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.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Do You Know The Way To Malden Vale?

So went the Magpie take on Dionne Warwick's saccharine interpretation of Burt Bacharach's melody, back in the days when United's spell in the nether reaches of the Isthmian League was still a painfully recent memory.  It was sung to taunt those clubs who looked like being relegated from Division One and thus compelled to visit grounds such the Prince Georges Playing Field in Grand Drive Raynes Park which were far from the sunny climes of San Jose.
If you don't know the way to Malden Vale there is a sign directing you there from the main road although you will soon discover that the club has now been renamed Raynes Park Vale following a merger in 1995.  Wandering up the drive on an Indian summer of an evening, the leafy suburban surroundings were rather pleasant, with the only disruption being provided by the pre teen kids game taking place in the park with the attendant red faced coaches urging their young charges to hoof the ball upfield as hard as they could.
Vale's ground itself has a ramshackle, makeshift look, not helped by the plastic netting that surrounds it, presumably to stop people getting a free look.  I'm not surprised the ground is derided by some but to me the lack of clean plastic lines makes it curiously attractive, particularly the way in which the shelters at either end seem to be have been knocked up in a woodwork class.
The pitch can be benevolently described as undulating and the programme (£1) makes clear that the club are looking for a new home.  How this would be achieved is unclear as there is little or no discernible commercial activity on the shirts, around the pitch or in the programme.  It seems therefore that the club is typical of many at this level, run as a labour of love with the chairman based in Worthing.
This was my first experience of Combined Counties League football, and bearing in mind it was a lower table clash between Vale and Egham, the entertainment on offer was well worth the £6 entry fee.
A lack of PA meant the teams entered in silence with the only background noise coming from the kids game.  The players lined up to shake hands in front of less people than were on pitch before a late rush of spectators from the bar, most of whom seemed to be from Egham, boosted the crowd over the 50 mark.
With no PA the line ups weren't available but the squad list in the programme meant that the players could identify each other by their shouts and unoriginal nicknames.  This was exemplied by John "Pommers" Pomeroy who Egham boasted on their website about signing pre season.  It was clear he was expected to provide creativity in the midfield and didn't disappoint.  However the opening goal came when a long ball forward allowed Matt Graves to run through the Vale defence like a knife through butter, comfortably finishing as the keeper refused to leave his six yard box.
To their credit Raynes Park Vale worked hard to play themselves back into the game with some attractive football although the equaliser was somewhat fortunate coming from penalty spot following a harsh handball decision by Referee Hilary Achegenui.
The rest of the half continued to swing either way with the more powerful Egham team giving the Vale keeper the opportunity to redeem himself by making two excellent saves whilst Vale went close on a couple of occasions with efforts that whistled past the post.  It was clear the the Vale defence was having more problems with centre back Dre Grobler (I would love it if he has a Phd) being urged from the sidelines to "keep a lead" on left back Corey Holder.
All in all a good first half viewed from the stand which was made up of crude yet functional bench seating and certainly I was glad I was watching a great advert for football at this level, not to mention London itself with two female physios, and two ethnic minority match officials.
I spent the second half circling the pitch, arriving in the half Egham were attacking in time to see Pomeroy score what proved to be the winning goal.  Nobody from a neighbouring house whose garden had a great view of the ground took advantage of watching the game which was a shame as Vale gave it the kitchen sink treatment to draw level again.
However fitness levels started to drop as the game entered its final third, leading to a spate of niggly fouls which caused the players to expel their valuable energy moaning at Hilary.  One leading light in this activity was ex AFC Wimbledon player Gavin Bolger who must have a sense of humour as he is appropriately sponsored by Weightwatchers in the match programme.
With Vale pushing more and more men forward Egham missed several gilt edged chances to seal the points, allowing the home team hope until the final whistle.
Definitely a good first experience of Combined Counties football and as I was back home by 10.30, one I'll probably repeat this season at one of the other clubs in the West London area.


Jerzy Dabrowski said...

I am an AFC Wimbledon fan , and as a local, was at that game.

I was no doubt, also one of the late arrivers from the bar.

Having spoken to a few people behind the club they are a labour of love and some (non RPV fans) friends that join me at the club often wonder how they survive and what they can do to attract money and sponsors.

Would be interested to know, as a director of Maidenhead, what suggestions you have for them as I doubt our bar expenditure even scratches at the costs and as they are my nearest club I want them to survive.

Good review too.


Steve said...

I would say that the club I went to yesterday Hanworth Villa (see latest blog post) provide the best way forward. Build a presence in the community through age group teams, Ladies teams etc to increase the amount of people playing under the main name. This will increase the number of people involved in the club, including friends/relatives of those playing, which can provide a stream of personnel for the first team on and off the field not to mention a base for social functions etc. You never know you may then turn up a white knight to help out financially.
As a Wimbledon fan how do you feel about being back in the Football League? Will you miss non league football?