About Me

My photo
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, 17 September 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

Part 6: 1999-2000
“There was something in the air that night, you scored, so right, Ferdinando”
Elation was coursing through my veins as I vaulted the fence at the Bell Street end at the final whistle of the promotion clinching match against champions Croydon. This turned to panic as I realised I was first on, only to be carried forward by the crowd and into the arms of Ferdy.
This season, where for the only time I witnessed every single Maidenhead United match, satisfied the cliche of marathon rather than sprint, as a feat of endurance equal to last season’s title. The sense of relief surrounding York Road was palpable. Alan Devonshire’s men had succeeded in reaching the promised land of the Isthmian Premier Division despite facing an even bigger fixture pile up than the near miss of two years previously, with one game spare to boot.
New signing Chris Ferdinand had marked his debut on the opening day of the season with a goal. That day it was in vain as Leyton Pennant responded by romping to a 3-1 win, but when Ferdy scored the final Maidenhead United goal of the season to win promotion he made it a night when Magpie men became Magpie gods.
Determined to take the club into the Premier Division for the first time, manager Alan Devonshire made a slew of other signings to upgrade the squad. Goalkeeper Garath Ormshaw was signed permanently, Joining Ferdinand in midfield was Rolls-Royce playmaker Barry Rake. Maidonian centre back Steve Croxford returned to his alma mater to create a formidable defensive bulwark with Tim Cook and Brian Connor, whilst upfront Chuk Agudosi would now be partnered by Boy’s Own Centre Forward Billy Cove. Youngster Craig Webster had impressed as a combative midfielder towards the end of the previous campaign, and would now be Obi Ulasi’s opposite wing back on the right flank. The promotion team was completed in October with the arrival of iron man midfielder Tom Hickey, with the remaining squad providing strength in depth.
United shrugged off the opening day defeat to go unbeaten until the leaves started to fall in October. A 3-1 win over eventual runners up Grays Athletic in August served notice that the Magpies were stepping up to the challenge of maintaining a promotion bid.
Early promise was shown in the FA Cup before United again exited in the 3rd Qualifying Round thanks to a fluke goal from opponents Salisbury. Significantly all the cup competitions were over by January bar the League Cup. The focus on the league was therefore sharper this time around and by the turn of the year there were only two addition to the “L” column of the table.
The first two matches of the new millennium demonstrated the team’s best aspect, it’s indefatigable spirit,  a deep well from which to be drawn when the pressure was on. A home match against Braintree saw the Magpies bogged down on very wet pitch, only for Croxford to literally dig his team out of the mire with two late goals to secure a win by the odd goal in seven. This was followed by the Battle of the Yeading, an away trip to the Warren which saw the home team finish the game with only four of the players who started it.
Agudosi had given United the lead in a game which Mick Creighton doubled midway into the second half. As United again attacked through Agudosi, the gangly striker found himself stopped in his tracks illegally by a defender. Agudosi reacted to this angrily and a confrontation ensued. Then as Brian Connor described to me years later “Ferdy did his Bruce Lee impression” and all hell broke loose as an unsightly melee broke out involving every single player and eventually both benches. It was the most extraordinary spectacle I have ever seen on a football pitch, and once the dust had settled the referee sent off five players: Agudosi, Ferdinand and three from Yeading.
Remarkably Yeading managed to halve the deficit but then found themselves down to seven players following another red card, causing the result to be threatened by an abandonment but it finally finished 2-1 to Maidenhead, and if ever a match summed up the all for one, one for all ethos of the Magpies that season, it was this one.
In the short term, four games without a win followed and on a Tuesday night in February at York Road United were trailing again. Once again though they turned it round in the latter stages of the match to beat Bromley 3-2, the first of six straight wins, the last of which at Wealdstone seeing Rake acting as a matador with the finest example of his keep the ball in the corner routine to wind down the clock.
This run included League Cup wins to set up a semi-final against Billericay Town. The first leg in Essex was drawn 1-1 thanks to a thumping strike from distance by Cove. A key figure in this performance was Reading loan signing defender Adam Lockwood. He went off injured in a goalless second leg which meant a penalty shoot out  where Ormshaw did his bit in goal before scoring the winning kick at the Bell Street End, my enduring memory being Lockwood waving his crutches at us as we celebrated another cup final appearance.
Off the pitch the Canal End was soon to be out of bounds as it was resurfaced and capped with a roof. To support the fundraising for the new structure, 28 supporters including Chairman Roger Coombs walked the fourteen miles to the match at Staines on April Fools’ Day, raising £2,000 for the British Heart Foundation at the same time.
