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!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Double standards as standard

Good to see the AFC Conference South forum steadily improving (although the rather basic look takes a little getting used to)

Anyway, the following comments are from a predictably entertaining thread concerning Room 101 nominations:

Amber Aleman ~
The fat bloke who hurled unwarranted personal abuse at the Maidenhead keeper on Saturday.

Nomadic U ~
That was properly cringeworthy. I dislike abusing players, and I strongly dislike personal crap like that. What's more the 'keeper hadn't done anything to wind up the crowd.

Sutton Sal ~
Good on you for standing up to that fat bloke.

Lenny Baryea (MUFC) ~
Can I take it as read that Maidenhead “family club that happily bans it’s own fans on spurious charges” United acted accordingly to apprehend and eject said fat bloke? Thought not.

Nomadic U ~
The steward who was stalking the Sutton fans seemed almost as concerned with stopping Sutton fans putting up flags as they were with swearing. Once mocked he slid away.

Taz (SUFC) ~
Yeah, he moaned at me about Gareth's flag covering the advertising. Told him it was fuck all to do with me. Second half, we ensured we covered as much of the main sponsors board as possible at the other end. There was very little life about the place all afternoon and their petty attitude just added to it.

And so, yet again, at least one member of a large travelling support at York Road is allowed to personally abuse the Maidenhead goalkeeper without being frog-marched out of - and banned from - the ground?

Sounds about right.

GMOSC readership now at record high

*** To enhance your reader experience please adopt a droning, Brian Clough-like accent and presuppose that minor updates to this post will follow, seemingly ad infinitum ***


With GMOSC working in a close partnership with the KSG to improve online coverage/awareness of Maidenhead United FC Ltd, this has been mirrored this season with a rapid rise in GMOSC readership. At the end of last season, readership stood at 470 page views (probably), but with only three months of this season left, readership has already increased by over 100% to reach a current readership of more than 10,000 page views. This is GMOSC’s highest readership level since it was formed in 2011. But we still need your help!

GMOSC’s objective is to achieve a target of 10.1k page views by the end of tomorrow.

This rapid increase in readership is no doubt due to the efforts that GMOSC and the KSG put in during recent months to improve online coverage/awareness of Maidenhead United FC Ltd. Recent months saw a hive of activity from both GMOSC and the KSG which included the following –

  • Going to a football match, every now and then
  • Reading a newspaper, or two
  • Writing the occasional blog post
  • Biting the bullet and finally signing-up for Tw@tter

If you would like to join us and become a member of the KSG then, tough, it’s invite only.

Don’t like it? Don’t read it.

PS > Thanks for reading!

;-)




Saturday, 21 January 2012

Arsene Knows! or Arsene, No!

Further to Macleod (M)'s recent post re this month's Arsenal v Leeds United game (and the text that he sent me, immediately after the match, pointing out that the Thierry Henry sideshow had papered over the cracks), I read the following from Martin Samuel, in the Mail, earlier this week -

Everyone wants a trophy

'Do they like Arsenal, or do they just like Arsenal with trophies?' Dennis Bergkamp once asked of the famously critical fans. Thierry Henry will claim that as his point, too. Yet Bergkamp was 11 years at the club, arrived in 1995 and never left. Henry fled to Barcelona at the age of 29, two years after Arsene Wenger's team won their last competition, the 2005 FA Cup. It turned out he didn't like Arsenal without trophies, either. Who does?

Who does? Me, for one.

Of course, I'd prefer Arsenal to win things. But it's not as if they haven't come close, very close, during the now six-season-long drought.

I'm as certain as can be, for example, that if Martin Taylor hadn't shattered Eduardo's leg at St Andrews in February 2008* then the Gunners would've won the league that season. Comfortably.

*I distinctly recall that Maidenhead United were playing at Bognor Regis Town that day and, in the time it took Craig, Murdo and I to walk from the parked car to the ground, Arsenal conceded a last-gasp equaliser from the penalty spot. We arrived to witness, on TV in the clubhouse, captain William Gallas behaving like an eight year-old girl.

