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.

Monday, 14 August 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

When deciding upon a new series of articles for this season the number 23 was forefront in my mind. My Mathematician wife’s favourite number, it represents the increased number of home league matches and therefore programmes  required this season. It also neatly matches the total number of seasons I have been watching the Magpies home and away, week in week out. With last season’s title the crowning glory of my time at York Road, I began to form a narrative laced with hindsight, of a club bound for glory. Of course like any good story there are a few setbacks along the way, but I have chosen “An altogether more splendid kind of life” as the title not only to reflect my enjoyment of this era but also as a nod to what we all worked towards and have now achieved.
The phrase comes from my favourite piece of prose, the introductory chapter to JB Priestley’s novel The Good Companions which perfectly captures the joy of watching football as an escape from the more mundane aspects of work or school. In my humble opinion it also sums up the benefit of watching the Magpies!
I had been an occasional visitor to York Road since my father took me to a match in April 1979 but although much of what existed here would be familiar to today’s young spectator, non league football was a very different world, almost a secret society.
WIth no internet to explain everything and keep you updated there was little context available to the curious youngster beyond the window opened up by the FA Cup, one which remained firmly shut to the Magpies til relatively late in my lifetime.
However my interest in life beneath the Football League grew thanks to Tony Wiliams’ non league annual and publications such as Team Talk, the Maidenhead Advertiser of course providing a weekly update on the local football scene.
Sadly much of the news reported about the Magpies in the eighties was that of a club in decline, culminating of course with the fire which burned down the lovely old stand. The club was something of an island with little attempt made to engage with the local community. No equivalent for example of the Junior Magpies.
The headlines made by the winning start to the 1990/91 promotion season proved irresistible though as crowds were drawn to York Road. I can remember watching close up the mercurial talent of Paul Canoville beating Cove virtually on one leg. There was also one of the best goals I have ever seen scored when a mazy run and wall pass by Harefield United’s Raoul Sam ended in a goal despite the fact that he lost the boot of his favoured foot along the way.
The boost from promotion faded fast though. By now at university I saw United win two home games in a row. Unfortunately they were separated by the autumn term.
Graduating in 1994 I saw the future of professional football and didn’t like what it had in store so somewhat presciently became amf twenty years ahead of its hashtag. Happily this coincided with what has turned out to be the permanent return of the black and white striped home shirt.
Encouraged to attend regularly by my friend Phil Adkins I found a welcoming community to which I knew I could contribute. In particular the late Trevor Kingham held out the hand of football friendship and an early season visit of newly promoted Aldershot Town drawing a four figure crowd showed the scale of what the club could become. This inspired me to write my first article for the match programme and fired by the indignity of the Maidenhead Advertiser relegating the Magpies to second place in its coverage behind Marlow, I started a fanzine which lasted for thirteen issues over three seasons, the production of which was made possible when I joined the programme team.
This involved going down to the club on a Sunday or Thursday evening to literally manufacture the programme using an unreliable photocopier and a long armed stapler. Trevor, Logic, Murdo and myself would copy, fold and staple every page. Fine when the usual circulation was little more than a hundred but a long night when Aldershot made their annual visit!
Thursday also offered the opportunity to chat to the players when they finished training and I was quickly drawn to become part of an institution which was so inviting.
This was helped on the pitch by a season of promise. John Watt’s team threatened to mount a promotion challenge in the late autumn, supported by Bob Hussey’s off the pitch team securing a hard earned Isthmian League A grade for the ground and its facilities.
New Year’s Day 1995 saw a bumper crowd of 247 witness a 2-0 win over Tooting & Mitcham United. League form faded from this point on but the team had character aplenty. This was reflected by the number of draws starting with the Aldershot match which ended 2-2 after the Magpies let slip a 2-0 lead.
The squad featured celebrity in the form of Sutton Cup heroes Trevor Roffey in goal and Vernon Pratt in centre defence. There was dressing room clown Franny Araguez, and hard as nails Scotsman Peter McNamee who would shout “chase it” as he launched another long ball forward.
Despite the season ending in mid table mediocrity it was replete with memories which are still vivid now. They include a home win over Bognor inspired by a  then midfield general in captain Tim Cook. A late fightback at the Camrose which ended with an injury time equaliser from Macca against Basingstoke. Four goals in the first twenty minutes at Wembley by young starlet James Pritchard. A County Cup giant killing over then mighty Wokingham Town, which brought a very strong Reading team to York Road in the next round. A victory by the odd goal in seven courtesy of a late flying header from distance by local policeman Kevin “Sarge” Brown, marred by a sickening leg break for striker Paul Dadson. An 8-2 thrashing at York Road by that season’s money team Chertsey Town featuring a QPR bound Lee Charles on a pitch virtually waterlogged which the Curfews were ironically reluctant to play on. A late season hat trick for fringe player Nick Ribeiro against Uxbridge.
All of these were capped though by the visit to the Recreation Ground when the Magpies stunned a crowd of 1877 to beat Aldershot 3-1. The key goal in this victory stemmed from the bizarre and unlamented experiment of replacing throw ins with kick ins. This had the unintended consequence of slowing the game down as any time the defending team put the ball out of play in their own half it became a set piece. Cook would thump the ball into the danger zone and on this occasion it caused such confusion in the Aldershot penalty area that the defence simply helped the ball into the net. Ultimately kick ins meant games commonly didn’t finish until about 5 pm as the game halted for the centre backs to jog up front. This led, partially in the absence of the injured Dadson, to defender Pratt ending the season as top scorer.
All in all a season to get me well and truly hooked on life at York Road. There was the hope that this was a club going forward on and off the pitch but more importantly the familial atmosphere that made me feel part of a common cause, the lasting effect of the latter emotion shown by the regular presence on the terraces nowadays of players from that season such as Mick Creighton, Andy Smith and Dave Harrison.
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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