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!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Festive Stand·ard

(Belated) Season's Greetings, one and all!

Sadly but predictably, the pre-Christmas home game with Sutton United fell victim to a waterlogged pitch. Bad news for my liver, my wallet and any performers at the On Trial UK 'Anchor Christmas Bash' who fancied a drunken heckle-free night.

MUFC would follow this up by coming from behind (!) to draw 1-1 against Hayes & Yeading United on Boxing Day (Att 123) before smashing 6 (six) unanswered goals at Staines Town (Att 303).

Apparently the contingent from Berkshire made up over half the crowd at Woking and the Youth comprehensively out-sung the 'home' support (TBF, 'ayes - in my experience - 
only ever have one song). 

Meanwhile, a good LCG turnout - plus legendary York Road management team Alan Devonshire and Carl Taylor - were amongst those present at Wheatsheaf Park.

Former Bristol Rovers flop Jerel Ifil was sent off for the Swans (albeit with the Magpies already 3-0 up). Expect Drax to sign him sometime soon! Seriously, our recent defensive additions have obviously had a positive impact (Youth team coach Aaron Steadman singling out Brentford loanee Alfie Mawson, on Tw@tter, for praise).

Also good to see David Pratt's name back amongst the goalscorers, with his 20-odd minute substitute cameo resulting in a brace. He must now be close to the mark - 12 league goals - that would trigger my charitable donations to the Link Foundation.

Interestingly, Advertiser reporter Charles Watts would highlight, again on Tw@tter, a bet between Drax and Dereck Brown. Who will score the most goals, this season - Pratt or Alex Wall? Drax has apparently backed the latter. Might this explain why the former has spent time on the right wing and, more recently, the bench?!

Anyway, the Magpies jump 8 places to 9th. A mere 9 points now separate 4th and 20th place in the Conference South table. Proof of a competitive and/or mediocre division? Does anyone care? (the aforementioned attendance figures would suggest not many)

Our improved form, of late, will likely ensure that the sheep on the Mothership are soon bleating about possible promotion, rather than replacing Drax. As such, focus will once again turn to the (latest) proposed new stand. Has anyone, as suggested by Ground Hopper, thought of a name?

I have.

It came to me, last night, in a dream (sad but true).

I think it should be named after Peter and UNA.

I've even designed a logo:

Happy New Year! See everyone - figuratively, of course - on 1st January 2013 ... if the HAYU re-match survives the wet weather. 


Friday, 7 December 2012

Agent Provocateur

In the past I/ we have been accused of/ credited with (delete as appropriate) being the wit behind @therealdrax.

Not the case.

Initially, it was also suggested that I might be 'Ground Hopper' (another back-handed compliment, IMO ... although has anyone read this week's column - the Devonshire Stand, WTF??)

Again, not the case.

Now it seems that one person (at least) suspects me of being an 'Agent Provocateur' re correspondence, sent to the local rag, concerning the (latest) proposed new stand at York Road.

In the Advertiser last week there was an inaccurate, easily-mocked - but probably best ignored - letter from a supposedly-lapsed Magpies fan named 'P Brennen'. The letter could justifiably be categorised as 'anti-club', generally, and 'anti-new stand', more specifically.

"My suspicion is this P Brennan person is not quite what he claims or who he claims to be" wrote one fan, on the forum.

"Yes I thought he might be one of the GMOSC folks playing agent provocateur" replied the 'Magpie Webmistress'.

Oh, the irony!

The latter is, it should be noted, the person who took it upon herself to make unauthorised and uncredited edits to my posts (and others), prompting the Chairman to declare - via a Private Message to me - that "your access will be removed if you keep opening new accounts and posting previously removed material". 

The Chairman would soon apologise - again, via PM - "in this instance" but, shortly afterwards, changes were made so that you had to become a Club Member (on Pitchero) to even view the forum, let alone post. "Due to person or persons unknown disrupting the site by impersonating other posters" was the spin official reason, given at the time. 

'Persons unknown' my arse. 

I haven’t posted on the forum since, and so many (myself included!) would no doubt heartily thank MW for her underhandedness (consequences intended or otherwise).

