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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, 12 November 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United
Yaks 1.jpg
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

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