"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 24 October 2016

Away Day Diary: Hampton & Richmond Borough 2-3 Maidenhead United (22/10/16)

^^^ Beaver Las Vegas! 
(My attempt, BTW, at a 'beaver face'. Never again. I promise.)

As per a post on the Conference South forum, 'match of the day' in the division last weekend was undoubtedly our visit to the Beveree (3rd vs 1st). Rainey selling out a supporters' coach, for the first time this season, further testament to that. I should've known that it was going to be a good day when Fuzz, Macleod (M) and I - en route to meet with Craig at the station ahead of our 09:38 departure - bumped into Bobby P, who revealed that he has a Havant & Waterlooville sign in his bedroom! I've photos of said sign - very long and bendy - somewhere. Sadly, I cannot find them :-(

^^^ Talk of signs and of Hampton reminded us of the above photo which, happily, was easier to locate. Not the first time that it has appeared on this blog. For which I make no apology. "Brian … BRIAN! You've dropped your sign". Classic! This was taken on the way back from the Beveree in September 2007. We'd managed a 1-1 draw, extending a win-less run at Hampton that stretched all the way back to Dev's first season in charge (a memorable 4-3 win in March 1997; Darren PowellHampton's defensive colossus - was sent off, if I remember correctly, with Messrs Agudosi, Attrell and Creighton among the Maidenhead goals). Understandable, therefore, that we travelled in hope rather than expectation, despite this season's excellent form.

^^^ The list of conversation topics, on the train journey into London, was long and varied. So long and varied, in fact, that I've forgotten the vast majority! "Make sure you're listing these," said Macleod (M), "for the blog". I wasn't. Out of practice. I do recall, however, that Mr C from The Shamen featured prominently. (Hence my pose in the above photo. Never again. I promise.) Furthermore, it was also revealed that the drum used to serenade the Magpies at Leatherhead in May 1991 (Drums at football?! For shame.) was the very same as used by Kipper, the fictional band in Robin Askwith's 'Confessions of a Pop Performer'. Yes, really! #filmpropsatfootball

^^^ Anyway, we met with Gav Altona - old friend and H&RBFC season ticket holder - at Fulwell station and followed him to the Roebuck. And I'm glad that we did, as this is a top boozer; comfortably the best that I've been in since the Barge Gladys, en route to Concord Rangers, in August. Decent selection of reasonably-priced ales (plus Dortmunder Union Pils on tap)? Check. Ham/ cheese and onion rolls, wrapped in cling film, for £1.50 each? Tick. Model planes made from old beer cans, and a collection of fishing rods, hanging from the ceiling? Bingo. I think that we'd all have happily stayed put. Instead we moved on …

^^^ 'Show us yer cards'. One drink stops in the Bloated Mallard (pint of Twickenham's Autumn Red = good; minimalist décor = bad) and then the Star (where the above photo was taken; full of rugby fans; traditional décor = good; rank pint of Doom Bar = bad), before a short bus ride to the Jolly Coopers, our usual pre-match Hampton haunt.

^^^ Our last league win wearing Slough Town yellow and blue? Hemel Hempstead (more on them later) in August 2015. We started well though, both on and off the pitch, and Harry Pritchard's strike raised the decibel levels still further. I bumped - almost literally - into Steve H, during the goal celebrations (above). Twas good to see him. The H&RBFC left back, directly in front of us, was getting some stick from the noisy travelling contingent. I'm not entirely sure why, although it definitely wasn't because he was short and 'fair-haired' ... although he was ("Stay outta the sun … "). The home side's keeper, meanwhile, resembled Ian Walker ("Dodgy keeper. Dodgy haircut"), whilst their #2 - Michael Kamara - was having an absolute nightmare; hoofing it out of play, unintentionally, on countless occasions ("Sign him up for Marlow").