Meanwhile, only an uncharacteristic man-of-the-match display from Ben Foster - and an almighty defensive cock-up - denied Arsenal a Carling Cup success last season (Birmingham City, who won it instead, were subsequently dogged by rumours of financial problems, suggesting that they - like Portsmouth, Lewes, Windsor & Eton and countless others before them - had bought success using money that they didn't actually have)

Let's say Arsenal had managed to win last season's Carling Cup. Would that have meant more, in itself, than qualification for the Champions League? I'm not sure. Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have qualified for European club football's highest-profile competition for 14 seasons in succession. An extraordinary achievement, especially bearing in mind Wenger has done it without spending the amounts of money on transfer fees that other clubs have (and I'm talking about Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Tottenham Hotspur here; not just Manchester United, Chelsea and, more recently, Manchester City).

Arsene Wenger has completely transformed Arsenal FC and for this he deserves tremendous respect (from Gooners, if no-one else). Although the aforementioned trophy-drought is undoubtedly frustrating, 14 successive seasons in the Champions League (without breaking the bank in the process) is not be sniffed at. Neither is the superb new stadium and training ground built on his watch. Neither is the fact that Arsenal FC is now synonymous, the world over, with attractive, passing football (as opposed to offside traps and 1-0 wins). Indeed Wenger, IMO, has so much credit in the bank, as it were, that - not unlike Fergie at Old Trafford - only he should decide when it is time to call it a day. No one else.

That's not to say that the Frenchman doesn't have his faults. Far from it. Of course he does. He is stubborn and a bad loser, for starters. Tactics have never seemed to be a strong point of his, either. The 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford earlier this season was an obvious low-point. The 'throw away leads with sloppy defending' defeats at Fulham and Swansea, either side of the Leeds game, were almost systematic of recent Wenger sides.

Indeed, despite the fact that I am clearly a huge Wenger fan, this season has brought into focus something that I've been somewhat concerned about for a while now; the way things fizzled out for him at AS Monaco.

Wenger became Monaco manager in 1987. He had immediate success, winning the title in his first season. A French Cup success followed in 1990/91. Future stars were plucked from relative obscurity (George Weah from Cameroonian football, Youri Djorkaeff from Ligue 2 Strasbourg). Despite under-achievement in Europe (Monaco were UEFA Cup Winners' Cup runners-up in 91/92), they were consistently good in the league, albeit frequently pipped at the post by a wealthier rival (often Olympique Marseille, also Paris St Germain).

Sound familiar? It should.

Wenger became Arsenal manager in 1996. He had immediate success, winning the double in his first (full) season. Another double followed in 2001/02. Future stars were plucked from relative obscurity (Patrick Vieira from AC Milan reserves, Thierry Henry from the doldrums at Juventus). Despite under-achievement in Europe (Arsenal were UEFA Cup runners-up in 99/00, and Champions League runners-up in 05/06), they were consistently good in the league, albeit frequently pipped at the post by a wealthier rival (often Manchester United, also Chelsea).

Monaco's league placings under Wenger -

1987/88 – 1st, 88/89 – 3rd, 89/90 – 3rd, 90/91 – 2nd, 91/92 – 2nd, 92/93 – 3rd, 93/94 – 9th

Spot the abnormality.

Arsenal league placings under Wenger -

1996/97 – 3rd, 97/98 – 1st, 98/99 – 2nd, 99/00 – 2nd, 00/01 – 2nd, 01/02 – 1st, 02/03 – 2nd, 03/04 – 1st, 04/05 – 2nd, 05/06 – 4th, 06/07 – 4th, 07/08 – 3rd, 08/09 – 4th, 09/10 – 3rd, 10/11 – 4th, 11/12 – 5th*

*currently (goal difference separates them from 6th, one point separates them from 7th

Again, spot the abnormality (as things stand).

During what transpired to be Wenger's final season at Monaco, his side plumbed depths previously unknown during his tenure and things ended on a sour note (Monaco refused him permission to talk to Bayern Munich, only to sack him a few weeks later after the vacancy in Germany had been filled).

