"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 5 May 2014

Away Day Diary: Bishop's Stortford 1-1 Maidenhead United (26/04/14)

Fancy Dresslemania XIV

^^^ Last season, Maidenhead United were safe from relegation come the final day and - possibly as a consequence - Fancy Dresslemania XIII at Billericay Town was good but lacked something ... an edge, perhaps? This time around, miraculous wins over play-off chasing Ebbsfleet United and at Havant & Waterlooville meant that the Magpies entered the final game - the second time that Fancy Dress had taken place at Stortfort - level on 45 points with Hayes & Yeading United and Whitehawk, and above the latter on goal difference. Basically, match or better Whitehawk's result (at home to Sutton United) and we were staying up ... 

^^^ Macleod (C)'s David Hasselhoff's traditional photo with the Three sign (other mobile phone networks are available). The wife had again, very kindly, ferried us all to the train station. Come the big day she was thoroughly fed up with me talking about Fancy Dress and fretting about my costume. "Is this the last one? When's the last one?" she asked after picking up Willie T Sonic the Hedgehog. "Fancy Dresslemania XXX," he fired back. That's settled then. Only another 16 more, and we'll be handing the batons over (possibly to the likes of Willie T's son, two years old as I write). Willie T and I will be 48. Macleod (C) will be 51 (possibly on the day; he was celebrating his 36th birthday, dressed as the Hoff). Macleod (M) will be 62. Drax, meanwhile, will probably be part-way through another multi-year contract extension! #stability

^^^ We would be catching the 09:17 from Maido. Unlike last year, we were joined by members of the LCG: Will H, Dave, and Danny a cow, Keith Lemon (another one!), and a bear.

^^^ "Two Keith Lemons, there's only two Keith Lemons". All four of the KSG fancy dress stalwarts have now suffered the fate of duplicated costumes. Unlike Bananaman, Ali G and Noddy Holder in previous years, however, these two weren't exactly the same. The t-shirts - £3 from Primark - were the same, although completely by chance! Good minds obviously think alike. SHA-TING!

^^^ The first news of our costumes broke as and when I uploaded this photo Facebook. The site went into near-meltdown. Sort of.

^^^ Macleod (M) Top Cat initially left the flag bag on the train as we disembarked at Paddington. Pre-match excitement getting the better of him/ us?

^^^ Helpful. Not.

^^^ Getting cash out at Liverpool Street station. As we queued, one bloke eyed all of us up before deciding to ask Top Cat if he had change for a tenner. Top Cat didn't have any pockets, let alone change for a tenner!

^^^ Like last year, we headed for the nearby Wetherspoons (Hamilton Hall). Also, like last year, it was packed - inside and out - with other football fans. On this occasion, it was mainly Northampton Town (@ Dagenham & Redbridge) and Brentford (@ Colchester United) supporters. Wally, above, was a Brentford fan. One TOWIE sort in tiny shorts - who had, apparently, yet to make it home from a night out - thought I'd come as a mad scientist! I could barely understand her accent. Several groups of (vocal) Northampton fans were outside as we left. "You look like a twat!" shouted one ginger-haired, replica shirt-wearing oik (#irony). "Is he talking to you or me?" I asked one of the many nearby police. "It must be me," said the copper. Indeed.

^^^ These beers were, believe it or not, leftover from the train journey back from last year's Fancy Dress! As you can see, Top Cat was incredulous. There was plenty of laughter all around. In fact, I was already struggling to keep my moustache from losing its stickiness. (Not to worry, I had spares.)

^^^ The real ale aficionados on the Conference South forum had advised that there was just one decent boozer in Stortford: the Cock Inn. Cue several "Do you know where the cock is?" quips to passing members of the public as we left the station. Arf! We got lost and went the wrong way ... 

^^^ ... ending up in the Black Lion. The drinkers in here were a friendly bunch.

^^^ Indeed, time spent outside in the patio area of this pub was a highlight of the day for me.

^^^ No complaints about the quality of the drink either (although, as you can see, I was drinking Guinness through a straw!)

^^^ Pub #2 was the Star Inn. Another decent enough boozer (suggesting that the Conference South lot know nothing!). Sonic talked with at a long-standing Magpie fan who had travelled by car via Leighton Buzzard.

^^^ Video game wars en route to the Cock, where we would meet with the stragglers (the Youth, others who had come by car etc.)

^^^ Youngest fancy dresser yet!

^^^ Where's Bullseye?!

^^^ Group shot outside the Cock; arguably the worst of the three pubs.

^^^ An uphill trek to the ground. 

^^^ Sexy football time!

^^^ First-half match action. A glancing header from Jacob Erskine put United ahead. Props to Erskine; he has impressed me in the (admittedly very few) games that I've seen him play. We looked comfortable, particularly as results elsewhere were going our way.

^^^ Noisy support throughout from the travelling hordes (as corroborated by a subsequent tweet from Mark Steward). Chant leader Sonic helped with the back catalogue, whilst the Youth were on hand with newer stuff. "He plaaays on the wings, he plaaays centre mid. Reece Tison-Lascaris could start for Madrid" :-)

^^^ After a pint in the clubhouse at half-time (members of the LCG inadvertently walked into the board room, where some of the MUFC Ltd officials were apparently tucking into helpings of cottage pie) and a quick chat with a couple of the locals, it was time for the final 45 mins of the season. Maidenhead remained on course, and so soon enough it was 'make your own fun' time. A fake goal celebration preceded what is fast becoming another Fancy Dress tradition ...

