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, 27 March 2011

Movin' On Up

Watching Primal Scream into the small hours at Brixton Academy, surely the opening track of their Screamdelica performance was an omen? Sadly only for Braintree. A truly miserable day reflected by dull chilly weather. A boring train journey up the branch line to deepest Essex, a boring walk to the ground through a light industrial area. Day brightened up with a couple of pints of Greene King IPA before we troop outside to slowly freeze watching the inevitable defeat. Maidenhead looked to be making a good fist of it before a now fully fit Cliff Akurang proves the law of the ex by giving Braintree the lead just before half time.  The second half was one way traffic with goals from Nathan Pinney and Kenny Davis sealing the win before new signing Ashley Thomas scored a consolation from the penalty spot.
So Braintree, after two games without a win, get their title bid back on track. Not that you would know it as the atmosphere at Cressing Road seemed much the same as when we first played at their well appointed ground back in Isthmian League Division One.  Maybe it was the attraction of England on the TV, maybe it was the cold, maybe it was the £12 admission fee, but this hardly felt like the club on the brink of an historic achievement.  And what's with all the orange? Is it a nod to near neighbours the Netherlands?

Stand and Deliver

Non league football's dandy highwayman Steve King brought his Farnborough team to town on Tuesday night and duly made off with the goods with little fuss in a three goal win.  With both teams relatively open in defence boro' were always going to be favourites against a Maidenhead team that has lost the ability to score goals.  Thus they were two up by the half hour mark albeit in unusual fashion as firstly Kezie Ibe was in the right place at the right time for a cross to hit him and go in whilst Jack King scored from a free kick courtesy of a misplaced Maidenhead wall.  In between United's luck again deserted them as a wicked deflection from an Ashley Nicholls shot in the style of Paul Parker at Italia 90 saw goalkeeper Michael Jordan twist to slam dunk the ball over the bar.  With Farnborough comfortably resisting the best efforts of Jefferson Louis and Craig Faulconbridge to grab the Magpies a toehold in the game the onset of time made a third goal inevitable with double forenamed sub Michael Malcolm obliging in the last minute.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Groundhog Day

Another Saturday.  Another personal best at the Richmond Park Run. Another long wait for the tube to Ealing Broadway.  Another narrow home defeat for Maidenhead at York Road.  This time visitors Chelmsford City really should have won by a more comfortable margin but the admirable persistence of the Magpies almost paid off when an late goal from Jon-Jo Bates inspired a hell for leather charge for an equaliser. Predictably Ricky Modeste set up the first goal for Wayne Gray whilst Rob Edmans snuffed out the early promise of a second half comeback. Maidenhead's admirable spirit was typified by young goalkeeper Jordan Clement who after a nasty clash of heads with Marcus Rose carried on without a thought for his bandaged head throwing himself into the thick of the action, always quick to get the ball forward and I sense was even keen to join the attack at the end. With Rose also in the wars after colliding with the woodwork in the second half the season's second best crowd of 509 had eleven extra minutes of football to enjoy.  This must have pleased the visitors who seem to really enjoy coming to York Road and not just for the result.  I guess the ground is a nice contrast to Melbourne Park.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Birthday Party

Great night at York Road on Tuesday night.  Just the sort of evening you need to add light to the shade of the weekly grind.  An ideal occasion to answer the question: "What's the point of Maidenhead United?".  Over 300 people turned up in response including players and officials from the 1940s onwards.
From my time at the club it was good to see the likes of Steve Brown, Tim Cook, Mickey Creighton, Vernon Pratt and Dave Harrison who all played key roles in the squad which broke a 27 year drought with the Full Members (not Mickey Mouse if you win it) Cup in 1997 followed by promotion three years later.
1997 Full Members Cup Winners
The game itself was very entertaining thanks to the energetic opponents Oxford University who did not lack class with Tom Castro and Ezra Rubenstein catching the eye for the Blues.  Appropriately after Castro's opener, Maidenhead overturned the lead by half time thanks to Jon Jo Bates and Jerome Federico with Maidonian Lee Barney sealing victory ten minutes from  the end.
video

