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, 29 December 2011

Magic Magpie Moments 2011

2011 was hardly a vintage year in the history of Maidenhead United but it had its moments:

1. Steve Williams' penalty save at Basingstoke - Maidenhead were winning 4-3 when Basingstoke won a penalty in the dying minutes. Williams dived to his left to save and win the game. Had Basingstoke scored they may well have gone on to win the game, if not Maidenhead would still have been looking for their first league win in three months and relegation would probably have followed.

2. Anthony Thomas scores against Aldershot - a goal worthy of the occasion which allowed Maidenhead fans to dream of FA Cup glory. Only marginally spoiled by a late equaliser and given new life for ten days by the prospect however unlikely of a trip to Hillsborough in the next round.

3. Max Worsfold's winner at Thurrock - amazing stoppage time strike in the context of the game and the season. Essentially condemned Thurrock to relegation and meant Maidenhead were safe with games to spare.

4. Half time against Woking in the Cup - no challenge as the performance of the season. 4-1 up against the league leaders in the FA Cup. Second half was good enough to preserve the score line. Sadly it was a pretty much unique feat in 2011.

5. Anthony Thomas' winner at Truro - great goal to win a good game of football and most importantly made the nine hour round trip worthwhile.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Hennessey Gold

Wayne Hennessey gave what must have been one of the best goalkeeping performances of 2011 to earn Wolverhampton Wanderers a point that hardly seemed likely when Gervinho gave the Gunners a lead in the eighth minute. A subsequent lack of ruthlessness in the passage of play following the goal meant a Wolves equaliser put them very much back in the game and en route for a point. All of which did little to salve my Christmas cold.
Having struggled up the Piccadilly line through heavily laden tourists and shoppers I filled myself up with one of Fat Harry's delectable hot dogs, and after pausing to picture the fine statue of Herbert Chapman headed into the ground. I guessed it was going to be one of those days when I had to turf someone out of my seat (since when does 12 mean 14) and discovered I was sitting next to Master Angry who had clearly not had a good Christmas such was his eagerness to jump up and vent his fury at every opportunity.  As kick off approached the big screen replayed Arsenal's 1998 semi-final which only served to question why Wolves wouldn't be wearing their fine Old Gold colours this afternoon. Although The Wonder of You was played again pre match in favour of Good old Arsenal, at least the call and response reading of the Arsenal line up seems to have gone for good.
As my sinuses started to throb I began to contemplate an early exit which looked a possibility when Arsenal scored. The goal started with a piercing run by Matt Jarvis down the left wing but as the move broke down Arsenal counterattacked swiftly through Rosicky and Benayoun, the latters perfect pass allowing Gervinho to show off a delightful trick before to the surprise of everyone in the stadium rounding the keeper to score. Surely this would be the start of a goal avalanche that would allow me to depart early with the result safe? Far from it. Apart from one passage of play where Arsenal strung over twenty passes together they seemed to lack the diligence to patiently tear Wolves apart, tending to snatch at goalscoring opportunities.
Thus when Wolves found themselves with a free kick on the edge of the Arsenal penalty area, the Berkshire Hunt somewhat fortuitously created an equaliser. Putting his lucky heather aside his kick deflected off Vermaelen and landed at the feet of Fletcher who deftly diverted the ball into the net with any chance offside disappearing with Song's tardiness in coming out.
With many around me morbidly willing a time wasting approach from Wolves as a fait accompli, aside from a short tetchy period which saw Song subbed after a booking and Milijas sent off, Arsenal pretty much did everything but score. Referee Stuart Attwell literally blocked the Gunners advance when he witlessly stood in the way of Van Persie's run up. When the path to the goal became clear Van Persie's effort became one of several long range efforts that Hennessey was equal too. It was at closest range that the keeper was most impressive though, instinctively blocking efforts from Mertesacker and Van Persie on the line meaning it was the fans from the West Midlands who were celebrating an unexpected point at the final whistle.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The English Disease

