Maidenhead United F.C.
|Full name||Maidenhead United Football Club|
|Ground||York Road, Maidenhead|
|Capacity||3,000 (532 seated)|
|2013–14||Conference South, 18th|
Maidenhead United Football Club is a semi-professional English football club in Maidenhead, Berkshire. The club was founded in 1870 and moved to their current ground at York Road the following year. The Football Association have acknowledged that it is the "oldest senior football ground continuously used by the same club".
The origins of senior football in Maidenhead can be traced back to October 1870 with the formation of Maidenhead Football Club, who subsequently played their first ever fixture in December 1870 against Windsor Home Park on a site close to the River Thames. On 16 February 1871 the club played their first game on the York Road site against Marlow. The Club were one of the original 15 entrants for the first ever FA Cup competition in 1871–72. The following season they reached the last four before losing to Oxford University. Maidenhead reached the quarter-finals in the next two seasons, but in 1876 withdrew, returning the following season. They also entered the first ever Berks & Bucks Cup competition in 1878 and the first FA Amateur Cup in 1893.
Maidenhead F.C. were founder members of the Southern League in 1894 but competing with the likes of Watford, Brentford, Fulham and Brighton proved too demanding and eventually they dropped into the West Berkshire League, which they won, and the Berks & Bucks League, in which they finished bottom. In 1904 Maidenhead joined the Great Western Suburban League.
Maidenhead Norfolkians, meanwhile, were founded in 1884 and were successful members of the South Bucks & East Berks League before also joining the West Berks League and the Berks & Bucks League. In 1904 they joined Maidenhead FC in the Great Western Suburban League. Norfolkians played at Kidwells Park which can still be seen to this day, but as a public park – it once staged a Berks & Bucks Cup Final.
Spartans and Corinthians
After the Great War the two clubs amalgamated as Maidenhead Town and adopted the famous black & white stripes. They had immediate success winning the Great Western League. In 1920 the name "United" was adopted and two years later they entered the Spartan League. They won the title three times in their nineteen-year stay. In 1936 Maidenhead reached the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup losing 4–1 to Ilford at West Ham in front of 18,000 spectators. It was that season that the ground record attendance of 7,989 was set when Southall came to York Road in the quarter-final. In the 1929–30 season the club’s goal-scoring record for a season was set when Jack Palethorpe scored 65 goals in 39 games. He went on to play for Sheffield Wednesday and scored in the Owls FA Cup win in 1935.
Following the end of the Second World War the club entered the Corinthian League. In six seasons between 1956 and 1962 the club won the title three times, were runners-up twice and also reached the third Round of the FA Amateur Cup, losing to West Auckland at York Road in front of a post-war record attendance of 5,597. They also made three appearances in the First Round Proper of the FA Cup.
Athenians and Isthmians
In 1963 United joined the Athenian League, but were unable to repeat their Corinthian success, but in 1973 were elected into the new Isthmian League second Division. They had a flirtation with promotion to the Premier Division in 1979 and 1980 under Geoff Anthony, and then again in 1985 under Brian Caterer and Colin Lippiatt. This is where they stayed until 1987 when the Club suffered relegation for the first time in its history, the black days made worse with the destruction of the main stand by an arson attack and financial problems. It took four seasons to get out of Division Two, which was achieved under the guidance of Martyn Spong in 1991. An Isthmian League record of 13 straight wins at the start of the season was the springboard to success, but the title was lost to Abingdon Town on the last day of the season. Following the departure of Spong to Enfield, Gary Goodwin, John Clements and then John Watt[disambiguation needed] took on the manager’s job with mediocre results, the club regularly finishing mid-table. The club desperately needed fresh blood to revive dreams of taking its place in the Premier Division.
The Devonshire years
In the summer of 1996, in an attempt to break that run of mediocrity, the Club hired a new management team of Martyn Busby, the former QPR and Notts County midfielder and Alan Devonshire the former West Ham and England midfielder. Although Busby left midway through the season, Devonshire guided United to their first Cup success since 1970 by winning the Isthmian League Full Members Cup. The 1997–98 season saw the Club have one of their most successful campaigns since Corinthian days. They won all three County Cups, beating Reading 2–1 in the Senior Final, reached the semi-final of the Full Members Cup and captured the Isthmian Fair Play Award. The season was nearly rounded off with promotion, but the Club finished fourth and an agonising one point behind Hampton despite clocking up 81 points. More silverware was won the following season, when the Magpies strolled home 4–1 against Wycombe Wanderers to retain the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup.
