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.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Jusqu'a la fin

A suitable low key end to the season on May Day Bank Holiday Monday at the Berks & Bucks Senior Invitation Cup Final. There was a real end of term feel as the players and officials gathered at the Holiday Inn Maidenhead for the traditional pre cup final meal (English breakfast). The blazing sun more suitable for cricket was another reminder that it was time to lay the football season to rest although the coach tried its best to create last day drama by almost breaking down en route. The driver decided to ignore the usual route to Chesham along the M40 and through Beaconsfield, instead going right through the middle of Wycombe. After one hill too many it gave up the ghost as the engine overheated but just about managed to crawl to the Meadow.
A healthy sprinkling of Magpies made it to the game but a crowd of 336 was probably smaller than that which would have gone to the original venue of Burnham and pale in comparison to the 2,000 crowd at the Kent Senior Cup Final on the same day. Still I'd forgotten what a great setting Chesham is for a football match surrounded by the rolling Chiltern hills with its facilities just right for a game of this stature.
An innovative selection by both managers led to an entertaining first half which ended all square after Wycombe scored twice in the first ten minutes through Murtagh and Bloomfield then Ashley Smith drove the Magpies forward to equalise.
The second half was something of a damp squib with I guess both teams all played out and it came as something of a relief when the referee played enough injury time to allow Wycombe to score a penalty to win the game.
It was then back to Stripes for the end of season awards, again not helped by the change of final venue. After an unprecedented apology from Drax for the general performance of the first team over the course of the season it turned into the Ashley Nicholls show as he picked up all the major awards. This was quite deserved as his consistency has been remarkable. Without his dynamic presence in the team at virtually every game I very much doubt that relegation would have been avoided. Unfortunately he's leaving to continue his academic career in Exeter but surely goes not just with all the awards but also the accolade of the club's most intelligent footballer. Hopefully one day he'll return to the squad as Dr. Nicholls, a first for the Magpies?

Sunday, 1 May 2011

The Great Escape

So the stage was set for Maidenhead to complete the great escape from relegation just twenty eight days after an abject defeat at Lewes left me looking up how to get to clubs in the Southern League. In the mean time four wins two draws and a ten point deduction had taken United off the bottom and at start of play on the final day of the season in 19th place needing one point for safety only if Thurrock won at promotion chasing Farnborough.
The dramatis personae reflected the world war two prisoner of war drama. Firstly St. Albans, the victims of the ten point deduction, were those stuck underground when the Germans discovered the tunnel. Down before the escape had hardly begun. Next were lovely Lewes played by awfully nice Gordon Jackson, who made it out only to be caught a few days later when he was tricked into revealing his British identity. The Rooks looked like they could make it last week with that last minute winner at Havant only to give themselves away at home two days later to Bishops Stortford. That leaves Thurrock and Maidenhead but who would be Steve McQueen caught on the Swiss border and who would be Charles Bronson quietly rowing to safety?
A strange atmosphere surrounded York Road, reflecting the warm sun tempered by a cold easterly wind. Personally I was also haunted by the last day surrender at Newport six years ago to the very day which saw the Exiles saved at the expense of the Magpies after a similar late season winning run. Little changed when the game against Dartford kicked off as it became clear that Farnborough were beating Thurrock 2-0 and so it seemed neither side at York Road was fully committed to attack although both had the odd opening to do so. Thus half time arrived at the status quo of 0-0, Maidenhead half a job done whilst Dartford had plenty in the tank for their Kent Senior Cup Final on Monday.
The nerves started to increase when Thurrock scored early in the second half and despite Farnborough making it 3-1, a second for Thurrock sent out a warning that they were ready, willing and able to mount a comeback. Meanwhile at York Road, a Dartford counterattack saw Charlie Sheringham give them the lead and semi panic started to set in as in committing more men forward in the search for equaliser the Magpies allowed the Darts to score twice more against a stretched defence. Whilst I started to contemplate taking up smoking again Maidenhead at last showed some fighting spirit, scoring twice as the game drew into its closing stages. Although Jefferson Louis went close twice we were denied the perfect conclusion of Maidenhead completing the comeback but with no further score at Farnborough the final table remained as it was at 3 pm and the game ended on a rather odd note with Maidenhead succeeding in defeat.
This somehow seemed appropriate as although the record books will show  the Magpies finished a full three points clear of Thurrock ,the margin was really only Max Worsfold's injury time winner at Ship Lane two weeks earlier. Saturday's defeat also symbolised a home campaign where the Magpies consistently were not quite good enough. All in all a disappointing Blue Square Bet South season for United. The youthful squad created the previous season failed to deliver on the promise of last term's 16th place and instead it was an influx of experience in March which instigated the great escape. Clearly much work to do over the summer to find the right blend for next season.