^^^ The Beavers equalised with the aid of big deflection (the deflection diverting the ball into the path of their goal scorer, as opposed to diverting it into the net). "We're not singing anymore" had barely subsided, however, before Dean Inman's header restored our advantage. As per the above photograph, accompanying the match report in the Non League Paper, he didn't celebrate. Now, I've nothing against Inman per se - he's been excellent for us; arguably even more impressive than his widely well-regarded central defensive partner - but not celebrating against a former side is a bug bear of mine. (A pre-match post on the H&RBFC forum read as follows: 'Will also be interesting to see how Dean Inman plays after having been effectively let go by Mark Harper a few seasons ago'). I certainly appreciated Lawrence Yaku not performing his usual somersault celebration, after notching against us (for Hampton, funnily enough): he'd played over 100 games for the Magpies and scored 60+ goals. Likewise, I can understand Frank Lampard, for example, not celebrating against Chelsea. But not celebrating a goal against, say, a team that you played for three times on loan, five years ago, is eye roll-inducing. Maybe it's me. It often is.

^^^ I wrote this tweet whilst snaking my way back to the clubhouse, after getting down to the covered terrace, behind the goal, only to realise that there were no toilets at this end of the ground. I contemplated getting some food, but the queue was too long. The crowd, TBF, was large - four figures - which is remarkable bearing in mind the rather pitiful numbers that have watched this fixture in the past (265 at the aforementioned 4-3 game in 96/97; 410 at the 1-1 draw in 07/08).

^^^ Like Cressing Road, Braintree - and unlike York Road, Maidenhead - the Beveree seems to have gotten worse over the years. No Beaver Bar for a start! The temporary seating also starting to show its age. The whole ground, IMO, needs a fair bit of work.

^^^ One of the Youth - impressive, again, in terms of number and noise - was thrown out (I don't know what for) and so had to peer over the fence to watch the second half match action. Hopefully he's not one of the stars of the local rag's much vaunted match day advert!

^^^ Great header by Ryan Upward, capping a MoM display from the former Beaconsfield SYCOB and Burnham midfielder.

^^^ We were in complete control but, out of the blue, Hampton reduced the arrears. News also filtered through that second-placed Chelmsford had recovered from 3-0 down, at home vs Hemel Hempstead, to lead 4-3. The nervousness of the travelling hordes manifested itself in a prolonged rendition of 'Alan Devonshire's black and white army' (which was to include a ludicrous amount of added time). Maidenhead teams of yesteryear might've folded like a pack of cards. Fortunately for us, though, this bunch of players are made of sterner stuff; despite a need for the occasional last-ditch tackle/ block, plus Dave Tarpey missing a golden opportunity to give the score line a fairer reflection, we saw the game out with relative ease. A deserved win. And a late Hemel equaliser meant that our lead atop the table increased to seven points!

^^^ Scenes at the final whistle.

^^^ Joker.

^^^ Beatles or Stones? Stones for me. 

After my celebratory photo with Bertie Beaver (see top of page), we returned to the Jolly Coopers. It was absolutely rammed but, thankfully, the landlord is one of those increasingly rare types who can serve multiple people at once. After bidding farewell to Gav Altona, we headed for one in the World's End (OK, I s'pose). A quick stop at a convenience store - the taste of Fuzz's knock-off Peperami will haunt me for some time - preceded our return train (sans toilet, much to Murdo's chagrin). Craig recommended the King's Arms, near Waterloo. Good call: another top boozer, this, with surrounding streets that resemble a film set (after miraculously escaping obliteration during WWII bombing raids). It was here that (1) the above photo was taken and (2) I was egged on to create a 'Can anyone stop Maidenhead?' thread on the Conference South forum. In jest, obviously. Or is it …

^^^ The train from Paddington was heaving. It wasn't until Slough that I was able to get a seat alongside Craig and Fuzz ... facing a woman with a strong resemblance to a former England international. Craig and Fuzz, plus a nearby group of Eastern European lads, were in hysterics. Barry Venison - big in Poland. Who knew?!

^^^ League derby with W@nky Wanderers next season?! Ye Gods!