As well as the League Cup run, wet weather had created a late season fixture pile up and with eighteen days of the season left, United still had to play seven league fixtures and the League Cup Final. This provided three games in hand of the Magpies’ closest rivals for promotion but the worry was that once again it would be a case of one game too many.
Eight points were taken from the four matches played in April, the last ending as a jittery draw at Whyteleafe when despite late season signing Adrian Allen’s goal looking to have given the Magpies the three points, a late equaliser led to panic in the United ranks.
This set up a tumultuous last week of the season with the final four matches to be played on the first six days of May, starting with the League Cup Final on the May Day Bank Holiday against Premier Division Farnborough at Basingstoke.
This ended in the worst of all circumstances. Ormshaw’s season ended following injury, whilst with his opposite number Stuart McKenzie in outstanding form, the match went to extra time, only for Keith Dublin to score the winning goal for the Hampshire side just two minutes into the additional period.
Now able to focus solely on the league the task was clear. Six points from the three matches, all to be played at York Road over four days. The first hurdle was easily negotiated as on Wednesday lowly Romford were thrashed 4-0, however 24 hours later champions Croydon were the opposition whilst on the final Saturday it could be a case of winner takes all against the only team able to pip the Magpies for the final promotion spot, Thame United.
A dank Thursday night began with the Maidenhead players forming a guard of honour as Croydon received the Division One Championship Trophy from League Chairman Alan Turvey.
From the kick off The Trams showed no sign that they would give the Magpies an easy ride, and almost took the lead with an early effort being cleared off the line by Ferdinand. They also made sure deputy keeper Kieron Drake was properly tested from the outset.
Then in the 25th minute, Maidenhead struck. A long ball forward from Croydon was intercepted by Connor. The loose ball was picked up Hickey who found Ferdinand in the centre of the pitch. A tackle saw the ball return to Hickey. This time he fed Agudosi on the right, who travelled cross pitch to deliver the ball to Ulasi on the left. He drove goalwards laying the ball off to Rake who tacked left again, sending a cross over to the far post from the edge of the box. Ferdinand met the ball with his chest and it rebounded into the back of the net in front of the empty Canal End, still being rebuilt. Rushing off to celebrate with the fans temporarily gathered in front of the railway embankment, the team now had something to hold onto.
As darkness descended the 300 crowd felt like 3,000 as they moved into the Bell Street End and roared the team on through the second half. With one last effort required, the Magpies managed the game perfectly, conserving energy to see the result through to full time and avoid the need to take anything from the final match.
Eventually the final whistle sounded, emotion took over. Elation at the achievement, relief at laying the ghost of 1998. Magpie men became Magpie gods. Later in Stripes Alan Devonshire quoted Churchill to me “this is not the end, this is the end of the beginning”. With hindsight, how right he was.  
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

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United
Part 5: 1998-99
Having come tantalisingly close to promotion a few months earlier, the mood around York Road definitely had an air of “one more heave”. The squad had been strengthened by the signing of prolific striker Michael Banton and a brace on his debut in a 4-0 opening day victory at Canvey Island, clearly stated the Magpies’ ambition. The scale of the win was helped by an early injury to Canvey goalkeeper Brian Horne, but it was the bad back of his opposite number Trevor Roffey which was to have a lasting impact on United’s fate this season, which ended with the Islanders as champions.
Since signing for the club in December 1992, Roffey had been the undisputed number 1 at York Road, missing only one match since Alan Devonshire took over sole control of the team in March 1997. Club captain, Roffey had hoisted the Magpies’ first silverware in a generation, but suddenly his career was all but over.
A replacement was sourced by new assistant manager Carl Taylor in the form of Michael Bolger but the hapless youngster couldn’t make the grade, and most of Banton’s goals were in vain as United slumped to five defeats by the end of September.
Solace was sought in a promising FA Cup run which included a thumping 5-0 win at Uxbridge which was much enjoyed by the United players following the ungracious way the Reds had celebrated a league victory at York Road in August. This brought Conference opposition to York Road for the first time in the shape of Kingstonian. In front of a bumper crowd of 717 the Magpies went toe to toe early on exchanging goals with the Ks, before West Ham bound Gavin Holligan inspired his team to stretch the gap and see them run out 4-2 winners.