Receiving an early Christnas present in the form of an Amazon voucher I was running through my wishlist when I noticed that a copy of the long deleted album "The English Disease" was available. Pouncing on this gem straightaway, it soon arrived and I was transported back to a time when those at the cutting edge of music saw no contradiction in applying their talents to what was regarded in polite society as the most anti-social of pursuits - watching football.
Arriving from the East London base of the On U Sound record label, "The English Disease" took its title from the tag liberally applied to the behaviour of English football supporters and cast its net over English football in the late 80s. Naturally the location of the record label led to the album having a heavy West Ham accent, with tracks dedicated to Leroy Rosenior (Leroy's Boots), Alan Devonshire (Devo backed by Italian House) and Billy Bonds (featuring I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles of course), but in keeping with a more collectivist era there were many others featured.
I had first heard the tracks played on the John Peel show at the time of release. At the time my budget didn't quite stretch to a release which I classed as fitting under the novelty banner although I made an exception for the peerless Flair. Listening again after more than 20 years I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the music and the high level politicisation in the lyrics. The music is emblematic of a time when to record something about football was to be on the cutting edge, a creative peak reached when New Order made it to the top of the charts with "World in Motion". 
Echoing the likes of I Ludicrous the tracks mount a determined stand in defence of terrace culture, which has now been all but lost.Produced by Adrian Sherwood and aided by Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald and Keith Levene the music generally takes a turn towards dub/reggae most obviously in a reworking of The Liquidator and most fittingly in the protest anthem "Civil Liberty" which features Neil Kinnock arguing the case against ID cards, hardly a comfortable stance for a Labour leader these days.
A dub version of Land of Hope and Glory backs a lament from the England manager Robson on "England Just Can't Win", whilst its Alan Ball's turn to give excuses on "Mind the Gap". Brian Clough has now regained his national treasure status but "Brian Clout" reminds us of one of his more controversial episodes, with Vinnie Jones' instant impact on the game being reflected by "Psycho and the Wombles of Division 1".
The stand out track for me though is "Sharp as a Needle", the one I could clearly remember from the 80s. The words "Glory, Glory" repeated over a Cup Final day recording of "Abide With Me" interspersed with commentary from the late great Peter Jones paying homage to the Liverpool team of that era (no wonder Peel played it so often!).
The album finishes on an optimistic note with a rendition of "Que Sera Sera" so its sad to think that what this recording does is to provide a coda to what is fast becoming seen as a different time, from Post war to Premiership. However before the rose tinted spectacles descend the liner notes end with: "No thank you to those who put profit before safety and comfort, and are disinterested in the voice of those who pay the wages". Strange to say that might be more true then than now.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Yossi reunites the sunshine band

