In August 2010 three Maidenhead United fans were banned from attending home games, by a kangaroo court, for crimes they didn't commit.
These men promptly encountered a jobsworth security blockade, and so escaped to the non-league underground.
Today, still stigmatised by the MUFC Ltd hierarchy, they survive as supporters of fancy.
If you enjoy a train away day - and if you can find them - then maybe you can share a drink with ... the K-team!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Away Day Diary: Cinderford Town 0-4 Maidenhead United (09/10/10)

Maidenhead United were the last team out of the hat in the draw for the 3rd Qualifying Round of the 2010/11 FA Cup: an away tie at either Alton Town or Cinderford Town. While certain fans lamented the lack of a home fixture many, including myself, were delighted that sleeping/ gardening/ DIY'ing/ shopping would be taking a back seat on Saturday 9th October, as a train journey to a previously unknown and relatively far away place was too good an opportunity to miss. The replay would be at Cinderford and, as the higher-ranked of the two teams, they were favourites to win through. They did and, bearing in mind the small Gloucestershire town was further and trickier to get to, I was not displeased about this.

Advanced train tickets were purchased (£18.50 each for a return; not bad) and journeys planned. Cinderford's train station was a victim of Beeching's cuts in the 1960s and so the 10:04 from Maidenhead would be taking us as far as Gloucester. While some intended on sharing taxis to the ground, the KSG were adamant that they would be on the No 31 bus to Coleford, which would drop us off in Cinderford after an approximate 35 minute ride through the Gloucestershire countryside.

Texas Pete and his clan, Stefan, Stefan's daughter and the Anchor Crew (McKendrick, Woody and Kenny) joined the KSG on the early train. Those with children seated themselves away from us, presumably because they concur with the Yes-man of the Year - re the allegation we made a child cry at Ebbsfleet - that "where there's smoke, there's fire". 

Change at Reading (where an M&S sandwich and pint of milk were consumed to ensure that Callum and Murdo didn't have to carry me home from the game, unlike at Ebbsfleet!) preceded a 16-can carry-out, a brief chat about former Magpie Abdul Osman with a Northampton Town fan who was en route to their game at Cheltenham (the conversation ended rather suddenly when the Cobbler mentioned he was from H*rsh@m and was in attendance for our infamous capitulation there in November 2007) and discussions about various topics (including the recent MUSA committee meeting, Reserve team games we plan on attending and how/ where/ if to publicise this blog) before we arrived in Gloucester, just after midday, as scheduled.

I'd have been happy to experience a swift pint in the derelict-looking pub directly outside the train station (and opposite the bus station) - called, imaginatively, the Station - but the real ale connoisseurs among us had their heart set on the Famous Pint Pot, a five minute walk away (or two minute jog; I went to check on the bus times and, while attempting to catch the others up, tweaked a calf muscle that would keep me out of 6-a-side football the following Monday). While the parents/ Guardian-readers supped on their pints of Doom Bar (in what was a rather gloomy bar) and waited for their taxis (they'd have quite a wait, it transpired), the KSG polished off their Guinness & Blacks and headed back to the bus station. 

Now, admittedly, I don't spend much time at bus stations - and realise that not many are renowned for their architectural elegance - but Gloucester's was a truly abhorrent concoction of grey brick and dilapidated shops; easily the worst I'd had the misfortune of visiting since Newport several years ago. Anyway, after inspired purchases of sausage rolls and a six-pack from a Co-Op (that seemed to be doing a fine trade in selling spirits and tobacco to 'gentlemen of the road', as I think they are euphemistically termed), we were joined by Rainey, Bobby P and others off the 11:04 train from Maidenhead, in time for the 13:10 bus to Coleford.



The KSG sat at the front of the top deck and enjoyed unrestricted views of the Cotswold hills rolling by but, in truth, the weather - in stark contrast to previous days - was dank and grey; the scenery was as uninspiring as the A48 trunk road on which the bus spent much of the journey. This - plus the fact that the three cans of lager in addition to the carry-out were sitting heavy on my bladder - meant that I, for one, was delighted to arrive in Cinderford, despite it resembling more a 'seen-better-days' Welsh mining village than a quaint countryside town.

Still, time for a quick pint before kick off and so we headed straight into the pub opposite the bus stop (called, I think, The Swan). This establishment didn't have Guinness (what sort of pub doesn't have Guinness??) and wouldn't have looked out of place in The League of Gentlemen. One of us remarked that they were glad they hadn't come in alone! (An over-dramatic comment, for sure, but you get the drift.)