Bolger’s last appearance in the green jersey was a Full Members Cup defeat at Worthing, where he sustained an injury which saw veteran outfield player Dave Harrison taking over in goal for the next match against Yate in the FA Trophy.  
By now helping out Alan Devonshire on the coaching side “Harry” assured his legend status at the club by playing every minute of the Trophy tie which was won with a Peter Terry goal in the final minute of extra time in the replay on a very wet night in Gloucestershire.
This provided the time to sign a replacement for Bolger, and the services of Garath Ormshaw were secured on a loan basis from Crystal Palace. Considered by many to be the best Maidenhead goalkeeper of the era, Ormshaw’s arrival coincided with an upturn in form with only two of his eleven appearances ending in defeat. Unfortunately his first match was also Banton’s last as, like Roffey, the ageing striker succumbed to injury having scored sixteen goals in nineteen appearances, and although new signing Freddie Domingos marked his debut with a goal, it was the only time his acrobatic celebration was put on display.
Ormshaw’s stand out performance was at Wealdstone on New Year’s Day. Chuk Agudosi and Mick Creighton had given United a comfortable half time lead at the Stones then home of Edgware. Following the restart though, the Stones threw absolutely everything at Ormshaw who pulled off a series of spectacular saves to keep a clean sheet against an equally spectacular backdrop of a thunderstorm complete with lightning bolts. This was also the first meeting of Maidenhead and Wealdstone fans who after breaking the ice post match in the White Hart pub have got on famously ever since.
Due to the terms of his loan, Ormshaw could not play in the FA Trophy, but his long term replacement Kieron Drake kept a clean sheet on his debut at York Road in a 1-0 win over Clevedon Town to ensure the annual visit to Aldershot continued as they were drawn out of the hat in the next round. In a tight game, Drake was only beaten by a Garry Abbott free kick, but in a season of league disappointment, this was not to be the last chance Cup glory.
The key problem which persisted in the league was home form. The travelling support was rewarded with one of the best away records in the division but only a few home league games ended in victory, two in early autumn and a final one in February against eventual runners up Hitchin Town. To say the league season petered out was something of an understatement. United did finish just above halfway in eleventh place but in April the Magpie faithful suffered back to back goalless draws against Croydon played out in front of a grand total of 188 spectators over the two matches. In between just 83 turned up at York Road to watch a defeat to Yeading, with those staying in rewarded with the live coverage of Manchester United’s awesome comeback in Turin en route to winning the Champions League.
Fortunately Alan Devonshire’s ability to produce Cup runs meant there was much to cheer in the latter half of the season. Following enjoyable runs in the FA Competitions, the Magpies made it all the way to the Isthmian League Cup semi-final. Michael Banton was required to come off the bench to fire United to an extra time win against lowly Lewes at York Road in September, with the next minnows Croydon Athletic comfortably despatched in South London in November. This set up a belter of a tie with Slough Town coming to York Road in February. Slough were then in the Premier Division, with serious intentions to recover their Conference place lost the previous summer due to ground grading. New chairman Martyn Deaner had repeated his trick at Newbury by signing a string of ex Reading players, but on the night it was Slough resident Mick Creighton’s two goals which were the difference between the clubs in a 4-2 win for the Magpies.
This brought Sutton United back to York Road, and as with the 1997 Full Members Cup Semi-final they left defeated, this time by the odd goal in a nine in an absolutely thrilling tie, Agudosi celebrating the extra time winner by dropping his shorts.
The semi-final against a Boreham Wood team featuring Kerry Dixon was a two legged affair, and after a 3-2 win at York Road in the first leg, Wood completed the job at Meadow Park with a 1-0.
Still the Magpies were left with the defence of the County Cup. Progress to the semi-final at Windsor was smooth but a stormy night at Stag Meadow ensued with Maidenhead’s 3-1 win being tainted by accusations that a  Magpie player had racially abused a home player to spark an incident which turned the game in United’s favour. All this meant that once again the season would end with a cup final. This time Chesham was the venue, and Wycombe the opponents. With the score level at ninety minutes, extra time was required. Throughout the afternoon the Chairboys fans vocally suggested Garry Attrell should be drawing his pension, but the winger had the last laugh in extra time, inspiring United to a 4-1 win, whilst taunting the Wanderers’ fans by slapping his head.
Thus another exciting season under Alan Devonshire ended with me invading the pitch to celebrate more silverware, this time it being Tim Cook’s turn to hoist the Cup. A grand day out but promotion remained the ultimate goal.      
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