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Maidstone United hero Sam Corne has gone from sinner to winner.. now he’s plotting the next FA Cup shock

SAM CORNE was a victim of the Maidstone boo-boys when he first joined the club … but his brother predicted he would become their hero.

The midfielder, 27, joined a team that had been freshly relegated with a disgruntled fanbase.

Sam Corne had a tough start to life as a Maidstone player

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Sam Corne had a tough start to life as a Maidstone player
But his goal heroics in the FA Cup, including knocking out Ipswich, have made him a hero at the Kent club

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But his goal heroics in the FA Cup, including knocking out Ipswich, have made him a hero at the Kent club

And Corne admits when games were played behind closed doors due to the pandemic it came as a relief.

But this season he has written and underlined his name, along with his Maidstone team-mates, into the history books for their incredible FA Cup heroics.

Corne scored the winner at Ipswich to add to the ones he netted against Stevenage and Barrow in the previous rounds to make the Stones only the second club from below the fifth tier to have reached the FA Cup’s last 16.

Blyth Spartans are the only other side to famously achieve that feat in 1978.

And Corne told SunSport: “When I first came here things were negative. The club had dropped out of the National League, there were a few managerial changes and the place was hostile.

“I was still a young player and the fans didn’t take to me.

“There were negative comments because of our bad results. After going down, they expected instant success in the lower division but we didn’t get that straight away.

“Most of the negativity was on social media and the fans forum. So when I went out on game day, I was always not only trying to get a good result but win over a set of fans.

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“At my previous club Welling, I was loved regardless of how I played because they held me in high regard. That wasn’t the case at first here at Maidstone.

“But my older brother James said to me, ‘Don’t worry — you’ll end up being loved. It’s only a matter of time.’”

Maidstone make FA Cup history with huge giant-killing win over Ipswich
Sam Corne with his older brother James

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Sam Corne with his older brother James
Sam Corne warming up for the challenge of Coventry on Monday night

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Sam Corne warming up for the challenge of Coventry on Monday night
Sam Corne and Maidstone have made history by reaching the last 16 of the FA Cup

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Sam Corne and Maidstone have made history by reaching the last 16 of the FA Cup

And how he has turned that around – especially with his stunning exploits in the FA Cup.

From being a player that fans did not like, many of them would not begrudge seeing a STATUE of him now striking that winning goal at Portman Road erected in the town centre.

He said: “Playing games during the pandemic helped me because there were no supporters in the ground. 

“Maidstone are a huge club at this level and have average gates of more than 2,000. Looking back, I hadn’t the experience then of playing in front of a big fan-base.

“So I managed to find my feet a little bit during that period without supporters and by the time football returned to normal I wasn’t under pressure anymore.”

Corne is a diamond in the rough of non-league.

Although he is a midfielder, the Stones ace is always good value for a goal when he appears in and around the box.

And his brilliant finish against the Tractor Boys was as clinical as anything you will see in the Premier League.

It is something of a surprise that League One or Two club have not yet snapped him up — but maybe this summer one of them will.

Corne, who grew up idolising Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele, came through the youth ranks at Fulham at the same time as Patrick Roberts and Cauley Woodrow. 

But the West Londoners never offered him a scholarship.

So he has since done the hard yards in non-league with Greenwich Borough, Ashford Town, Welling United, Braintree and now Maidstone.

And he combines playing with coaching kids at Welling and his Cup exploits have proved inspiring to the youngsters.

He said: “I coach boys and girls and do the Under-13s, 15s and the scholars. All the kids have been so excited seeing us on the TV.

“The parents come to me and say, ‘Oh, they love you’ — so it’s been rewarding. It’s good to know that Maidstone United are inspiring kids.”

Corne’s goal at Portman Road will forever live in football folklore.

Maidstone United celebrate their triumph at Portman Road

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Maidstone United celebrate their triumph at Portman Road

And describing the jubilant moment the ball hit the back of the net and the scenes that followed, he said: “There was a lot of surprise, a lot of shock and the 4,500 Maidstone fans just went crazy.

“Even now just talking about it gives me the chills. It was a lovely feeling and I’ve watched the goal back a fair few times!

“After the game, there was music blaring and the scenes were like nothing I’d experienced before. 

“In the dressing room, I ran myself a bath — because we don’t have them at our ground — and I just laid there, chilling and taking it all in.

“The Ipswich players were class and wished us the best afterwards.

“What we did that day does give you a bit of motivation.

“It’s something you dream will come true and gives you a reminder why you’re still playing the game.”

And although Corne has been winning lots of plaudits for his goals, he is quick to point out that it was only achievable because of the incredible shifts put in by the whole team.

Plus he was wise to heed his brother’s advice and keep faith in those difficult early days at Maidstone.

He said: “James has been my worst critic but also my biggest fan over the years. Without him, my family and team-mates I’d not be where I am today.”

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