About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Proper Football?

With the Magpies doing the business against St Albans at the first attempt last Saturday, I was left at a loose end on Tuesday night. Deciding that a night on the sofa asking the wife to explain what was going on in CSI, and wondering just what you had to do to qualify to become a celebrity and get a free jungle holiday, I opted to go and watch some football played by full time professionals in a bona fide stadium. Proper football as some of my anti non league friends would call it. In my case a chance to measure the value of what I usually watch at York Road.One fixture jumped out at me. Crystal Palace v Preston North End. I try to get to one or two PNE games a season as I used to be a regular at Deepdale during my salad days at Lancashire Polytechnic. With permatanned Palace grand fromage Simon Jordan tempting fans with a third off usual prices, it seemed a bargain too good to resist at £20.I've been to Selhurst Park just twice previously but I like the feel of the trip to the ground, walking up the hill to the stadium, hemmed in by suburban streets. A real football club at the heart of the community, a concept which is slowly ebbing away as the drift to out of town industrial parks grows apace.The persistent drizzle meant my allocated seat on the front row of the Arthur Waite stand held little appeal so I moved back a few rows, strategically placing myself in front of one of the many pillars but out of the rain and right on the half way line.Three pound for a programme was well spent, on a publication consisting of eighty pages with plenty to read ahead of this Division Two relegation battle (anyone born post 80s see me after the game for a history lesson).In front of a half full stadium (an unchanged average figure to show the inelasticity of football support), the teams walked out from that odd entrance in the corner to the strains of the theme tune from the Long Good Friday leaving me to reflect on that awfully prescient vision of Thatcherite spivvery. I wonder if they play it to remind them of the early 80s recession which led the Eagles to sell off one end of the ground to Sainsburys? Naturally the club song Glad All Over then rang out to whip up the fans.A small but vociferous following had travelled down from Granadaland to cheer on the Lilywhites and as they were situated between two sets of self styled Eagle Ultras there was a real edge as the game kicked off.Sadly this faded as Preston's lack of confidence led to their footballing approach bearing no fruit whilst Palace predictably displayed the signs of becoming the latest team to be moulded by Warnock's Protestant work ethic, all toil, long balls and lets hope to get something from a set piece.With ten minutes of the half remaining the game sparked into life with the first shot on target, when a Kevin Nicholls effort was touched over the bar, Preston scoring from the resulting corner. Just when the home fans were about to turn on their team Palace were gifted two goals before half time and that was that, the second half seeing no change to the score.As I wandered away from the ground I felt like I had been to a real football match but with no change out of £30 once I'd paid my online booking fee and had something to eat on top of admission and a programme but was it really twice as good as an evening at York Road? On the minus side compulsory seating and no beer, but that Long Good Friday's a good tune though!

Thursday, 22 November 2007


The fanzine movement proved to many in footballing terms at least the "spark that lit up reality", as increasing numbers of supporters began to "do it for themselves" in the face of opposition from the football establishment telling the truth about watching the beautiful game in Britain. Although some fanzines such as When Saturday Comes remain in one form or another many faded as the internet took the mantle of providing a more immediate means of exchange between supporters. This was the normal trend for club based fanzines, but niche publications tended to persist.One such publication which is still going strong is Groundtastic, now very definitely a professionally presented magazine, which nevertheless retains the enthusiastic tone of the dedicated amateur.Groundtastic is purely concerned, as the title suggests, with the arenas that the game is played in whether that be in the Premiership or County League. This interest in the architectural environment was first brought to a wider audience by Simon Inglis with his landmark book, published in the early 80s, looking at the Football League Grounds of Britain. A few years later Kerry Miller produced a companion tome focusing on non league football, which revealed to me at least the debt Maidenhead United owes to its supporters of times past who provided the funds and the manpower for much of the ground you are standing in today.Still there was no periodical cataloguing the fast changing football grounds in the post Taylor report world. The growing group of football supporters known as groundhoppers who specialise in visiting in as many football grounds as possible (and let's admit there's a little groundhopper in all of us) proved there was a constituency to provide a readership. So it was no surprise that on a groundhopping weekend in the Northern League in Easter 1994 that the idea for a magazine was hatched.It was founded by Vince Taylor, Jon Weaver and Paul Claydon and the first issue was published in March 1995. One of the main outlets for the new publication was the late lamented "Sportspages" bookshop in central London where you could find Groundtastic alongside Maidenhead United fanzine "Born and Bred" in the non league section. Very much a home made operation in the beginning, the early issues contained actual full colour photographs and was well worth the high cover price.Published quarterly ever since, the magazine is the only one in the UK solely dedicated to football grounds and has built up a reputation as an authority on all grounds whether new, old or defunct, with a four figure circulation.This September the 50th issue was reached and a special 100 page full colour issue was produced. Virtually free of adverts Groundtastic represents excellent value for money.For more details including back issues and subscriptions visit http://www.groundtastic.co.uk/