If I were still posting, however, then some of my recent comments, on the same old, same old hot topics of the day, would read as follows:

*** The stand

FAN: "Surely it is time for action, no more talking"

DIRECTOR: "Unless you have the magic answer as to where to obtain the six figure sum"

GMOSC: Easy. From the playing budget.

("I'd rather spend money on players like Ashley Nicholls")

*** Family club / foul and abusive language

FAN: "I have to say that I am getting really fed up with the abuse the opposition goalkeepers have to put up with at York Road this season. Personally I think its embarrassing for the club particularly as we are portraying ourselves as a family club. I understand bantering with the opposition players or even giving a player a bit of stick if he has past history with the club or has injured a Maidenhead player. But there is a difference between this and what I saw today, the completely unfunny "banter" that their keeper was subjected to during the match was extremely off-putting and at times bordering on homophobic abuse. This is not the first time that I have felt uncomfortable behind the goal as this has happened several times over the last few years although it was just terrible today. I realise that it is up to me to say something against this during the match but I would feel very uncomfortable doing this particularly as the "fans" often doing this are drinking on the terrace. One of the main reasons I first started supporting the club back in 1997 was the enjoyable atmosphere at the club and the often funny chants and banter in the crowd which sadly I feel has been disappearing over the last few years (with a few exceptions such as Aldershot away last season) to be replaced by just abuse"

DIRECTOR: "please come and talk to myself or Mark Stewart about this next time you come to York Road"

GMOSC: As we don't know your address and so cannot post the banning order.

*** David Pratt

FAN: "Thought David Pratt worked extremely hard again today but he really needs a goal"

("It's always our fault. It's always our fault. Why don't you ban us? It's always our fault".)

Seriously, the aforementioned letter from 'P Brennen' has prompted a slew of replies. Many are featured on pg 20 of this week's Advertiser. This, supposedly, is good publicity for the club. I’m not so sure ... although perhaps it is. Regardless, this blog post - from 2012 - is still applicable, as far as I'm concerned. Crucially, it could probably have been written in 2009.

Or 1999.

Let's hope it's not still relevant come 2019.


Friday, 30 November 2012

Away Day Diary: Wuppertaler SV Borussia 2-2 Rot-Weiss Essen (24/11/12)

Long weekend trips to visit Christmas markets in Germany have become something of a tradition for my wife and I, plus both sets of parents, in recent years. In 2010 we all went to Köln (and some of us to 1.FC Koln vs Eintracht Frankfurt) and last December we all went to Hannover (unfortunately, my Dad and I were denied any live football action as Hannover 96 vs Hamburg was sold out, and no other local sides - e.g. VfL Wolfsburg, Eintracht Braunschweig - were at home).

There was some doubt, however, that we would go anywhere this year as my parents are jetting off, in early December, to spend Christmas with my sister in Australia. Both sets of parents were seemingly very keen, though (remarkable in itself, as we had to persuade them to partake in the original jaunt to Köln), and so a November trip was booked. Düsseldorf was to be the destination, as the Christmas market there seemingly opens earlier than all others (probably something to do with their continuous game of one-upmanship with Köln!).

Fortuna Düsseldorf would be at home, against Hamburg, on the Friday night but I wasn't particularly interested in that fixture (it was unlikely we'd get tickets, if the Hannover experience was anything to go by, and I thought - correctly as it turns out - that watching the local side on TV, in one of the many Altstadt bars, would be good fun in itself). No, of far more interest to me was the fact that Wuppertaler SV Borussia would be at home, at the Stadion am Zoo, on the Saturday afternoon ... against hated rivals Rot-Weiss Essen, no less!

I had been to Düsseldorf before, in April 2009, for my Stag weekend. The destination was Craig's idea and he also suggested we visit nearby Wuppertal, taking a ride on the world's oldest monorail electric elevated railway with hanging cars - as Michael Portillo did, in last week's episode of Great Continental Railway Journeys - to a game at the Zoo (to be clear, Portillo did take the monorail, but not to a game at the Zoo!). An excellent weekend also saw us attend Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen at Fortuna's ground (then called the LTU Arena, now the Esprit Arena) where, incidentally, we would chat with some Rot-Weiss Essen fans outside. 

