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, 26 November 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United
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Part 10: 2003-04
A radical spirit ran through a season which was to be pivotal in the outlook and fortunes of Maidenhead United Football Club.
New chairman Jon Swan’s first act was to appoint player manager John Dreyer. He beat fellow central defender Paul Parker to the post, with it being felt that the latter was not quite the right fit due to his plans to bring a new squad over from his Essex base.
As it turned out this may have been a better short term option when Dreyer started pre season training with only four members of the previous season’s first team squad remained: captain Brian Connor, young defender Adam Durrant, midfielder Ryan Ashe and contracted striker Lawrence Yaku.
Richie Barnard moved to Aldershot, Matt Glynn signed for St. Albans and player of the year Andy Cook went to Hendon, whilst the rest followed Alan Devonshire to his new post at Hampton.
Off the pitch an FA Financial audit had raised some important matters which required immediate attention
On a personal note I made the decision to return to editing the programme, as well as taking over the PA and the hotline information service. This came with a place on the committee beginning my transition from terrace to boardroom.
On and off the pitch everyone was infused with a clear sense of mission driven by the  plan to create two regional divisions below the Conference for the 2004/05 season. To qualify the Magpies would need to finish in the top thirteen in the Isthmian League Premier Division as well as fulfil criteria relating to the ground and club finance.
It was the former which looking the more challenging obstacle as the team made the opening day trip to Heybridge with a starting line up listing eight debutants, with a further four on the bench including Dreyer and his assistant, Northern Ireland international, Phil Gray.
After seven league matches, the team had yet to win, but had a stylish aesthetic to their play. This was particularly marked in an early season defeat at Kettering’s impressive Rockingham Road ground, which helped to keep the faith until Harrow Borough provided their annual service of donating the first three point haul of the campaign.
This sparked a run of seven wins from the next nine league outings, helped by the reunion of Yaku with his former Northwood striker partner Steve Hale. The duo were able to capitalise on the exciting play on the left flank of full back Brendan Gallen as well as the midfield creativity of Ryan Ashe and Martyn Lee, shored up by the bulwark of Kelvin McIntosh and behind them a new central defensive pairing of Connor and Eton schoolmaster Andy Jennings.
An FA Cup thrashing at Dover didn’t shake the league form, and although the League Cup and County Cup provided no more in the way of success, it was the FA Trophy which provided the mid season highlight.
This run was almost over before it begun, as with ten minutes remaining United trailed 3-1 at lowly Swindon Supermarine but a couple of late goals forced a replay which was won 2-1. This set up a trip in the New Year to up and coming Histon. This time the Magpies won in style 3-1 to set up a home tie against Wealdstone.
The weather then intervened delaying the match until a Tuesday night in February with Stones crumbling to a rampant United performance which saw the Magpies into the last sixteen with a 5-1 win.
After some delay due to weather and a replay, a first ever trip to Yorkshire to play Halifax became the Magpies fate and on Valentine’s Day, Conference opposition were beaten for the first time in United’s history thanks to the double act of Yaku and Hale scoring in a 2-0 win.
Maidenhead’s first quarter-final appearance in a national competition since the 1930s proved to be something of an anti climax. Travelling to eventual Isthmian League Champions and FA Trophy runners up Canvey Island, the tie was over almost as soon as it begun when Andy Dugdale was penalised for a handball on the line in the second minute leaving United a goal behind and down to ten men. Canvey ran out 4-0 winners.
During the Trophy run, league points continued to be collected with the squad bolstered defensively by the twin signing from Egham of Andy Dugdale and Bryan Smith.
As the season entered its final chapter the Magpies were jockeying for position in the mid table pack.  In a bid to get the top half finish required to qualify for the Conference South Dreyer made a triple attacking signing of Ben Hammond from Hemel, Danny Bolt, and Rob Haworth (both from Sutton). The latter seeking inspiration by posting a supporter comment from the club forum labelling him a donkey on the back of the dressing room door.
Form remained patchy with a worrying trend for heavy defeats at home but three straight wins at the end of March including a crucial 2-1 victory midweek at Bedford meant there was still all to play for in April.
0304.jpgHowever just one win in six matches (thanks to a solitary Yaku strike at Hayes) led to a must win final match on May day. Fortunately the opposition were bottom markers Aylesbury United. With shades of 97 and 17, the long relegated Ducks put up something of a fight but eventually succumbed 4-2,  Yaku hitting the twenty goal mark for the season with a brace.