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Baker & Kelly

The media pack which leeches off football to all intents and purposes lives up to its parasitical nature which leads it to patronize, sensationalize and worst get it plain wrong, all in the name of attention and circulation. This state of affairs pretty much held sway until the fanzine movement took off in the 1980s, revealing to the world that the phrase "intelligent football fan" was not an oxymoron. Of course the media was eager to cash in on this phenomenon but unsurprisingly got it wrong by presenting egregious no marks such as Tim Lovejoy and David Baddiel as the face of the fans. This now flows through to non league football with the execrable journalism of the non league paper/today.Yet somewhere in the BBC lay a commissiong editor with the nous to appoint the one person who knew the score, schooled in the fanzine movement (albeit of the punk variety) and a steadfastly loyal supporter of an unglamorous lower division club. His name was Danny Baker of the famous Millwall (accent on the second syllable) and no one, I repeat no one was going to prevent him telling it like it is. Hosting the original 6-0-6 Baker quickly created a loyal audience with his weekly fare of referee baiting, revelling in the comeuppance of the good and the great, and most of all celebrating the everyday tales of football fans everywhere, who win, lose or draw, rain or shine would be at the match every week. Of course with attendance a given for Baker and his ilk, attention focused on the minutiae of the journey travelled by fans rather than simply measuring its worth in silverware. Thus conversations turned to the strangest sights you have seen at a match, bona fide characters and your club, and most of all anything that raised a laugh. All pomposity was banished with supporters who rang up from Devon to complain with outrage about how Liverpool/Arsenal/Man U etc had clearly by hard done according to the radio commentary being given the shortest of shrifts. These early days of 6-0-6 proved to be halcyon ones though as the BBC shied away from the iconoclastic Baker, instead opting for the literally conservative views of David Mellor. Although on the plus side this did lead to an unforgettable Bakeresque caller ringing up the man who traded his support for votes to inform him that he was a "tugboat"*. Baker flitted from station to station, initial bursts of enthusiasm fading quickly to lead to disillusionment as the station controller realised that he had a loose cannon on his hands. Fortunately for the time being at least, Baker has found a way of broadcasting his revolutionary streams of consciousness by taking hold of the means of production and recording regular podcasts with long time side kick Danny Kelly. These episodes provide little in the way of news about the world of football but plenty to make you laugh as week in week out the two Dans to the backing track of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir bring you details of: "fans who don't seem bothered during games", "getting in for free", "nicknames for football supporters you don't know", "fans who leave/arrive early", "have you seen a footballer shopping", and many many more.A particular favourite of mine at the moment is one line gags involving footballers, and fantasy dinner party introductions. Here are a few gems from Friday's show:
Is Ralph Coates related to Kenny Jackett?
Is Lucas Neill related to Peter Crouch?
Is Robert Green or did Keiron Dyer?
Wayne Rooney meet George Clooney
Julio Arca meet Sarah Jessica-Parker
Joleon Lescott meet John Prescott
Collins John meet Joan Collins
John Obi-Mikel meet Obi Wan Kenobi
Alan Hansen meet David Janssen
Dennis Law meet John Thaw
Peter Schmeichel meet George Michael
Nat Lofthouse meet Amy Winehouse
Lee Dixon meet David Nixon
Keiron Dyer meet Derek Guyler
Tommy Lawton meet Beth Orton

The Baker & Kelly football podcast is available to download free from http://www.bakerandkelly.com/ or iTunes.

* Dowload the 16/11/07 episode of Baker & Kelly to find out what was actually said.