Did he take them as far as he could and/or did he need a new challenge? Did other sides copy/better his methods? I don't know. It might have been a combination of these (and other things).

Regardless, I wonder if history may now be repeating itself, for him, at Arsenal...

Rooney, Fergie and co are tomorrow's visitors to the Emirates. It's a slap in the face for both sides that the Premier League's game of the day is instead Man City vs Spurs!

Do I think Arsenal will finish below Tottenham - outside of the Champions League placings - and therefore in their lowest position ever, under Wenger? Yes.

Do I think that Arsenal will win a trophy (any trophy!) this year? No.

Do I think that fans who pay extortionate ticket prices have every right to be pi$$ed off that significant sums have consistently NOT been re-invested in proven, established signings? Yes.

That said, do I think Wenger should be replaced? No. No way! To my mind, it's a case of "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" and "be careful what you wish for" (and don't just take my word for it, ask Monaco).

Who does (like Arsenal without trophies)? Me, if that's the way it is.

Up the Arse!


PS > While we're on the subject of Arsene Wenger, I still laugh at the 'Stan' parody 

:-)

Links We Like #1


The above link was posted on the AFC Conference South forum earlier in the week. Plenty of decent snaps, including some of York Road, Maidenhead and Joke Tree Road, Marlow (with some interesting recollections re the latter, among the comments on the thread, where I saw the original link)

I especially like the “Not A Crowded Stand” Marlow FC photo, and also the one showing some typically dozy-looking Basingrad fans, complete with noddy hanky-flag (which is back-to-front!)

Furthermore, the stand at Gosport Borough looks good, while the backdrop to Arundel FC is rather spectacular.

Does it sound like we might be turning into ground hoppers?! 

No, we're not ground hoppers. We don't dress like them, we don't drink like them, and we don't associate with them. 

That said, there is a fine line. I think we remain the right side of it, though, thankfully! :-)

*** Now, having said all that (!), I strongly recommend that terrace nostalgists check out the 'footballgroundguide' channel on You Tube. Some amazing short videos of grounds from the late 70s/early 80s. The Valley, in particular, looks immense. I, of course, also like the Eastville Stadium one. Anyway, enjoy! 

*** Macleod (M) saw this video on WACCOE. He described it to me as  quite amusing and worth a watch. I actually think the bloke who made it is a border-line genius, especially considering he's a Spurs fan!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Away Day Diary: Arsenal 1-0 Leeds United (09/01/12)

+++ Disclaimer for anyone under 18 or with sensitive eyes +++
+++ Contains sweary words, including 'shit', 'wanker' and 'fucking' +++

FA Cup.

3rd Round Weekend.

One of the highlights of the football calendar and memories of yesteryear, conjuring up images of Ronnie Radford, parka's, mud heap pitches, Mickey Thomas before he started printing his own money, giant-killing by the likes of Sutton United, Yeovil Town and Woking (albeit not this season as they somehow lost to perennial cup under-achievers, Maidenhead United).

Well, sort of.

The Sky Generation (est. 1992) and some media types reckon the luster of the FA Cup has diminished in recent years, and peaked when Manchester United opted out of the competition in 1999/2000, in order to play in the World Club Championship. Apparently part of the thinking was that it would boost England's chances of being awarded the 2006 World Cup. More great blue sky thinking from the FA then. Well done.

Anyway, I digress. Apart from the wankfest tie between Yoonited and Citeh, Arsenal v Leeds was one of the few other games which allowed for maximum armchair usage. And so it came to pass. The great gods of Tellyboxland decreed that Monday night seemed a good slot to allocate this tie, just the one day after the 4th round draw had been made.

Although it was a right balls-ache for some Leeds fans, off the back of the same fixture in the same round last term, it was a chance for me and fellow fan James to actually get a ticket this time. A packed away end of more than 5,000 Leeds fans were greeted with the sight of a very decent stadium.