As we exited the pub and prepared ourselves for an unenviable walk up a steep hill towards the football club, a white van thundered past, honked it's horn and took a sharp left into the nearby rugby ground. It transpired that Coxy and his travelling companions had gotten lost. After confirming that we knew the way (well, sort of!) we were invited to clamber into the back for a lift. It was pitch black in there and difficult to remain standing but a novel way to travel to a game and actually great fun! Plus we made it in good time for kick off ...



… not that we saw much, if any, of the first half! Discussions with a blazer or two regards the fall out from Ebbsfleet, interrogating Callum's work colleague (below) who was attending her first ever football match (Cinderford Town vs Maidenhead United as your first football match; WTF??) and wondering why 'Jerusalem' is played instead of 'Land of Hope & Glory' at the medal ceremonies when England win Gold at the Commonwealth Games (CTFC, like MUFC Ltd, don't have satellite TV and so the final of the Men's Compound Archery, or something, was on) took precedence and, before we knew it, half time was upon us with Maidenhead two goals to the good.



As we were moved from the small bar into the large function room it became apparent that a good many United fans had made the journey, in addition to those that had come by train; Payney and Leicester Les among them. The Mothership estimates that 50-odd in total were there, which puts to shame the pitiful amount that went to Chelmsford for the league game the week before. After Murdo had chatted at length with the Chairman - and I had called the wife to confirm, much to her relief, that we wouldn't be making an impromptu stop-off at her Mum and Dad's, in nearby Monmouth, on the way home - it was finally time to venture outside to take in some match action. 

The Causeway - which the Foresters apparently plan to leave sometime soon - was a strange little ground. One half - the side that included the dressing rooms and social facilities - had a small grandstand positioned to the left (as you exited the bar) and narrow, covered terracing to the right. The covered terracing was actually below pitch level so your eye-line was approximately the same height as the players waists; almost like an extended dugout! One goal had a gravel walkway behind it and the other two sides of the ground were made up of steep grass banks from where, at the top, you almost had a birds eye view (I exaggerate, obviously); not just of the pitch, but also of the surrounding area (nondescript housing, mainly).


I took time out from the less-than-enthralling action (Maidenhead's second goal, just before half time, had seemingly ended the match as a contest) to tour the ground (making sure to avoid direct contact with a certain Director and his cronies); photos taken of the small band of home fans (complete with Union Handkerchief), Dereck Brown pacing the technical area - and David Gumbs doing his thing - before I re-joined the thronged mass of Magpie fans in the corner of the 'dugout' for a sing-song, as the final whistle approached.



A few of the old favourites - 'Soggy Sombrero', 'Dereck Brown's my Grandad' etc. - were belted out as Maidenhead scored two more goals to put a gloss finish on an efficient performance. A prolonged and admittedly somewhat ring-rusty 'Johnson Hippolyte's Black & White Army' (which some, bizarrely, tried to sabotage) saw us through to full time, when the players were applauded off as they exited the pitch directly in front of the travelling fans. A few choruses of 'We love you Maidenhead ... ', an inspired debut of 'There's only one Mark Steward' and Murdo taunted with 'You're banned and you know you are', as he took down the flag, ensued before everyone retreated to the bar.


Time started to fly at this point and, before we knew it, all the other Maidenhead fans had left in their return taxis and the relevant bus back had long since departed; the KSG were in real danger of missing the 19:17 train from Gloucester, as increasingly desperate calls to local taxi companies proved less than fruitful ("Ow bist thee awld butty? The next 'an fo yer be at noin"). Just as we were resigning ourselves for a very belated arrival home, a woman in her 60s, (who might've been knitting, if my memory serves, and was sat at a nearby table) said that she'd overheard about our plight and would get her husband to give us a lift to the station. Initially we politely refused but, after she insisted and her husband came over to say that it really wasn't a problem, we accepted their charitable offer and were soon in a car en route to Gloucester. 