Match highlights HERE

Monday 2 May 2016

Away Day Diary: Weston-super-Mare 2-0 Maidenhead United (23/04/2016)

Fancy Dresslemania XVI

^^^ When you've done as many of these things as the KSG, you come to appreciate that the keys to a great costume are the accessories. #babycarlos

^^^ The previous Saturday, at Ruislip Manor Wealdstone, Macleod (M) had been asked what time our train was leaving for Weston. "13:02," came the reply, "on Friday". 

^^^ Craig hadn't missed a single opportunity on social media to mock my kid-at-Christmas-like sense of anticipation. Within minutes of our departure from Reading, however, he had opened a packet of Tunnock's tea cakes and spilt nearly half a bottle of Brooklyn lager down my leg. Make of that what you will. #overexcited

^^^ Change at Bristol Temple Meads. Sh!tty 1982 Ltd poster. #mailonlinesadface, #UTG

^^^ Yatton.

^^^ Yatton (for Clevedon); ahead of Clevedon Town 1-3 Maidenhead United in March 2007. The good ol' days! ;-)

^^^ Room with a view.

^^^ After a couple of drinks with Rainey and Mrs Rainey in the hotel bar, we headed to the beach.

^^^ Cold and wet.

^^^ The Pier; about to close.

^^^ First pub stop was the Cabot Court Hotel. This Wetherspoons was much bigger than it looked from the outside and much better than Macleod (M)'s facial expression would seemingly indicate!

^^^ Macleod (C) and I were enjoying ourselves, in any case!

^^^ The Old Colonial, a KSG favourite, was next. Full and frank discussions re the monarchy, the BBC, and Brexit. Then we passed the Danny Welbeck Hotel en route to the Pavilion Bar.

^^^ Macleod (C) and I attempted to recreate the above photo of him and my Dad, post-Weston-super-Mare 2-2 Maidenhead United in August 2008, without much success. Rugby League was showing in here, which rather summed things up. Craig checked TripAdvisor, resulting in us heading to the highly-recommended Criterion - 'a genuine free house and traditional community pub' - on nearby Upper Church Road. After serving us a couple of rounds of excellent ales, the barman directed us to Vinnie's.

^^^ Karaoke in here. Good fun. Judging by this photo (what's going on with my eyes?!), I should've done 'Fade To Grey' in tribute to Steve Strange.

^^^ Craig and Macleod (M) retired - rather sensibly - to the hotel when Vinnie's closed, whereas Macleod (C) and I headed to the London Inn. Cue the usual tomfoolery.

^^^ Some of us were feeling much better than others the following morning, which, considering that not everyone was out until 07:30 am, is understandable. #notbigorclever

^^^ Costumes on (some more speedily than others), we returned to the Wetherspoons; in glorious sunshine this time.

^^^ Skippy not alone in appreciating Cotleigh's Golden (Seattle) Seahawk.

^^^ A whole host of other characters soon joined us. Some had travelled by car, others by train. (Thanks to Messrs Leonard, Cox & Smith for the use of these and other photos.)

^^^ Whilst we waited for taxis to the ground, Skippy wasted no time.

^^^ The burgers at Wealdstone, the previous week, had been excellent. These weren't far behind.

^^^ Lots in fancy dress - and lots of noise - as, sadly, we attacked the decent end in the first half. 'Please stop swearing,' requested someone over the tannoy. You can, I'm sure, imagine the response.

^^^ Match action. Yawn. Two abominable kits.

^^^ Down the rubbish end, second half, although at least it has been covered since my last visit. With other results going their way, the Magpies needed to adopt the spirit of the 1988 Jamaican bobsleigh team in an attempt to reach the promised land of the Vanarama South play-offs.

^^^ This 'M@rl*w with the flag' missed a blatant, two-handed push on a Maidenhead player in the Weston box, as he (Dean Inman?) was about to head a cross. Seconds later, the home side took the lead through a penalty kick that was awarded.