However, standing in the sunshine on an open terrace, as WSV lost 1-0 to SC Paderborn 07 in front of a sub 5k crowd (and then being taught to chant in Turkish, by my mate Timur, outside a delightful little bar close to the central monorail station) is perhaps my favourite memory of the weekend (one of many good uns - Scouse Willie T's crowd-pleasing rendition of Don't Look Back In Anger, in a gay karaoke bar on the Bolkerstraße, remains a definitive 'I was there' moment ... )

^^^ Arsenal (a), Carlisle (a), Fenerbahce, Italy (a), Togo, Rangers, Reading, Exeter, Dortmund (a), Maidenhead ... in case you were wondering!

Macleod (M) kindly bought me a WSV scarf, after the game, as an early wedding present. I would wear this as we visited SE11's excellent German pub Zeitgeist, ahead of a Conference South forum meet-up at the Wheatsheaf in Southwark, earlier this month. The scarf was the catalyst for some German youngsters, spending a weekend in London and an afternoon in Zeitgeist, to come over and chat with us. As Macleod (M) and Craig regaled them with stories of KSG visits to Lübeck, Chemnitz, Jena and the like, I proudly informed them that I would be at Wuppertaler SV vs Rot-Weiss Essen the following Saturday. Their incredulity - manifested by guffaws and open-mouths - was matched by my excitement.

^^^ Can you guess the three Conference South scarves?

As aforementioned, Düsseldorf's 2012 Christmas market was apparently the first in the country to open. Wuppertal's, in contrast, was still in the throes of erection (ooh err!). This, plus the rather drab weather and the lack of welcoming cafés around the stadium - after our journey on the monorail from the town centre - meant that the in-laws would be joining the wife and I, plus my Mum and Dad, at the game. My father-in-law is not a football man. Not a sport man, full stop, really. The F1 highlights on TV - and the very occasional egg-chasing corporate freebie at the Millennium Stadium - is usually the extent of his sporting engagement. Now he was to experience a live football match for the first time ... and a Regionalliga West (German Div 4) football match at that! He must love me ...

^^^ Bring out your riot gear!

TBF, the game wasn't a bad one (the second half, in particular, was action-packed). Furthermore, the standard appeared higher than the last time I'd seen WSV (then playing at the nationalised third level, rather than the regionalised fourth tier that they'd subsequently been relegated to). And if the match action wasn't of interest, then both sets of supporters proved to be eminently watchable! The game was obviously a big deal; both uncovered ends were significantly fuller than my last visit (although the announced crowd of 5,480 was only 636 more than the attendance against Paderborn in 2009), while TV cameras and crew were also prevalent (certainly more prevalent than I'd expect for a typical Regionalliga game). 

UPDATE: It transpires that the game was shown live on TV!

The away fans took the early initiative, pre kick-off, with loud chanting and choreographed flag-waving. In stark contrast, WSV were almost silent. Then, very strangely, both sets of supporters went rather quiet, once the match had gotten underway. A Guardian Sportblog post by the always enlightening Raphael Honigstein, which I read shortly after my return to the UK, shed light on this (and helped explain the flyers that we were handed, upon paying our EUR 15.00 each to enter the impressive - and reasonably full - main stand). More on Honigstein's article later ...

^^^ 12 Minutes. 12 Seconds. Silence.

My Dad and I had spent the small hours of the previous night drinking Altbier at the bar, and listening to Die Toten Hosen (mainly) on the jukebox, in the FC St. Pauli pub (bizarre, I know) close to our hotel. As such, both of us were suffering greatly and, rather shamefully, gave beers at the football a miss (the sausages were excellent, though). I was genuinely struggling to keep my eyes open during half-time. Thankfully, the game exploded (almost literally) into life during the second period ... both on and off the pitch!

^^^ Too much of this ...

^^^ ... equals head in hands!