It transpired that our chauffeur was called Ray and his wife (who didn't accompany us for the car journey, BTW) was called Beryl. They apparently follow the Foresters home and away and were keen for our experience of Cinderford - and Cinderford Town in particular - to be a favourable one. Catching our appointed train home (by a whisker) after a 30+ minute drive through, at times, winding country lanes certainly helped! We gave Ray £30 as way of payment (which he initially refused to accept) and all readily agreed to attend a Cinderford away game before the season is out, to re-enforce our gratitude at their humbling gesture of kindness. I suspect that Ray thought we were being facetious but we WILL keep our promise; Ray and Beryl are a credit to their club and non-league football in general.

The train journey home was a relatively good one (i.e. I can remember it and it passed rather quickly). One of us slept, some of us played Goldie Lookin' Chain - with added MUFC Ltd - top trumps (Strength of ten? Eleven!) ... 


... while another flirted with some peroxide-haired, tan-tastic grandmothers who were looking forward to a night out in Reading. As we approached the county town of Berkshire, we were joined by some Basingstoke Town fans on their way home from a 4-0 win at Didcot Town. It transpired that they had bumped into Texas Pete and the others in MUFC replica shirts further up the train and had immediately asked if the 'Ebbsfleet 3' were on board! 


They were pleased to meet with us and interested to hear the update of our (latest) run-in with the club. Talking (if not shaking hands; I'm sorry, I just couldn't!) with them, as we left the train at Reading, caused us to miss the first available connection to Maidenhead. But we weren't too bothered; we'd spent various parts of the day sitting away from other Maidenhead fans on trains (aside from when it suited them, of course) and it will be good to meet with the 'Stoke fans, as agreed, in the Anchor when we play the Dragons (what a stupid nickname!) over Xmas.

Back to Maidenhead, then, and into the aforementioned Anchor; the usual tunes on the jukebox and an argument between Steve H and Bobby P (unsurprising, after a day on the beers). The night should've probably ended there but, as it was, Noctor's (where my extremely grumpy woodwork/ metalwork teacher of yesteryear was jauntily playing bass guitar - badly - in a covers band) and then the Smoke beckoned (the latter for just Callum and I). The 'Bell End' t-shirt I was wearing brought nearly as much female attention as did the Superman costume after Fancy Dress VI @ Histon, much to my embarrassment when a teetotal colleague who was also in the Smoke asked, on Monday morning, which one of the harem was my wife! 

I woke up on Sunday morning with £35 in crumpled notes, another £25 in one-pound coins (suggesting my wallet had taken as much as a battering as my liver and throat) and a throbbing headache (that lasted for a good couple of days); getting too old for these train away days! This was, of course, our first outing since Ebbsfleet - nearly three months previous - and so we were out of practice, TBF. Fortunately, it won't be another three months before our next trip as we're off to Hamburg this coming weekend for games at HSV (hopefully), VfB Lubeck and Altona 93. 

On the Saturday we're in Germany, Maidenhead will back in the Cotswolds to take on Forest Green Rovers in the next round of the FA Cup. Despite the Conference National side being recently named, by The Ball Is Round blog, as one of the top five non-league away days in the country - and our day out at Cinderford being an excellent one - I know where I'd rather be ...

Friday, 8 October 2010

Cinderford Town vs Arsenal, FA Cup 3rd Round Proper ...


... apparently it's when, not if! 

Seriously, some interesting and rather refreshing comments from the Cinderford Town manager in the local paper ahead of tomorrow's game. 

If the locals - famous sons of Cinderford, incidentally, include Sir Jimmy Young CBE and several members of EMF - are half as apathetic about their football team as Maidonians are about theirs, though, then one suspects his words will be falling on deaf ears.

"The players and myself have had a year of pressure in trying to turn the club around," he said.

"We're making progress but the pressure is now on the supporters to turn up and support us for a massive game.

"It's our semi-final and the next round when we can reach the holy grail of the first round proper is the final, and we need the support to cheer us on.

"We've shown the crowd we've currently got our good football and our improvement, but now the roles are reversed.

"I want to hear some volume, see some celebrations and I want to see what the town has got when it comes to supporting it's club.

"The pressure is on them as there is no pressure on the team as we're the underdogs and if they can't turn up now, don't bother turning up when it's Arsenal in the third round."

:-)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Fanzine Title Suggestions - #1 Bath City


First up, in this occasional series (provided someone has the inspiration/inclination to do another!), is the Romans from Twerton Park.


