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Maidstone United defender Ryan Johnson getting to grips with National League South after surprise move

Ryan Johnson has settled in nicely following his surprise move to Maidstone.

Johnson jumped two levels to join the Stones after spending last season with East Grinstead in Isthmian South East.

At 31, the chance to step back up came out of the blue for the ex-Welling defender but he's grabbed it with both hands.

Maidstone defender Ryan Johnson Picture: Steve Terrell
Maidstone defender Ryan Johnson Picture: Steve Terrell

He pulled out of a move to Hythe to take up John Still's offer and finds himself alongside ex-Wolves man George Elokobi in central defence.

Johnson, who runs his own cleaning business, said: "It was a bolt out of the blue to be honest.

"I was ready to sign for Hythe after being at East Grinstead last year.

"It was a disappointing season - I was only there because I knew the manager - but I'd agreed to go to Hythe then I got a call from John.

"I played in the friendly against Dagenham on the Tuesday and phoned Hythe and said I couldn't come any more.

"On the Thursday I had a chat with John and he said he wanted to sign me and by the following Monday it was all agreed.

"You get that one chance and you have to take it.

"Hythe were disappointed but they understood.

"I wouldn't have done it for another team in the same league after giving my word to the chairman but I couldn't turn down the opportunity to move to Maidstone at my age.

"You've got to take chances like this and grab them with both hands."

Johnson had been without a club before Hythe's offer but has picked up his fitness.

It's a challenge playing National League South football again but one he's adapted to.

Ryan Johnson is adjusting to National League South Picture: Steve Terrell
Ryan Johnson is adjusting to National League South Picture: Steve Terrell

Johnson said: "I've just got to get used to training more frequently and playing on the 3G but I've found it all right.

"I've had a few little niggles but I'm sure I'll get used to it over the next couple of weeks and be absolutely fine.

"The tempo of the game is different at this level.

"I was surprised by the tempo in that Dagenham game because where I'd been without a club I hadn't really done any training.

"Playing lower you get a chance to have a breather and where I felt comfortable I probably took a few chances but you can't do that here.

"You have to stay switched on all the time because if you make a mistake at this level, you will get punished for it.

"You always have to be prepared for the worst.

"It helps playing alongside George because he talks loads and is very experienced.

"We're trying to build a good relationship.

"We can always improve but we're not doing too bad."

The Stones picked up their first clean sheet in the goalless draw against Eastbourne on Tuesday night and Johnson said: "It was a hard-earned point in a game of not many chances.

"When it's like that, worst-case scenario you make sure you come out of it with a point and we did that.

"It was nice to get a clean sheet. There's a couple of games where we felt we could have got one."

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