Maidenhead United fans had undertaken (albeit very infrequently) Fancy Dress away days prior to the 2000/01 season. The frame in the photo at the bottom of this post contains a montage of images from one such occasion; a 0-0 draw at Lewes in April 1993 (Att 92). There were also 'themed group' Fancy Dress away days in the late 90s, e.g. Tartan @ Barton and also YPS (Yellow Polo Shirt) Day at Molesey (re. the latter - Logic apparently forgot and was duly dispatched to the nearest Marks & Spencer's to make the appropriate pre-match purchase!).
After the thrills and spills of promotion from Isthmian Div One, in 1999/00, it was back to mid-table mediocrity the following season. This is why, I presume (I can't remember exactly), someone suggested we re-introduce the idea of the last away game of the season* as designated Fancy Dress day. As such, 28th April 2001 at Sutton United became, in effect, Fancy Dresslemania I.
*in the league, on a Saturday
Prior to Fancy Dresslemania XII, at Dover Atheltic later this month, here is a re-cap of the now-storied and proud KSG tradition. Don't ask us to rank them in order of preference ... unless you're a good listener with time to spare!
A mid-table, bore-draw encounter on a grey and overcast day. Callum (as Bernie Clifton), Murdo (a Thunderbird), Willie (Donald Duck) and I (Mr Blobby - no jokes please) had planned on getting the team bus to the game but, upon arrival at York Road (after the inaugural 'Walk of Shame' from Chez Macleod?), it was announced that the bus had broken down en route and that the players, management and supporters would travel in a car convoy. As such, Murdo Tracy drove us there (in Thunderbird Zero). He also gave a lift to a certain Michael Vogel (who's name, up until that point, we weren't aware of). Highlight of the journey to Gander Green Lane occurred when, during a group stop-off at a petrol station somewhere on the A24, Donald Duck went in to buy some chewing gum and queued alongside Magpie centre halves Tim Cook and Steve Croxford, both laughing uncontrollably ... which made a change, as usually it was us laughing at them! Stevie G would join us, dressed as a sailor, in the bar at the ground. The game lacked goals and talking points (as, really, did the day itself) but the odyssey had begun ...
II ~ Grays Athletic, 27th April 2002
The final league game of the season (always preferred, by me at least). Participants were Callum (a lion), Murdo (Rupert the Bear), Willie (Batman) and I (Big Ears - again, no jokes please) plus my now-wife (a school-girl), Scouse Mick (a gorilla), John Scouse (a tiger) and Logic (a cock - no comment). The locals, in the bar before the game, laughed when they saw us in our costumes. We, in turn, laughed when they went all weak-at-the-knees over Alan Dev. We were invited onto the pitch, pre kick off, for a photo taken by the local rag (which I was subsequently unable to find). We were still there as the teams emerged and so were able to clap the Magpies, in a 'Guard of Honour' formation, onto the pitch! We sung ourselves hoarse throughout, had a photo taken with cult hero (and warming-up substitute) Rickey Ibe on the terraces at half-time and invaded the pitch (retrospective letter from Rasher?) when promising youngster Rob 'Rod Hull' Saunders scored a late equaliser from the penalty spot. He ran towards us to celebrate, as did several other players, only to think better of it as Rupert, Batman, Big Ears et al converged! Perhaps it might've been different if Mrs Baryea had made it over the pitch surround ... she had no chance, though, in that skirt! Trevor Kingham was also there; I remember him smoking one of the biggest cigars I've ever seen at half-time. A great day out would finish back at the Cricketers.