Off the pitch a touch of the limelight was given by the roaming camera crew from Sky Sports who must have accumulated in the region of four hours of footage.  Let's hope some of it will see the light of day, particularly the interview with diminutive Irishman Noel Shiels (right) who scored twice in the final for Stan Payne's team which won the 1970 County Cup.
The wonderful bumbling amateurish side of non league football was encapsulated by the typo on the front cover which billed the match as a rather arbitrary 104th anniversary celebration.  Ironically the printer turned up for the first time to watch the game for the first time this season so there was plenty of opportunity for him to face the music.
The evening concluded in Stripes with suitably august speeches from Chairman Peter Griffin and Oxford University captain Elliot Thomas with eccentric patron Prince Frederick von something or other trying to steal the show.  Wonder if he will be around for the 150th anniversary? I certainly will.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Dover and out

Had a good feeling about yesterday's game.  Went for a three mile run in the morning in Richmond and the sunny weather indicated the day was only going to get better.  However by kick off at York Road the sky had turned grey and despite a high tempo start from United with route one tactics initially unsettling Dover, once the Whites had adjusted there was only ever going to be one winner, particularly after Leon Soloman had limped off further weakening a Maidenhead defence already missing Mark Nisbet through suspension.  That the final score was limited to Barry Cogan's first half strike is testament to the hard work of the Maidenhead players and the talent of Steve Williams in goal but a first Magpie Blue Square Bet South win of 2011 was not on the cards.
The Dover fans gave great support to their team throughout with an impressive repertoire but why does their songbook require a drum?  Never mind snoods FIFA needs to get to grips with this threat to my mental health at football.
On the plus side for Dover I like their policy of signing players with almost famous names. Luke I'Anson, Lewis Spence and Jack Pallant were all on show yesterday.
My man of the match though was referee Charles Breakspear who kept a tight rein on proceedings and refused to be cowed by running complaints from the Dover players.  His father (also Charlie) was at the game which made me feel old as I can remember Breakspear senior officiating at York Road in the 90s and bringing his young son to the game.  Hopefully it will be a case of like father like son as the elder Breakspear was a great character as well as an excellent referee.  A couple of incidents stick in the mind.  He used to also run the line in the Football League and once I saw him at Elm Park a few days after being at York Road.  A friend of mine reminded him of a controversial decision he had made in the Maidenhead game at which he turned round to join in the banter.  Then there was a final day game at Abingdon Town when a defender stopped a Maidenhead goal by pushing it off the line with his hand.  Rather than award a penalty Charlie adopted a Rugby Union approach and simply gave the goal!

York Road's Personal Best - Are you reading Georgie Borg? Your boys took one hell of a beating!

Of all the games I’ve seen at York Road I’m happy to say its hard to narrow it down to my favourite one.  I’ve seen promotion won, relegation avoided (and many games contributing to both) not to mention countless classic cup ties.  At least by not calling my choice the most memorable I can rule out quite a few defeats, particularly the 8-2 thrashing by Chertsey in a game which only went ahead because the Maidenhead United manager at the time was so keen to play!  Helping me in my quest there are many that I can rule as being in the category of most forgettable.
Having thought about it I decided to rule out games that involved something of historic note which may have clouded my judgement and finally settled on: Saturday January 6th 2001,
This was United’s first season in the Premier Division after manager Alan Devonshire had the led the club to promotion in 2000.  The Magpies had struggled to adjust to life at the higher level but six points over Christmas at home to Slough and away to Hitchin had indicated they were getting to grips with the demands of the new division.
As with this year the weather was harsh over the festive period with the Slough Boxing Day derby (sadly unique in modern times) played on a practically frozen pitch and the Hitchin game only going ahead after the Canaries fans had cleared the surface of snow.
The snow had since melted bringing the inevitable problem of waterlogging.  As the usual big crowd was expected to follow the Shots to York Road the call went out for volunteers to help the groundstaff make the surface ready for play.  Hence I found myself at some ungodly hour for a Saturday morning rooting around in my Dad’s shed for a fork and then putting it to good use in the winter sunshine on the pitch under the watchful eye of Shots assistant manager Stuart Cash who was eager that the game went ahead to clear a suspension.
A referee popped by mid morning to check up on our handywork and pronounced York Road ready for play leaving everyone to take a well deserved break.
The players spoil my handywork
One of the highlights of watching Maidenhead at this time was the rivalry with Aldershot.  This was genuine with the Magpies winning their fair  share of encounters, particularly at the Recreation Ground.  Add in the rumbunctious Shots manager George Borg and with many other games postponed locally a huge crowd gathered at York Road, (the biggest I have ever seen for a league game) and the scene was set for a great day at the match.
Within three minutes Maidenhead stunned their visitors by taking the lead when Joe Nartey picked up Richie Barnard’s long clearance to score.  This really irked the travelling Shots and upset by the impudence of the relegation threatened Magpies tweaking the nose of their title chasing heroes one tried to steal the United flag.  
Aldershot poured the pressure onto their hosts but were unable to equalise and some of their fans passion crossed the line of acceptability in the bar at half time and during the second half.
As the game entered its final act Maidenhead were still holding out and then stunned the crowd by applying the coup de grace when firstly Lee Channell finished the good work of Barry Rake and Obi Ulasi.  This was followed by quite simply the best Maidenhead United goal I have ever seen at York Road when Adrian Allen picked up the ball in his own half, ran through the Aldershot team before unleashing an unstoppable shot from twenty five yards.
By now Aldershot had had enough and Mark Pye was sent off following a 15 man free for all.  At the final whistle the Shots players took out their frustration on the dressing room furniture as their fans dealt with the attentions of the local constabulary.  With Borg bemoaning the state of the pitch I was left to savour a famous victory which embodied all that is great about our club. That is everyone working together for victory whatever the scale of opposition.
Magpies: Barnard, Ferdinand, Connor, Rake, Croxford, Brown, Cook, Nartey (76 Allen), Channell, Glynn (65 Hickey), Ulasi. Unused sub: Craker. Goals: Nartey 3, Channell 71, Allen 81. Attendance: 1,213