The far from Christmassy sound of KC and the Sunshine band rang round Villa Park at the final whistle hailing the late goal from Yossi Benayoun which gave Arsenal a hard fought win which had looked unlikely til the latter stages when the Gunners extra desire drove them on to victory.
The 2-1 win neatly reversed the scoreline from my first and hitherto only trip to Villa Park way back in April 1983 when despite going into half time ahead, Arsenal succumbed to a rampant Manchester United en route to winning their first trophy under Ron Atkinson. That day I had sat in what was then called the Witton Lane Stand next to two kindly old ladies who spent the afternoon eating sweets and cooing every time Norman Whiteside touched the ball. Last night I was sat in the same part of the ground which had been rebuilt as the Doug Ellis stand in a seat with a view so restricted it merited a £1 discount! Handily placed at the end of the row in front of a gangway the only obstacle to seeing the night's entertainment was fortunately just the odd passing steward.
I'd travelled up to Birmingham the scenic way from London Marylebone, taking advantage of a superb £5 one way offer on that bizarre British paradox the privatised nationalised railway. Privatised by the British government but owned by the nationalised German railway who proved the efficacy of their operation with a smooth journey on a full train, accommodating everyone in roomy, clean carriages by dispensing with first class.
Alighting at Birmingham's most attractive terminus, Moor Street, I met up with a Villa supporting friend who was to be my guide to pre match hospitality. After negotiating the bustling crowds around New Street we headed up to Aston and after one false start settled down in the faded glory of the Swan & Mitre, an impressive facade clothing a dingy old fashioned boozer which had clearly seen better days. Still it provided a quiet corner to catch up, the only noise being the clink of dominoes at an adjacent table. As the football crowd started to filter in we moved onto the New Adventurers a virtual Aston Villa theme pub, £1 giving you access through their claret and blue portal. Full of fans steeling themselves for the match, talk centred on the prospects for play which were generally downbeat following the weekend's surrender to Liverpool, the mood only lifted by a badge seller touting "McLeish out" pins.
The short walk to the ground felt subdued and notably short on expectation, not uncommon at this time of the year when football takes second place to festive preparations. The kick off shook the cobwebs off though, the first half seeing Aston Villa the better team only denied an early lead by a splendid save by the Pole in the goal from Gabriel Agbonlahor. With injuries and suspensions hitting Arsenal hard it was not surprising that they lacked the fluidity of Sunday's draining defeat at Middle Eastlands but a steely resolve was characterised by the way they hung on in the opening stages then grabbed their chance with both hands when it came.
A quicksilver dash into the penalty area by Theo Walcott induced Ciaran Clark to throw out a grabbing arm in panic giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot, a really soft penalty both in terms of the threat that caused it and the foul that led to it. With Robin Van Persie eager to break the much talked about, if statistically meaningless, record for goals scored in calendar year, the kick was a formality. The goal changed little in term of the pattern of play though, Arsenal's awfully inappropriate away kit reflecting an uncharacteristically workmanlike first half performance.
Villa regrouped at half time and deservedly equalised with the goal of the game when Marc Albrighton capitalised on Arsenal defensive hesitancy to run clear and score. This turned out to be an ultimately abstract 20,000th goal scored  at the top level of English football since 1992, unless you buy into the hubristic insistence that Rupert Murdoch invented the game.
Attacking substitutions by Arsene Wenger were reflected by a growing intensity from Arsenal going forward as they forced a succession of corners which ultimately brought about the late winner when Van Persie inswinging kick was met by the head of Benayoun three minutes from time. The inevitable eruption of joy in the Arsenal end really rattled the Villa players Alan Hutton taking his leave early for a couple of needless misdemeanours.
The final whistle soon arrived to the backing of Jingle Bells, the euphoria sending me bouncing back to Witton station and home through the night sustained by a splendid Thai Yellow curry from Wok Your Way which meant I was still talking football with the black cab driver in the small hours.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