III ~ Bishop's Stortford, 26th April 2003
Participants were Callum (Austin Powers), Mick (Elvis Presley), Murdo (Captain Hook), Willie (a Princess) and I (Dennis the Menace). We went on the team bus. The game was a goal fest, with Maidenhead winning 4-3 despite their best efforts to throw away a comfortable lead. Dev's gloried tenure was nearing it's natural end. Highlights were Dr Albert's Fancy Dress-referencing tannoy announcements and Princess Willie propositioning Stortfort's Beckham-wannabe midfielder Tim Langer in the bar after the game. I/we thought Willie made a fine-looking woman. Langer obviously disagreed! Callum's photo of Elvis (below, top) is a classic. The night once again ended back in the Cricketers; Mrs Baryea probably won't appreciate the photographic proof! (below, bottom)
IV ~ Hornchurch, 24th April 2004
The first Fancy Dresslemania that would take place at a game that actually meant something; John Dreyer's team chasing a top half finish in the Isthmian Premier and a place in the soon-to-be-created Conference South. We again travelled to the match on the team bus (with Steve Hale becoming the first - and, so far, the only - player to participate, dressed up as a school-boy). United lost a tight game 1-0, meaning that things would go to the wire the following Saturday (thanks to our 4-2 win over Aylesbury United - and Sutton's defeat of Basingrad - we would secure the necessary placing on the final day of the season). Dresslemania was starting to catch on, with youngsters Oli (Pierluigi Collina) and friend (Andrew Flintoff) joining established regulars Callum (Adam Ant), Logic (a clown - again, no comment), Mick (a hippy), Murdo (Dame Edna Everidge), Willie (a Reverend) and I (Father Christmas).
It was a scorching hot April day yet, in the pub garden before the game, we noticed a Ken Bates-lookalike throwing out a Christmas tree – complete with all of it's pines – from the large house opposite. I asked if I could have it, as an added accessory to my costume, and he obliged. There were no objections to me taking the tree into the ground; indeed the stewards actually opened gates specially, as I couldn't fit it through the turnstiles! And to think that some groundstaff object to flags without fire safety certificates! (MK Franchise Dons, I'm talking about you) Another highlight was the Reverend Turner, complete with Bible (we were obviously beginning to appreciate the importance of costume accessories), chasing a linesman down the touchline - waving said Bible - after a questionable off-side decision. "The linesman's going to Hell, the linesman's going to Hell" still raises a smile. I also remember that Karl Williams bought us a round, in the bar, after the game. Other financial dealings of his would have a direct influence on Maidenhead United, come the end of the following season ...
V ~ Newport County, 30th April 2005
The most important Fancy Dresslemania game up to this point; the unpopular Dennis Greene leading his team to Wales for what was, effectively, a relegation play-off decider at Newport County. It was also the most eventful. Callum (a Tudor?), Murdo (a Beefeater), Willie (Spiderman) and I (Scooby-Doo) were joined in Fancy Dress by Alex (a Rugby Union prop forward), Logic (umm ... a tourist in Hawaii?), Mick (Friar Tuck), Phil A (Robin) and Tel (a Roman soldier - Minimus Erectus) on a supporters coach (one of two?) to the game. The ground had a powder-keg atmosphere. There was a four-figure crowd and - thanks largely to a fatal (drug-related?) stabbing in Spytty's car park the week before - a heavy police presence (we were videoed entering the ground). Perhaps unsurprisingly, United performed terribly and lost 2-1 (Adam Federici was in goal for the Magpies and Craig O'Connor rounded off a fine individual season with the consolation strike). Spiderman was so annoyed at the display that he stormed off, mid match, to confront the manager ... only to spotted in the (absolutely packed) bar afterwards nodding in agreement with him ("Yes Dennis"). The Beefeater and Friar Tuck were more honest with their opinions and, after a spot of hand-bags, a drink went flying. The Beefeater, Friar Tuck and, rather bizarrely, Minimus Erectus were all thrown out. Unfounded rumours were started that Dennis Greene's teenage(?) girlfriend had been punched in the stomach. The lies (and the result, of course) would overshadow Brian Connor's testimonial at York Road the following day. In hindsight, they were also a sign of things to come ... As it would transpire, however, Hornchurch's financial troubles meant that United would be reprieved of relegation.