Proposed Title:

'The View from Seat G1'

Proposed Cover Photo:



Monday, 4 October 2010

Red shirts leave club red faced

Maidenhead United lost 2-0 at Chelmsford City last Saturday. I didn't go. Indeed I have never been to Chelmsford and don't intend to go any time soon. As such, I can't comment on the game, won by the home side with goals at the end of either half.

I can't comment on yet another red card for a Maidenhead player (Alex Wall, on this occasion) or on whether the Referee was as rubbish as comments on our forum suggest (I suspect he was, but our disciplinary record has been dreadful for a number of seasons now).

What I will comment on, however, is that for the second successive season Chelmsford City had to play against us - at their home ground - whilst wearing their change colours of all white because Maidenhead turned up with their change kit of all red (which obviously clashes with Chelmsford's home colours of all claret). Last year could be excused as a genuine mistake. But to make the same mistake again, less than twelve months later?

And this from a club that justifies all manner of things - be it the manager not coming in the bar, after a game, or supporters not being allowed on the team bus - because they are now 'more professional'.

Noddy.


An Introduction

Why?


On the opening day of this season, I was the first of three Maidenhead United fans ejected before half time of our game at Ebbsfleet United; we were subsequently banned from attending matches at York Road, pending an investigation. Although we strenuously deny any wrong-doing and have nothing to hide in regards to what did (or, more accurately, didn't) happen at Stonebridge Road, I don't wish to dwell on the incident(s) because much has already been written about it/ them (by me, if not by EUFC; I sent a three-page letter to our Chairman defending myself against what, it transpired, was a vague and inaccurate, one sentence, two-line 'report' from an Ebbsfleet steward scrawled, one imagines, on the back of a Mars bar wrapper).



Since receiving notification of the MUFC Ltd Board's subsequent decision on the bans (as predicted, two of us were allowed back but warned that "bad behaviour will not be tolerated" yada yada yada - obviously the aforementioned three-page letter protesting, in detail, our innocence was a waste of time - while the other member of the 'Ebbsfleet 3' had his ban extended until the end of the season due to previous misdemeanors) the club forum was unexpectedly removed by it's host, the local newspaper, apparently on advice from their lawyers (advice not relating to a specific incident or comment, as far as I understand). 

While the forum - to which I was the leading contributor, in terms of the number (if not necessarily the quality!) of posts - had become increasingly moribund of late, a number of interesting and significant debates had taken place on there over the years (I think the site had been active since early 2005); I, for one, lament it's passing and think it a real shame that all of the posts have now, seemingly, been lost.

These two occurrences - being banned from matches at York Road and the long-standing forum being removed (replaced by an overly-simplistic one on the Official club site with arbitrary requests such as 'please do not make offensive posts that could bring the club into disrepute') - have spurred me into starting this blog ... 

A blog where, if I don't always conform to the 'we've never had it so good' mantra, I won't be labelled as 'a bigot', or anti-this person or anti-that person.

A blog where my posts won't be removed or edited without justification or explanation by the club's self-styled Spin Doctor (a Club Director; conflict of interest, what conflict of interest??) or pushed down the page by other threads, such as those started by the Club-man of the Year (Yes-man of the Year, more like) concerning his leaflet distribution plans to publicise upcoming games or moans that the local newspaper didn't do enough to publicise the recent Family Fun Day featuring a bouncy castle, face painting and a performance from X-Factor 'finalist' James Hooke (Who?? Jerry the Berry would've been a better bet!).

A blog that appreciates football - or, more specifically, days out at football - aren't just about the 90 minutes of often sub-standard, yawn-inducing on-pitch action and the subsequent result but also the beers and pubs enjoyed en route to the ground, the ground itself, the banter between supporters etc., etc.

Don't panic!

Not all of the matches I plan to attend and report back on will involve Maidenhead United (certainly not this season, anyway, owing to the aforementioned bans); even last season we were 'branching out' and attending other non-league games, rather than experiencing yet another dead rubber Conference South fixture at a ground that we would have already been to countless occasions. A prime example of this being when, rather than watch MUFC play Eastleigh (and lose 3-0, as it happens), we went to watch Plymouth Parkway at Chertsey Town in the FA Vase.

