Jon Harley: Maidstone’s last FA Cup winner

Looking back at the career of left-back Jon Harley.

 

Maidstone United’s run in this season’s FA Cup has been the true underdog story of the competition having started their run in September 2023 and making history by going the furthest they have ever been in the cup, reaching the fifth round before losing 5-0 to Coventry at the end of February.

As we close in on the all-Manchester FA Cup final, taking place on 25th May, many of us may still be seething at the controversies from the previous semi-final contests. Whilst there appeared to be a very questionable handball offence from Jack Grealish in the penalty box against Chelsea not given, there was also a heart-breaking goal disallowed for offside in extra time as Coventry thought they created a historic comeback from 3-0 down to The Red Devils, only to eventually lose out on penalties.

That’s why though, in this edition, we go back in time to when FA Cup replays were appreciated and there was no VAR as we look at the wonderful career of the former Chelsea left-back and FA Cup winner born in Maidstone, Mr Jon Harley.

Born on 26th September 1979, Jon played his junior football for Castle Colts FC and went to Oakwood Park Grammar School; the same school that former European Cup winner and Manchester United defender David Sadler attended.

Harley played his youth football at Chelsea before making his senior debut for the club in April 1998 against Derby County under manager Gianluca Vialli. In the 1999-00 season, despite starting both the fifth round, quarter-final and semi-final, Harley was named as an unused in Chelsea’s 1-0 FA Cup win against Aston Villa.

After 42 appearances for Chelsea, Jon signed for West London rivals and newly promoted Fulham in August 2001 where he would score a phenomenal goal with a 40-yard strike against Aston Villa. Harley was unable to lock down a first-choice position though and would be loaned out to West Ham and Sheffield United, who he joined permanently in 2004 where he played a full season in the Championship. The following season, the left-back joined Burnley in a deal for just £75,000.

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Photo courtesy of Portsmouth FC

At Burnley, Harley established himself as the first-choice left-back winning the Player of the Season award in 2005/06 and registered over 100 appearances for The Clarets over three years. Jon would leave Burnley for a return back to London, this time with Watford where he spent two years before moving to League One’s Notts County. After The Magpies, Harley joined Rotherham on loan briefly for 12 games and moved to Portsmouth in August 2012 where he played over 20 games before getting released.

In 2013, Jon returned to Maidstone to join his hometown club after reaching out to childhood friend and then manager of The Stones Jay Saunders. Jon played a handful of games for the club whilst also juggling his part-time role at Chelsea as an Academy Coach. After agreeing to take on the role full-time with The Blues, Jon would finally hang his boots up and retire from the beautiful game with Maidstone United.

After a decade at Chelsea, Harley left the club last February to take up the position of Assistant Head Coach at former club Portsmouth under Head Coach John Mousinho. In the 2023/24 season, Portsmouth had an incredible campaign, finishing as champions of League One and getting promoted to the Championship, a league they have not played in for 12 years!

The borough of Maidstone has produced some fantastic footballers including David Sadler, UEFA European Women’s Championship winner Alessia Russo and two-time League Cup winner Andy Townsend. Jon Harley, though, sits as only one of two FA Cup winners from the borough alongside former Oxford University footballer Charles Nepean.

 

Make sure you keep up to date with Jon’s career by following him on Instagram @harley_jon.

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