VI ~ Histon, 29th April 2006
Dresslemania was becoming a big deal by this stage, for the KSG if no one else. And this was a big (i.e. memorable) one. Johnson Hippolyte has infamously trotted out the line "Last time Maidenhead went down they were losing 5-0 each week, but that hasn't happened this season". Well, this was the last time Maidenhead went down (as I write). And while we weren't losing 5-0 each week, it certainly felt like it! We had been largely terrible throughout the season and were completely down and out come the last game at play-off chasing Histon. The only doubt was whether we would concede four goals on the day, to make it 100 league goals(!) conceded over the season as a whole. Callum (Zorro), Mick (Andy Pandy), Murdo (a Musketeer), Willie (Wonder Woman - the second time he had gone as a woman ... ) and I (Superman) had travelled by train, tube (I remember going up a lengthy escalator at one station; being asked to turn around by some Japanese tourists going in the opposite direction; and nearly blinded by the amount of camera flash bulbs that then went off!) and rail replacement via Cambridge. We were joined for kick-off by a jester (Logic), a Blues Brother (Stevie G), Les from Vic Reeves' Big Night Out (Phil W, as the person he was nick-named after!), a surgeon (Club Shop Guy) and, quite aptly, the Grim Reaper (Rainey).
I deliberately mentioned kick-off, there, as certain players didn't make it in time; Dean Bradshaw and Chris Wild notoriously ending up near Ipswich as 3pm approached, meaning popular coach and sometime park player Matty Gore had to make an unexpected Magpies debut! We didn't see the funny side of Bradshaw and Wild's tardiness and made our feelings known during the second half. This lead to altercations with both the warming-up substitute Wild and manager Carl Taylor, plus a lengthy post-match interrogation for Craig Lewington (who, TBF, was a top bloke and agreed with much of the criticism levelled at the team/club). The match was lost 3-0 (not 5-0, Drax), meaning we'd only conceded 99 goals that season. It would have been the magical ton, though, had the recently-signed Chico Ramos (whom ended the match with a nasty facial injury) not saved a penalty! " ... pitch for 100, we're on the pitch for 100" we chanted as the missed spot-kick was about to be taken, surrounded by nervous-looking stewards!
We didn't let the result dampen our spirits. Far from it; ultimately spending far too much time in the bar, and then a nearby pub, after the final whistle. Not a good idea, with rail replacement on the way back as well. The mood on the return journey was not helped by the Musketeer losing his brand new digital camera. A proposed meet-up with Taz and the Sutton fans had to be shelved. Only Zorro and Superman headed to the Smoke (at one stage declining a request for yet another photo with a "we're here for a quiet drink, please can you leave us alone" line) and would end up at a random private party in a soundproofed converted garage somewhere in North town. Here a seemingly nookie-starved homosexual took a shine to us both, with Zorro losing his mask and Superman hiding in a tree during a hurried escape! My brother, on his way to start his early Sunday morning shift at Waitrose, would find Superman asleep in the gutter close to my Grandparents house; a story that would feature, three years later, in his best man speech at my wedding. There was no-one to save United, though, no reprieve from relegation this time. The following Fancy Dresslemania would be at a Southern League game ...
VII ~ Banbury United, 28th April 2007
After two defeats inside a January week - to bottom-of-the-table Corby Town - left the Magpies just outside the relegation places (prompting an apology to supporters, in the Advertiser, from captain Dominic Sterling), United lost only three of their next/remaining 20 league games. A comfortable 2-0 final day win at Banbury saw us finish fourth (setting up the 'I was there' play-off Semi Final win at King's Lynn the following midweek). As already illustrated, Maidenhead were in excellent form at this stage and the win at Banbury was never in much doubt. The KSG had really enjoyed the Southern League (Banbury was typical; a nice place to visit and easily accessible by train) and relations with the players, management and officials were good (photos with countless players, Johnson Hippolyte, Bob Hussey and others were taken in the bar after the match). Bright sunshine accompanied the party atmosphere. Callum (Darth Vader), Logic (umm ... would it be an Arab who'd wear a green fez?), Murdo (Snoop Dogg), Tel (a beer bottle), Willie (Barney Rubble) and I (Fred Flintstone) won a kick-about with the local kids at half-time (Vader left unmarked to score the winner at the far post) and then stayed considerably longer than the rest of a decent amount of away fans (including one or two others in Fancy Dress) to loudly cheer a team onto penalty shoot-out victory in the charity match (local radio station vs local hospital) that took place on the Spencer Stadium pitch after the main game had finished (the winning penalty sparking our first Fancy Dress pitch invasion since Grays in 2002). The Smoke would beckon for the KSG, a swift return to the Conference South would beckon for Maidenhead United.