Having arrived early, and not bothering with a swift pint, I didn't even have time to consider whether the Emirates figures in my 'Top 5 Grounds What I Have Been To' (I think it just misses out to - in no particular order - the Bernabeu, Camp Nou, Olympic Stadium Berlin, Allianz Arena and new Wembley), before I could see two women and a bloke stood by a desk near the pitch. Oh, hang on, one 'woman' was actually Robbie Savage. Maybe I was right the first time.

For those of you who haven't seen ESPN's football coverage, they forego a proper indoor studio, to allow the armchairs the full-on, pitch-side match experience. It's raw, it's gritty, it's close-up, it's shit. And the dozy twats had decided that their desk would be set up right in front of the away end. I'd have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that particular executives meeting. 

Tarquin to Sebastian: "Let's really go for the fans angle, big time. Put the desk in front of the away fans. Kerrrraaazzeee!

Sebastian, ponytail swinging wildly: "You are sooooo right, Tarqs. Love it! Edgy. Let's also spend most of the match doing close-up's of various celebs, some of whom the armchairs will even recognise. Right. Time for a moccachoppachappachino. With extra shots!"


"34 min: As loath as I am to hear a bad word said about Rebecca Lowe, who I've met and can confirm is very nice, I have to say I'm most unimpressed with ESPN's coverage of English football. I did notice their FA Cup coverage is sponsored by a company that is to all intents and purposes a glorified loan shark, which may explain their lack of a studio. Surely no producer in his or her right mind could possibly think presenting live coverage involving Robbie Savage, outdoors in January and in front of 5,000 Leeds supporters is A Good Idea"

Female blonde bit, male blond bit/plastic hardman and Martin Keown were stood around, looking awkward, waiting to give the armchairs their words of wisdom. As more fans filed in, the chants of "ESPN is fucking shit", "Robbie Savage is a wanker" and "You're just a shit Gabby Yorath" grew ever louder. Having seen Leeds tonked 4-1 at the mighty Barnsley just over a week before, my expectations for the match couldn't have been lower, so this side-show provided more entertainment than I could have hoped for. Some even chucked hot dogs at Savage. Funny, but at £4 a throw?

Sadly, I missed the highlight when Keown got hit by a stray ball -  




Three blokes dressed as Leeds legend Jimmy Savile then joined in the fun. Leeds legend as in the city, not United. Mind you, he'd probably get a game for United these days, were he still alive.

Apparently, for some reason, the noise the Leeds fans made in the second half was muffled. Nothing to do with ESPN having to apologise for the language then. They're also now reviewing their policy on coverage of future games. Tarquin and Sebastian are now rubbing shoulders with Eight Ace and Mad Cat Woman at the job-shop.

The game itself?

Leeds played like an average hard-working second division side with no creativity, which is what they are. Arsenal played like a side used to dictating the play and possession, but who fluffed their lines too often and are going to struggle with rubbish such as Chamakh and Arshavin featuring in the starting XI. Chamakh even missed an open goal from two yards, having just been given offside. Oh, and some bloke called Terry Henry came off the bench to score the only goal of a dour game. A scriptwriters dream.

The Leeds fans did their club proud and, to be fair, the side did well enough, given their total lack of investment by Evil Uncle Ken. Most fans are resigned to being stuck with him until he moves upstairs or downstairs, depending on your viewpoint. I personally believe him to be the real incarnation of C. Montgomery Burns and that he'll outlive all of us.

As nice as the Emirates was, though, I couldn't go there very often. It'd do my head in. It's nicely packaged, to be fair, and feels safe and corporate. Great if that's your thing. But telling people there's three minutes until the start of the second half? Give me strength. It's football, not the theatre. It also had about as much atmosphere as Highbury, except when Terry joined the party, and when he scored.

Steve Jinman's blog provides an Arsenal perspective. It is interesting to see him referencing Leeds fans permanent state of anger. Pah. That was nothing! You should've seen the stewards and police trying to protect the Ref at Gillingham after he'd sent off both Kandol and Beckord. The 4th official used the electronic 'Gumbsy' subs thingamajiggy to shield himself from the missiles as they rained down on him. Now that is ire...

Marching On Together.