WSV took a two-goal lead, largely thanks to the contributions of, IMO, the game's two standout performers: the No 8, captain and clearly influential midfielder Tom Moosmayer had two assists while the hulking, bald-headed No 9 Christian Knappmann would have had two goals, but for a RWE defender diverting the game's opening strike past his own keeper. The WSV supporters behind the goal would replace their rather bizarre and inexplicable (to me, anyway) cardboard banners with flares. Certain, no-colour and largely cap-wearing RWE fans would attempt to scale the fences, separating them from the WSV fans in the stand, only to be repelled by brief squirts of a police water cannon.

Despite being two down, my Mum and Dad thought RWE to have been the better team. I would strongly disagree with that assessment (they're Chelsea fans after all, so what do they know?!). However, as stated by the WSV-supporting American author of the excellent Abseits blog, WSV looked golden ... But you knew they would start sucking. Seemingly out-of-nothing, yet still somewhat inevitably, RWE pulled a goal back. They were soon level, with a little over ten minutes left, thanks to the enterprising Konstantin Sawin. With RWE bringing on the lively Marvin Ellmann, and WSV replacing the seemingly exhausted Knappmann (Danny Cornelius - who had caught our eye during VfB Lübeck vs VfL Wolfsburg II in October 2010 - was, incidentally, one of the WSV subs), the away side looked the (more than) likely winners. Much to the relief of the home fans, WSV appeared to have weathered the storm, though, as goalkeeper Christoph Semmler pushed a last-minute, bundled effort past the post ... only for the youthful referee to point to the spot!

I still don't know what for.

WSV fans all around the world ground (virtually every one of them a chain-smoker, it would seem) went mad. Some - to our far right (no pun intended) - climbed fences to remonstrate. The away end, in contrast, prepared to erupt with joy ... only for Ellmann's kick to be well-saved by Semmler! The referee immediately blew for full-time and hurried down the tunnel, as a torrent of abuse rained down from the stand. Neither side seemed happy with the result, although the giant Knappmann punched the air (making the wife swoon?) as he prepared to be interviewed, in front of us, by the attractive, blonde TV reporter.

Rather than head back into Wuppertal town centre, on the monorail, we walked to the nearby main-line station. Here we would (eventually) catch a train for the 30 minute journey back to Düsseldorf. Thanks, I presume, to the sizeable contingent from Essen being herded to their own train(s) elsewhere, all others were running (slightly) late ... which, in Germany, felt rather strange! Something else that would, I'm sure, feel rather strange in Germany? Attending a professional football match without a reasonable entry price, large area(s) for standing and excitable fans creating a great atmosphere. Worryingly, however, after I had linked on Facebook to the aforementioned Honigstein article - commenting that I hoped any upcoming German 'safety' reforms wouldn't go "too English, too family club" - a friend, who attends more German football than I, replied to say that "the party is over". A real shame, if that turns out to be the case.

Clearly there were flares, ultras, and passions running high at the Zoo on Saturday (while we also witnessed, live on TV, the Fortuna vs Hamburg game being delayed due to an HSV ultras' flag catching fire) but I'd much rather that than the sanitised, over-priced, elf n safety-obsessed 'entertainment for the masses' often served up in England. I'm sure the father-in-law would now vouch for that as well ... OK, maybe not! Seriously, I hope a sensible compromise can be agreed upon. Flares (hidden within flags and banners, hopefully, rather than certain bodily orifices ... ) are obviously dangerous. But stewards (at W@nky Wanderers, for example) not allowing flags in (non-smoking) grounds unless accompanied by fire certificates? Fick Dich!

^^^ ... AND YOU?

< PS > 

^^^ The KSG's contribution to the awe-inspiring scarf collection decorating the ceiling of 


It would seem that the pyrotechnics and offensive banners at the Zoo last Saturday caused some rancour, if a selection of recent (Google translated) articles on the official WSV site are anything to go by:

This rather bizarre snippet also caught my attention: 

Count the Sl*ugh T*wn fans

All together now - "there's a Sl*ugh T*wn staying down, tra la la la la ... "

Banter aside, the paltry attendance - 151 - is rather sad, esp compared to times when, on occasions, 400+ would watch us play in midweek B&B Cup ties at York Road (eg. the 1997/98 Semi-Final v M@rl*w). 

