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, 9 October 2022

 Magpie Miscellany Part 6

In memory of Flight Lieutenant Garth Hawkins

The first handful of episodes of my new Magpies Miscellany series summarised the research I conducted earlier this year for the first Football and War seminar held in Stripes in June. This wholly focused on links between the club and World War 1 but I also stumbled across the story of Garth Hawkins, a former player who died in the Falklands Conflict in 1982. 

The fortieth anniversary of his death prompted former reserve team manager John Henesy to write to the Maidenhead Advertiser to commemorate his teammate so it seems appropriate to provide a coda to my Football and War series with a tribute to Hawkins.

Garth was born in Maidenhead in 1942 but grew up in Binfield attending Ranelagh School in Bracknell. He played for the Moles whilst still at school and joined the RAF aged 22. Following a spell in the Far East he returned to the Thames Valley in 1969, stationed at Abingdon. He joined the Magpies and was selected for the Reserves impressing in a match at Slough where the Maidenhead Advertiser described him as a 6ft 3 goalkeeper who “handled competently” and saved a penalty. After two appearances for the Reserves, he was given his senior debut in March 1969 at St. Albans City in a Wycombe Floodlit Cup replay. He went on to make two more first team appearances that season: a Premier Midweek Floodlit league match against Crawley Town at York Road, and an Athenian League match at Wembley FC. 

Reserve team player manager John Henesy described Hawkins as: “an excellent goalkeeper”, whose “opportunities for first team football were blocked by the excellent Peter Spittle”. He “excelled at saving penalties and saved more than he conceded”. Above all he was “an outstanding team man” and “a tower of strength in his support [for Henesy]”.

Hawkins also played for Oxford City and was a local cricketer of some renown. A fast bowler he played for Binfield and Littlewick Green.

Known as ‘Gunner’ he started to work with the SAS in 1979 and was still attached to them three years later when the British taskforce headed south to recover the Falkland Islands. On May 19th 1982, he was onboard a Sea King helicopter transferring troops from HMS Hermes to HMS Intrepid, when it lost power after a freak collision with an albatross. This caused it to plunge into the icy waters of the South Atlantic leading to twenty of those on board losing their lives, including Hawkins.

He is commemorated on the Binfield War Memorial, the SAS memorial at St Martin’s church in Hereford, and all the Falklands Memorials.

You can read more about his untimely demise in Sea King Down, a book published last year about the fatal crash, written by survivor Mark Aston.


Sources:

One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, Mark Smith, 2011

Maidenhead Advertiser

https://www.memorialatpeninsula.org/?p=15225

https://sama82.org.uk/hawkinsgw/

https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/local-news/village-honours-pilot-killed-falklands-4200589

https://www.roll-of-honour.com/cgi-bin/falklands.cgi

https://falklands35blog.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/falklands-35garth-walter-hawkins/

https://www.raf.mod.uk/news/articles/raf-remembers-flight-lieutenant-garth-hawkin


Magpie Miscellany Parts 1-5

Maidenhead Football in The Great War

Setting the scene

At the outbreak of World War One there were two senior football clubs in Maidenhead. 

Maidenhead, also known as ‘The Town Club’ was formed in 1870 and had played at York Road (above right foreground) since 1871, wearing black and red shirts. They entered the first ever FA Cup competition and were founder members of the Southern League. Maidenhead Norfolkians were formed in the early 1880s in the Norfolk Park area of the town, to the north of Kidwells Park (above right background in front of St. Luke’s Church) where they played in red and white shirts.

As the playing fortunes of the Town club declined in the late nineteenth century, there were moves to amalgamate the two clubs in 1899 but the Norfolkians declined “co-operation” and joined the senior ranks by entering the FA Cup. Their first tie saw them drawn away to the Town club, justifying their decision to push forward on an independent basis by winning 4-2. This heralded an era of Norfolkian football dominance in Maidenhead, as they won 26 of the 40 league and cup matches played against their rivals in the years leading up to the Great War, losing just 9. 

The 1913/14 season did see the Town Club beat the Norfolkians 3-2 in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup semi-final at Slough, going on to lose the final 1-0 against Aylesbury at Wycombe in front of an 8,000 crowd. The Norfolkians however beat the Town Club 1-0 in the final Great Western Suburban League match of the season to finish runners up in the final table, three places ahead of the team from York Road.