The 1999-2000 season saw United make a solid start to the League campaign, losing just one of their opening eleven games – and that on the opening day. By late March the Club remained in the promotion hunt with just five League defeats and a place in the Isthmian League Cup Final to look forward to at the end of the season. A late season rally followed a short, jittery, slump in results. The club took its place in the Premier Division on Thursday 4 May following a 1–0 home win over champions Croydon just days after losing 1–0 to Farnborough Town in the Final of the Isthmian League Cup at Basingstoke.
Life in the Premier Division was tough to begin with but spirits were lifted by a memorable FA Trophy run which came to an end at Blyth Spartans. The team eventually stayed up, having never been in the relegation places.
A new 700-capacity enclosure was completed in May 2001 which increased York Road's capacity to 4,500 and covered terracing for 1,700. However, the ground has long been the target for developers, being a town centre site only 30 miles from London, making it one of the most desirable pieces of real estate in England. But Maidenhead’s move to a new stadium has always faltered due to a lack of available sites in an area locked in by green belt. The club continued to consolidate their place in the top division during the last two years of Devonshire’s reign, winning the County cup in both seasons.
A turbulent start to the 21st century
At the start of the 2002–03 season chairman Roger Coombs announced he would step down at the end of that season. In April 2003 manager Alan Devonshire stated his intention to leave the club after the final match of the season. The summer of 2003 naturally then saw a hive of activity at York Road with new manager John Dreyer and his assistant Phil Gray having to bring in virtually a new squad.
The 2003–04 season unsurprisingly saw a shaky start and after seven games Maidenhead found themselves bottom of the league and winless. However a run of seven wins in nine games saw United shoot up the table and gave themselves a platform to secure a top half finish which guaranteed Conference South football, the highest level the club have played at since the Southern League days in the late nineteenth century.
In the 2004–05 season Maidenhead struggled to adjust to life in the Conference South and following a slide into the bottom three in November, the club parted company with Dreyer and Gray. In December a new management team arrived from Windsor consisting of Dennis Greene and Colin Ferguson but despite a significant improvement in results United could not break clear of the relegation struggle. On the last day of the season a defeat in a relegation shootout at Newport County combined with a win for fellow strugglers Carshalton Athletic sent the Magpies down. However within a fortnight of the final whistle Maidenhead were reprieved following the demise of Hornchurch. Following a disastrous start to the 2005–06 season Greene was sacked after seven games and replaced by Alan Devonshire's former assistant Carl Taylor. Taylor and his assistant Tony Choules were no more successful than their predecessor in maintaining Nationwide South status and so the club returned to the Southern League after an absence of over a century.
Another consequence of the struggle to retain Conference South status has been mounting debts and as 2005 drew to a close a financial crisis loomed. This was swiftly resolved when the members voted to wind up the existing club and transfer ownership to a new Limited Company set up by sponsors Pharmalink and headed by Una Loughrey.
The Drax Factor
A slow start to the 2006/07 season, the Magpies first in the Southern League Premier Division, led to the dismissal of Carl Taylor following a 5-0 defeat at home to Clevedon Town in September. Caretaker manager Richie Goddard, immediately showed the latent potential in the squad by winning all five of his games in charge until the arrival of new manager Johnson "Drax" Hippolyte. Two of these wins had been in the FA Cup, meaning Hippolyte's first game was an FA Cup Fourth Qualifying tie at home to unbeaten league rivals Merthyr Tydfil. United won a tumultuous tussle 1-0 with a goal from Lee Newman to move into the competition proper for the first time since 1971. The draw delivered an away tie at Conference club Stafford Rangers and in a thrilling match Maidenhead earned a replay with a 1-1 draw, despite having two players sent off, thanks to a penalty save by Chico Ramos. The replay attracted almost 2,000 spectators to York Road but after Craig O'Connor missed a penalty, United slumped to a 2-0 defeat. League form remained patchy and in January, following back to back defeats against bottom club Corby Town, it looked like a relegation battle would ensue. However a run of 15 wins in the final 21 games saw United snatch a play off spot on the last day of the season. A Mark Nisbet goal was enough to win at King's Lynn in the play off semi final on the following Tuesday to set up a promotion final at Twerton Park against Team Bath. Errol Telemaque scored early in the second half to earn the Magpies a swift return to the Conference South. Two days after the promotion final on May Day Bank Holiday Monday, Maidenhead lost the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup Final 2-1 to MK Dons at Adams Park, Wycombe.
