"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 11 August 2014

Standtastic Day

Maidenhead United 2-1 Sutton United (Att: 404)

After watching Bristol Rovers ‘must not lose’ Vanarama Conference opener with Grimsby Town on BT Sport (attendance at the Mem was higher than all the games in L2, plus five in L1, but yours truly was hiding behind the sofa), I decided on a walk down to York Road for the visit of Sutton United. The sun was shining, and Best Of albums by The Clash and Pixies were fresh on the iPod; new favourites ‘Police On My Back’ and ‘Gigantic’ joining old staples ‘Train In Vain’ and ‘Debaser’ as repeat plays.

I arrived after kick-off and therefore missed the official opening of the new stand by long-standing (arf!) supporters Fred Bannister and Roy Hole, plus MUFC Hall of Famers Mick Chatterton and Brian Pitts. (Dave Harrison, another Magpies legend, was also at the game). The stand looks good. It still doesn’t seem real – and makes estimating the crowd increasingly tricky – but it does look good (unlike the seemingly genetically modified ‘Magpies’ painted onto the Shelf wall!). Fair play, obviously, to Chairman Who Knows His Football for making it happen. Props, also, to those at MUSA who banged the drum about proper ground improvements five years ago (and more). CWKHF wasn’t listening then; seemingly, he is now. I’ve little doubt that the ring-fenced ground improvement fund is a big reason why. Well done, all.

Perhaps I’m a lucky charm, as Sutton’s apparent early dominance – culminating in rattling metalwork – subsided soon after my belated arrival, with Maidenhead subsequently taking control of proceedings. The Magpies were fielding what a Bell End regular described as ‘a typical Drax line-up’: a centre forward (Jacob Erskine) at centre half, a centre half (Mark Nisbet) in central midfield, and a central midfielder (Adrian Clifton) upfront. Erskine – a versatile player who impressed last season – looked ill-at-ease in defence on Saturday (and not only because he was wearing #10, evoking bad memories of William Gallas at Arsenal). Nisbet, meanwhile, is not a midfielder and his ‘fish outta water’ performance in the middle of the park was typified by a wild, second-half hack for which he was rightly yellow-carded (possibly a red, however, on another day). Clifton, conversely, was excelling out of position: causing Sutton all sorts of problems, flanked by new signings Stefan Brown (ex-AFC Totton and Hungerford Town; deceptively quick) and Dave Tarpey (ex-Farnborough and Humpton; proven goal-getter at this level). The latter opened the scoring with a well-taken finish after good work from Clifton and Brown. 1-0 at the break.

A proverbial rocket for Sutton at halftime; they were outta the blocks quicker than a quick thing (i.e. NOT a Maidenhead United defender). It was only a matter of time before they equalised ... and a Rwandan international striker duly obliged. (I’d noted a hitherto unidentified national flag hanging behind the Canal End in the first half and wrongly assumed it was a Rwandan one. I’ve long thought, incidentally, that we should get an Iranian tricolour in honour of Bobby ‘The Daddy’ Behzadi). The visitors now appeared the most likely winners. But Drax had a plan. And it worked.

  • Defensive line-up
  • Keep it tight
  • Unleash Lanre Azeez and Reece Tison-Lascaris from the bench
  • Nick late winner
  • Brandy & Cigars

With, it transpired, a little over five minutes remaining, the ball was innocuously heading towards the Sutton by-line. A bit of RTL magic later, two neat one-touch passes inside the box, and the ball was at the feet of Tarpey. 2-1 and no mistake. Nisbet – thankfully restored to centre half – won countless headers as time wound down, and shortly afterwards, Drax was instructing the stragglers (there weren’t many) to applaud the fans as we chanted his name in glorious sunshine. Loud music would soon be booming out from the home dressing room. Am I right in thinking that Drax and Paul Doswell (Sutton’s boss) haven’t got much time for one another?!