To midtable mediocrity and the sale of our best couple of players, I reckon.

Bates out!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Mustafa buraya yumruk havaya!

I read the following in today's Daily Mail:


Maidenhead United signed Mustafa Tiryaki, in the summer of 2008, after he impressed in pre-season; I particularly recall one eye-catching cameo at Bracknell Town.

We subsequently signed Rocky Baptiste (on a permanent basis) and Manny Williams (on loan) to supplement a strike force that already contained Richard Pacquette and Lee Newman, as well as Tiryaki and the similarly-promising Gavin James.

We persisted with Baptiste and Williams - alongside Pacquette - for much of the season, even though they were both next-to-useless (Baptiste quickly became a laughing stock, whilst I think Williams failed to score).

Tiryaki would be loaned out - to Potter's Bar Town, then Godalming Town - and was only given a chance to shine at York Road (seven goals, in as many games, as the season wound down) after the budget had been slashed and the likes of Baptiste, Williams, Pacquette (temporarily) and Dale Binns had departed.

Drax, however, always knew that he was going to make it. 

Obvs.

*rolls eyes*

FYI – 

My good friend Timur - born in England, to a Turkish father and Welsh mother - taught us the titular chant while we were on my stag do in Düsseldorf. We would bellow it, thereafter, at Tiryaki. Whilst being subbed by Havant & Waterloovile, upon his return to York Road, he 'did a Tardif' and clapped the fans of his former club before clapping the fans of his current club! Good lad. If Bristol Rovers had signed him to replace Rickie Lambert then, IMO, Paul Trollope would probably still be manager and the Gas would probably still be in League One. Hey ho, what do I know …

Monday, 16 January 2012

Away Day Diary: Wealdstone 2-1 Barrow (14/01/12)


Fanfreundschaft is, as I understand it, a German phrase for official (or semi-official) fan friendships between sport (usually football) clubs. St Pauli, for example, have long-established Fanfreundschafts with 1.FC Köln and Celtic while, according to the excellent Abseits website, 'additional contacts have been reported with Duisburg, Mainz and Boavista'. It all seems a bit odd to me, but then Maidenhead United (or, more accurately, the KSG) have a Fanfreundschaft of our own (kind of) with Wealdstone FC.

The Stones, who in 1985 became the first side to achieve the 'non-league double', are not everyone's cup of tea. A case, I suppose, of 'no one likes us, we'd don't care'. Grim (the 'Wealdstone Murdo') apparently remarked, not long after our first meeting, that "It's really odd, as we usually hate everyone, but you lot are alright". Praise indeed!

As far as I'm aware, the Fanfreundschaft was started by chance during a boozy session in the White Lion, Edgware, after our 3-0 win there in January 1999. I remember Stones keeper Noel Imber's clearance had bounced off Mickey Creighton's arse, to put the Magpies ahead after about a minute, before a spectacular thunderstorm lit the sky in the second half.

The Stones would comfortably win the return game, at York Road, in April. I recall it was a balmy spring evening, with the away following large and vocal. Wealdstone were pushing for promotion (from the Isthmian League Div One), and would eventually finish third (one point off second-placed Hitchin; 14 points ahead of fourth-placed Braintree). They were denied promotion, however, due to ground-grading technicalities. Murdo - wearing a Maidenhead United shirt - would attend a protest (ironically at Harrow Borough) against Alan Turvey and the Isthmian League blazers, cementing a sense of mutual respect between the two sets of supporters.

A load of us (including Craig, Paddy, Scouse Mick, Willie T and others) would attend Stones Aid II (getting our guests' anti-Harrow Borough juices flowing with a lusty rendition of "A group of blokes from Marlow went to Rome to see the Pope"), while Murdo's band The Rigsby's would play at Stones Aid III. I also recall a couple of supporters games (Trevor Kingham played and Georgie T scored an absolute screamer, in one comprehensive defeat, which was no disgrace as they have teams playing in Sunday leagues).