Hopes were high that United would enjoy better fortunes on their return to the Conference South in 2007 than had previously been the case but league form remained poor for much of the season. Drax again led the team to the FA Cup first round, the draw again sending the Magpies to a non league club. This time though opponents Horsham Town were in a lower division but despite being favourites United were humbled 4-1 by the Sussex club. Relegation from the Conference South again looked likely in the final month of the season but three wins in a week followed by two draws saw the Magpies finish safely in 17th spot and earned Drax the manager of the month award for April.
The 2008-09 season at last saw Drax's squad realise their potential. United topped the Conference South for the first time in September and went onto finish in sixth position, the highest league placing in the club's history. However off the pitch attempts to engineer a ground move away from York Road were fast coming to a full stop and in 2009 Chairman Peter Griffin elected to cut the playing budget. This led to a much weakened squad starting the 2009-10 season but the temporary signing of Will Hendry in the autumn transformed the team's fortunes and set up a final placing of 16th with silverware returning to York Road in the form of the Berks & Bucks Cup with Wycombe Wanderers being beaten by the odd goal in five in a thrilling final at Oak Tree Road, Marlow.
As a result of his relative success on a smaller playing budget Drax was awarded a two year contract. However over the duration of the contract performances declined with finishes of 19th and 20th place. The 2010-11 season, the club's 140 anniversary, all appeared lost following a defeat at Lewes at the start of April but a six match unbeaten run meant that even a last day defeat could not stop a great escape from relegation. The County Cup final was reached again but this time another 3-2 scoreline saw opponents Wycombe Wanderers regain the trophy at The Meadow, Chesham. Fortunes improved initially at the start of the 2011-12 season, with a run to the FA Cup first round proper securing Drax another two year contract. Football League opposition was at last attracted to York Road in the form of Aldershot Town, the Magpies leading for much of the game through an Anthony Thomas goal, only for a late Shots equaliser to prevent a giantkilling in front of a packed York Road. The replay was lost 2-0 initiating a slump which saw United relegated at the end of the season, only to benefit from a reprieve following the demise of Kettering. Thus the Magpies retained their place in the Conference South.
The next two seasons followed a similar pattern to the previous two, with late runs of form rescuing poor league seasons, and final placings of 19th and 18th in 2013 and 2014 respectively. In the Spring of 2013 Alex Wall was transferred to Luton Town for a record fee received by Maidenhead United.
Off the pitch a new 550 stand is scheduled to open in time for the 2014-15 pre season friendlies, with the squad continuing to be managed by Drax who retained his job at the end of the 2013-14 season albeit without a contract.
Maidenhead United play their home games at York Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 1SF.
York Road, which had been a cricket ground from the late eighteenth century, is now officially acknowledged as the "oldest senior football ground continuously used by the same club", eclipsing Northwich Victoria's old claim by several years.
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
Southern League Premier Division Promotion Play Off Winners: 2006-07
Division One Promoted: 1999-2000 Division Two South
- Runners up (1): 1990–91
Great Western Combination Runners up: 1994-45
Spartan League Champions: 1926-27, 1931-32, 1933-34 Runners up: 1928-29, 1930-31
West Berkshire League Champions: 1902-03 Runners up: 1903-04, 1905-06
Berks & Bucks Senior Cup Winners: 1895, 1896, 1912, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1939, 1946, 1956, 1957, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2010 Finalists: 1882, 1893, 1894, 1898, 1914, 1920, 1923, 1926, 1936, 1958, 1960, 2001, 2007, 2011
Isthmian League Cup Finalists: 2000
Isthmian Full Members Cup Winners: 1997
- Corinthian League Memorial Shield:
- Winners (2): 1956–57, 1961-62
- Finalists (3): 1948-49, 1950-51, 1959–60
- "Country's 'oldest' football ground in Maidenhead gets plaque". BBC News. 13 October 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2012.
- "Honours - Other Competitions - Maidenhead United". Pitchero.com. 2012-11-29. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
- "Epsom & Ewell Football Club". Epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-27.