Both clubs held their AGM in August 1914. Norfolkians went first and despite reporting a loss for the season, had a balance of over £6 (equivalent to £784 today). The meeting was chaired by Alfred Leaver in the absence of the President Ernest Gardner, MP. Harry Maisey, in whose home the club was founded, was also present. Vic Blay was elected club captain. Secretary Ernest Smith explained that the club would transfer their affiliation from the Home Counties FA to the National FA in London.

Two weeks later at The Town Club AGM, Chair Sidney Thompson stated that they would follow the advice of the FA and “go on as usual” with the new season. Secretary Stiv Gibbons reported a healthy cash balance of £41 (£5,054 today) then announced he was standing down in favour of Owen Stuchbery. A £5 donation was made to the war fund. It was confirmed that the Prince Albert pub in King Street would remain the club headquarters.

By the end of the month two matches were arranged on half day closing (Thursday) to raise money for war relief. At the start of September Advertiser columnist ‘Looker On’ asked “Should Football be Suspended”? He argued that:

“it is men of the class who take part in football contests - sound in limb and wind, possessing pluck and stamina, keen on victory - that the country most needs in the theatre of war, and that these men should by the thousand be ‘playing’ while their chums and neighbours are ‘fighting’ ought to cause a blush of shame to cover the face of every footballer first for service and every onlooker who encourages him.”

He went on to encourage women to “to do their duty and become recruiting sergeants among those dearest to them”, urging the Town Club and the Norfokians to “display patriotism” and stop playing.

The following weekend both clubs cancelled their scheduled matches and “resolved to abandon all games” due to the war. This naturally found favour with ‘Looker On’:

“When the German Monster has been compelled to bite the dust, and the Angel of Peace has ‘rolled back the tide of war’, we can with heart and zest resume football and other sports, and shall be all the batter for having done our little bit at home and abroad for our Country and our King”.

However with one of the fundraising matches raising £3 (equivalent to £369 in 2022), the gates of York Road would very much remain open during the conflict, hosting regular matches which attracted crowds which would be most welcome today. The Great West Suburban League soon cancelled the formal season but the half day closing matches continued on a weekly basis. The friendlies were generally played between a local eleven and a team made up of troops stationed in the area.

As autumn drew on Saturday football returned. On 24th October the Town Club and the Norfolkians united to face Yiewsley in support of the Prince of Wales Fund. Belgian refugees were invited to attend. 


News from the front

In November 1914 Sergeant Major J. Saxton, goalkeeper of the 19th Hussars, reigning Great Western Suburban League champions, wrote to the Advertiser from a prisoner of war camp in Germany. Saying he had been “plugged twice”, he asked readers to send him copies of the Reading Football Observer weekly and wished Maidenhead luck “both in the league and the Berks & Bucks Cup”.

Later that month the tragic news reached the town that Olley Reed “the well known and popular Maidenhead footballer” was on board the HMS Good Hope which was sunk off the coast of Chile in the battle of the Coronel, the Navy’s first defeat since 1812. The ship was there to protect merchant ships and was attacked by a German squadron led by Admiral von Spee in an attempt to disrupt the British war effort. This defeat was avenged five weeks later at the Battle of the Falkland Islands. Reed had played for the Town Club in the three seasons prior to the war.

Reed’s death coincided with a thunderous editorial from Looker On entitled: “A National Disgrace. Stop Football!”. As the Football League continued its programme he railed that:

“Intelligent people are sick of hearing the thin excuses for continuance…

Still more remarkable is it that thousands of young men who ought to be in khaki should be found gazing at what in these times is the most unpopular and abused of the British games…

Maidenhead clubs patriotically abandoned all their matches and competitions at the commencement of the season, and many of their active members - quite fifty - enlisted for home and foreign service, and a vast number of the usual ‘spectators’ did likewise…

We honour him [Reed] and scorn the stay at home football skulker”

Looker On returned to this topic two weeks later writing: “To their everlasting disgrace that the FA decided to continue and complete their competitions. This is the greatest scandal of the 20th century and football will suffer for all time because… the governing authorities put £/S/D before patriotism”.

The 1914/15 season continued to its completion the following Spring, Everton winning the league, and Sheffield United beating Chelsea to win the ‘Khaki’ FA Cup final.