Tarpey looks to be some player. Aside from his goals (both well-taken), he had another couple of chances: one well-saved and the other a rasping drive that went just over the bar. He got his shots off with minimum fuss: chance BANG. His dark hair and diminutive stature, gait and playing style (hard-working, frequently cutting in from the left-hand side onto his right foot) reminded me of Ashley Smith. High praise. Hopefully, unlike Smudger, we’ll afford him a decent chant. Perhaps, if we can’t think of anything more original, the necessary alteration to ‘SuperManny Williams’ would be appropriate. Regardless, he was a shoo-in for the MoM award on Saturday. Whether anyone was about in Stripes, to present him with it is another story. Almost deserted when Mr Logic, Les, and I stuck our heads around the door shortly after the final whistle. Over to the Anchor instead. Oh, dear. Football scarves replaced by music posters (Green Day, Iron Maiden, Metallica, etc.) was the least of our worries: Kronenbourg off, the carpet in an even worse state than before (yes, really) and BeyoncĂ© shakin’ her booty on TV. (The Box, seemingly, their music channel of choice). Bad times.

Off to the Greyhound (or, as I’ve heard others refer to it recently, the Skinny Dog). Sky Sports News on TV, and a more-than-decent choice of reasonably-priced ales. And Sutton fans to talk with! Our friends from Gandermonium, no less. I could confirm the identity of the red-faced, fully-kitted referee they had encountered – earlier in the day, in another town centre pub – enjoying a pint of Stella … BEFORE the game he was due to officiate! They, in turn, were able to reassure (further) that Simon Downer is a decent acquisition for us. TBF, I do not doubt that he is – not was – a top player, but we’ve signed others in the past who have come with sound reputations only for it to transpire that they were (to varying degrees) over the hill. Another ex-Sutton defender, John Scarborough, is a case in point. Other, more infamous examples include Rocky Baptiste and Nathan Bunce.

It certainly didn’t escape my attention on Saturday that, whilst most of the Maidenhead players were celebrating Tarpey’s winner with the Youth, Downer was doing extensive stretching exercises (back problem?). Eddie Hutchinson, meanwhile, was largely anonymous before his substitution early in the second half, and I’ve never been Ashley Nicholls biggest fan. Indeed, perhaps Nicholls’ most significant contribution on Saturday was his ‘clever’ time-wasting tactics. Several times he kicked away a dead ball (often when the decision had gone in Maidenhead’s favour) and, at one point in the first half, took turns with his opposite #6 (ex-Bristol Rovers youngster Charlie Clough) to go down – under minimal contact – screaming like a banshee. I suspect that our Dad’s Army generals – Downer, Hutchinson, Nicholls – are taking up a decent proportion of the budget. That might come back to bite us on the backside if/ when injuries and/ or suspensions mount and a certain someone is whingeing about financial constraints.

Anyway, enough of the negativity! Into Bar Sport with the Sutton boys. Bobby P, Maurice, Nick B, Rich C, and Payney were also there, the latter lamenting his decision to lump on Sutton at 6/5 (he didn’t do his homework: Sutton now hasn’t won an opening day fixture since 2009, with no away win on an opening day since 2006). After Gandermonium departed for the train station – later than previously intended and following some ‘bitty’ Jam Doughnut-flavoured shots (for which I refuse to take full responsibility!) – I met the wife for dinner in nearby Noodle Nation (see below photo). Beef & mushrooms with rice, washed down by a bottle of Tsingtao; a delicious end to a fantastic standtastic day. 

Being a regular reader of their blog – and knowing, full well, their opinion of the Magpies Murder Squad – I knew that the Gandermonium crew were gonna meet with strong KSG approval, but it was nice to have it confirmed. They will, of course, have a second visit to Maidenhead this season when they match up with HAYU on a Sunday (!) in November. I provisionally agreed to join them, but now note that it’s the day after we play at Wealdstone. Hmmm … failing that, though, there’s always Fancy Dresslemania XV, back where it all began. Fingers crossed that we’ll both be celebrating come April ... us the title, them a play-off place! ;-) Seriously, I hope we’ll not get too carried away with this admittedly excellent result. We were, after all, top of the league following last season’s opening game ...

“Let’s all do the Binnsy”

Former Magpie Dale Binns  who definitely didn’t sign on at York Road for monetary reasons (ignore the fact that he was the first to leave when the budget was subsequently slashed *rolls eyes*)  had, when Sutton equalised, been dancing like a tit in the ‘Directors Box’. I invited him to repeat when Maidenhead went 2-1 up. Again, at the final whistle. He declined. “Binnsy, what’s the score?”, “Binnsy, give us a dance”, “You’re not dancing anymore”. #binnsymedley Haha! M.U.F.F.