^^^ Moeen Ali and the rest of the travelling hordes did their best to rouse the team - James and Adam, bottom right, only quiet when sat in the Batmobile (!) - but I think that Maidenhead could still be playing now without having scored in the meantime. I was reminded, in this sense, of Farnborough away in last season's FA Trophy. "They're gonna win this 2-0," predicted Macleod (M) Bruce, as the Magpies lay siege to the home side's goal in search of an equaliser ... just before Weston broke away to double their lead. 2-0 it finished. Disappointing, in truth. And apt, upon reflection, that there was no conga. :-(

^^^ Post-match talk, in the clubhouse, was of a great season; of how next year might be even better ("Forget the play-offs, we'll get automatic promotion!"). But I think that many, deep down, realised this had been a golden opportunity squandered. Not even the appearance of a lesser spotted Maidenhead United pennant or Mike Flowers from Mike Flowers Pops could raise the spirits (many were tired and/ or sozzled, TBF). Soon enough - as Everton equalised in the FA Cup semi-final on TV - only the KSG remained. A smiling John Gregory - former manager of Wanky Wanderers, among others - arrived to present the prizes at Weston's end-of-season do. It was suggested that we take his taxi back into town. We didn't, but only because ours was already on its way.

^^^ Winston's Fish Bar for dinner. Bruce's first Foster's of the day. Unbelievably. The food was OK, although expensive, and the portions were gut-busting.

^^^ The sun was setting, and the temperature was falling fast as we headed to 'Port & Stilton' night at the Criterion. Bruce and Alan from the Hangover were stopped, with the pub in sight,  by a gentleman heading in the opposite direction. "Are you from Maidenhead?" he inquired. It transpired that we were in conversation with Digby, currently resident in North Cornwall but previously of Cox Green, Maidenhead. He had been at the game and is apparently a regular reader of - and sporadic contributor to - the MUFC Ltd forum. He had heard of Murdo. Unsurprisingly. "I thought Drax did well on a limited budget," said Digby. We stifled laughter and wished him a safe onward journey.

^^^ Eye-catching graffiti, such as this 'Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill' piece, was dotted throughout the town centre. Anything to do with Banky's Dismaland? Perhaps not. Anyway, this photo was taken after we'd left the Criterion. We were in there a while - the locals loved our fancy dress; plenty of photos requested and taken - but I was really struggling with tiredness and had to nurse a pint of shandy. For shame. It was freezing as we made our way along the front towards Vinnie's.

^^^ Craig left for the hotel, but our number remained four as his place was seamlessly taken by Tash. Originally from Knowle, Bristol, she had apparently been stood up by a friend and asked if she could join us. To reply, we'd have had to have been able to get a word in edgeways! Tash is not backward in coming forwards; the type of girl who will repeatedly grab you by the b*ll*cks if you don't smile. I smiled. Eventually.

^^^ Another top night in Vinnie's. The 'experienced' DJ - just about visible in the background, on the left-hand side of this photo (as Skippy is molested by an employee of Footlocker) - played vinyl records using an old school turntable; with a telephone handset, rather than headphones, to listen in. His playlist was excellent: 'I Fought The Law', 'Alternative Ulster', 'Another Girl, Another Planet' and the like. We asked for 'Viva Las Vegas' to honour Sutton beating Ebbsfleet to the title; he duly obliged, and the place went berserk. I'm pleased that news of this gave our friends at Gandermonium a chuckle!

^^^ The bouncer - a nice bloke, whom we christened Fat Doug - asked for this photo to be taken and for it to be immediately Bluetooth'ed to him. Later on, after another visit to the London Inn, a female bouncer stopped us and asked for a similar photo. She subsequently permitted us free entry - saving us a whopping £2 each - to her club. Now called Ella's, but known as Eternity when Macleod (M), Scouse Mick and I were (the only ones) there back in November 2011. Their music was what Macleod (M) would describe as 'housey housey' - and shite housey housey at that - while the clientele was 'interesting'. We didn't stay to the end; Alan from the Hangover was getting a second wind - but Bruce was falling asleep - when we decided to head for the hotel at 03:15 am.