Christmas brought the news from the Western front that “after four hard games (in which extra time had to be played in two of the matches), the No. 2 troop of “A” Squadron, Berks Yeomanry have secured the Regimental Football Cup. Corporal H.G. Jefferies, the Maidenhead Norfolkians’ custodian, kept goal for the winners.”


The Show Goes On

Following the turn of the year, growing numbers of northern troops were stationed in Maidenhead including “many first class footballers”. This led to the first wartime Maidenhead Football Championship. 

On 30th January 15th Durham Light Infantry beat 10th Yorkshire Light Infantry at York Road. Stiv Gibbons provided boots and “knickers” from Maidenhead FC, whilst the Yorkshires played in Norfolkian kit. Alfred Leaver was the referee. The match was described as “a really excellent exhibition of the great national pastime”. It was watched by Brigadier-General Fitzgerald and many other senior officers. “Much good natured banter was exchanged”.

“‘What do you think of yon winger?’ asked a proud Yorkshireman as a player ended up a brilliant run with a well placed centre”

“‘He might be a good player on the piano, but he’s no footballer’ was the humorous retort of a Durham lad, amidst much laughter”.

The “large” crowd led to introduction of admission charges for the next match on 6th February, with the Durhams taking on 9th Yorkshire Light Infantry. Soldiers had to pay tuppence with the fee rising to threepence for civilians. This was to be a benefit match with proceeds going to Gertrude Reed, the widow of Olley. Pride was restored for Yorkshire as they overturned an early two goal deficit, to win by the odd goal in nine, helped by a practice match at Kidwells Park the previous week. Four of the Yorkshire goals were scored by Private “Fatty” Holmes. The collection for Gertrude Reed amounted to £20 (equivalent to £2,191 today).

The following week the triangular series was completed when 9th Yorkshire beat 10th Yorkshire 2-1 to win the championship. The man of the match was Jobburns, playing in goal for 9th who were missing the “deadly shooting” of Holmes.

The success of the competition led Nancy Astor to present a cup to be played for by the three battalions stationed in Maidenhead. Astor, who lived at Cliveden with her husband Waldorf, a Conservative MP, would go on to become the first woman to take a seat in the House of Commons. Both born in the USA, Waldorf had purchased the Observer newspaper in 1911. 

Other local football took place at Philberd’s School in Holyport, on the Ascot Road. The school had been turned into a prisoner of war camp for 150 German officers and their servants, including some who had been captured in the Battle of the Falklands. They celebrated the Kaiser's birthday on January 28th with a football match. 

The Astor Cup semi-final took place on February 20th at York Road. In front of a 2,500 crowd, Durham beat 10th Yorkshire to two early goals without reply. Thus once again the Durhams would take on 9th Yorkshire in the final. The latter were known as the Koylis (Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry).

The final was played on March 6th at York Road with Nancy Astor in attendance to present her “dainty silver cups” to every member of the winning team. It was watched by a “record crowd” standing three to four deep, and included 40 “wounded warriors” from the Canadian Red Cross Hospital which had been built in the Cliveden grounds. The Koylis won by the game’s only goal, a wind assisted 30 yard shot from Holmes.

Maidonian success was reported from Hampshire where 8 men from the town had played for Horsebridge in their 2-0 win over Mottisfont at Kings Somborne FC in “a fine display of scientific football”. Both teams were drawn from the Berkshire National Reserves who were guarding the railway line at Stockbridge. 



Maidenhead “United” in action

A week later the victorious 9th KOYLIs challenged the 13th Rifles, who were stationed at Wycombe as part of the 64th Light Infantry brigade, to a match at York Road. In front of a “good crowd”, the Yorkshireman, now referred to as the “Maidenhead battalion”, maintained their winning record with a 2-0 win, despite the “ineffectiveness” of striker Piggy Holmes, who was “decidedly off colour”. 

Another “Maidenhead Medal Competition” was announced, to be completed by Easter Monday. This time Maidenhead entered a joint Town club/Norfolkians team which would include the “famous wooden legged goalkeeper” Gyngell. The military teams were weakened by also competing in the Mayor of Wycombe’s cup which boasted 13 entries.