A Christmas Gift For You

Long suffering is certainly an epithet that can be applied to Maidenhead supporters in 2011 as those of us who follow the club home and away in the league have had to endure two long winless runs in the Alliance South this calendar year. The first in the New Year was only stopped by a miraculous run of results in the Spring to avoid relegation, the second in the autumn at least offered light relief in the form of cup glory regularly punctuating the league gloom. Thus it was in forlorn hope rather than expectation that the Magpies made their way to Wiltshire clutching at the clichéd straws of a Cup hangover for the home team following their arduous but ultimately successful midweek FA Cup replay at Grimsby. There was also the memory of warming performances of Christmas past with the record breaking win at Hayes Lane a year ago still fresh in the memory.
The trip was also something to look forward to at the end of a long week and having managed to convince the ticket staff at Paddington to sell me a ticket for a less than direct route to Salisbury, I met up with five other Magpies at Reading who had just about made it after Mr Late As Usual lived up to his soubriquet. The Logician redeemed himself by relaying his cultural knowledge en route comparing the height of cathedral spires in Ulm and Salisbury. The latter was only glimpsed as we left the station to look for a welcoming pub with only the Wetherspoons' Kings Head providing satisfactory refuge.
Ignoring the comedy ales on offer (Russian Revolution stout?) I decided pre match conversation would be sponsored by Amstel in an attractive glass which sadly proved less than practical in standing up to a glancing blow meaning most of the third pint ended up on the floor.
The excellent 505050 taxis provided an A team style van to transport us to the out of town ground. Salisbury had moved from their centrally located Victoria Park stadium to the new Raymond McEnhill one in Old Sarum. Old Sarum is a place burned into my brain from school history as the most rotten of rotten boroughs abolished by the Great Reform Act of 1832, an iron age hill fort which returned two members of parliament.
Passing this now heritage site we entered the new development which seemed to consist of a growing estate of eminently respectable faux mansions some of which lined the appropriately named cul de sac which led to the ground, Partridge Way.
The stadium was something of an odd construction, a hotch potch of staircases and rooms backing on to a muddled arena. As we ascended the steps up to the social club we were presented with a poster advertising Salisbury's forthcoming Cup trip to Sheffield in a Bullseye style what you could have won moment.
With admission matching that of Fulham last Wednesday night, a seat (£15), a programme (£2.50) a drink and a bite to eat comfortably broke the £20 barrier. Regardless of value this was in keeping with Salisbury's full time status which at least was reflected by a fair playing surface in view of the recent weather.
Supporter accommodation was lopsided with the main stand roof continuing round by behind one goal to provide covered accommodation. The other half of the ground was just bare terracing, bar a regulation complying small seated stand on the halfway line. Bizarrely much of the terrace was prohibited yellow stripe territory.
The game itself offered several parallels to the last Magpies league win I had seen back at the start of September at Truro. It was a trip west to a new ground, the home team's white kit forced Maidenhead to wear their yellow away strip, both teams tried to play football, and Maidenhead were anchored at the back by the reassuring presence of Leigh Henry and Billy Lumley.
Although the Maidenhead performance didn't reach the level of that in Cornwall, it was accomplished enough to be offered up as an early Christmas present to those who travelled to the game and had suffered many of the defeats in between.
The opening goal saw a seemingly innocuous ball into the penalty area by Richard Pacquette send the Salisbury defence into disarray, Martel Powell deftly despatching the loose ball into an empty net in the 26th minute. Two minutes later Pacquette doubled the lead when picked up defence splitting pass from Powell and beat the hapless keeper with a delightful lobbed finish. This double blow seemed to induce panic in the Salisbury ranks leading to a swift double substitution. This turned into frustration by the end of the half as their inability to offer any threat beyond the odd set piece was summed up by one of the Whites bench being sent off.
The second half provided more goal chances with both sides spurning opportunities to score. Maidenhead looked the most dangerous on the counter attack with Pacquette failing to seriously test the keeper when well placed on two occasions then getting into a tangle with Alex Wall at the far post when a point blank header was on offer. At the other end Lumley dealt competently with the Salisbury efforts being most extended by Tom Fitchett, having to use his feet to parry the shot.
It soon became clear though that the only Christmas cheer was to be had at the freezing open end where the Maidenhead fans were gathered, lapping up the rare opportunity to roar the team onto three points and enjoying the winning feeling at the final whistle before heading for home. Let's hope its not another 105 days until the next time.


The week before Christmas provided an opportunity for another dose of European football at London's loveliest ground, Craven Cottage. With a ticket in the main Riverside stand costing just £15 for a great view of the action (see above) and the game being very much alive due to Fulham needing a win to guarantee qualification from the Europa League group stage, it was a suitable occasion to meet old friends for a Christmas drink. Entering the Temperance pre match the tone for an odd evening was set when a large group of OB fans set themselves up for the game by playing Scrabble.
As the game got going there seemed to be nothing to stop Fulham strolling to a win against a seemingly compliant Danish team. Despite fielding a weakened team the likes of youngsters Marcel Gecov and Kerim Frei created the foundation for Fulham to take a half time 2-0 lead through Clint Dempsey and Frei with consummate skill in an impressive first half performance which gave little cause to check what was going on in the other group game in Poland.
Half time brought the reassuring presence of David Hamilton on the touchline and after the break little changed with the only criticism being a rather harsh judgement that Fulham were guilty of overplaying their attacks without getting a shot in. The game turned just after the hour when Hans Henrik Andreasen pulled a goal back from a free kick which exposed the defects in a badly constructed Fulham wall. This triggered an attack of nerves in the Fulham ranks especially when the mighty Eric Djemba-Djemba entered the fray for OB.
With Wisla winning in Krakow an OB equaliser would knock the Cottagers out and this outcome started to have an inevitable feel about as the goal transformed the Danish performance. Still time ticked away and the three minutes of stoppage time were almost up when OB mounted one last attack. In the simplest of moves down the right wing a cross was swung into the penalty area where it was met by the head of Djilby Fall to score with what proved to be the last touch of the game, the referee blowing for full time as OB celebrated with their small but hardy support and Fulham fell to their knees in as sad a state as the woeful Michael Jackson statue we humbly filed past on the way out.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Nostalgia for an age yet to come