Match highlights here.

Monday 4 August 2014

From Bell End to Boredom

With the added effect of saving me from regularly checking Steve Js new website, CSG has been kind enough to send me a scanned copy of my fan profile (from the Newport County programme in November 2004).

In this post-holiday (Cyprus: lovely) pre-season limbo, I thought it might be an idea to compare my answers from back then to those I would give now. (Self-indulgent, perhaps, but so what?)

Off we go …

First Maidenhead game attended?
September 1985 at York Road. Think it was against Borehamwood

Wrong. I think it was actually against Walton & Hersham: a 3-0 FA Trophy win on 31st August 1985 (Att. 120, according to CSG’s excellent ‘One For Sorrow, Two For Joy’). If it was Boreham Wood, it mightve been the 3-3 draw on 29th September 1984 (Att. 220). Regardless, I’ve got a couple of photos somewhere … First away game is an easier answer, as I can actually remember it: a 1-0 win at Abingdon Town (great team photo here) on 6th April 1991 (Att. 456). My Dad took me; we had to stop on the way home as torrential rain made driving near impossible. I felt sure that home keeper Colin Fleet - who was also between the sticks five years later at York Road when Mickey Creighton infamously celebrated a brace in a 4-0 win by pretend sexually assaulting an inflatable sheep - finger-tipped a Benny Laryea penalty onto the post and Garry Hall tucked home the rebound, but the aforementioned tome credits the former with the goal. Despite them pipping us to the Isthmian League Division Two South title that season (1990/91) by two points, I have a soft spot for the Abbots: their colours were striking and they had memorably-named players such as Kelvin Alexis and John Harvey-Lynch. A shame, therefore, that they have struggled in recent years and now find themselves playing in the North Berks League alongside the likes of Crowmarsh Gifford and Long Wittenham Athletic. There but for the grace of Laryea ...

Favourite ground you’ve seen Maidenhead play at?
Always liked Bedford and Bognor

Hmmm ... I think the Bedford comment related to the fact that there was always a bit of tension when we went there; some grumpy old boys among the home support frequently insulted our players (with racial undertones). Two covered ends are an obvious plus, whilst I distinctly recall Steve Brown and Chuk Agudosi (apt!) scoring in a cracking 2-2 draw during our promotion season (1999/00). Not sure I’ve been back since. As for Bognor, I now associate it with Eduardo’s horrific leg break and William Gallas’ cry-baby antics - Birmingham vs Arsenal, on TV, in the clubhouse - before our 2-1 win in February 2008. Carl Wilson-Denis scored! Drax blanked us in the bar afterwards. Updated answer: Memorial Stadium, Bristol. Or, if that doesnt count, Twerton Park.

Worst ground?
Wexham Park, former home of Slough

This answer was a wind-up. Although WP was a bit of a dump, Barton Rovers was worse. Updated answer: Truro City.

Favourite all-time Magpies player?
Benny Laryea

No change. 123 goals in 232 games. Nuff said.


Best Maidenhead match you’ve seen and why?
Thame at home 2000 when already promoted. Lost 1-0!

Another piss-take answer, although memories of all those black and white balloons, pre-match, in the Cricketers - and then spending the entire game mercilessly taunting Thame keeper Ian ‘W@nker’ Moores - remain prominent. Updated answer: the midweek Play-Off Semi-Final win at Kings Lynn. The undisputed ‘I was there’ Magpies game of recent vintage. You could cut the pre-match atmosphere with a knife. It was an excellent team performance, capped by a memorable goal and wild celebrations (check out the photo in Stripes, if it’s still there). Tit-bits like a certain MUFC Director struggling to change his corduroy trousers on the terraces at half-time and Craig subsequently reporting on the BBC Radio Norfolk commentary highlights (“You’ll never beat a keeper of Ramos’ quality with a shot like that”) only add to the legend. The Play-Off Final win, 1-0 over Team Bath the following Saturday, was always likely to be a walk in the (Twerton) park after this.