The Road To Wembley Ends Here

Setting out from my West London home at 10.30, the feeling this year for our first round tie was very much expectation in contrast to the hope that we took to Stafford twelve months ago.My rendezvous with my travelling companions for the day was Victoria station, once Britain’s gateway to Europe via the Orient Express, but today perhaps the start of a Maidonian journey which had not been made for 121 years.I located friends Murdo, Craig, Callum, Foz and Terry, who had successfully negotiated Swansea’s Jack Army and their police escort at Paddington. We contemplated the bad omen of the cancellation of our scheduled train as we waited for the final member of our party, Keith who had travelled down from Lancashire.A phone call from Paddy to say that he had just landed at Heathrow from Glasgow, and would be following us on to Sussex, left us to ponder the events that we had witnessed at the club over the last twenty years.Words such as arson, relegation, rebirth, promotion and cup glory sprang to mind as we boarded the 11.32 for Horsham. As the train pulled out of the station and crawled over the Thames, Murdo announced that the buffet was open and distributed products from our sponsor Carlsberg.Arriving on time at 12.25 we ambled out of the station listening carefully to directions to the ground from a member of staff which were completely ignored as an empty pub was spotted. On entry to The Bedford we had a bit of luck as Craig happened to order the round his fellow countryman behind the bar offered a “Scottish discount”. We then settled down to watch the North East derby, regular cutaways to Newcastle owner Mike Ashley leading to derisive cries about him ignoring the Magpies on the doorstep of his Thames Valley home.Having finished my strictly nutritional pint of Guinness, I then opted to head for the ground. Another suggestion that perhaps it wasn’t going to be my day came when the turnstile operator had thrown my ticket away. Locating my fellow directors I got the team news and headed for the boardroom, my opposite numbers giving me the customary warm Sussex welcome.The importance of the day was highlighted when a member of the Horsham team that faced Tommy Lawton’s Notts County in the first round in 1946 appeared and was photographed with the “boot lace” ball used on that day. Other Sussex celebrities to appear were Bognor’s legendary manager Jack Pearce and cricketer Chris Adams.As kick off drew near I made a circuit of the ever filling ground taking time to talk to my fellow supporters for whom away travel is a given. Settling down in the directors box, the first half looked like finishing in Maidenhead’s favour despite the awful pitch before Nigel Brake’s Radfordesque strike right on half time saw the hosts take the lead.A big effort was required by the Magpies in the second half so to do my part I rejoined the mob in the cowshed and prepared to urge Maidenhead to victory. The vocal support never wavered but the game slipped out of reach and at the final whistle I was left feeling as flat as I ever have been at a Maidenhead game. As the Horsham fans enjoyed their moment in the spotlight the Magpies trailed silently out of the ground. I made a point of shaking Hornet’s Chairman Frank King’s hand and wishing him luck for the next round, before making a beeline for the Bedford.Back in the pub the recriminations began as we all vented our spleen over the usual issues of tactics and team selection. Joined by President Jim, we chewed the fat with some opposing fans for a while before restocking the buffet and heading home about 8 pm, wondering if Foz would be correct when he predicted that we could be rueing this golden opportunity to progress to the second round when we are old and grey!

Ripping Yarns: Golden Gordon

The Monty Python team, despite their Public School/Oxbridge background, were not averse to creating material relating to the working man’s ballet as shown by their typically surreal sketch "International Philosophy". Featuring in this sketch was Michael Palin, booked as Nietszche for telling the referee he had no free will ("Confuscious he say name go in book"). Post Python, whilst Eric Idle picked the easy target of football hooligans for a musical sketch on his Rutland Weekend TV series (thus securing endless royalties as it became a staple clip of nostalgia programmes about the decade), Palin chose to create an affectionate portrait of non league football in 1930s Yorkshire as part of his Ripping Yarns serious which was jointly made with fellow Python Terry Jones.The episode in question was called "Golden Gordon" and follows the heroic tale of football supporter Gordon Ottershaw, who when faced with the demise of his beloved Barnstoneworth United makes a desperate bid to salvage some pride by gathering together the legendary 1922 Yorkshre Premier Cup winning side for the final game. Although the episode follows the usual format of sporting fiction with a last win for Barnstoneworth in their last ever match, the enjoyment comes in the telling of the tale, with plenty of details to make the modern non league fan chuckle if not cringe. Barnestoneworth United are a team without a home win in four years. The episode opens with the latest defeat against Brighouse “8 bloody 1 and their centre-forward wears glasses during the match”. Our devastated hero Gordon returns home to his wife and son and proceeds to smash up his house in a fit of rage before returning to the frighteningly authentic Social Club to drown his sorrows. But even Brown Ale can’t salve his destructive urges as he breaks the honours board uttering the words “Useless, useless bastards”. Things get worse at training when the team lose their shorts driving the manager Mr Dainty crazy (“I didn't come here on a free transfer from Walsall to stand and watch a bunch of morons arguing about football shorts!”), leading to his arrest for “indecent exposure in a bakery”. This persuades the board of directors to close the club & sell off the ground to local scrap merchant Arthur Foggen. Back home when teaching his son Barnstoneworth (middle name United) the legendary Yorkshire Premier League Cup winning team of 1922, “Hagerty F, Hagerty R... McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt”, Eric ignores his wife’s announcement that she’s going to have a baby, and instead sets about reuniting the team for the club’s last ever match. Needless to say the ground (again very authentic) ultimately resounds to cheers of “Barnestoneworth” as the team win at last prompting a celebratory orgy of domestic destruction by the Ottershaw family.