramsgate.

Craig Stone has joined Ashford after leaving Ramsgate. Picture: Ian Scammell
Craig Stone has joined Ashford after leaving Ramsgate. Picture: Ian Scammell

But he’s chosen the Nuts & Bolts, to the delight of new boss Danny Kedwell.

Stone made his name as a right-back but plays centre-half these days.

“He’s had a great journey,” said Kedwell of a player whose former clubs include Gillingham, Ebbsfleet, Dover, Maidstone and Tonbridge.

“He’s obviously played at higher levels and he fits how I want to play.

“He’s a leader as well, good in the changing room and a top lad on and off the pitch.

“He had four or five clubs in for him so it’s great to get him because he’s a very good player and he’s the full package for these levels.

“It goes to show what he brings to the club when you’ve got that many clubs after you.

“It’s great that he’s chosen us.”

Stone is the latest piece of the jigsaw for Kedwell who wants an experienced spine to help the younger players flourish in Isthmian South East.

Midfielder James Dunne also falls into that category after following Kedwell to Homelands from Chatham.

The 34-year-old enjoyed a long Football League career with Exeter, Stevenage, Portsmouth, Cambridge and Swindon before dropping into non-league five seasons ago.

“To be fair, he rang me,” said Kedwell.

“He loved his time at Chatham but he just said I like the way you work and I’d love to come over.

Ashford manager Danny Kedwell welcomes Craig Stone to Homelands. Picture: Ian Scammell
Ashford manager Danny Kedwell welcomes Craig Stone to Homelands. Picture: Ian Scammell

“I left it down to him to see what he was doing and then he said he was free.

“You build a side around him.

“You need that bit of experience in the squad.”

Ian Draycott is another experienced head, having been retained by Kedwell.

The forward, Folkestone’s record goalscorer, turns 36 next month.

Also staying at the club are Adem Ramadan, Max Walsh, Tommy Penfold, Lanre Azeez, Emmanuel Nwosu, Noah Carney and Tolu Jonah.

Kedwell took advice from director of football Alan Walker, who looked after the team as interim manager for the final nine games of the season.

“That should be it for the retained players,” said Kedwell.

“I did offer another one but he hasn’t got back to me so I think that one is dead in the water.

“I’ve seen a lot of them play, and have played against them, and Walks had had a big say in who he thinks we should keep.

“From my last experience as a manager, when I was at Cray, I had to build a whole new squad in a short space of time and it was hard.

“So I wanted to build around the existing players where I could.

“They know the club and they’re good players.

“We just need to add to that.”

There’s an air of excitement around Ashford with Kedwell’s arrival and a takeover imminent.

The club have plenty going for them, which will only help in the summer market.

“Ashford’s always been a big club in this league, hasn’t it?” said Kedwell.

“They’ve had some good seasons in the play-offs.

“There’s a good fanbase and hopefully we can build that up by our performances.

“When I first went to Chatham we had 300 fans in the SCEFL and by the time I left we had 3,000.

“Results and trophies get the crowd in and that’s my selling point to players.

“That’s where we’ve got to be. I’m not here to sit around and be comfortable in this league.

“Everyone we sign is in it for the right reasons and my target is to make sure we get the results and get the place buzzing.

“That’s the sort of players I want at the club.”

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