Worst match?
Hampton away 1998. Lost 1-0 and cost us promotion. The ‘nearly’ season

That defeat was painful, so it was, but nothing compared to my updated answer: the 4-1 capitulation at H*rsh@m in the FA Cup 2007/08. Just seven months after perhaps the best Maidenhead performance I’ve seen (Kings Lynn), came one of the worst. And in our biggest game for donkey’s years. Check out the respective line-ups from those two games! And never forget who signed Louis Wells (true story: the culprit rang me at work to tell me all about it).

Best Maidenhead goal seen?
Brian Connor v Reading in B&B Final at Wycombe 1998

BC’s goal was an absolute cracker - end of - plus all the more memorable because it came in such a big game … and from such an unlikely source! However, an updated - or amended - answer would probably be Barry Rake’s stupendous Di Canio-esque scissor-kick volley against Enfield at Boreham Wood in September 2001.

Best all-time Maidenhead line-up?
Peter Rackley, Tyrone Houston, Brian Connor, Tim Cook, Paul Holder, Cliff Alleyne, Steve Brown, Barry Rake, Garry Attrell, Benny Laryea, Chuk Agudosi. Subs: Andy Morley, Richard Barnard, Andy Smith, Mickey Creighton, Garry Hall. 4-4-2

I’m fairly pleased with this (I’m reading ‘best’ as ‘favourite’): a balanced and relatively strong line-up, IMO. Andy Morley - decent bloke and player though he is/ was - is an ‘of the time’ pick, though, while Agudosi’s departure tarnished his legacy somewhat, and I probably should’ve found room for Trevor Roffey. Otherwise, we’re all good. The updated answer wouldn’t see many changes, then, but an alternative line-up - using none of the previously selected players and a more relevant 3-5-2 formation - would likely feature (among others): Ramos, Cooper, Sterling and Smith (Ashley), plus current Magpies Mark Nisbet, Bobby Behzadi and Reece Tison-Lascaris. (Nb. Six of the XI that started the aforementioned King’s Lynn game.)

Best thing about Maidenhead United?
Away days on the train

No change.

Worst thing?
Hangovers the day after a game!

No change. ;-)

Do you support any other team?

And Bristol Rovers. #3CW, #whosyourfavouritenonleagueteam?

What other sports and hobbies do you enjoy?
Socialising, eating out, sleeping

I probably viewed ‘socialising’ as a sport back then! Sleeping was presumably included as my student days had only recently finished. Updated answer: NFL (and other sports), holidaying, walking, weekly pub quizzing, ale drinking. #gettingold


Music: Oasis, Badly Drawn Boy, Stone Roses

I can’t remember the last time I listened to a Badly Drawn Boy song. So, the mighty Goldie Lookin Chain to replace the woolly-hat-wearing Manc in an updated answer.

TV Show: Only Fools and Horses, Phoenix Nights

Phoenix Nights is undeniably good, but severely tarnished by the fact that Peter Kay features prominently and, nowadays, he does my head in. The Mighty Boosh can can replace it. Or Cheers; I’m slowly - all too slowly - making my way through the ITV4 repeats I’ve recorded. I also love the X-Files (not just because of Gillian Anderson; see below). Only Fools is still #1 for me.

Actor: Ruud van Nistelrooy

Arf. Gotta be Danny Dyer, innit.

Actress: Shannon Tweed

Double arf. Gillian Anderson.

Drink: Kronenbourg, Guinness and Black

Kronenbourg?! Yuk. Becks Vier is now my lager of choice (although nothing can beat Keo in Cyprus or Mythos in Greece whilst on holiday). Guinness and Black, meanwhile, remains an away day staple. These days, I’m also partial to a real ale, preferably something dark like Windsor & Eton’s Conqueror or Batemans’ Black & White.

Sicilian meatballs and spaghetti

Eh? What pretentious twaddle! My Dad’s curry, my Mum’s chilli, my wife’s oven-baked risotto, my spag bol, Wetherspoons’ fish and chips (on a Friday) ...


Guess where I’d been on holiday in the summer of 2004?? TBF, I do love the Greek islands (and Cyprus): Sissi, Crete, last year, was perhaps the best yet. I also loved Boston, Seattle and Vancouver in 2012. And, of course, regular Christmas market/ football weekend visits to Germany. Glasgow is also a great city, preferable to overrated Edinburgh.