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, 17 December 2008


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

Part 7b: 3rd February 2001
FA Trophy 4th Round
Blyth Spartans 2 (1) Maidenhead United 1 (1)
Magpies: Barnard, Woodhouse, Connor, Rake, Croxford, Hickey (89 Creighton), Cook, Ferdinand, Channell, Glynn, Ulasi. Brown,
Unused subs: Goodrham, Arkins, Roffey, Harrison. Goal: Glynn 21. Attendance: 902
The poet and renowned cricket commentator John Arlott was also a keen football fan spending Saturday afternoons in winter filing copy from a top First Division match for the Manchester Guardian. Growing up in Basingstoke he would head to Elm Park for his football education, cycling the eighteen miles to Reading.
However despite a life absorbed in sport he remained conscious of its ephemeral quality summed up in his axiom that "We take life too lightly and sport too seriously”.
In this series I hope that it is clear that the true value of the latter is found not in its facts and figures but in its lasting ties of community.
Starting with the foundation of human endeavour which had led to promotion to the Isthmian Premier Division, the 2000/01 season provided personal best home and away trips with memories much deeper than the final score. Last week I described a win over title favourites Aldershot at York Road. Today’s column moves forward one month to an unforgettable trip to Blyth Spartans.
The occasion was the last 32 of the FA Trophy, the furthest the Magpies had got in the competition to this date, and in this case literally the furthest the Magpies have ever travelled to a game.
The Trophy remains something of a Cinderella competition, lacking the glittering prizes of the Cup but nevertheless providing a real chance of worthwhile glory for the higher echelons of non league football.
The 2000-01 season was Maidenhead's first in the Isthmian Premier, and unlike this season, United were struggling to establish themselves after promotion. The Trophy provided something of a distraction from league woes. In the first round old enemies Hampton were summarily despatched 4-1 at the Beveree thanks to a superb second half display from the much maligned Lee Channell who after missing a first half penalty went onto hit a second half brace to put United in front before setting up goals for Steve Croxford and Freddie Domingos to secure victory.
Next up were Enfield and after two postponements, United prevailed by a single goal from Joe Nartey. Unfortunately the game was marred by a double sending off Andy Morley and Nartey both seeing red with the consequences being felt two rounds later in Northumberland.
Round three was played just five days later, with Nartey again proving to be the difference, this time in deepest Essex as he hit a late winner at Braintree after Obi Ulasi had levelled the scores.
So the scene was set for a 650 mile round trip to Blyth three weeks later on Saturday February 3rd, and with some trepidation due to the wintry weather, coaches and hotels were booked for a weekend away.
The team left on Friday to stay the night in Newcastle, with the supporters gathering at 6am at York Road to hit the north. A trouble free journey saw the Magpie fans arrive in good time to have a pre match pint and catch up with fellow fans who had sought alternative means of transport.
The teams took to the field in front of a bumper crowd of 902 on a stereotypically icy winter's afternoon in the north east. The Magpie contingent earned their spotters badge early on when a Byker Grove extra informed us that we were Cockney unmentionables.
Spirits were lifted further when Matt Glynn gave United the lead with a stupendous goal after 21 minutes. The scheming midfielder struck a sweet volley from just outside the box which flew into the top corner, striking the stanchion enroute, giving a glimpse of a talent which promised much but sadly hampered by injury in reaching its potential.
Spartans struck back through Steve Stewart before half time but Maidenhead stuck manfully to the task before the game ended with a heart stopping denouement which sums up cup football.
Four minutes were left on the clock so a draw looked favourite but Maidenhead pressed hard for a second winning a corner. Croxford rose highest to head goalward only for a Spartan to clear off the line and set up a counter attack down the left wing.
The resulting cross was too hot for Richie Barnard to handle, the ball falling invitingly for Andy Hay to fire home the winner from close range.
So a day that promised much ended in frustrating defeat, but rather than wallow in defeat a strong cohort of Magpies elected to stay over in nearby Whitley Bay.
After being given a standing ovation on leaving the Blyth club house the Magpies boarded their coach for the short trip down the coast, time enough for a quick game of room bingo. Then it was out for a night on the town, ignoring the snow blowing in horizontally from the North Sea which ended in a bar hosting the overdue final of Miss G String 2000. One individual got a bit carried away, using his black and white scarf to snare unsuspecting young ladies. To protect the innocent he will only be known as Mr Logic.
Travelling back to Berkshire the journey was delayed by car crash which brought the motorway to a stand still. My brother in law Mark, complained of back ache, not unexpected as he worked as a baggage handler at Heathrow.
However a few days later he was in hospital, diagnosed with cancer of the spine. By the time Maidenhead played their next match he was dead, aged 35. On the team’s return to York Road for a County Cup tie against Slough a minute’s silence was held. The funeral was attended by many supporters and club officials. At the end of the season there was a sponsored walk to the County Cup Final to raise money for Cancer Research. Today he has a seat in the stand.
When it came to taking life seriously Maidenhead United stood up for Mark, my sister and family. I know others at the club can say the same when they have suffered a tragic loss.
What makes me most proud about this football club is when somebody who has joined us on a matchday for the first time in whatever capacity, say they want to come back.
Once the final whistle blows today, take the result lightly, and take a moment to appreciate the wider life affirming benefits of Maidenhead United FC.
With thanks to Mark Smith’s book One For Sorrow Two For Joy for the statistical content of this series.

To read more about this season visit www.mufcheritage.com

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