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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.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

Part 4: 1997-98
With a trophy in the cabinet for the first time in a generation, expectations of a promotion challenge were again raised as Alan Devonshire began his first full season in charge of the Magpies. The change in the dressing room had been followed by a similar one in the boardroom as after Jim Parsons had stood down to become President, he was replaced by Roger Coombs who had previously looked after the club finances along with wife Jean.
However this season was to be the second part of a Star Wars style trilogy and thus the following nine months were to be critically acclaimed if ultimately unsuccessful.
Personally having moved up to London to study for a teaching qualification the season remains fondly remembered, missing only one game due to my sister’s wedding which just happened to be the biggest win, 6-1 at home to Croydon.
As Isthmian Full Members Cup holders the club enjoyed a rare high profile in the town which was capitalised on pre season when a crowd of two and a half thousand flocked to York Road for a friendly against West Ham. That there was still much work to do in converting locals into supporters was illustrated when just 191 turned up to the opening league game against Thame, despite everyone at the West Ham match getting a discounted voucher. Nevertheless a 5-0 win, followed by two more three point hauls in the opening week of the season set out Alan Devonshire’s promotion stall. The final win on a sun blessed day at promotion tipped Romford was particularly memorable for the way the Magpies dominated in a 1-0 win to a backdrop of Phil Tufnell spinning England to a rare Ashes test win on TV in the clubhouse.
Throughout the autumn United’s fine performances often reaped reward with seven league wins by three goals or more but there was also inconsistency. Despite an early lead at Newport, the Magpies went out of the FA Cup at the first opportunity, losing 2-1 in Wales. This score was repeated in the Trophy at Cambridge albeit with the consolation of a goal of the season contender from Mick Creighton, a lob from distance which he modestly ascribed to being too tired to run any further. Likewise a stunning display of attacking play at Leatherhead with Garry Attrell to the fore ended in a 2-1 defeat thanks to a man of the match performance from future Magpie keeper Scott Tarr.
Latest news of United’s promotion bid was now conveyed on my first mobile phone, as having programmed the numbers of all the clubs in the division into the memory, I found myself surrounded at the end of each match as I rang around to gather the results of our rivals.
Once again it was the minor cups which boosted league form. A first County Cup final in 28 years was reached with little fuss whilst the defence of the Isthmian Full Members Cup led to high drama and perhaps ultimately raised the promotion stakes too high due to a backlog of games.
The Cup defence almost fell as soon as it started only for a last minute equaliser at Bromley by Tyrone Houston to take the tie to extra time when Andy Eaton was able to win the game to beat the Premier division club. Next up were promotion rivals Hampton who were swept aside 4-0 just before Christmas at the Beveree, Obi Ulasi producing an astonishing burst of pace to knock the ball along the line, then run off the pitch to clear the linesman, collecting the ball again ahead of the full back. The corresponding league match was a few days later on Boxing Day only to be called off due to the weather. Had it been played, the end to this story may have been very different.
It appeared the Full Members Cup defence had ended for good when the Magpies lost at Leatherhead in the next round, only for the Tanners to be disqualified for fielding an ineligible player. Back in the competition, United won their quarter-final at Carshalton on a Thursday night thanks to a header from Steve Brown inches off the ground.
This set up a semi-final at Hendon in March, then flying high in the Premier Division. Going behind within a minute, United initially struggled to step up to the pace but gradually worked their way into the game, deservedly equalising through Attrell. Magpie hearts were then broken in the last minute when Freddie Hyatt scored the Hendon winner, leaving the players finally out but defiant not down.
This was the first defeat in twelve matches since the Leatherhead Cup loss and so by this time a promotion charge was well under way. This momentum was created by a team settled to Devonshire’s preferred 3-5-2 formation which saw Trevor Roffey in goal, Houston and Ulasi on the wings, Tim Cook now withdrawn into the defensive three alongside a pair from Brian Connor, Luke Evans and Vernon Pratt. “Ambling” Peter Terry, Steve Brown and Attrell filled the midfield, behind Chuk Agudosi and Creighton up front.
There was solid back up too, as shown on an unforgettable night at Billericay in February when despite losing Andy Robertson with a broken arm, Clayton Whittle came off the subs bench to play his part in a fine 2-0 against the eventual runners up. This was the score when Maidenhead again won at eventual champions Aldershot, these clean sheets reflecting the defensive steel that had been added by Cook’s new withdrawn role.
This set up a tumultuous April with eight league games to be played in 23 days. The double was completed over Billericay, whilst Hampton were held to a point at York Road. Hopes were hit by a defeat at Croydon but three successive wins in five days set up the rescheduled return to the Beveree perfectly.
The second of these two wins came at Whyteleafe, with callers to the clubhouse phone told the score by Jonathan Pearce, at Church Road to cheer on his Capital Radio partner and Magpie player coach Tony Gale.
With a final match to follow at relegated Abingdon, United knew a draw at Hampton should be enough to win promotion in third spot. Before a bumper crowd of 564, including Brentford manager Micky Adams who would sign Beavers defender Darren Powell at the end of the season, the teams entered the fray.
I held much stock in the fact that the final song I heard through my headphones as I walked up to the ground was “Nothing Could Stop Us Now” by St. Etienne but it was to no avail as the brave Magpies held on but within touching distance of the final whistle went down to a Francis Vines goal.
Gutted, having applauded the team off, I headed for the nearest pub with my Dad and Bob Hussey. We knew, rightly, that the unlikely set of results needed to now win promotion would not happen.
Yet a few days later at Abingdon the mood was one of celebration as the team notched up a 4-1 win, including a penalty goal given by referee cheerful Charlie Breakspear, deciding not to bother awarding  a spot kick after a defensive handball on the line, giving a goal instead.
This was as fine a squad as I have ever seen in the black and white stripes, typified by the joie de vivre of the way they played. Personified by the boundless energy of Tyrone Houston at right wing back which saw him score eleven goals, it was reflected one last time by the whole team in the final match of the season, the County Cup Final at Wycombe against Reading.
The day started in farce when the team coach failed to turn up leaving the players to travel in their own cars. A very strong Reading line up selected by new manager Tommy Burns took the lead through Neville Roach but in their 57th match of the season United would not be denied.
Midway through the second half Attrell fed Creighton whose effort beat the keeper only to cannon back off the crossbar where Pratt arrived on cue to head home in front of the Maidenhead fans. Then with extra time looming the unlikely figure of Brian Connor stormed forward, collected the ball then fired the mother of all shots from thirty yards into the back of the net to win the Cup.
A bittersweet victory of course given that promotion had been missed by a single point but a second piece of silverware in as many years and a first County Cup since 1970 meant that as I grabbed a lift back to York Road with Vernon Pratt I did so in absolute hope that the good times were here to stay.
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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