Furthermore, I wanted to link above to the match report on the MUFC website ...but there wasn't one.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Away Day Diary: Salisbury City 1-1 Maidenhead United (03/11/12)

As recently as three weeks ago, the KSG were seriously contemplating not going to Salisbury; one of only a handful of decent away days in the Conference South. I'm glad we did as, thanks to some new faces and some interesting characters encountered en route, an enjoyable day was had ... despite the very best efforts of First Great Western Last Worst Western, and the like, to ruin everything.

Macleod (M) and I were to be joined by James and Will from the LCG, who were bringing along a couple of mates: Dan the Oxford United fan from Reading (who endeared himself by looking after the flag bag, throughout much of the outward journey) and Charlie the Stoke City fan from High Wycombe (who didn't endear himself by stating, early on, that he "used to be a Man Utd fan" and also by not having heard of the Tony Pulis Rap).

Dickie West was also present - representing the 'Youth' - and he had seemingly also embraced the 'Refer A Friend' initiative, accompanied as he was by a 17 year-old three-weeks-away-from-his-18th-birthday Dan (who's name, rather embarrassingly, I kept forgetting ... despite the fact that he had it tattooed on his neck!). Dan has apparently been something of a York Road regular, of late, but this was to be his very first MUFC away game. This reminded me of our mate Foxy who, to this day, has only ever been to one Magpies game. The venue? Leyton Pennant. Nuff said!

We were due to get the 10:34 from Maidenhead, arriving into Salisbury in time for the lunchtime TV kick off (Arsenal @ Old Trafford). However, in a scene all-too-familiar for those reliant on the rail network for their workday commute, the 10:34 was late. And it kept getting later. And later, and later, and later ...

^^^ Macleod (M) ripped up the train times before we travelled.
The 10:34 did eventually arrive (unlike the next one, which was cancelled), but it's tardiness meant we'd be struggling to make the connection at Reading. We sprinted (not a pretty sight, I'm sure!) to make the relevant train to Basingstoke, only for it to then remain on the platform for what seemed like an age (but was probably no more than 5-10 minutes). I didn't think anything of it, at the time, but this would mean that we would then miss - by a matter of seconds - the train to Salisbury from Basingstoke! 

To make matters worse, there was rail replacement between Basingstoke and Salisbury - not something that we'd been aware of when booking online - and the next train (rather than bus) didn't depart for an hour (and would take us via Southampton). As such, we went to the nearby Queen's Arms (decent pub in Basingstoke shocker!) to kill some time. We'd now miss much of the Arsenal game. All talk of it was banned by yours truly, with '£1.50 per mention' fines the intended deterrent ...

^^^ That's the KSG Christmas card sorted!
^^^ Education standards in Basingstoke worse than feared.
Charlie Stoke would defy the ban within minutes of the train leaving the station, rather gleefully (?) announcing van Pr$i€'s opening goal. Moments earlier, someone had nudged me when walking past my seat, causing me to spill Guinness down the front of my yellow and blue AFC 1971 Cup Final retro shirt. A bad omen, clearly.

Phone signal then became intermittently poor, interest in the game waned (thankfully, from an Arsenal fan's point of view!) and conversation instead turned to 'Away Day heroes' of the past, specifically Willie T (or Zippy, as he is known to the LCG). The 'newbies' were regaled with legendary tales, such as the time Turner spent (needlessly, unbeknownst to him!) part of the car journey back from a game at Purfleet in the boot of Macleod (M)'s Peugeot 405. Another concerned the occasion when he had to rely on a Clay Oven business card to get into the Czech Republic! Truly inspirational stuff.

I had planned on us frequenting - following recommendations from DaveTSCFC on the Conference Premier forum - the Old Ale House and/or G&D's, pre-match, as these boozers were most likely to be showing the game on TV. Instead we headed to the Mill, which Murdo, Craig and I had very much enjoyed on our last visit. I'm saddened to have to report that it now resembles more a restaurant, than a pub; I certainly don't remember it being quite so 'poncy'.