VIII ~ Basingstoke Town, 26th April 2008
Sooner or later the fixture
**or Bananaham, as one of Basingrad's dopier fans thought he was called! :-)
IX ~ Basingstoke Town, 18th April 2009
Sooner or later the fixture
computer abacus was gonna give us a repeat Fancy Dresslemania fixture (let alone a crap repeat fixture ... and the same place for the second year running!). Basingrad in 2009 was it. Callum (Captain America), Logic (a horse), Murdo (a cow called Moodo), Popejoy (a gangster, complete with automatic weapon), Stuart (Indiana Jones), Rainey (the Grim Reaper, once gain), Willie (Ali G) and I (Diego Maradona) were joined on the train to Hampshire by several of the Youth in Fancy Dress (including Coxy, Dickie West and Vicky C) which brought a tear to Moodo's eye (possibly). Les (a penguin) joined our pre-match pub crawl of Basingrad, which included a first visit to the Maidenhead Inn ("Maidenhead, in the Maidenhead Inn"). The game was another bore fest, albeit one in which Maidenhead were victorious thanks to a solitary Mustafa Tiryaki strike. Another (unofficial) record was set for most Magpies in Fancy Dress, whilst Ali G and Diego Maradona were told off by stewards for swearing in the first half (singing a song about a group of M@rl*w fans visiting the Pope). To this day, I lambaste Willie (dressed, remember, as Ali G) for not retorting with "Is it coz I is black". Another pub crawl of Basingrad (back to the station), then pints and photos in the Anchor, preceded plenty of welcome attention and some very dodgy dancing (from the horse) in the Smoke. This would be the last time (to date) that we visited the Smoke in Fancy Dress.
X ~ Dorchester Town, 24th April 2010
After two crappy fixtures in a row (Basingrad both times) we got another good 'un. Callum, Murdo, Willie and I would take the Friday off work and, giving debuts to our recently purchased Bell End t-shirts, head to Weymouth. A legendary night out was had - culminating in an early morning dip in the sea for yours truly and a fall out with the rather unfriendly proprietor of our unwelcoming B&B - before Leonardo Ninja Turtle, a woman carrying a baby, Alan Partridge and Timmy Mallett took the short train journey to Dorchester. It was another sunny day and decent Magpie turnout in costume (including my Dad!), especially considering the distance from Maidenhead. Despite us losing 4-2, the game was entertaining enough. Not nearly as fun, though, as the train journey back! We were re-routed via Castle Cary for some reason (I distinctly remember gangster Popejoy machine-gunning several passing trains, from the platform, much to the amusement of the passengers contained within) and then the train to Reading (from which Dickie - dressed as a peasant - almost got us thrown!) was full of Charlton (and part-time Dartford) fans on their way back from Devon (Plymouth Argyle?). They were mightily impressed with our costumes, as were the two policemen whom I challenged to a game of Mallett's Mallet at Reading station. One of them got a bang on the head for hesitation!
XI ~ Binfield, 23rd April 2011
Another photo here.
XII ~ Dover Athletic, 21st April 2012
This year could be another relegation special, bearing in mind that
today's yesterday's 4-3 home defeat to Farnborough - after being 2-0 up at half-time - left MUFC Ltd in the bottom three. It should certainly be interesting, if nothing else! Callum is journeying over from Dublin specially for the game, while (relatively) new father Willie will be joining Murdo and I on an early train from Maido. For various reasons, I expect the amount of Magpies in Fancy Dress to be well down on the high points (in that respect) of Basingrad and Dorchester. Hey ho. My costume has been in development for months ... and I fully expect it to help inspire a miraculous performance and result! ;-)
I also look forward to possibly meeting with Punk Can Save Us; Dover fan and regular poster on the AFC Conference South forum. IMO, he is also worth following on Tw@tter and via his blog. Check out his post on Dover's visit to York Road, earlier in the season, for a taster.
Until then ...
"Tell everyone you know, it's gonna be twelve in a row"
FURTHER READING: "Tell everyone you know, we've gone and done twelve in a row"