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.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Maidenhead United 2016/17 - Fairytale, Romance and Magic

The day after the defeat to Ebbsfleet I wrote this article for the Maidenhead Voice, a free magazine distributed to 12,000 households in the Maidenhead area.

Fairytale, romance and magic. Three words often used about football, and all applicable to Maidenhead United's wonderful 2016/17 season. Paradoxical of course as everything that has happened at York Road is very real and often beyond the realm of fiction.
Yesterday's defeat against Vanarama National League South title rivals Ebbsfleet United has added a twist to the tale of an historic season, to ensure there is still everything to play for in the final match at Margate next week.
This season the Magpies story has captured the hearts of local football supporters in numbers unprecedented since the 1960s as a number of elements have combined to make Saturday afternoon at York Road unmissable.
Firstly the ground itself, a fine example of continuity in an ever changing world. The club moved here in 1871 a few months after forming, and have remained ever since making York Road the world's oldest senior football ground continuously used by the same team. It shows its age in parts but its charm was enhanced  in 2014 by the construction of a sleek 550 seater stand under the shadow of Brunel's Great Western Railway. The stand had an immediate impact on crowds as it provided a comfortable place to watch the match with excellent sightlines. Over to its left is the Bell Street End, a covered terrace favoured by a youthful clientele who serenade the players with their catalogue of anthems. Food and drink is available in either corner. You're trusted to have a beer here whilst you watch the match, maybe a local real ale.
The team of course has taken centre stage this term. United in purpose as well as name. A squad carefully selected by wily manager Alan Devonshire, with each player clearly signed to fit a role. They have lost only one home league game in each of the two seasons since Devonshire returned to the club in 2015, meaning fans can come along in expectation rather than hope of seeing the Magpies win.
Their favourites include Carl Pentney in goal, a quiet unassuming keeper who more often that not keeps a clean sheet. In front of him are centre backs Dean Inman and Alan Massey. Inman, an all action defender is something of a cult hero on the Bell Street End, whilst captain Massey alongside him exudes that quiet authoritative aura typical of the English centre back. The man pulling the strings in the centre of midfield is James Comley, a cultured ball player instrumental in many a Maidenhead goal. To his left the tireless Harry Pritchard, the left sided schemer who scores many a spectacular goal whilst never neglecting his defensive duties. Up front is unsung Sean Marks, the king of the assists for his little mate the goal machine Dave Tarpey who has 45 under his belt with power still to add.
A great setting for a great team and yet there is also a certain je ne sais quoi which places the club at the hearts of everyone connected to it. This is provided by the unashamed amateurs who run affairs off the pitch and club servants like kitman John Urry all of whom strive to make visitors want to comeback regardless of whether they may be opposition players or even the referee.
All of which creates an escape from the trials and tribulations of work and school, letting off steam by cheering on the Magpies, or simply wandering around the ground bumping into friends, old schoolfriends and teammates. All are welcome at a club that gives you a taste of the best of what football has lost, a club that is not backward looking but going forward with the support of history, Maidenhead United Football Club.

Post Script: Six days later Maidenhead United were champions


Colin Perry said...

I seem to remember, a few seasons ago, you wrote that you had no wish to see Maidenhead promoted to Step 1.

How do you see the club adapting to life in the National League now?

Steve said...

Yes that's right Colin, I did write that.
To say I've enjoyed this season is an understatement and that's because I've been watching a team of champions.
As to what comes next who knows. To some extent there has been a feeling of this season is as good as it gets and time will tell. I'm certainly not looking forward to the likes of segregation, games moved for TV etc but then again I've been to all but four of the grounds in the new division so in some ways it will be business as usual.