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Maidstone United FA Cup star Sam Corne on his future, where his career began and the club’s extraordinary run to the last 16

Sam Corne has made more headlines than most during Maidstone’s FA Cup run - but it would take something special to get him away from the club.

Corne’s star continues to rise after his goalscoring exploits in the previous three rounds, with the equaliser against Barrow followed by winners to see off Stevenage and Ipswich.

Match-winner Sam Corne in front of the Ipswich scoreboard. Picture: Barry Goodwin
Match-winner Sam Corne in front of the Ipswich scoreboard. Picture: Barry Goodwin

If Maidstone are the story of this season’s FA Cup, Corne has played one hell of a leading role.

For all the attention on their talisman midfielder, it’s by no means inevitable that Corne will be lured away after five years with the Stones.

There’s bound to be interest - deservedly so - but the 27-year-old is happy where he is.

“I’ve loved every moment of it here,” said Corne, who balances his Maidstone commitments with youth coaching at Welling.

“This place is held highly with me so it’s got to be something big for me to move elsewhere.

“I’m at that age now where I’m very settled.

“I have a secure job and I’ve been here five years.

“In terms of the support, the fans, the people that work here, I love it.

“Don’t get me wrong, I always have ambitions to play higher but it's got to be the right thing for me.

“When I was a kid I always wanted to play in the league, just to push myself and see where it can take me.

“But financially it always comes into question.

“A big portion of my money is my coaching so if I were to move around the country and was having to rent or stuff, it’s a lot of money that goes on certain things.

“When you’re settled at home, and you’re not far away from where you play, like I am here, it fits hand in hand.”

Corne played with schoolmates before success in the Kent Youth League with Bridon Ropes.

He had academy experience at Fulham and Millwall, but was never the biggest, and it was a move to Welling with Jamie Day that got his career going.

“I was always tenacious but I was always a small player so I probably didn’t get the exposure or the look-in because of my profile at the time,” he said.

“I think, to a degree, it probably stopped me getting a chance somewhere but I think football now is evolving.

Maidstone midfielder Sam Corne celebrates his winner at Portman Road in the last round Picture: Barry Goodwin
Maidstone midfielder Sam Corne celebrates his winner at Portman Road in the last round Picture: Barry Goodwin

“The top players, as you can see, they’re not always the biggest.”

Conference Premier football was still a good level to learn his trade, especially for a teenager.

“It was a massive transition in terms of men’s football,” said Corne.

“I went out on loan in my first year, and was on the bench in the Conference Prem, and in my second season I played 44 games at the age of 18.

“It was huge. I was probably naive to the level I was playing at.

“That year we had teams like Luton, Grimsby, some massive sides, and the BT exposure came into play, playing on telly.

“I look back now and go what a great start to your career to play at such a good level.”

Corne followed Day to Braintree and went on to play under future Stones boss Hakan Hayrettin.

But he decided to leave National League football to focus on his coaching career.

There were spells with lower-league clubs Greenwich and Ashford before Hayrettin, by now head coach under John Still at Maidstone, brought him back up the levels.

“Coaching has always been a big thing for me,” said Corne, who holds his UEFA B Licence.

“I didn’t have the best of seasons at Braintree and I thought maybe I could get more game time lower down the pyramid and also concentrate on the other side of my career.

“Once I got my badges, and was in a secure environment in terms of my coaching, then going full-time with Maidstone went hand in hand. That’s how it’s been ever since.”

Last season Maidstone were knocked out of the FA Cup in the final qualifying round by Southern League Needham Market.

They were so bad that day, then-boss Hayrettin offered his wages to supporters.

A year on and the club have made history under George Elokobi with their extraordinary run to the fifth round.

“It’s a massive contrast in two seasons but if you were to put a finger on the two squads I couldn’t tell you why,” said Corne.

“Both squads had great calibre of players and last year we had more experienced players. It wasn’t a great situation.

“After the game we all got a massive volley because the FA Cup, as we’ve seen this year, it’s a massive competition and it’s provided massive exposure not just for ourselves but for the community. It’s huge.

“Now we’re the only non-league side in the competition, everyone’s supporting us. It’s crazy to think.”

Sam Corne celebrates putting Maidstone 2-1 up in the FA Cup fourth round. Picture: Helen Cooper
Sam Corne celebrates putting Maidstone 2-1 up in the FA Cup fourth round. Picture: Helen Cooper

Maidstone travel to Coventry on Monday night having already upset one Championship side in Ipswich.

Lamar Reynolds and Corne scored with the Stones’ only two shots of the game in the most unlikely of cup shocks.

Corne only needs to look back at that game for inspiration at the CBS Arena as Maidstone dream of a quarter-final spot.

“It’s by far the best moment of my career and it’s that bit of motivation when you need a little push going into a game,” said Corne.

“Just watch a small 30-second clip, not even my goal, even Lamar’s goal, what a moment for everyone.

“If that doesn’t get the hairs on the back of your neck standing, then I don’t know what will.

“When you go through on goal like that, it feels like a blur.

“You go off instinct, stuff that you do in training and stuff you’ve done over your career.

“I wouldn’t say muscle memory but you hope in the moment you do the right thing.

“People are saying to me that Coventry are below Ipswich but football is a funny old game.

“We drew with Hemel the other week but we’ve beaten Ipswich in the Championship.

“We have to give the best account of ourselves and hope it’s good enough.

“We’d be naive to think we’re going to be able to dominate possession.

“But, like you’ve seen, it doesn't matter as long as you’re secure behind the ball and when that opportunity arises you take it.

“You aren’t going to get loads of opportunities on the night so it might just be that one that’s going to count.”

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