Here we met with LCG Dave, who had journeyed down by car, with his wife and child (I'm not sure what his old friend - KSG Callum - would have to say about that!). After a couple of rounds the helpful barmaid then provided us with a taxi number and, following a prompt 14:45 pickup, we entered the ground just after kick off.

^^^ Err, lads, you do realise we'll be playing in yellow and blue?
Regular readers of this blog - and/or people who have been to the ground before - will know that it is not a good one; miles out of town and basically comprising of one large(ish) stand, one covered end and a fancy electronic scoreboard two fancy electronic scoreboards. Like last season, we attacked the covered end in the first half and so had to stand alongside the home fans (who, perhaps not unreasonably, don't change ends). Unlike last season, the Whites are currently doing rather well in the league (runaway leaders, in fact) and, buoyed by an early goal (which I missed, queuing for a decent enough cheeseburger and chips), their supporters were (slightly) louder and less restrained than before. 

One gentleman, in particular, needed putting in his place; apparently he got in Murdo's face after we equalised (I say 'apparently', as I missed this goal as well; in the toilets!), while he also exchanged words with me (non sweary ones, honest!). Renditions of "We're sh!t ginge, but the score's 1-1" and "You must be sh!t ginge, you're drawing with us" - in response to their rather half-hearted "You're sh!t, and you know you are" - plus "You're staying down with the Maidenhead", "You're Welsh, and you know you are" and "If you all pay your taxes, clap your hands" - among others - seemingly did the trick (and perhaps prompted 'Mr Angry' to seek us out, at the end, to shake hands).

We debated staying put, for the second half, but eventually decided against (uncovered ends are a bug-bear of mine, but not changing ends at a non-league football game is the height of ignorance!). Before taking down the flags and decamping we were complimented on the Scotland flag by an exile and then also on our 'witty banter' - "If you've only got one hand, clap your hand", "Can we play Truro every week", "The Conference South is upside down" ("we're still stuck in the middle ... ") - by a moustachioed neutral who, along with his teenage son, had apparently seen us at Godalming Town last season (he reckoned we were missing the "dread-locked striker" - Ashan Holgate? Manny Williams?).

It wasn't quite as cold this time, down the uncovered end at the Ray Mac (forgive me), but it was still a desolate place to be on a Saturday afternoon in November. Someone - who had apparently counted - said there were 17 Maidenhead fans there (all standing together, which made a welcome change). Some familiar faces were absent (including club officials), leading me to think that others had also encountered travel problems?

Regardless, big points to Dave L, Chris Rad. & friends, and everyone else who made the trek from the Royal County ... particularly as the game, it has to be said, was pretty dull. Others have suggested that the relatively small points differential between the 2nd and 21st placed teams is proof of a competitive division. I would counter that it is indicative of abject mediocrity. 

^^^ Putting up the flag, or trying to escape?
The runaway league leaders understandably looked the better team and had most of the play - accusations of Maidenhead coming for a point are also probably accurate (David Pratt playing right-wing?) - but they created little in the way of clear-cut chances. The (convivial) stewards commented, at the end, that Billy Lumley was MoM and, although he might well have been, he certainly wasn't called upon to do anything truly exceptional; solid rather than spectacular.

Indeed, the longer the game went on, the more likely I thought we'd get a winner. In the end, I don't think we even got a corner! I think we had one shot during the entire second period - Bobby Behzadi (good to see him back in central midfield, BTW) hitting the new(er) scoreboard with a wild, hopeful effort, early on. 

It was a case, thereafter, of 'make-your-own-fun' - "Top of the league, you're having a laugh", "12th in the league, we're having a laugh", "£13, you're having a laugh" and "What a waste of money" gave an indication of the quality of football on display, while the announcement of the attendance (an unbelievable 755 - about half as many were actually present, IMO) was greeted with the now-customary "Sh!t ginge ground, no fans", "Is this all you get at home/Is this all we take away" and "You're only here cos it's Maidenhead".

