The first time we heard of Maidenhead United was when John Dreyer left us to manage ’em in 2003. But that’s just one part of the tale. Of course it is. Even we can’t waffle on about a minor moment at the end of the 2002-3 season. What we can – and are actually going to – look back on instead, however, is our head-to-head with the Magpies. For our older fans, it might be one you already know. For our younger fans, settle in. You may learn something.
Every day’s a school day…
Who are Maidenhead United?
As the date on their badge suggests, the Magpies have now been with us for more than 150 years; last year’s coronavirus-riddled 12 months rather spoiling that impressive milestone. And, because they moved into their current York Road stadium one year later, they hold the honour of the “oldest senior football ground continuously used by the same club in the country“. Even got a plaque to say that – presumably in a far snappier way.
Does the road that gives the ground its name even run to York, though? Questions might need to be asked there…
Anyway, the Magpies are also part of another great piece of footballing trivia. In the 1871-2 season, they were among the first-ever 15 teams to take part in the FA Cup. But they’re yet to go better than the quarter final stage. And we’d reckon that wait is going to go on a little while longer yet. And while we’re in the late 19th century (still), the club also had the (less prestigious) honour of being founder members of the Southern League.
That didn’t last long. After struggling at the wrong end of the table for eight seasons, the Magpies dropped down into the West Berkshire League in 1902; winning the title in their debut campaign and then coming second in their second.
Why do we know the Magpies?
In 1904, the club moved into the new Great Western Suburban League with Maidenhead Norfolkians. After World War One, the two would become one; merging in 1919 to create the Maidenhead United we now know (the previous side were simply Maidenhead before that). In the years leading up to – and beyond – World War Two, the club started to climb up the ladder; playing in the Spartan, Corinthian, and Athenian Leagues.
In 1973, the Magpies took the next step; joining the Isthmian League for the first time. At first, you’d find them in Division Two. In 1978, however, it was renamed Division One. It’s not like promotion was on the cards at that stage. Seventh was the highest they’d ended any season to date – and that was in a division comprising 16 sides. But they stayed put at that level all the same. And that’s why we’d eventually come to meet them.
What is our record against them?
For the 1986-7 season, promotion had taken us into Division One. It was a bumpy ride to start. But a little New Year bounce saw us clock up some much-needed wins; the second of which was a 4-0 win at home to the Magpies. We followed that up six weeks later with a 1-0 win at York Road. That was the last time we’d claim three points from one match that season. It was lucky there were several worse teams than us that season.
One of those teams would be the Magpies; relegated after ending the season bottom but one in the table. For them, it meant going down into Division Two South. Our brief time in each other’s company was also at an end. Our own relegation the following season didn’t help either. As we said, they went South. We went North. Either both of us needed to get back up a level or the leagues needed to be re-organised.
In the end, it was the first option that did it.
And it’s weird to think that we both returned to Division One at the same time. We soared back as runaway champions of Division Two North. Meanwhile, they came back after just missing out on the Division Two South table. It’s about as close as our fortunes would be matched. Under Cloughie, we’d kick on again. But the Magpies were left battling away in the bottom half of the table. And we weren’t giving them an inch in our own mini-battle.
For some reason, it wasn’t until March 1992 that our first league meeting rolled around. It was another confident win for us; 2-0 at Broadhall Way on a Monday evening and still the Magpies were to score against us. Less than a month later, we went one better and came away from theirs with a three-goal victory. Up we went with our perfect record against ’em intact. And they hadn’t so much as tickled our goal net in the process.
Maidenhead United: Boro’s Record
Our head-to-head: P 4— W 4 — D 0 — L 0 — F 10 — A 0 — Pts 12 — WR 100%
Our last tango: Maidenhead United 0-3 Stevenage Borough, 04 April 1992
What happened to them?
To their credit, the Magpies kept on an upward path after that. But theirs was much slower and is yet to go as far as ours. Promotion to the Isthmian League Premier Division in 2000 was followed by a spot in the new Conference South in 2004. It was a false dawn, though. They were relegated two seasons later; not to the Isthmian League, but to the Southern – the first time they’d played in the competition for more than 100 years.
It proved to be a blip.
The Magpies returned to Conference South straight away; beating King’s Lynn and Team Bath in the playoffs after ending up fourth in the table. Back on the right path, foundations were now being laid for the next step. And, in 2017, they edged out Ebbsfleet United and won the title; bringing with it promotion to the National League.
Life at the top of the non-league tree has been tough. After a promising first campaign in which they finished 12th, the following two seasons saw them flirt with relegation. In fact, the 2019-20 season would’ve seen them relegated based on their position with six left to play. In their milestone year, however, forces beyond football intervened – and they lived to fight another day in the National League.
It’s a chance they’ve so far taken. And that’s something we can totally relate to…
• WANT TO KNOW MORE? – Maidenhead United club profile