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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, 20 August 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

Part 3: 1996-97
The summer of 1996 echoed to the refrain of thirty years of hurt, an ailment that persists to this day after Terry Venables’ England team bowed out at the semi-final stage of Euro 96. At York Road the talk was of twenty seven years of pain, a trophyless span dating back to the 1970 County Cup win. The previous season’s run to the semi-final of that competition had like Baddiel & Skinner had done to the nation, raised Magpie hopes that the drought might be ended, with the appointment of a new management team only raising expectations.
The final shortlist for the post provided a good range of options. There was solid non league experience in ex Magpie Jim Kelman, an up and coming manager in Steve Roberts, and a duo of highly respected ex pros in Martyn Busby and Alan Devonshire.
Chairman Jim Parsons, in what was to be his final year at the helm, plumped for the duo of cultured midfielders despite their lack of managerial experience. Busby had been at Feltham whilst Devonshire was even lower down the pyramid at Osterley, although was appointed on the back of winning a Middlesex League treble.
Initially Busby was seen as closer to the number one role, although it was very much a joint enterprise, and both brought with them players who would have a lasting impact on the club’s fortunes.
Another new appointment was that of yours truly into the programme editor role, quite a different experience without an internet connection.
The season began with a bizarre draw with Canvey Island at York Road, Maidenhead scoring whilst Canvey goalkeeper John Keeley left the pitch to retrieve the ball. The referee signalled to the Magpies that they could use a replacement for the throw in, which led to the sight of Keeley standing hands on hips on the touchline as Garry Attrell walked the ball into an empty net.
New midfielder Steve Brown caught the eye from the opening day but most of the terrace talk was about new strike duo Chuk Agudosi and John Ruggins who had rewritten the Middlesex League record books the previous season. The latter, although not short of effort, was unable to make the step up, but Chuk marked his debut with a goal at Molesey on the second Saturday of the season, the first of six strikes in four consecutive league wins, to suggest a promotion bid might be in the making.
However as the autumn leaves fell, so did the league placing, as wins started to become scarce, the wheels well and truly coming off the promotion bandwagon when a 2-0 lead at home to Marlow turned into a 3-2 defeat.
Still the squad continued to improve, left wing back Obi Ulasi marking his arrival with a hat trick in an FA Trophy win against Corby. The defence was shored up by the signings of Francis Duku and Brian Connor, whilst Devonshire brought in ex Hammer team-mate Tony Gale to steady the midfield. By the turn of the year though the Magpies had exited all but one cup competition and had won only two of their last twelve league matches.
Salvation came in the form of the little regarded Isthmian Full Members Cup. Imitating the unlamented Football League version, it was a competition restricted to the top two divisions of the Isthmian League.
The first tie in the competition, at Molesey on the first Tuesday in January, provided a real “I was there” moment, mainly due to everybody being told the match was off due to a frozen pitch.
This was the message left on the main medium to get up to date information about the club, the hotline. This premium rate service was invaluable to pick up the score if you couldn’t get to the game although people didn’t tend to listen to the reports provided by the “voices of hotline” Jon Swan and Richard Jackson for fear of raised eyebrows when the phone bill arrived.
It was Swan who left the fateful message that the game was off but as luck would have it I worked with Richard’s son Keith who heard the news that in fact the game would go ahead. Thus I was one of only four Maidenhead supporters to go to Walton Road (official attendance 50) on that chilly evening to watch an instantly forgettable 2-0 win.
For the record the others were Keith, Richard and Mark Smith, and to this day I will respond to talk of arduous away trips from fellow Magpies with the words “ah yes but did you go to Molesey away in the Mickey Mouse Cup”?
In the next round in February a few more supporters travelled to Premier Division Walton & Hersham to see United cause a Cupset thanks to Steve Brown’s only goal of the game at Stompond Lane. This set up a plum quarterfinal tie at Huish Park, home of the eventual Isthmian League Champions Yeovil Town.
Despite losing their Conference status, Yeovil, then managed by Graham Roberts, were possibly the biggest non league club in the south of England at the time with a fine new stadium.
With supporters cars divided on Anglo-Scottish lines, an afternoon in a local pub was thought to be the limit of the day’s excitement but we were determined to make the most of the occasion, demanding that the Glovers open their away end for us. They did so escorting us the length of the pitch to get there so we could witness in splendid isolation a resolute Maidenhead performance.
Seventeen minutes into the second half Chuk Agudosi got on the end of Garry Attrell’s cross to score in front of us, and then United held on to win a famous victory and passage into the semi-final.
In the meantime league form improved enough to secure a mid table finish of thirteenth, the highlight of which was beating Hampton by the odd goal in seven at the Beveree. There were also two departures of note. Firstly winger Paul Dadson decided to try his luck elsewhere, personally saying goodbye to us on an emotional night on the York Road terraces. This was coupled with Martyn Busby’s decision to stand down, with fortunately Alan Devonshire electing to go it alone.
The Full Members Cup tie was played against Premier Division Sutton United at York Road in front of a bumper crowd of 438. In the early stages the Magpies struggled to keep up with the pace and went a goal behind, but from the moment Francis Duku headed home the equaliser United’s presence in the game grew, taking the lead before half time through Obi Ulasi with Tyrone Houston sealing a place in the final in the dying minutes. The final whistle sparked amazing scenes of celebration as we all ran on the pitch then surrounded the dressing room to cheer our heroes.
Events then took a fairytale turn as our opponents in the final were revealed as last season’s Nemesis Aylesbury United, with the game to be played at Marlow, ironically a club no longer qualified for the competition after their final day relegation which was greeted with glee at York Road when the news came over the PA.
Such was the confidence and power of support at Oak Tree Road that the result never seemed in doubt once Mick Creighton had given the Magpies the lead in the first half. Attrell doubled the score with fifteen minutes remaining and a Duku injury time strike prompted premature celebrations leading to Chairman Parsons being called to the PA to halt the race of young fans to the centre circle led by a thirty something Scot.
Smiles came no bigger than captain Trevor Roffey’s gap tooth grin as he lifted the cup that we would soon be drinking out of as we all celebrated long into the night, the end of the Chairman Jim era and the start of Manager Alan’s.        
With thanks to Mark Smith’s book One For Sorrow Two For Joy for the statistical content of this series.
To read more about this season visit www.mufcheritage.com

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