Furthermore, it was not uncommon - at least for a time - for Stones fans to turn up, en mass at York Road, when they didn't have a game. I remember being in the Bell End, one rainy Saturday afternoon, when the referee gave a decision against the Magpies; Grim and the rest of the Stones leaped forward to loudly remonstrate, before turning around and lambasting us for our lack of passion. These guys were criticising the likes of Murdo for not sufficiently chastising a match official?? A real eye-opener.

As was Saturday 20th January 2007. Wealdstone vs Maidenhead United. The Magpies, in the Southern League Premier after relegation from the Conference South, had lost twice in a week to bottom-of-the-table Corby Town. We weren't far off the relegation places and captain Dominic Sterling had taken it upon himself to apologise to supporters in the Advertiser. Macleod (M) was banned (after a barrage of fruity language during the pathetic 1-0 defeat, in front of 153 people, at Cirencester Town the previous month). The mood was far from great as Bobby P (I think), Les, Logic, Macleod (C), my Dad and I walked from the nearest tube station to Northwood Park stadium, where Wealdstone were then playing their home games.

Manager Johnson Hippolyte didn't seem to know what he was doing; playing Delroy Preddie in goal, instead of Chico Ramos, for a start. If Drax's useless mate Preddie again got the nod, we were going to sing Chico's name throughout, we'd decided. As it happens, Preddie injured himself kicking a divot early on and was replaced by Chico, much to our delight. With ex Manager Carl Taylor also watching on, United romped to a 3-0 win and only lost two of their next 22 league games en route to a memorable Play-Off Final victory over Team Bath at Twerton Park.

Would we have been promoted had Preddie not kicked that divot? I very much doubt it. (I'm not suggesting that the goalkeeping situation was the deciding factor - far from it - but our fortunes undeniably changed, for the better, from that moment on.)

Anyway, I'd been looking forward to a catch up with the Stones lot. Yet hardly any of them were there, with the irrepressible Megaphone Mick being the notable exception. Disappointing. Promotion to the Conference South meant that we haven't crossed paths since a 3-0 Magpies win, at York Road, in March 2007 (when, again, the Stones presence was minimal).

Then, out of nowhere, we bumped into Grim. It was last March, post Dartford away. Brief and completely random. We vowed to attend a Wealdstone game sometime soon. Ten months or so later (!) ... Macleod (M) and I had a free Saturday. Wealdstone could have been playing Aveley or Concord Rangers (no disrespect to them, BTW) at home (now Ruislip Manor's old ground*), in the league, and we'd have still gone. Instead, the footballing gods decreed that Barrow were to be the visitors, in the FA Trophy** A big game. It could have been worse, I suppose! (Although Lowestoft Town away would, of course, have been our preference!)

*Grosvenor Vale; the destination for one of my first MUFC away games, a 1-0 defeat in August 1994 

**Incidentally, Barrow had scraped a 1-0 midweek win at York Road, en route to winning the Trophy in 2009/10, and their supporters are, so far, the only visiting fans to have donated to the Anchor scarf collection (see below, top right)


It was sunny but cold - with a thick layer of frost covering the ground - as we left Maidenhead, changed at Ealing Broadway, then Ealing Common, and finally Rayner's Lane (I think it took us as long to get from Maidenhead to Ealing Broadway, as it did to get from Ealing Broadway to Ruislip Manor!). A quick couple of photos, then pints in Hennessy's (not great, framed can art aside) and the local Wetherspoon's (decent enough, with a fair few Barrow fans inside) before a kindly, silver-haired, passing Wealdstone fan (who's name I have momentarily forgotten, but began with an 'M') recognised Murdo and offered to walk us to the ground.


^^^ Taking liberties on your (Ruislip) Manor.


^^^ Can art in Hennessy's.

It was around 1pm when we arrived; plenty of time to appreciate the impressive clubhouse (which had hosted, the night before, a gig from covers band The Pistols). I especially liked the football-related memorabilia and expensively-framed photographs on the walls; no 'current players only' policy and cheap plastic frames here (unlike a certain other club ... )


^^^ Another venue that has hosted the singing talents of one Macleod (M).