Whilst we were relatively noisy, I would concede that our chant selection was rather scatter-gun. Obviously we were missing the orchestration of the aforementioned Willie 'I know 72 Maidenhead United chants' T (who, incidentally, informed me the other day that he has now seen precisely 148 Exeter City games!). As such, with the old(er) scoreboard showing 8 minutes left we turned to a tried and tested old faithful, beginning an admittedly ring-rusty "Johnson Hippolyte's Magpie Army" (which would last for 13 - unlucky for some - long minutes, bearing in mind the five minutes of added time). 

Heartfelt blasts of "We love you Maidenhead" then defiant chants of "Berkshire! Berkshire! Berkshire!" and "We'll be back again next year" followed at the end. I couldn't see Drax (who could only just about be bothered to <UN-ENDORSED>  wave at us, when encouraged to do so earlier in the afternoon) but Simon Lane very clearly instructed the players to acknowledge the support at the final whistle. TBF, few of them needed any encouragement. Indeed, Danny Brown was literally bouncing up and down, in the centre circle, as Lumley soaked up well-deserved applause. Perhaps a certain ex-Maidenhead United manager was spot on, when he famously said "There's nothing better than a point on the road"

^^^ Players applauding the fans at the end. Hasn't always happened.
Unlike last season, we didn't hang about after the game. Another 7 seater 8 seater scum bus was waiting to take us back into town (there was traffic all the way). I told the taxi driver that the Haunch of Vension had been recommended to us (again by DaveTSCFC). He replied "I'd give that a miss, if I were you, and go to the Wetherspoons instead". His misguided praise for the ubiquitous chain pub more or less confirmed to me that the HoV was going to be good! 

First stop, however, was the Chough the barmaid here commenting that Macleod (M) didn't need to show any ID as he had "old person jokes". James, Will, Oxford Dan and Charlie Stoke (the latter, in conjunction with Murdo, able to answer my prized away day quiz question - "In addition to Steve Ogrizovic, name the three other players to have featured in the top flight of English football in four separate decades") would soon depart for the station (belated Halloween parties and wedding receptions to attend, apparently ... ) 

Macleod (M), Dickie, Dan and I, on the other hand, decided we would stay on and catch the last train at 20:26. We would head - as per the 'pub crawl list' - to the Ox Row Inn (a bit 'meh', but clearly popular with Spanish tourists) and then the aforementioned Haunch of Venison (a cracking little boozer which reminded me of a German pub, for some reason). 

^^^ Dickie and ... darn it, what was his mate's name?? 
^^^ This week's obligatory 'yer actual culture, innit' photo:
St Thomas of Canterbury parish church, dating from 1220 ... so almost as old as Macleod (M)
After a round in each, and then legging it - via a quick pit stop at an off licence for lager and lard - to the station, we arrived with over half a minute to spare ... only to find that the doors wouldn't open and, to our horror, that the final direct train to Basingstoke was departing EARLY! Nice. As you might imagine, Macleod (M) had some choice words for the station staff! In fact, I only just about managed to drag him away in time to catch a train to Southampton, where we hoped to be able to jump on something (anything!) heading vaguely homewards ...

On the way to Southampton we would sit with six Chelsea fans, returning home to Poole (!) from their game at Swansea City. They'd been on the train since 6pm and looked like beaten men - perhaps not surprising, bearing mind their team had conceded an 88th minute equaliser ... and their match tickets had cost them £45 each! The last thing they probably needed at this point was an anti Ken Bates lecture from Leeds United fan Macleod (M), but that's exactly what they got! 

^^^ Chelsea and Leeds United - no love lost, as per usual.
While they were certainly not of the 'Tarquin and Sebastian' variety, it was interesting to note that, while both Macleod (M) and I had been to Stamford Bridge when the away end was still an open terrace - and had actually stood (rather than sat) in the Shed - none of the Dorset-based Blues had. #johnnycomelatelys

Thankfully, there was a train from Southampton that was stopping at Basingstoke. While getting on, Macleod (M) got chatting to a woman with a rather pleasant Scottish accent. We offered her a beer and she sat with us. It transpired that Sarah was a 28 year-old psychiatric nurse from Stirling who had recently moved down to London, from Glasgow, with her other half. To say she was fiery and contrary would be a massive understatement! 

