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.

Monday, 14 May 2018


23 Seasons watching Maidenhead United

Part 23: 2016/17

“We were able not only to get back on top, but to have enough character, enough desire, to still want to win, We got to two minutes from the end. They looked OK. They had every reason to think they were OK. We got a free kick which I knocked into the box… Alfie nipped in, and bang! Goal! GOAL!... To get out of a situation like that and get a result you have a have a special quality: character, belief, desire.”
EAMON DUNPHY (1976), Only A Game 
Character, belief, desire. Dunphy’s marks of a team bound for glory, demonstrated time and time again by the Magpies last season. Welling United (A), Hungerford Town (H), Ebbsfleet United (A), Poole Town (H), Whitehawk (H), Eastbourne Borough (H). Points earned when all seemed lost. The difference between champions and play off contenders.
Title winning squads are made not born. They are the product of an intricate web of relationships between players, all selected by the manager because they are deemed to be able to fulfil a particular role, and subscribe to those virtues of character, belief and desire. United they prove an irresistible force, enabling each other to achieve hitherto unexpected feats, inspiring support which only serves to drive them on further.
The scale of the achievement in Maidenhead United’s season of seasons lies in statistics. From forty two matches: thirty wins, four defeats, ninety three goals scored, twenty nine conceded, ninety eight points. First place. Two million pounds lost in the failed pursuit by the runners up.
The story of the achievement lies in those tests of character passed with flying colours time after time.
Many a manager when interviewed will talk about being a player or two away from a title challenge. In the summer of 2016, Alan Devonshire had a rock solid defence martialled imperiously by his leader on the pitch Alan Massey. The permanent signing of ball playing svengali James Comley completed the midfield. A centre forward named Sean Marks proved to be the missing piece required to solve the United promotion puzzle. He was the one new player who would go on to make the final eleven in terms of total starting appearances at the end of the season. His seventeen goals justified his place alone. His wholehearted performances always played with a smile on his face, lifted teammates and fans alike. His best supporting striker role lifted his little mate Dave Tarpey into the ranks of Magpie immortals.
A clutch of squad members also played important cameo roles along the way, whilst the mid season introduction of new signings Remy Clerima and Joe Parkinson provided important stimuli. Above all though the first choice eleven with its sound defensive base, incessant midfield engine and lethal attack led the way from start to finish.
In August a perfect opening day win at home to Gosport was followed by a midweek setback at Poole. The response was five consecutive wins (and ten goals for divisional player of the month Tarpey) to take United to the top of the table by the August bank holiday, a position which they rarely left until the title was confirmed at the final whistle in April.
Every time a challenger laid down the gauntlet, the Magpies simply raised their game. First up was a trip to Hampton in October. Despite showing much spirit the Beavers were beaten 3-2. In November it was time to visit the pre season title favourites Ebbsfleet. With all eyes on freescoring Tarpey, Marks scored a hat trick to win his own player of the month award as again Maidenhead won 3-2.
As Christmas approached Dartford arrived at York Road having won eight of their previous nine league games. Maidenhead responded with their best performance of the season. Marks departed early with an injury, but his replacement Jordan Cox maintained the supply line, as Tarpey scored his third hat trick of the campaign by half time, and his second four goal haul by the final whistle. His second of the four, saw him become a global youtube sensation, “el sensacional talento goleador”.  
With half the season now gone, what had been a firm hope at Concord in August when United went top of the table, now in my mind became a certainty. Barring an unforeseen injury crisis, this team would fulfil its destiny to become  champions.
This was encapsulated in Tarpey’s first goal, initiated by a crunching challenge by Christian Smith. A tackle replete with character, belief and desire.
Points dropped over Christmas and into the New Year, briefly saw Ebbsfleet take over at the top but two games won in four days in February at York Road in Dunphyesque last minute fashion against Whitehawk and Eastbourne restored United to their rightful place at the top of the tree.
Two draws followed against promotion contenders Hampton and Hungerford which prompted some to raise questions ahead of a Monday night trip to a third successive opponent with ambitions to go up. In the end Chelmsford proved to be the fourth and final major test of United’s title credentials. They fought as hard as they could to take something from the game, but they couldn’t best the Magpies. This was Comley’s night, dubbed “the non league N’Kante” by the home fans at Melbourne Park, he drove the team on as Chelmsford huffed and puffed but could not force United into blowing their lead.
This was the first of nine successive victories, all but one other won by a margin of two or more goals as the Magpies kicked for home.
On Easter Monday, fans travelled by planes, trains and automobiles to Truro, as for the first time an opportunity to seal the title presented itself. It didn’t quite happen mathematically speaking, but now only one win was required from the two remaining matches to make certain.
The first saw Ebbsfleet make their final bid to unseat the champions elect. They won that battle but seven days later Maidenhead won the war at bottom club Margate. On the way to the furthest corner of Kent, those of us on the train passed through Ebbsfleet, where the league in their wisdom had elected to take the championship trophy. Never mind. An inflatable would suffice when the goals arrived. We knew our players had character, belief and desire. We knew our manager would send his team out to finish the perfect season for him and for all of us.
Thank you Alan.

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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