Gradually, the familiar Stones faces began to appear: Megaphone Mick, Dave P, Sudhir, Grim, Hillsy and others. Plus there was another familiar face in Lee Devonshire; scouting upcoming opponents and running the rule over loanee Britt Assombalonga on behalf of his father, Alan, the ex Maidenhead and current Braintree manager. It was really good to chat with Lee; about agents and Kerthney Carty and Victor Asombang (thankfully we didn't sing "Oh Victor, Victor ... " too loudly, as it transpires that he now plays for you-know-who!) and how close Dev had come to returning to York Road before Drax got the job. He identified Wealdstone's James Hammond and Barrow's Adam Boyes as players to watch ... and he wasn't wrong; both caught the eye (particularly the former).

Murdo and I had only just finished our lunch, purchased from the burger bar close to the vocal away fans, when the game was interrupted by a head injury to Barrow keeper Danny Hurst ("Danny, Danny Hurst. His name is on the team sheet first"). There was just enough time for the Barrow fans to mock a couple of yellow-booted Wealdstone players ("Sports Direct, were having a sale" and "You got the worst boots, in the sale") before the ref took the players off and the game was suspended (for nearly half an hour, as it transpired) while an ambulance was called. Most of the crowd retreated to the bar.


It was from here that Murdo and I would watch much of the rest of the game; Barrow taking the lead, then experienced striker Richard Jolly hitting a stupendous, edge-of-the-box volley to equalise. It wasn't before the impressive Assombalonga had stabbed home from a corner, to put the Stones 2-1 up, that we braved the cold once more. Time for a quick photo and chat with the aforementioned Dominic Sterling (soon to re-join his first love, Wealdstone?), and then onto the covered corner terrace, packed with nervous Stones fans ...


^^^ "You'll never beat Dom Sterling!"


^^^ "Gordon Bartlett's Blue & White Army"

Murdo started a couple of chants (but "Gordon Bartlett's Blue & White Army" didn't catch on, as "Johnson Hippolyte's Black & White Army" often does) before the final whistle sparked jubilant scenes; the Stones players and management celebrating with the fans as they left the pitch. A crowd of over 700 had witnessed a hard-fought game between two decent teams and, ultimately, a scalp for the underdogs (Murdo and I chuckled at a disconsolate Barrow fan who, upon leaving the ground, muttered something about how the Stones would never experience lifting the trophy ... )

The drinks flowed in the bar afterwards, as we caught up properly with the giddy home fans. I was pleased for them ... and rather envious. Not envious that they had won, per se, but envious that a win for their club meant so much to them. Envious that their players, leading the chanting in the Board room, seemed to share an affinity with the club and the supporters. Envious that, not unlike our old rivals Slough Town, they appear to be a club that could go places (although the fact that only seven years remain on the Grosvenor Vale lease, is far from ideal ... )


^^^ Stones goalkeeper Jonathan North celebrates with the fans.

Neither Murdo nor I knew (or really cared) what the Maidenhead score was (Grim later found out that the Magpies had lost 2-1 at Havant & Waterlooville, but it was only 48 hours or so later that I discovered we had conceded two late goals to a side that played over half of the match with ten men!). Grim said that this was a shame and I agreed with him. Then again, as I pointed out - Megaphone Mick aside - none (or very few) of the Stones lot had been at the 3-0 'Preddie kicks divot' game back in 2007. A low period for them, it would seem. Five years on and they are back, with a vengeance. Hope, then, for Murdo and I? Maybe.

Memories of the night then became rather hazy, as we too were ushered into the Board room and the excessive Guinness consumption continued unabated. In fact, it was probably more by luck than design that we made it home without too much difficulty! My head was pounding the following day, but I was cheered to see a Facebook message from Grim - to Murdo and I - featuring the words 'great day' and 'kindred spirits'.


Wealdstone drew Dartford away in the next round of the Trophy. Rather apt, bearing in mind it was after our game at Dartford last season that we had bumped into Grim and thereby re-ignited the Fan-Freundschaft.

I wish him and the Stones (and Danny Hurst) well.

M.U.F.F.