^^^ All smiles for the camera ...
After a discussion about Gordon Brown (during which I had repeatedly and deliberately mispronounced 'Kirkcaldy') she snapped at me, sarcastically asking "You got a degree in Politics or something". When I replied - admittedly rather smugly - "Funny you should say that ... ", she pinned me against the window and (as per the photo at the top of the page) applied a liberal amount of make-up to my face - lipstick, eye-liner, blusher, the lot! (I have a new found respect for women who wear mascara, as it's surprisingly heavy!) Sarah seemed a great girl ... albeit perhaps only in small doses! She'd drive you crazy otherwise! I was somewhat perturbed, therefore, when Macleod (M) claimed she was my "female equivalent" :-O

^^^ Macleod (M)'s pulled!
Finally back at Basingstoke and a facepalm moment when it became apparent that the Youth had inadvertently left the carry-out with Sarah on the London-bound train! We dispatched them to buy replacement cans. TBF, they would swiftly return with a bag-load of cold Carlsberg Export ... and a bevy of blondes in tow! These girls, wearing 'far-too-little-left-to-the-imagination' outfits were, it transpired, from Canterbury. I'd passed through Canterbury when some of us went to Herne Bay vs Whitley Bay in the FA Vase and commented that it seemed like a good night out. The girls guffawed. I was reminded of the Wetherpsoons-loving taxi driver from earlier!

^^^ Only one of them wearing pants ...
What on earth were they doing in Basingstoke, we asked? Apparently they were staying with some blokes they'd met on the internet (!) and a night out in Reading was on the cards (and the rest!). Said blokes appeared soon enough and I gathered everyone (including a random Asian gentleman who was also standing nearby) together for a photo. Alpha male was called Andre (although the girls kept calling him Aston, due to his supposed likeness to a member of JLS) and he seemed like a nice guy. 

^^^ The line-up for the new series of I'm A Celebrity ... is unveiled:
incl. Aston from JLS, Russ Abbott, Dappy, The Saturdays and Channel 4's Krishnan Guru Murthy
I got the distinct impression, as Aston Andre, his mates and the girls went on their merry way at Reading station, that he was beginning to wonder if he'd bitten off more than he could chew! They'd all been playing a drinking game - "have a sip of your drink if you've ever ... " - on the train ride and some of the responses from the girls left even the reasonably wordly-wise Macleod (M) and I completely open-mouthed! :-O

One leg of the journey left (thank goodness!) - Reading to Maidenhead. One more character to engage with - a Reading FC season ticket holder, mid-to-late 20s, who got off at Twyford. He was mightily impressed by the fact that we'd been 'all the way' to Wiltshire to support Maidenhead. He said he'd been to York Road with a group of RFC mates for the FA Cup game with Aldershot last season. Apparently it was they who were afforded a police escort from the station, to the Anchor and onto the ground! He commented that a lot of Reading fans he knew didn't really enjoy the Madejski and Premiership/Championship football, instead longing for the 'good ol' days' of Elm Park and the lower divisions. Playing Devil's Advocate here -

"The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be" ~ Marcel Pagnol

We finally arrived back into Maidenhead around 11:30 and I headed straight home. I would later discover that Dickie went to the Smoke ... on his own! TBH, I can't blame him for desperately wanting/needing more alcohol - it had been one of those days! 

An FA Trophy match up with Gloucester City - at Cheltenham Town's Whaddon Road ground - is next on the Magpies' fixture list, this coming Sunday. Apparently there will be rail replacement around Swindon, so I think I'll give it a miss! I read on Tw@tter that the MMS were keen on attending, so they can pick up the slack. If the SCFC Chairman - as reported by Roy the Boy on the MUFC Forum (below) - is to be believed, then they've a tough act to follow: