Hady Ghandour is excited by the challenge of National League football at Maidstone.
Striker Ghandour, 22, has returned, this time on a permanent deal, following his release by League 1 Charlton.
The Stones are back in non-league’s top flight following their National South title success and Ghandour, who had two loan spells at the Gallagher last season, can’t wait to get going.
“I see it as a big chance to show what I’m made of because the National League is a big league,” said the Lebanon international.
“You only have to look at the calibre of teams that are in there.
“I need stability, which is what Maidstone are giving me.
“I’ve just got to thank the club for that and now it’s down to me to repay the faith, and I really feel like I can.
“When I went away with the national team my room-mate was Omar Bugiel, who plays for Sutton.
“He got promoted out of the National League with them and he told me the National League is a lot harder than League 2.
“I know what I’m expecting, and I’m sure the boys who are staying and signing know what to expect as well.
“I didn’t really get a reason why Charlton were letting me go.
“I didn’t feel like I got a fair chance but that’s football and I’m here to make a name for myself and hopefully help Maidstone cement their spot in the National League and push on.”
Ghandour scored his first Stones goal in the win over Chelmsford that clinched the championship, having learned two days earlier his time at Charlton was coming to an end.
Fired up, he scored again at Welling two days later and was determined to earn a full-time switch to Maidstone.
The call he wanted came from manager Hakan Hayrettin after the dust had settled on title celebrations.
“The season finished and I didn’t really know what I was doing, which is what I don’t like, I don’t like uncertainty,” said Ghandour.
“It was probably two weeks after the season was done we started speaking and the gaffer told me he’d like to keep me.
“That was my first choice and I’m happy to keep going.
“Maidstone sort of saved me last season because I had a rough spell at Christmas when I got Covid and signed for Chelmsford on loan after the first spell here.
“It wasn’t the best of loans, which is nothing against Chelmsford, it just didn’t go well.
“I was saved by the bell by Maidstone in a way, they got me a championship medal on my CV.
“Ever since I re-signed for my second spell on loan it felt like my place and this feels like a continuation of that.
“I was made welcome from minute one, hopefully the atmosphere stays the same and we can keep pushing on.”
Ghandour made his debut for Lebanon in a World Cup qualifier against South Korea last year.
Further call-ups followed and while he’s dropped out of the EFL, the forward is confident National League football will allow him to fulfil his international ambitions.
“It’s definitely a big enough league,” he said. “Omar played for Lebanon when he was in the National League, so I should still be in the window hopefully.
“There’s the Asia Cup next summer so hopefully I can have a great year and represent my country at that tournament.
“I’ve still only got the one cap but I was on the bench for three World Cup qualifiers and I came on against Korea.
“It was kind of bittersweet, I was happy going to the national team but for the last few call-ups I wasn’t getting any minutes.
“I missed two Papa John’s games for Charlton while I was away and you never know, I could have scored in them and that could have given me a chance in the league for a couple of minutes, but that’s football. I wasn’t going to turn down my country.”