The first semi-final saw the 9th KOYLIs beat a Durham 2nd choice XI 4-0 on 20th March. The other semi-final took place on the next Saturday with Maidenhead taking on 10th Yorkshire. The Maidenhead selection included 6 players from the 1913/14 town club squad and Norfokians captain Vic Blay. The match ended in a 2-2 draw with the tie replayed six days later. This ended goalless but with “two thirds of the [Maidenhead] team” scarcely able to “raise a leg to attack or defend”, the second replay 24 hours later saw the 10th Yorkshires prevail 6-0 at the third time of asking. 

Despite only having one rest day before the final the 10th Yorkshire finally ended the 9th’s winning run on Easter Monday. A good crowd included Nancy Astor who “watched the game with keen interest. Her partiality for the 9th was apparent”. A cup tie atmosphere was provided by the presence of the Maidenhead Town Band as the 10th won 3-2 to receive Astor’s “daintily designed gold medals”.

Both Durhams and Yorkshire moved on to the western front over the summer, and following a request, the Durhams were sent some footballs from the town in the autumn so they could play games when given respite from the fighting.

As the first wartime season closed the FA announced that competitive football would not resume in August so it was left to the German prisoners to raise local ire. The chaplain of the Jesus Hospital in Bray was moved to protest at the sight of the German prisoners playing football on a Sunday. Coming from Touchen End “he was simply scandalised to see the German prisoners in their whites playing football, shouting, laughing… in utter disregard of the day”.


The 1916 Medal Competition

The next medal competition was organised by Stiv Gibbons to be played in the Spring of 1916 between Maidenhead, Canadian troops and eight Army teams of Engineers from East Anglia, Kent and the Home Counties stationed in the area. This was again to be played on a knockout basis and drawn as follows:


Preliminary Round

3/1 East Anglian R.E. v 3/2 Kent Field Co. R.E.

4/1 East Anglian R.E. v 3/1 Kent Field Co. R.E.


First Round

3/2 East Anglian R.E. v 3/1 Home Counties Signals R.E.

Canadians v 2/3 East Anglian R.E.

3/1 East Anglian R.E. or 3/2 Kent Field Co. R.E. v 3/3 Kent Field Co. R.E.

4/1 East Anglian R.E. or 3/1 Kent Field Co. R.E. v Maidenhead


The tournament slowly progressed through February to set up the semi-finals in March:

Maidenhead v 3/1 Home Counties Signals R.E.

Canadians v 3/1 East Anglian R.E.


Maidenhead had comfortably won their 1st round tie, beating 4/1 East Anglian R.E. 7-1. It had been “an exceedingly difficult matter to find eleven civilian footballers in the town. The team presented an unusual appearance on turning out, George Gyngell, the well known wooden legged goalkeeper was in goal, and at right half ‘Tiddler’ Gemmel appeared. Here was a sporting spirit if you like. This player has only received his discharge from the Canadian army, as on the 13th August, 1915, whilst putting up barbed wire in France, he lost his right eye and was badly damaged in other parts of his body through the bursting of a high explosive shell. Although the sight of his other eye is also affected, ‘Tiddler’ could not resist the chance of a game and right well he played too.”

Gyngell and Gemmel (who had played regularly for the Town club in the 9 seasons preceding the war) played their part in the victory along with ‘Pullet’ Wooster who opened the scoring, and “star turn”, Dick Fountain, both of whom were Town Club veterans.

The semi-final at York Road on 18th March saw the “largest crowd of the season” amongst which was Town Club President William Nicholson. Aged 95, it was fitting that he was able to attend a final match at York Road before his death a little over two weeks later.

The Home Counties Signals brought good support from their base in Cookham, “many were the instruments of torture that they bought with them”. They cheered their team on to a 5-2 win, in match most noted for a series of decisions by the referee described as “puzzlers”

News of Maidonian success was soon to arrive from the 4th Royal Berks Platoon Knockout Competition. The 12th Platoon from Maidenhead beat a platoon from the  Reading company 3-0. In a previous round the 12th Platoon beat the other Maidenhead platoon (11th). The games were played within two miles of the firing line. 

In the other half of the draw the Canadians had been taken to a replay by the 2/3 East Anglians but had won 3-1 despite their opponents having a “a good deal of musical and vocal support, one partizan on the stand side shouting encouragement through a large megaphone”. The semi final was delayed for two weeks as the Canadians had to quarantine following an outbreak of measles. When the match was eventually played they were still missing three first choice players and went on to lose 2-0 to the 3/1 East Anglians.