Parkway are the current club of Jim 'El Presidente' Parsons; former Chairman of Maidenhead United and current York Road trustee. In the summer of 2007 MUFC played at Parkway in a preseason friendly; a few of us stayed over in Plymouth and enjoyed a truly legendary night out. The chance to meet again with characters such as potty-mouthed octogenarian Charlie 'Fucker' Baggott (pictured below, with a rather anemic-looking Coolio??) was too good to miss. Unfortunately, Parkway were outclassed and well-beaten on the day. That didn't stop us enjoying ourselves, though, bantering throughout with the vocal, if shrill, Chertsey Town U14s - resplendent in club tracksuits - who had turned out to cheer on their team (or wind up the opposition fans, I don't think they minded either way).


A few weeks after the match, one of us received an email from a mutual friend who asked whether we had been at the Chertsey-Parkway game. After confirming that Yes, we had, he was asked how he knew/ suspected that we were there. His reply included a scan, saved as a pdf attachment, of a short report from a ground-hopper publication (I think called Non League Digest) written by a regular contributor who had also attended the game. The report (below) details our banter with the Chertsey Youth and ends with the line 'I left disappointed with the football but still smiling at the repartee' ...


The repartee that the author mentions would, of course, be frowned upon by over-sensitive, hypocritical and ignorant Ebbsfleet fans; over-zealous Ebbsfleet stewards; self-interested MUFC Ltd Directors; sycophantic, socially inept Supporters Association committee members with personal agendas. Hey ho. Let the powers that be (both real and imagined) at York Road have their 'family club' (albeit a 'family club' sponsored by the town's lap-dancing establishment!); one that has zero tolerance of bad behaviour ... except when it is our manager getting sent off for swearing at a Match Official, except when it is our Player-Coach getting sent off for spitting in an opponent's face, except when it is Newport County fans invading the York Road pitch, except when it is a Merthyr Tydfil thug brazenly punching a home supporter in the York Road clubhouse etc., etc. 

Howay the Bay & upcoming plans

At the Chertsey-Parkway game we met, both in the pub before/ after the game and at the ground, a Whitley Bay supporter called Mark who lives in Northwood, Middlesex. He was at the match in anticipation that his team would play away to the winner in the next round. As aforementioned, we had enjoyed our visit (despite 'our team' having been thumped) and he seemed to be on our wavelength (attending a match between two teams that he didn't support, with beer-in-hand) and so we agreed to meet with 'Northwood Mark' again in the same pub prior to the next round.

Whitley Bay eventually defeated Chertsey, after a replay, and made it all the way to the Final. We were there as they defeated Wroxham 6-1 at Wembley and were photographed with Bay manager Ian Chandler (seen below, chatting with Northwood Mark) and the Vase trophy itself, in a local pub, after the game (I can't remember the last time the Maidenhead manager even spoke to us after a match, let alone when we were ever photographed with him; he's far too professional, you see). Northwood Mark would also join us at a Maidenhead home game (as we clashed, some of us literally, with Chelmsford City) before the season was out.


I would hope that our upcoming travels will include another Whitley Bay game or two, and more meetings with Northwood Mark, particularly if the Bay once again do well in the Vase (we were actually witnesses to the Miss Whitley Bay G-String 2000 competition nearly a decade ago, but that's another story!). Visits to Germany (Hamburg and Köln), Berwick (Rangers versus the Shire), Hampton, Dartford, Lewes (all versus Maidenhead United), Cheltenham (Saracens Reserves versus Maidenhead United Reserves) and Worcester (City versus Blyth Spartans) are also penciled in, as well as others.

First up, though, is a visit to Cinderford Town in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round this weekend. Several of us - delighted with the draw producing MUFC an away tie at a place we're never been to and therefore tempted out of the pub/ Homebase/ garden/ bed (with enthusiasm that James Hooke or that bouncy castle could never, ever generate) - will be on the 10:04 train from Maidenhead to Gloucester and then the 13:10 No 31 bus from Gloucester to Coleford. Maidenhead should win (emphasis on the word 'should'; despite Johnson Hippolyte's reputation for FA Cup magic, we've been knocked out by teams from lower divisions in each of the last three seasons). Regardless, I'll enjoy a train journey, a drink, a sing-song and a visit to a lovely part of the world with like-minded friends. Can't wait! It could well be another case of 'letter in the post', though, one suspects ... 

PS.

A quick explanation about where the blog title comes from: one of the final posts on the old MUFC forum, before it was pulled, included a link to an article on a W@nky Wanderers FC website which resonated with me when I read it and contained, in it's final paragraph, the summary that one should 'Go Mad or Stop Caring'. I thought it sounded rather apt.