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.

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


Lenny Baryea said...

As mentioned in the gents at the Three Pigeons in Halifax, Steve, I’m enjoying these posts. I’d intended to comment previously, but couldn’t let this one escape – what a season!

Defeat on the opening day (Adrian Allen was excellent for them; Billy Cove broke a foot), the FA Cup defeat vs Salisbury (there was a short write-up in the Times, which I’ve got a copy of somewhere), the 4-3 win over Braintree on a pitch part mud part sand, the Battle of Yeading, Lockwood waving his crutches etc., etc.

Vividly recall the game at Whyteleafe. Gorgeous sunshine. Pretty sure that Thame were at Romford that day and, after a spat, the Romford manager apparently vowed to put out his Reserves at York Road in midweek. I don’t know if this story was true and, if it was, whether he did. Regardless, as you report, we won comfortably.

“Ferdinand met the ball with his chest.” Always looked like his arm to me. But who cares?! I fell asleep on the Shelf, after overdoing the post-match celebrations in Stripes, and was a bit worse for wear at school the next day!

No mention of the final game of the season vs Thame?! Ian Moores. Think he emigrated afterwards! I’ll never forget the Cricketers, pre-match, full of black and white balloons.

Steve said...

I was talking to Steve Croxford after the Aldershot game and he reminded me that he actually scored a hat trick against Braintree with his first being an own goal.
The Thame match just didn't matter. Lost the game but so what. The Ian Moores thing passed me by as I was still enjoying promotion.