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Maidstone United skipper Steve Watt would have had to retire if he'd continued coaching at Ebbsfleet United

Maidstone United captain Steve Watt Picture: Ruth Cuerden
Maidstone United captain Steve Watt Picture: Ruth Cuerden

Captain Steve Watt has told how he picked Maidstone over his day job at Ebbsfleet after an ultimatum.

Watt was shocked to be told he would have to stop playing for United if he wanted to keep working for Fleet, especially as he had only just signed a new contract to manage their under-18 academy side.

He took exception and gave up the financial security of a full-time job in order to stay with his adopted hometown club.

Defender Watt, 30, is set to line up against his former employers when Maidstone host Ebbsfleet in a Gallagher Stadium sell-out on Tuesday night (7.45pm).

He said: "The new deal was signed then two days later I was told it was going to be a problem. They felt there would be a conflict of interest with the clubs in the same league.

"I could understand that if I was working with the first-team but not the youth team.

"Ebbsfleet are a great club and they were good to me but I didn’t like being given an ultimatum. It felt like they were holding a gun to my head – stop playing or lose a lot of money and security for my family.

"Career-wise and because of my age, the sensible thing would have been to stay at Ebbsfleet and that’s what everyone expected me to do.

"Coaching is the avenue I want to go down when I stop playing and the set-up at Ebbsfleet is unbelievable but it wasn’t a difficult decision for me.

Ebbsfleet boss Daryl McMahon worked with Steve Watt at the Fleet academy Picture: Andy Payton
Ebbsfleet boss Daryl McMahon worked with Steve Watt at the Fleet academy Picture: Andy Payton

"I’ve said before that Maidstone have got my heart and it’s up to them to determine when I finish playing, not Ebbsfleet. I wasn’t having them retiring me.

"I just couldn’t see how I could leave. I go a lot on gut instinct when there’s a decision to be made and it’s normally right.

"Maidstone’s got this hold on me and there was no way I could walk away, especially after the season we’d had with winning the league. I love the club and I want to be part of it."

Tuesday’s National League South meeting could be the start of a fascinating rivalry between the Kent clubs. Both are highly ambitious but have different approaches.

Watt said: "There’s no hiding the fact there’s a lot of money at Ebbsfleet. It’s a League club in terms of structure and the set-up and all the little things they do.

"Every small detail has started to be put in place and if they go up this season, I’m sure they will go full-time.

"We’re in a different position at Maidstone. We’re taking our time and not throwing silly money around to try and get promoted. There’s no bottomless pit.

"We’re doing things steadily and I like that approach, not that Ebbsfleet are doing anything wrong."

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