^^^ Back at the Premier Inn, and Yosemite Sam's Macleod (C)'s face says it all.

^^^ Macleod (C) and I were up first on Sunday; we enjoyed a stroll along the beach as the others caught up with their calorie intake. After a round of drinks in a humongous Sports Bar on Regent Street - I had a Coke! - it was time for a leisurely walk to the station (no Supermarket Sweep, for a change, in the Tesco's opposite).

So, another Fancy Dresslemania in the books. The verdict? A good weekend, albeit not the best Fancy Dress. Various factors for this: separate travel plans, poor ground location (ergo no walk of shame, en masse), the performance, the result, the opposition (I like going to Weston, and respect them for consistently punching above their weight, but they need Sean back on the terraces to liven things up), no conga. Furthermore, Fancy Dresslemania is an event that stands alone; it doesn't need a weekend away. There and back, via London, in a day - à la Dover, Billericay, Bishop's Stortford, Sutton - is, I think, the way to go (if possible). However, as discussed on the train back from Weston, Bath wouldn't be half bad ...

^^^ What about the season as a whole? I think Macleod (M), above, summarises well.

It was great to see - and hear - the Youth (who first came to my attention, I think, during an FA Youth Cup tie at York Road in November 2014) at both Wealdstone and Weston. We've had large groups at York Road before, but they have usually disbanded when full-price admission and other distractions - alcohol, jobs, the opposite sex - present themselves. This lot, touch wood, seem different. I'd love for them to come up with their own chants, as opposed to simply repeating virtually word-for-word what they hear on TV or Twitter or wherever, but that's just me. 

As for the league position, I think some context is required; 'Second highest finish ever' is a bit 'Sky invented football' for me. And while we'd all have taken 'safe from relegation scrap' humdrummery, before the season started, a team containing Pentney, Peters, Steer, Massey, Inman, Mulley, Comley, Pritchard and Tarpey should be finishing comfortably mid-table, if not upper mid-table (7th place), as par for the course. People were told, under the previous management regime, that merely staying up was a 'real achievement' so many times they actually believed it! They're also shocked to learn that Dev has managed on the same budget as Drax. I'm not. It's just a pity that the powers that be didn't have the moxie to replace Johnson Hippolyte sooner. Hey ho, not unlike the building of the new stand, it's a case of better late than never. Also, credit where it's due re the freezing of admission prices. St Albans City is proof that not all clubs charge reasonably for what is, let us not forget, Division Six football. St Albans City - and Ian Allinson - are also proof that a decent manager, who knows what he's doing, will get you decent results in this league. No problem.

As for the Cup run, well, I'd resigned myself to thinking that Maidenhead United would never in my lifetime play a proper league club in the FA Cup, let alone take one to a televised replay at York Road. Mulley's equaliser at Vale Park was - and likely always will be - THE moment; Massey giving us the lead, down the Bell End, not far behind. That Dev was in charge means he is a legend twice over, having taken us to the promised land of the Isthmian Premier (!) - and won our first trophy in 27 years - during his first spell. Now, I'm not suggesting that he is a demigod, without flaw and beyond reproach (would it have hurt, for example, to have given some of the youngsters a run out in the dead rubber with Concord?). But there's none of this 'it's becoming harder to compete with teams like Basingstoke' guff from him. Far from it. I heard he re-iterated, at the end-of-season do last Saturday (£10 to get into Stripes?!), that he returned to the club because of the fans. He's mentioned that before, of course, perhaps most notably on BT Sport after we'd lost to Port Vale. 

Simply put: it's great to have him back.

Here's to next season. ('Sign a striker, Devonshire!')


P.S. This summer marks the tenth anniversary of the reformation of MUSA (Maidenhead United Supporters Association). Anything worthwhile planned in celebration?!