The Home Counties Signals were the favourites for the final, boasting Vallance Jupp in their line up, a notable Sussex cricketer who would go on to be capped eight times by England in the 1920s. He then achieved notoriety with a conviction for manslaughter. Their opponents the 3/1 East Anglians were weakened by the late drop out of their wingers.

A “large crowd” gathered at York Road on April 15th, “some hundreds coming over from Cookham”.

“A large group” of Home Counties supporters “congregated on the railway bank and at times set up a most unearthly noise with a conglomeration of musical instruments. Two khaki clad comrades entered the ground on a coster’s barrow drawn by a donkey.” 

The East Anglians went into half time 1-0 up and with the slope in their favour in the second half were expected to win. However the Home Counties soon equalised when Pioneer Debenham “dribbled through the defence single handed and finished with a magnificent shot” which was greeted with a chorus of “We are the men from Sussex”. The match, refereed by Harry Maisey, ended 1-1.

The replay was scheduled six days later on Good Friday. The Home Counties band returned to the railway bank, with “many of the fair sex”. The East Anglians were again missing two of their first choice players. Despite the Home Counties going into the break 2-0 up their goal led “a charmed life”. This took “all the heart out” of the East Anglians and there was no further score when Referee Maisey blew the final whistle. 

Stiv Gibbons then presented gold medals to the winning team and “on the call of the respective captains, cheers and counter-cheers” were given.


In Foreign Fields

Once again the German prisoners were in focus when a letter to the Advertiser was received complaining that the prison guards had lost their football pitch when the camp was extended. 

As spring headed towards summer there was some tragic news of Maidonian footballers on active service all over the world. Lance Corporal Austin Walton was killed by a sniper in Dublin whilst serving with the 10th Hussars who were in Ireland to quell the Easter Rising. Walton was one of four brothers who had played for the Town Club pre war.

Private Harry Littleton died of ptomaine (food) poisoning whilst serving with the South African infantry in the German East African campaign. He had played for both Maidenhead clubs at the turn of the century, but after serving in the Boer War, relocated to Johannesburg. He is buried in Dar Es Salaam.

By the autumn, the number of troops in the area had grown to the extent that a military league and cup competition was organised. Eleven teams entered from the Home Counties, Kent East Anglians and Canadian regiments, with some games played in Marlow. 

Serving with the Canadians were the Pearce brothers from Taplow. The youngest, Victor, was severely wounded in the thigh at the Battle of the Somme and was sent to a hospital in Epsom. The eldest, Tom, took part in the same attack. Tom “had his equipment torn off him”, had “many hairbreadth escapes and says he is bringing home his fork and spoon, riddled by a bullet, as souvenir”. He was miraculously unhurt. Tom had played for the Town Club pre war, whilst Victor was a “prolific goalscorer for the local Boy’s club”. The latter would go on to recover from his war wound and play for United, post war.

In December Acting Sergeant Major Frederick ‘Jumbo’ Moore was killed by a “bursting shell” outside his company headquarters in Northern France. He had been one of the Norfolkians leading players pre war, a forward with an impressive goal scoring record. His death was  lamented in a letter from Salonika, written by E. Gray, a pre-war Town club regular. He also said how much he missed playing football “on the York Road enclosure”.

As the Armistice approached in 1918, Sapper Holmes was killed in a train accident in France. Having been a member of the local St. John’s Ambulance, he was often on duty at local football matches before joining the Medical Corps in 1914. Then at the end of October, Norfolkians Secretary, Ernest Smith, was killed in action in France. 

Charity matches played by female munition workers were the major feature of the final year of the war. In February 1918 Kidwells Park hosted a “Munitionettes” team wearing gold and chocolate shirts, with khaki shorts. They played a team of soldiers who had their hands tied to their sides. The Ladies team were midway through their first season and drew this first game against male opposition, 5-5. 

Later in the year they played an Armistice match at York Road, lost to a team of old soldiers, known as “Comrades”, 6-5. 


