"As for Maidenhead, the conga (which was amusing) aside, quite a strange bunch really – some the oddest chants I've ever heard at a football match" ~ localboy86, Amber Planet forum, 26th April 2015

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 sports associations, mainly football clubs. St Pauli, for example, has 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 our own kind of Fanfreundschaft with supporters of Wealdstone.

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 (at Harrow Borough, funnily enough) 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- Borough juices flowing with a lusty rendition of "A group of blokes from Marlow went to Rome to see the Pope"). 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 whistled against the Magpies; Grim and the rest of the Stones leapt forward to loudly remonstrate with him before turning around to lambast 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 frankly 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 the Stones 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. As it happened, 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 four of their next 22 league games (W16, D2), including 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.

Anyway, I'd been looking forward to catching up with the Stones lot. Yet hardly any of them were there, with the irrepressible Megaphone Mick being the notable exception. Disappointing. Our promotion to the Conference South means that we've yet to play them since a 3-0 Magpies win, at York Road, in March 2007 (when, again, the Stones presence was minimal).

But, 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, BTW, to them - 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 the visitors in the FA Trophy** A big game. It certainly could have been worse! (Although away to Lowestoft Town 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; their supporters are, so far, the only visiting fans to have donated to the Anchor scarf collection (see below, top right)

The sun was shining, but it was cold - with a thick layer of frost covering the ground - as we left Maidenhead. We 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 from Ealing Broadway to Ruislip Manor! Time for a couple of photos before we enjoyed pints in Hennessy's (not great, framed can art aside) and the local Wetherspoon's (decent enough, with a fair few Barrow fans inside). Then a kindly, silver-haired, passing Wealdstone fan (whose name I have momentarily forgotten but begun with an 'M') recognised Murdo and walked with 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: 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 great 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. The game suspended - for nearly half an hour, it transpired - before an ambulance arrived. Most of the crowd had 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 Dominic Sterling (aforementioned; 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. Then 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 somewhat envious. Not that they had won, per se, but that a win for their club meant so much to them. Envious that their players - leading the chanting in the Boardroom - seem 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 afterwards 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, they are back with a vengeance. Hope, then, for Murdo and me? Maybe.

Memories of the night then became somewhat hazy as we too were ushered into the Boardroom 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 me - featuring the words 'great day' and 'kindred spirits'.

Wealdstone drew Dartford away in the next round of the Trophy. Rather apt, as it was after our game at Dartford last season when we had bumped into Grim and re-ignited the Fanfreundschaft.

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



Bloggers ITA said...

Ruislip Manor FC was known in the fanzine as The Land Of Scaffold Poles, from which their main stand was constructed.

Loser's hatred of us stems from us rocking up there (nearly as many as we took to H&W on Saturday) complete with MUFC flag, to support RMFC against LBFC in a relegation 6 pointer.

Loser won (a real misnomer) and we chanted about how they were both going down.

Loser did, thankfully. Mid 90's?

Lenny Baryea said...

Superb! (not the fact that MUFC apparently only had ten people behind the goal H&W last Saturday, but that's another issue...)

Looking at the Football History Database, it could be any of three seasons when Loser were relegated in successive years! *guffaws*

1992-93 ISTH-P 42 8 7 27 40 90 31 21/22
1993-94 ISTH-1 42 8 7 27 47 94 31 21/22
1994-95 ISTH-2 42 10 8 24 58 84 38 20/22

(it must have been 1993-94, when RMFC finished 19/22 in ISTH-1)

Lenny Baryea said...


Go Mad or Stop Caring
"Helping other supporters appreciate what they have"

Lenny Baryea said...

Lee Dev's scouting report on Britt A was obviously (and understandably) positive -


Lenny Baryea said...

Britt A makes Hornets debut

From Wealdstone to Watford via Braintree in just over two months –


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