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, 25 January 2009


Some aspects of British sport seem to have little point to them but at the same time their demise would lead to an outcry by those who don’t actually have any real interest in them.
A list would include events like the Boat Race and County Cricket, and perhaps the lower divisions of the Scottish League. Watched by similar numbers to English non league football and dwarfed in scale by the Scottish Junior system, the clubs are nevertheless regarded fondly by many who could scarcely find them on a map.
One team which spent most weeks going literally pointless at the start of the decade was East Stirling. With no relegation from the bottom division, the 'Shire bounced along in the basement, with little hope or expectation of even reaching second bottom, with Chairman Alan Mackin imposing a maximum wage of £10 per week.
Naturally things gradually got worse and in 2003/04 the Shire found international notoriety when they went 23 games without a win. With bookmakers refusing bets on Shire to lose, a record equalling 24th match without a win was avoided on the last day of the season when Elgin City were beaten in the full glare of publicity.
This infamy prompted sportswriter Jeff Connor to write a fly on the wall book about "a season with Britain's worst football team". The offer of £2,000 gained Connor access to all areas of the club for the 2004/05 and his reflections form a mildly diverting read.
The reader is deluged by the farcical events Connor encounters which seem more like Carry on Football. We meet a septuagenarian director who vetoes everything to spite his colleague, a Chief Executive who insists he is the manager, a manager who believes this is the first step of a great managerial career, supporters who insist on travelling to all games by public transport whatever the cost and a host of players hoping to get their lucky break.
Weight is given to the Manager Dennis Newall's ambitions at least as none other than Alex Ferguson started in the manager's chair at Firs Park. He soon left to bequeath on the Shire the curse of the lesser talented brother as his sibling started a trend for names such as Durie and Rae to be signed.
Unsurprisingly Connor is not the only person lured to Falkirk by a morbid fascination for a moribund football club and he recounts the arrival of a succession of lads' mags to poke fun at the unfortunate shire. The value of being good at being bad does pay dividends when Littlewoods lavish the club with sponsorship but this rather queers the plot when Dennis Newall wins the manager of the month award for November. Coming in the wake of three months when only two points were earned this was some achievement for the cigar smoking Newall who at least shared with his illustrious predecessor Ferguson a penchant for the hairdryer treatment. Unfortunately despite being wheeled out virtually every week it had little effect and well you can guess where the Shire finished the season.
Although the prose would have benefited from a clearer structure, it is worth a read to dig out the anecdotal gems which any non league fan would recognise. As a postscript East Stirling finally achieved their aim to finish second bottom last season at the sixth attempt. Sadly this proved to be the last at their Firs Park home with its infamous Land of Leather wall at one end, due to the pitch no longer being big enough to meet SFA requirements. However the move into a groundshare with Stenhousemuir seems to have worked wonders with the Shire sitting in fifth position.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The Big Match

The explosion of free to air TV channels sparked by the fantastic innovation “Freeview” has enabled the traditional broadcasters BBC and ITV to seriously expand their sports output.
Whilst the BBC sticks to using their additional channels to extend their coverage of events such as the Olympics, ITV has also used ITV4 to air some of their archive material.
In football terms this has largely come in the form of “The Big Match Revisited”, quite simply a repeat of an episode of the commercial broadcaster’s response to the BBC’s Match Of The Day.
However rather than pick a variety of episodes across the life of the show ITV has elected to stick with a particular season.
The reruns started about a year ago, going back fifteen years to the 1982-83 season. Some variety was offered by the fact that the different ITV regions broadcast different shows. At the time this gave ITV an advantage over the BBC who were stuck with three games nationwide whilst ITV would focus on a couple of local games with the added bonus of goals from other parts of the country. Additionally it also meant if you lived near the border of two regions you could catch two highlights programmes if the schedules were friendly, although to my eyes whatever the time of year it always seemed to be snowing in Southampton when my Dad tried to tune into the TVS version.
Maidenhead was home to London Weekend Television’s The Big Match hosted by the doyen of commentators Brian Moore (pictured top right with Jim Rosenthal). When I started watching TV in the 70s Match of the Day was out of bounds due to its late night scheduling (no bad thing as presenter Jimmy Hill was the stuff of childhood nightmares) whilst Moore would appear in the living room in the aftermath of Sunday’s roast dinner.
Coming across as a friendly Uncle, Moore was a product of the 50s, prone to hysterical outbursts such as “here come the madcaps” as the crowd invaded the pitch as was the style at the time.
Seen through today’s eyes the highlights shows are very tame, the extended highlights are quite dull compared to the delights we are served up today. Certainly football and I suppose the UK was a lot more pedestrian and much less exotic than today. The weekly episodes presented 1982-83 as the season Brighton got to Wembley,

and Fulham missed out on promotion to Division One when Derby fans invaded the pitch and got the game abandoned. Champions Liverpool barely featured so I guess they were mainly the province of MoTD that season.
The series started again at the turn of the year, this time going back to 1978-79, and already it seems to be rather more of a vintage year. The appetite was whetted by the classic Big Match theme full of brass, as opposed to the tinny electronica of 1983.

This had an unfortunate Pavlovian side effect of making me salivate for Roast Beef which was sadly not forthcoming from the kitchen. Instead I was served up a football feast: Manchester United 3 West Bromwich Albion 5, an astonishing game of football which saw West Brom’s Laurie Cunningham silence Old Trafford with a stunning performance.

Last week saw a big freeze with a studio debate about when games should be called off (plus ca change!), following Arsenal’s visit to Sheffield Wednesday which was most memorable for Pat Jennings being pelted with snowballs by the Hillsborough kop.

The series continues weekly on ITV4, with each episode shown on Thursday (twice) and Friday.