Friday, 11 March 2011

Diddymen Doddle

A comfortable win at home - what a novel experience.  With two well worked goals in the first twenty minutes  from Jermaine Hinds and Mark Nisbet, and very few worrying moments to threaten to burst this comfortable bubble it was great to watch home football as it should be.  A black and white cat then crossed my path to indicate this would be our night. The difference in status between the two sides was clear to see in this initial opening period but once Didcot had got up to the pace an evenly contested game ensued leaving the remainder of the game without further addition to the score and Maidenhead through to defend the County Cup in May.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Heart of Dartness

The crawling train journey from central London to Dartford is pretty nondescript once you pass the architectural landmarks of the Shard and the New Den so although the metaphor of Colonel Kurtz's trek up the Congo is inappropriate, yet another defeat left the words of Marlon Brando swirling round my head as the horror of relegation looms ever larger for the Magpies.
Today it was the crossbar's turn to deny Maidenhead a goal not once but twice before the inevitable sucker punches arrived in the final quarter of the game from Charlie Sheringham and Elliot Bradbrook (two).  The second goal which finally killed off any hope of an equaliser two minutes from time was a classic counter attack following an enterprising Maidenhead move sparked by a trailblazing run from Jerome Federico.
A striker, a striker a kingdom for a striker must be the heartfelt plea of any Magpie fan as all the good defending and work in the midfield will forever come to naught unless someone is found who can consistently add the finishing touch to the periods of the game when the Magpies are on top.
On a personal note Princes Park was the 200th I have watched football at.  The first of course being York Road back in 1980.  This was a great venue to notch up the double century.  Walking to the ground you do not notice it until you walk up the drive as its hidden by the warehouse like David Lloyd health club which borders the dual carriageway.  The town is clearly hiding its light under a bushel as the ground is a real gem for a complete new build with its wrap around terrace covered in all parts by a high roof.  This makes for excellent sight lines with the corners filled in to provide disabled viewing access which is a nice touch.  The absence of a main stand is of no consequence with the closed in feeling adding to the atmosphere.  The mind boggles as to what it must have been like when it was filled for the Darts FA Cup tie against Port Vale in the autumn.  There is innovative use of wood in the building materials with a wooden statue in one part of the ground which I'm sure must be unique.  The social facilities are as good as would be expected for a new complex although there is a chance of a Spinal Tap "where's the stage" moment as you wander the cavernous corridors.  All in all a great monument to what can be achieved when the local authority works together with a grand old football club.  Windsor & Maidenhead LA please take note

Havant a clue...

...when I'm going to see Maidenhead win a point or three.  Tuesday night's performance at York Road against Havant & Waterlooville was full of praiseworthy intent and hard work.  Once again the team played well enough to earn at least point only to fall to defeat to another late goal.
Aldershot youth team goalkeeper Jordan Clement made his debut.  Jordan joins a distinguished line of Maidenhead United players and officials who have shared a cricket pitch with me.  In his case playing for Sandhurst against Pinkneys Green.  Other cricketing Magpies include Steve Palfrey, Jim Parsons, Ray Margrave, Ken Balchin, Steve Croxford, Peter Griffin, Vernon Pratt, Jon Swan and Matt Sealy.