Why I chose Ebbsfleet United for 'My 5'
The Fleet might not have been the obvious choice for Step one considering Leyton Orient are very local and Barnet were the first team I saw when I started groundhopping. I wanted the south side of the Dartford Crossing to be represented, however, and I was once a shareholder in the club (long story). I saw Ebbsfleet come back from 2-0 down to eventual National League winners, Macclesfield, last season and I was also impressed by the football they played.
Who are ya, Ebbsfleet United?
The Fleet, as they are known, were founded in 1946 and took the names of the two clubs that merged to form them, Gravesend & Northfleet. They began life in the Southern League and were champions in 1958. 21 years later they became founding members of the Alliance Premier Football League. This was the original version of the current National League and was formed by the leading clubs from the Southern League and the Northern Premier League. The Fleet finished fifth in its first season, their highest ever position in the pyramid.
After three seasons in the Alliance Premier the Fleet were relegated back into the Southern League and bounced between the Premier and South Divisions before switching to the Isthmian League in 1997. In 2002 they were champions of the Isthmian League and won promotion to the Football Conference, a return to the top flight of non-league football. In 2007 the club changed its name to Ebbsfleet United in what was about to become an eventful year for the Fleet.
The club was then taken over by the MyFootballClub online group where members, including myself, paid £35 for a stake in the club and the chance to vote on transfers, player selection and other major decisions. It was successful initially but many members, again including me, failed to renew membership after the first year. The Fleet began to struggle and were relegated into the Conference South. They returned to step one at the first time of asking but were relegated again in 2013. The club was taken over by Kuwaiti owners that year and eventually returned to the National League this season after a play-off victory against Chelmsford City.
A great article on the whole MyFootballClub story can be found on The Guardian website.
Prospects for 2018/19
The Fleet made a late run into the promotion play-offs last season but unfortunately lost out to Tranmere, who were subsequently promoted. They'll be looking to build on the momentum of their spring run to get them into the promotion mix again. Competition in the National League should be fierce, however, with relegated clubs Chesterfield and Barnet tussling with established Conference names like Sutton, Aldershot and Bromley. A resurgent Leyton Orient and ambitions Salford will also be in the mix.