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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, 10 December 2017


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United
Part 11: 2004-05
It was bliss to be present at the dawn of the new Conference South era, as in a pleasing contrast to his first campaign at the club, John Dreyer’s team started the season in style.
On a beautiful sunny day at Park View Road, Maidenhead beat Welling 2-1 in a tightly contested match thanks to goals from the new strike partnership of Lawrence Yaku and summer signing Craig O’Connor.
By the end of August, United’s points total had already reached double figures giving rise to optimism that life at a higher level suited the Magpies.
As well as O’Connor, Dreyer had further augmented his squad with new blood by signing wingers Barrie Matthews and Jamie Cook, whilst young talents Chris Elsegood and Rod Saunders returned to York Road after a one year sabbatical.
Following the departure of Phil Wilson though, the key position of goalkeeper remained unfilled, with the replacement of the fragile Nick Hart with the hapless Michael Watkins leading to an appalling run of league form which led to Dreyer’s dismissal in November.
After a run of six matches without a win which spanned the length of September, morale was boosted with an FA Cup run. A tortuous three and a half hours of football against Kent League Whitstable was ended by a penalty shoot out in Maidenhead’s favour which set up a cracking local derby in the next round at York Road against Windsor and Eton.
The Magpies edged the tie by the odd goal in three to set up a final qualifying round match at old foes Aldershot Town. League form had not improved in the meantime, leading to a move to dismiss Dreyer in the lead up to the Cup tie which was halted when his team won three points for the first time in nine attempts, beating big spending Havant and Waterlooville at York Road thanks to a goal from the mercurial Cook (pictured right), on a memorable night for captain Brian Connor as he marked former Premier League star Dean Holdsworth out of the game.
United’s 33 year quest to return to the rounds proper of the FA Cup remained unfulfilled in a honourable failure at the Recreation Ground when Conference Aldershot won 2-1, any disappointment salved when the post match draw sent the Shots to Canvey Island.
Whilst the goalkeeper role now looked a little more solid thanks to the arrival of Australian Andy Goldman, the defence in front of him was weakened when Andy Jennings decided to leave following a head injury which led him to decide to focus on his teaching career at Eton, fearing the impact of a serious injury on his working life. His presence in the team over the last year or so was accompanied by the regular attendance at home matches of a group of his students who became known as The Eton Rifles (pictured top). I often wonder what became of them when they turned into Old Etonians, and whether a captain of industry or financial wizard might return to York Road to help ease Peter Griffin’s financial burden.
The world of work also had a detrimental impact on the Magpies attacking options as a promotion for London Underground’s Lawrence Yaku made it difficult for him tomake a timely arrival on matchdays.
None of this helped league form, and following heavy defeats at home to Cambridge and away to Grays, Chairman Jon Swan elected to dispense with the manager’s services. Sadly this was handled in a hamfisted way with Dreyer travelling to the next midweek match unaware of his fate, turning up to a County Cup tie at home to Burnham only to be ushered into the boardroom to be told he had the evening off. This was an unseemly way to dismiss the gentlemanly Dreyer, probably the friendliest manager I have encountered in my time at the club. Some said this meant he was too nice to succeed, so it was with some pride that I looked on at Wembley in 2015, as he stood on the touchline as assistant to Simon Grayson when Preston North End won the League One play off final.
Richie Goddard was on hand to step in as caretaker manager whilst a replacement for Dreyer was sought. Swan planned to entice Wealdstone’s Gordon Bartlett to take over, but after some thought Bartlett elected to stay with the Stones. With crowds plummeting below the 150 mark, the eventual appointment was the somewhat surprising figure of Windsor manager Dennis Greene.
Unlike Dreyer, Greene was not shy of asserting himself either in the local press or at the club. Bringing defender Lee Kersey and midfielder Guy Ekwalla with him up the A308, he immediately set about taking the by now bottom placed Magpies up the table with a six match unbeaten league run which included a 1-0 win at top placed Basingstoke.
A more important relationship was formed at this time when two local entrepreneurs knocked on the boardroom door and enquired whether the club might like some financial assistance. Peter Griffin and Stephen Loughrey agreed to a lucrative shirt sponsorship for the following season between the club and their Pharmalink business. As the saying goes it proved to be the start of a beautiful friendship!
On the pitch another Australian in Reading’s Adam Federici solved the goalkeeping problem for the rest of the season, his clean sheet in a 4-0 over fellow strugglers Carshalton at York Road in mid February suggesting the relegation battle might be a successful one. This failed to be a springboard to further wins although an outstanding smash and grab raid at promotion chasing Cambridge City in March thanks to a Lewis Cook goal kept hopes alive.
On Easter Monday a 4-1 humbling at bottom placed Redbridge suggested the writing was on the wall, the pressure starting to show as Greene (pictured left) made some ill judged comments to a journalist which alienated supporters.
This meant virtually every match in April was win or bust. The month started well with the double completed over Welling and a first ever win at Thurrock’s Ship Lane.
Pharmalink then threw their commercial weight behind a campaign with the Maidenhead Advertiser to boost the York Road crowd for the final two crunch home matches. The people of Maidenhead responded in kind with over 500 turning up to see Lewes beaten followed by over 600 for the visit of champions Grays Athletic. A valiant performance was not enough to stop the Essex team leaving with all three points to set up another final day showdown.
This came in the form of a straight shootout at Newport County, with the winner guaranteed to escape relegation. A four figure crowd at Spytty Park saw the Exiles ease into a two goal lead thanks to Welsh international Jason Bowen, and although O’Connor pulled a goal back in the second half from the penalty spot, there only ever looked like being one winner.
The final whistle signalled that desperate sinking feeling that only relegation brings. Newport Chairman Chris Blight offered me his profound sympathy in the boardroom, whilst in the club house Friar Tuck and a Beefeater took Greene to task over his failure to keep United up.
On the return coach journey to Berkshire, treasurer Paul Carney confided the dire state of the club’s finances, confessing a step down to the Hellenic League might be a more sensible option than a return to the Isthmian.
One club had already had had enough though as the inevitable Hornchurch bubble burst, their Billericay style financial model collapsing as their larger than life benefactor Uncle Urchin disappeared with the cupboard left bare. This meant Maidenhead won the inaugural AGM Cup, accepting the offer to remain in the Conference South due to a reprieve offered by the fiscally crippled Hornchurch’s request for demotion.
Thus the season closed in a strange atmosphere at Brian Connor’s testimonial (pictured right).  Any sense of relief at living to fight another day in the Conference South being tempered by the realisation that another season of struggle was in prospect.
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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