United in Peace

Organised local football resumed in the Spring of 1919. With both the Town Club, and the Norfolkians losing seven playing members to the war it was decided to amalgamate the clubs in 1919. Norfolkian Alfred Leaver became the new club’s Chairman, whilst Owen Stuchbery continued his York Road role as Secretary. Stiv Gibbons was appointed Treasurer.  Norfolkian Harry Maisey also played a leading role in the running of the new club. The merged club was to be known as Maidenhead and wear a black and white strip to respect the colours of both pre war clubs. 

A series of friendly matches were then played at Kidwells Park in April and May against RAF Uxbridge, the Coldstream Guards and a Forces XI.

Joining forces proved to be the right decision as the club won the first post war Great Western Suburban League and reached the County Cup final, losing 3-2 to Slough at Wycombe in front of 8,267. 

At the start of the 1919/20 season there were 3 old Norfolkians and 1 from the town club in the line up. All the competitive matches were played at Kidwells Park with York Road used for Reserves team matches and friendlies. It was initially hoped that the council would build a new ground on the Cordwallis Estate.

Nevertheless there was some hostility to the merger displayed at the 1920 AGM and so the club was renamed Maidenhead United.

In November 1920 York Road was bought from Lord Desborough, thanks in no small part to the generosity of Ernest Dunkels. He also helped finance the 500 seat stand opened in September 1922. Dunkels, a great patron of local sport, was of Anglo-German heritage.


Bibliography:

Maidenhead Advertiser 1914-1919

Shaw, M, Football in Maidenhead during the 1st World War, 2011

Smith, M., One For Sorrow Two For Joy, 2011


DOVER AND OUT

An account of my trip to watch Maidenhead United's match at Dover in April 2022, written for the Maidenhead Advertiser

The prospect of a trip to relegated Dover initially prompted feelings of ennui.  The way the season was closing suggested a tight match was in the offing and indeed the stoppage time winner from Josh Kelly demonstrated progression from the promising performance on Tuesday night at Wealdstone. Yet Dover’s season of the walking dead gave a sense of obligation to proceedings. At York Road, back in August, the Whites refused to capitulate, despite the Magpies taking an early two goal lead, making United work hard for their win. This appeared to set the tone for their season, losing narrowly most weeks as they struggled with the burden of their close season points deduction. They had managed to break their duck eventually with a win over Eastleigh in January and continued to show great fight as illustrated by their amazing eleven goal thriller at Wrexham, but remained on negative points.

On a more positive note Dover’s bucolic Crabble ground is well worth the half an hour yomp from the station, especially when bathed in the Spring sunshine. A welcome pit stop en route at the Breakwater Tap with its full spectrum of beer from Pilsner to Stout provided an opportunity to assess the season’s progress and speculate on what will follow in September. The consensus was that there is a core of a squad already for the new campaign for what is expected to be the toughest one yet as the National League returns to its full complement of clubs.

The team news provided the expected reshuffle from Tuesday night as the players coped with the rigours of the season’s stresses and strains. It was good to see Sam Barratt retain his place after a promising return to the starting eleven at Wealdstone after his long lay off. For Dover, former Magpie Seth Twumasi headed a long injury list for the home team, another ex United defender Jake Goodman taking the captain’s armband to marshall a youthful Whites eleven from the centre of defence.

The first half saw little in the form of goalmouth action, Alan Devonshire having to deal with the early departure of Remy Clerima and then at the break Emile Acquah, both to injury. The interval provided a rare opportunity to wander around the ground non league style, thanks to the meagre 475 crowd, saying hello to Seth in the clubhouse.

As on Tuesday, Maidenhead dominated the second half and were faced with a stubborn last line of defence in Alexis Andre Jr. He made several good saves to repulse increasing waves of United attacks, enlivened by Acquah’s replacement Shawn McCoulsky, who eventually beat him with fifteen minutes remaining, only for a defender to clear off the line. 

The young Dover team were clearly tiring but they seemed to be set fair for a point when McCoulsky had an effort tipped onto the bar by the goalkeeper. However a stoppage time red card for Luke Baptiste unsettled them and sparked one final Maidenhead attack. A free kick led to a corner and the ball fell into liquidiser of yellow and white legs, Josh Kelly having the presence of mind to flick the ball into the back of the net from inches out.

This must have been soul destroying for Dover but a heartening testament to Maidenhead’s resilient will to win. As we headed back to the Breakwater Tap we mused upon the mathematics of United’s league status and wondered whether this would be confirmed by a long overdue win against Weymouth on Good Friday.  

