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.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Back On The Road To Wembley

With Maidenhead's premature cup exit, coupled with my wife's resolve to beat the global financial crisis and carry on shopping, giving me a free Saturday, I elected to get back on the road to Wembley. The easiest game to get to from my West London home was at Ashford so I jumped on the tube and headed west on the Piccadilly line to the dystopian city of the future that is Heathrow Airport. Having been buzzed all the way by planes approaching the runway, I was pleasantly surprised that Ashford's ground, despite sitting adjacent to the airport, is off the main flight path, indeed from my seat in the stand which meant I had my back to terminal 4, it was only the huge oil tanks behind the goal which gave the location away. Ashford's Short Lane ground actually sits in the village of Stanwell, which brought happy memories of a famous cricketing victory on the pitch next door when I led Pinkneys Green to a win against the odds (note to any England selectors reading I am ready to assist in recovering the Ashes next summer). Ashford main claim to fame is that they have to put their county after their name to differentiate themselves from their elder Kent doppelganger, maybe they could change their name to Stanwell and save a lot of hassle. However on current form they could well eclipse their namesake as like the Magpies they have had a surprisingly good start to the season and on the basis of their performance in this game could well mount a serious challenge to play Blue Square South football next season.
Arriving at the ground, I found the typical functional Isthmian League set up, just like the semi detached houses which predominate the outer London suburbs it had everything but you felt they could do better.
Their opponents were Chippenham Town, who following a thrilling replay win over Truro City had managed to fill a coach with supporters for the trip up the M4. Wearing the blue and white club colours, flying the red and yellow Scottish standard, and possessing a troupe of drummers they looked like extras from Braveheart until given away by their broad west country accents.
Not to be outdone, the orange, white and black colours of the home team were well represented behind the other goal and the game started in a suitably passionate FA Cup atmosphere for a crowd of only 277, with songs resounding from either end, the virtues of the West country being contrasted with the "tits, fanny and Ashford" which apparently make Middlesex wonderful.
The tie provided an opportunity to continue the Isthmian v Southern debate which continues to rage amongst the Blue Square South fraternity. This episode saw a victory for the Isthmian, the decisive blow arriving as early as the seventeenth minute when a trailblazing run by Ricky Wellard led to the ball arriving at the feat of striker Scott Harris (oddly wearing the 19 shirt) who made no mistake with his finish. Despite this being the only goal of the game it was an entertaining contest, with Ashford only having themselves to blame for the small margin of victory. They played much the better football thanks in the main to slick midfielders Wellard and the mercurial Paul Johnson, indeed but for Chippenham keeper Chris Snoddy, Ashford would have had the game sewn up by the hour mark.
In contrast Chippenham stuck to the guileless Southern League template (Chippenham were ironically sponsored by "Art", presumably in honour of Le Corbusier's school of brutalism), working hard and threatening from set pieces without ever looking like they could do more than scrape an undeserved replay. The Bluebirds approach was exemplified by centre back Cortez Belle who spent the game either cynically fouling the Ashford attackers or moaning to the ref, and but for the busy efficiency and stabling influence of his captain, left back Kev Halliday, could well have finished the game early. As the game wore on an indeterminate intervention by an Ashford steward behind the goal where the away fans were stood, sparked a war cry of "Chippenham aggro" which translated into a last ditch Chippenham attempt to level the score. Ashford fans responded to this "I love the 70s" revival with a round of "Zigger Zagger" with their heroes showing they could mix it by firmly digging in, in defence of their lead. Chippenham gave it the kitchen sink treatment in the last quarter of the game, but despite a lengthy period of stoppage time with referee and linesman disputing the precise number of minutes left, Ashford held on to make it through to the final qualifying round for only the second time in their history.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Half Man Half Biscuit

Four lads who shook the Wirral, Half Man Half Biscuit have been quietly peddling their wry observations of British life for over twenty years now.
Hailing from the less fashionable side of the Mersey, their sound remains defiantly indie in the original mid 80s sense of the word, and as you would expect from a band led by a lyricist of humble origins born in the 50s, the songs touch on the subject of football more often than not.
This was apparent from their first album Back In The DHSS which closed with "All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit", the title being something of a red herring as Dukla were the favoured team of the Soviet backed Czech regime so never had to change their kit. It is a tale of childhood jealousy which I'm sure we can all relate to:
"So he'd send his doting mother up the stairs with the stepladders
To get the Subbuteo out of the loft
He had all the accessories required for that big match atmosphere
The crowd and the dugout and the floodlights too
You'd always get palmed off with a headless centre forward
And a goalkeeper with no arms and a face like his
And he'd managed to get hold of a Dukla Prague away kit
'Cos his uncle owned a sports shop and he'd kept it to one side
And after only five minutes you'd be down to ten men
'Cos he'd sent off your right back for taking the base from under his left winger
And come to half time you were losing four-nil
Each and every goal a hotly disputed penalty
So you'd smash up the floodlights and the match was abandoned
And the dog would bark and you'd be banned from his house
And your travelling army of synthetic supporters
Would be taken away from you and thrown in the bin"

The follow up long player "Back Again in the DHSS" returns to Eastern Europe with "I Was A Teenage Armchair Honved Fan" whilst "Dickie Davies Eyes" contained the line that the spawned the title for Gillingham fanzine "Brian Moore's head (looks uncannily like the London Planetarium)".
Football pundits are fertile ground for ground for the band, "Gubba Look-a-Likes" conjures up a disturbing image whilst you may hear the following on York Road FM today:
"Lord I've tried the best I can
I've asked everybody in Kazakhstan
but I still don't understand
Bob Wilson, anchorman"
The band are firm fans of Tranmere Rovers and are known to schedule gigs to avoid missing games. On "Friday Night and the Gates are Low" they mourn the arrival of the new breed of football fan:
"When I had my loft
Converted back into a loft
The neighbours came around and scoffed
And called me retro
But they are the type
Who never used to go to the match
Until the family thing got big
In the late eighties"

Appropriately in this supposed era of respect on there is sympathy for the match officials, for example on "Paintball's Coming Home" the band opine "If I were a linesman I would execute defenders who applauded my offsides" whilst who can argue with "The Referee's Alphabet" which ends "Well the Z could be for Zidane, Zico, Zola, Zubizaretta, Zoff, Even Zondervan, but is in fact for the zest with which we approach our work, without this zest for the game we wouldnt become refs, and without refs, well zero"