This left Maidenhead in a final position of twelfth and a place in the Conference South to look forward to in August. Qualification was subsequently made more comfortable when Hendon elected not to take their place fearing the financial implications of the higher division.
Maidenhead had already gambled on taking the step up by spending money to the improve squad mid season. As admirable as this ambition was, the long term consequences would be as serious as Hendon’s decision suggested.
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

Sunday, 12 November 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United
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Part 9: 2002-03
Change was in the air, not only at York Road but across the non league scene as a process began which would drastically alter the fortunes of Maidenhead United in particular and the aspirations of middling non league clubs in general.
At the start of the season, husband and wife team Roger and Jean Coombs, who had effectively led the club through the Devonshire era as chairman and treasurer respectively, announced their intention to stand down from their roles the following May.
Their decision enabled the club to engage in a proper process of succession planning, with Jon Swan installed as chairman elect, whilst the finances were lined up for Paul Carney to take over.
This coincided with plans for two new regional divisions to be created to feed into the Conference, to reduce some of the promotion bottleneck whereby only the champions of the current feeder leagues could move up to the pinnacle of the non league pyramid.
Thus much discussion, particularly following the turn of the year when it became clear that relegation was not on the agenda, focused on the plans for the following pivotal season.
On the pitch, Alan Devonshire’s team were now very much at home in the Isthmian League Premier Division, eventually finishing tenth, but the virtual impossibility of a title challenge meant that once again the season had a feeling of marking time.
Thus much hope for the season was invested in the Cup competitions, initial failure generating much ire before an ultimate silver lining.
The squad was freshened up in the summer with a triple signing from Northwood. Prolific striker Lawrence Yaku arrived alongside midfielders Andy Cook and Ryan Ashe. The addition of classy young sweeper Chris Elsegood led to a refashioned team that was exciting to watch, its potential realised in a 5-0 demolition of Chesham United in the first week of the season.
Having won five and losing just three of the opening eleven league matches, including a win at recently relegated Hayes, hopes were high that the Magpies would at last have a run in the FA Cup.
Such was the desire for Cup glory an understrength team was sent out to play Hitchin on the Tuesday prior  to the initial tie against Welling. The sacrifice of points looked to be worthwhile with Maidenhead beating the Wings as injury time loomed. An amazing turnaround in the dying minutes though saw the Kent team leave York Road as winners and unprecedented criticism of the Magpies from Chairman Coombs in the local press.
An injury to goalkeeper Richie Barnard, who had been virtually ever present since his debut in August 2000, coincided with a drop in form which saw only one win in fourteen matches.
Barnard’s absence at least allowed Trevor Roffey a swansong in the number one jersey in a unforgettable 4-4 draw against Kingstonian.
Interest in the FA Trophy ended on a gloomy afternoon in Tonbridge, which at least provided the opportunity to sample the many pubs lining the long walk from the station to Longmead.
The nadir was reached in a 4-0 defeat at home to Ford United, with former Chelsea Champions League star Mark Nicholls filling in between the sticks for Maidenhead in the second half. Following the defeat Alan Devonshire issued a sincere apology and league form immediately perked up with ten points taken from the next four games.
The last of these was a super 3-1 win at promotion chasing St. Albans City, in the last match of 2002, and after the turn of the year the team never looked back, finishing the season in a best ever finish of tenth.
The league form was accompanied by County Cup wins over Slough and Windsor to reach another final in defence Devonshire’s favourite trophy.
However as the end of the season drew near he decided that it was time to seek pastures new, announcing that he would resign after the County Cup Final.
Following his announcement his team saw him out in style winning their final three league games before delivering the perfect send off with a 4-1 win in the County Cup Final against Aylesbury United at Chesham.
Yaku’s final hat trick, celebrated with trademark back flip (pictured above), saw him finish the season as Devonshire’s best ever marksman with 28 goals, as the trophy was lifted for the fourth time in six seasons.
Thus the end of the season was absolutely the end of an era, as Alan Devonshire celebrated seven and a bit seasons in charge which placed him in the pantheon of the all time top three Maidenhead United managers, and arguably the top one. Simultaneously Roger and Jean Coombs took their bow at the summer AGM, receiving a standing ovation for their equally important role in maintaining the structure for Devonshire’s success. Although it was certainly heartfelt at the time, the fondness for these seven seasons has only grown with age, helped by its status as a belle epoque when contrasted with the four seasons of upheaval which followed.
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