WEALDSTONE AWAY PROFILE 

Completed at the invitation of the Wealdstone 2021/22 programme editor for the match against Maidenhead United

Your name and age?

Steve Jinman, 49.


Do you live in Maidenhead?

No, I live in Hammersmith. I was born in Maidenhead and grew up there. I continued to live there, more or less, until 2001.


When was your first magpies game? 

16th April 1979

Berger Isthmian League Division One

Maidenhead United 3 Harwich & Parkestone 1


Who brought you along to that game or introduced you to the club?

I went with my father Dudley.


What can you remember of it?

We entered through the Bell Street turnstiles. The programme had sold out. It was a sunny Spring day. We stood on the Bell Street End. There was a small group of raucous Harwich fans to our left. One of them had a Phil Parkes style Zapata moustache and was wearing a 70s style leather coat. Odd how that last detail stayed with me. I can’t remember anything about the match itself apart from the score.


Have you ever supported another team?

Yes. I inherited my Dad’s love for Arsenal and now I live in London I like to go to midweek matches. I went to watch Reading regularly with a group of school friends in the late 80s/early 90s. When I was studying in Preston I would go to Deepdale to watch North End.


What is the best season you remember, and why?

The best season by a long stretch is 2016/17. We won the Conference South, leading all the way for most of the season but due to having Ebbsfleet in hot pursuit, only secured the title on the final day of the season. It was pretty much the perfect campaign and a dream to watch every week. The greatness of this season will only be amplified by the passing of time.

 

And what are your top three Maidenhead games of all time, and why?

Maidenhead United 5 Dartford 0, December 2016. The match that made Dave Tarpey a global scoring sensation. The essence of the title win was distilled into 90 minutes. Opposition in great form. A few rocky results beforehand for United. An early injury to a key player. An irresistible triumph over adversity often repeated that season. 

Kings Lynn 0 Maidenhead United 1. May 2007. A Southern League play off semi final win in a hostile atmosphere. Wonderfully tense. Superb late goal from Mark Nisbet. Speaking to local radio on the phone on a deserted train heading back to London. Promotion in the final a few days later.

Maidenhead United 1 Croydon 0. May 2000. The win that secured promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division. A fixture pile up meant this was to be the third of four matches played in the final six days of the season. This match was played on a Thursday, 24 hours after a win over Romford. Croydon had already won the title but gave no quarter as Maidenhead took an early lead but then had to fight every inch of the way for the three points. The final whistle was the cue for wonderful scenes between players and supporters on the pitch.


Does following the magpies impinge on your working/family life?

I am a teacher so my free time is strictly structured (and plentiful!). 

My wife is Polish so conversations about away games tend to follow this pattern: 

Her: “where is the match this week?”

Me: “Altrincham” [or similar]

Short pause

Her: “Where is that actually….”

Before we were married she also made the sardonic observation “Why is it, when a match is postponed, you come back later, and more drunk?”!


Do you travel to away games with friends?

Depends where the game is (see below).


What is your usual away game routine?

I head to the relevant London terminus station. Depending on the destination I may meet up with friends if it's en route from Maidenhead, otherwise I will travel alone. I enjoy the opportunity to unwind whilst watching the world go by, listening to a podcast, preferably the latest broadcast from When Saturday Comes. On arrival, time permitting, I will seek out friends in a local pub which has been previously researched as offering local real ale. Hopefully some conversation with home supporters before heading for the match. Back to the pub afterwards then with some liquid refreshment for the journey acquired on the walk back to the station, a post mortem on the train home.


What have been the best away trips you can remember following Maidenhead?

Best would be Blyth Spartans in the FA Trophy in February 2001. We lost the game but it was an unforgettable weekend for many reasons. The way the home fans stood up and applauded us when we left the clubhouse after a post match drink will stay with me forever. Then we had a night out in Whitley Bay where Logic secured his place in Maidenhead Folklore in a pub hosting Miss G String 2000 (sic). You may hear a song about this later, if Murdo has it on his setlist.