Nostalgia fest yesterday. With a ticket to the New Order reunion concert in the obscure location of Stepney and a friend travelling down from Scotland to see it I opted for the safe bet of tickets to Arsenal's 125th birthday and an easy day in London.
The day hopefully set the seal on the Arsenalisation of the new ground which has now become a cross between a museum and a football theme park. Putting the dates of trophy wins around the stadium was the first stage in removing posterity from the current squad as the achievements of their predecessors lurked ever larger in the new environment. The dates also hang like something of an albatross round the club's neck, a constant reminder of the growing time since the last trophy. I really don't like the burgeoning trend of football statuary, and feel that people should be only commemorated in this way once they have shuffled off their mortal coil.
Certainly the fact that I was off to see arch modernists New Order concentrated the mind on  the future and led me to ponder what the Gunners great visionary Herbert Chapman would have thought. Although a listed building now the old Highbury ground was state of the art when it was built and the worry is that the futuristic nature of the new ground may be strangled by the past.
The game itself long looked like it would be overshadowed by the pre match celebrations, the nadir of which was MC Tom Watt's babbling inability to turn his stream of consciousness into a question for the legends he introduced before kick off, most of whom would have been at the game anyway in a PR/media role. At least "Good Old Arsenal" replaced "The Wonder of You" as the warm up music and the embarrassing call and response of the team line ups was dropped. Unfortunately I guess the club is contractually obliged to play the indie rock dirge of the Premier League anthem.
Still it was good that Everton with their pleasingly simplistic all blue kit and unbroken top division status (only beaten by Arsenal), were the opposition particularly as despite their lowly position manager Davie Moyes set out to win the game. Early on the unusual Arsenal defence with centre backs filling the wide roles looked as though it might be undone by the powerful wing play of the likes of Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman. This focus on attack forced the blue defence up the pitch and Arsenal had ample opportunity to exploit the high line only for Gervinho (again) and Theo Walcott to be especially profligate when through on goal.
As the game wore on Everton's confidence was symbolised by the way Marouane Fellaini played progressively further up the pitch but the game was won with a moment of quality to reflect the historic occasion. Alex Song's delightful pass found Robin Van Persie to fire home and take everyone's breath away with a strike which was executed when the Dutchman was fully airborne, a move that was ripe to end in farce perfectly carried out with a volley that rocketed into the back of the net. As usual any hope that Arsenal would quietly see out the win were in vain as Everton went for broke, but there was to be no match for Van Persie's coup de grace so Arsenal completed their comeback from their early season turmoil with a win that lifted them into the top four.
If Van Persie stays fit maybe this season will see the Emirates see silverware for the first time, the quality is evidently there to achieve it.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


Had a bad feeling about Dorchester's visit to York Road when Portsmouth goalkeeping legend Alan Knight was appointed manager of the Dorset Magpies in midweek. Just the boost they needed going into the game at Maidenhead. To be honest he didn't need to do much bar organise the team to ensure live wire forward Rico Wilson saw enough of the ball to score as Maidenhead lacked any creativity.
Perhaps it would have all been so different if Alex Wall had scored with a move straight from the kick off, catching Dorchester cold only to see his shot pass just wide. For the rest of the half bar a couple of striving runs from Mark Nisbet and Reece Tilson-Lascaris, Maidenhead offered little going forward. Dorchester on the other hand took the lead when Wilson skipped through the defence to score in the nineteenth minute and almost doubled their lead ahead of half time when a free kick was scraped off the line by Billy Lumley then hacked away by Nisbet.
After the break Maidenhead showed a bit more purpose going forward but still did not look like getting on the scoresheet, a late Manny Williams effort from close range in stoppage time which was blazed over the bar was the closest to an equalizer. Indeed Dorchester looked as likely to secure the points with a second. All very disappointing but predictable in what has become a Jekyll and Hyde season following the start of the cup competitions. Even a change in formation with three at the back to allow wide men Solomon and Worsfold the chance to get forward bore little fruit and the less said about the dearth of creativity and dynamism in the midfield the better. Still the lack of action provided a chance to catch up with friends on the terraces and no regrets that I'll be going to just one more Maidenhead United game in 2011. Nice to see the Advertiser have replaced their sign at the York Stream end too.