(photo credit Herts & Essex Observer)
^^^ "Let's all have a conga!" The suspended Danny Green ("He's the first name in the team") declined our persistent requests for him to join us :-(

(Photo Credit: Herts & Essex Observer)
^^^ Jobsworth stewards then barred our path as we approached the opposite end, much to the disgust of the home fans. Some pushed through and joined our chants of "Are you Dover in disguise?" and "Where's your SIA?:-)

(Photo Credit: Herts & Essex Observer)
^^^ A bespectacled, casually-dressed, shaven-headed gentleman arrived reasionably fast on the scene and asked the stewards - in no uncertain terms - what they thought they were doing. "Let them through - you're making the club look ####ing stupid!" he ordered. The fluorescent-jacketed drones did as instructed, but as the others continued the conga, high-fiving the home fans as they went, I held back to hear the stewards arguing their case. Or trying to. "We're only doing our job!" *rolls eyes*

^^^ I stopped off for a cheeseburger before making my way back around. After taking this photo, a gentleman to my left started talking. "You were Borat last year - who are you this time?" he asked. This, it transpired, was George Tison-Lascaris: father of Reece (one of the most exciting players that I've seen play for the club; certainly in recent years). We had a good chat. Apparently, GTL is an avid reader of this blog! Hi, George! He said that he hoped to see us next season. The feeling is mutual

^^^ Check out the sunshine! We/ I had been fully expecting rain. Indeed, it apparently did rain - heavily - in Maidenhead. The footballing gods (Messrs Attrell, Laryea, Rake etc.) were clearly smiling. We launched a final blast of "Johnson/ Jonathan Hippolyte's Black & White Army". GTL even came around and joined in! The bespectacled, casually-dressed, shaven-headed gentleman from earlier also came around and asked me to request that the others keep off the pitch at the end (or, at least, let the referee get off safely). However, as tiredness began to set in on the pitch, our nerves took hold off it. Both HAYU and Whitehawk were level, and their games were apparently behind ours. Chinese whispers (can you still say that?) spread, and, just before the above corner was taken, and young substitute Tom Gilbey put past his own keeper, someone mentioned that we were down if we conceded. Although no one stormed off (unlike at least one Director!), several on the terraces - including yours truly - had their heads in their hands as the final whistle sounded shortly after Gilbey's OG.

^^^ Neither the players nor the fans knew what to do. They applauded us. We applauded them. Mark Nisbet (he scored at King's Lynn, don't you know?!) came over and high-fived us all. Everyone was repeatedly checking their phones. Bristol Rovers had won at Adams Park ("Oh W@nky, W@nky ... "). I shook hands with one of the (two?) MMS members present - the short one who got irritated and stamped his feet a bit at Bath City. (It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.) And then the news came through that Dover had scored at HAYU! Full times now: HAYU had lost! Whitehawk had drawn! WE. ARE. STAYING. UP!

^^^ The scenes post a belated - and somewhat half-hearted - pitch invasion. I mentioned to Mr Logic Frosty the Snowman - and he agreed - that it felt wrong to wildly celebrate survival when the team was so much more talented than a last-day escape would suggest. Still, it was a massive relief not to be joining Tonbridge and Dorchester in the Southern League. Drax and the boyz certainly deserve praise for beating Ebbsfleet and H&W in the last week.

^^^ A quick drink in the bar, post-match, and just time for a photo with the legendary 'Stortfort' welcome mat. It was also good to chat (albeit briefly) with the poster-formerly-know-as Mighty Bishop. He had driven to the game from his home in Barnstable, Devon. Crazy man!

^^^ A brisk walk back to the station - in glorious sunshine - and a short wait before a packed train to London. An extended conversation with a South African businesswoman (who disembarked at T*ttenham Hale). Top Cat would remark that - whether the 'family club' like it or not - we are ambassadors for Maidenhead United. Ha!

^^^ Farewell to the Youth - in fact, everyone bar the KSG - at Liverpool Street. Overall, a decent turnout in Fancy Dress; about 25 or so?

^^^ As the rest headed home, we got the tube to London Bridge and met with the Same Old Few from Dorchester (sadly, not PCSU and the Dover boys) at the Old King's Head. This pub was packed full of 'well-refreshed' Millwall fans, several of whom - when I took my wig off - were convinced that I'd come as Freddie Mercury! Another, incidentally, was so enamoured by Sonic's costume that he presented him with one of his treasured pin badges (a Millwall/ St George's flag/ Poppy concoction). My phone ran out of juice at this point - and memories are rather hazy - but I remember an enjoyable conversation with Cameron et al. Topics included: live bands, Chico Ramos, Ebbsfleet, non-league bins, the Southern League, the Honeypot, family club officials in the Honeypot ...

(Photo Credit: Aimie Flack Photography ©)
^^^ The Hoff and I got separated from Sonic and Top Cat on the way back from Paddington; we inadvertently got on a slow train, and they waited to catch a fast one. TC had already arrived home - via a taxi from the station - by the time that the Hoff and I had reached the doors of Smokey's. Now, if I were to turn up there sensibly dressed and stone-cold sober, the likelihood these days is that they'd turn me away with unfounded accusations of drunkenness and slurred speech. Spend all day drinking in fancy dress, and it's "Haha! In you come, lads, Sonic is waiting for you upstairs!" *rolls eyes* We would, it transpired, spend over five hours in here (arriving not long after 11pm and amongst the very last to leave at half four). Twas a good night ... from what I can remember! I certainly recall getting absolutely drenched, walking home in the small hours. By then, of course, the rain didn't matter. For my money, this had been perhaps the best Fancy Dress yet. Here's to another 16! M.U.F.F.

^^^ From the Advertiser. (Video report here.)

^^^ PS. As above, Will H from the LCG was at Fancy Dresslemania XIV. He was taking it easy on the drink, admittedly, but he was there. His partner was booked in for a C-section the following Monday, and I understand that they are now proud parents of a baby boy (not, repeat not, named Johnson). Congrats to all three!

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