My favourite away trip in recent years have been the ones to Halifax Town. The Three Pigeons, handily placed half way along the ten minute walk from the station to The Shay, is my ideal pub. Welcoming staff and locals, Ossett Ales, Homemade Pork Pies and an awesome internal design. The ground itself is in a beautiful setting and matches there tend to be exciting with a fair share ending in our favour.


Best days out which also featured a memorable result would be Hartlepool in December 2017, and Stafford in November 2006. The former saw us overturn a one goal deficit in the second half leading to a great journey home on the train. The latter was our first appearance in the FA Cup 1st round in my lifetime. A big Maidenhead support saw us earn a replay despite two red cards, thanks in the main to a penalty save by Chico Ramos.


Strangest ones were at Barton Rovers. A very odd place!


How many fans are you likely to bring to the vale on Boxing Day? Has the level of away support disappointed you this season?

I would say between 100-150. Maidenhead’s away support hasn’t grown in line with our boom in home attendances, and recent results may well deter people from travelling. We usually take about 50 to most games but given the short distance and date I would hope this at least doubles today. United fans are quite discerning in their trips, many, justifiably in my opinion, boycotting Barnet and Boreham Wood due to the unfriendly environment and poor value. I’m pleased to say the opposite is true of Wealdstone.


How did you take to watching matches on live stream last season? (Though the games v wealdstone were quite memorable). Given I’m not used to watching Maidenhead onscreen I didn’t watch that many matches. However I was often asked to provide (ahem) expert analysis on the commentary for our live stream. I enjoyed doing this with club secretary Neil Maskell. Our aim was to recreate the atmosphere of Test Match Special on the gantry so if the match was devoid of incident, and I’d run out of anecdotes about the opposition, I often resorted to talking about the trains running past the ground. We had some very mixed reviews from viewers!


Do you see the Stones as local or historic rivals?

I would say the Stones are fellow travellers rather than rivals. Our paths have crossed many times and I’m very happy they have joined us at this level. I think there is a lot of competition for players between us, given our similar financial status, therefore the familiarity on the pitch does tend towards a derby clash. I must know more fans at Wealdstone than any other team which is testament to the friendship between the two clubs. It all started in the White Hart after a match at Edgware, when we got into conversation with from memory; Sudhir, Grim, Beany and Dudley. I guess I would have been there with Murdo, Craig, Keith, Callum and Logic. In recent years both clubs have benefited from the dandelion effect when Cardiff’s 1927 club turned away from the Bluebirds following their rebrand so I’ll look forward to catching up with Sue this afternoon.


Have you been to the Vale before?

I first came to the Vale in the 90s when Ruislip Manor were in the same division as Maidenhead. I remember a highlight was being served tea in a china mug from the tea hut. I think I’ve been to every Maidenhead game here against Wealdstone. I really like the set up off the pitch and think you have made the best of developing the ground which was once so awful that Ruislip Manor were forcibly demoted.

 

Are Maidenhead equipped to move up the table to safety?

I firmly believe we will avoid relegation this season. We just need to get everyone in the squad fit to play. If consistency of selection is possible then we will earn enough points to stay up.


And finally… Where do you see the magpies in the next five years?

Our move to Braywick is continuing to move forward slowly and realistically we may be there within the next five years. Hopefully this will be as a National League club but assuming that promotion remains limited to two clubs, the division is only going to get more competitive. Next season, a full division of 24 clubs, with new blood from the divisions below, could be very tough indeed.


Does the programme constitute a large part of your football -going experience? 

It used to. I have a treasured collection of programmes. The issues from the 70s-90s are particularly valued for their quality and memories they preserve. However the spread of the internet saw them lose their cachet. No longer were they an indispensable source of statistics and news. Unfortunately the inevitable decline in popularity that ensued, was accompanied by a decline in quality with many issues seemingly tailored towards children with a distinct absence of insightful writing. This of course led to fewer sales and a further decline. Therefore I stopped buying them about five years ago and actually got rid of loads from more recent years.


Are you disappointed to see that some clubs have discontinued printed programmes?

No. For the reasons above. Although design and graphics have improved across the board, for a programme to have any value it needs to feature articulate, in-depth articles on football matters and sadly this does not seem to be the case anymore. The Wealdstone programme is of course the exception! I think the future is supporter generated content whether that be blogs, vlogs or podcasts. There is also plenty of excellent football writing available elsewhere. My favourite publications are When Saturday Comes and The Blizzard.