Ground: York Road (sine 1871)
Capacity: 4,500 (450 seated)
Admission: Adults: £9, Concessions (OAPs & NUS): £5, Under 16’s: £2
Junior Magpies: Free (Free Membership of the Junior Magpies is available to all Under 16s)
Maidenhead is a town within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, in Berkshire, England. It lies on the River Thames and is situated 25.7 miles (41.4 km) west of Charing Cross in London.
Maidenhead’s name, strictly speaking refers to the busy riverside area where the ‘New wharf’ or ‘Maiden Hythe’ was built, perhaps as early as Saxon times. It has been suggested that the nearby Great Hill of Taplow was called the ‘Mai Dun’ by the Iron Age Brythons. The area of the town centre was originally known as ‘South Ellington’ and is recorded in the Domesday Book as Ellington in the hundred of Beynhurst.
In 1280, a bridge was erected across the river to replace the ferry and the Great Western Road was diverted to make use of it. This led to the growth of Maidenhead: a stopping point for coaches on the journeys between London and Bath and the High Street became populated with inns. The current Maidenhead Bridge, a local landmark, dates from 1777 and was built at a cost of £19,000.
King Charles I met his children for the last time before his execution in 1649 at the Greyhound Inn, which is now a branch of the NatWest Bank. A plaque commemorates their meeting.
A significant river resort in the 19th century, Maidenhead was notably ridiculed in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome:
Maidenhead itself is too snobby to be pleasant. It is the haunt of the river swell and his overdressed female companion. It is the town of showy hotels, patronised chiefly by dudes and ballet girls. It is the witch’s kitchen from which go forth those demons of the river steam-launches. The LONDON JOURNAL duke always has his ‘little place’ at Maidenhead; and the heroine of the three-volume novel always dines there when she goes out on the spree with somebody else’s husband.”
With the railways beginning to expand in the mid-19th century, the High Street began to change again. Muddy roads were replaced and public services were installed – modern Maidenhead appeared. It became its own entity in 1894, being split from the civil parishes of both Bray and Cookham.
Maidenhead Citadel Corps of the Salvation Army was first opened in the Town in the mid 1880s. Maidenhead Citadel Band was soon founded in 1886 by Bandmaster William Thomas who later became Mayor of the Town. Maidenhead Citadel Band of the Salvation Army still takes an active role in the life of the town.
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. The York Road site is now officially acknowledged as the oldest continually used football ground in the world, eclipsing Northwich Victoria’s old claim by several years. The Club were one of the original 15 entrants for the first ever FA Cup competition in 1871-72. Maidenhead Norfolkians, meanwhile, were founded in 1884 and amalgamated with their neighbours after the Great War. The ‘United’ suffix was adopted two years later.
Maidenhead moved to York Road in 1871 after playing their early matches at Kidwell’s Park, which later became home to the Norfolkians until the merger. As Kerry Miller recalls, at that time the site was much larger, with the pitch at ninety degrees to its current position. One goal was close to the railway line, which today runs parallel to the far touchline. A thatched pavilion was provided in one corner.
As one would expect for such an old ground, York Road has experienced more than its far share of ups and downs during its long history, including fire and an abandoned clubhouse project that almost ruined the club in the 1990s.
In 1922 a 500 seat wooden stand was erected on the north side of the gound, along the near touchline. Banked terracing on all four sides utilised old railway sleepers which gradually made way for concrete. The far side of the ground was the first to benefit, including the creation of a tea bar, which now serves as the Club Shop.
In 1935 the Supporters’ Club raised sufficient funds for the building of a further covered enclosure along the Railway touchline. Sadly the wooden stand, which featured a fine gabled roof, was gutted by fire in 1986 and demolished, leaving a tell-tell gap in the concrete terracing on either side. Following the fire 100 seats were added to the enclosure on the Railway side, with more acquired from Millwall’s old ground at The Den. Looking closely from behind and the sides at what now serves as the main stand, one can clearly see how the original enclosure has been adapted for its new purpose. Sadly however, the view is very much a low level one, and obscured by numerous supporting pillars.
In 1974 there were grandiose plans to develop a new clubhouse on the north-east side of the ground, necessitating levelling of the terracing in that corner of the ground. However, the building was never completed, and the shell of the structure remains as testament to a project that almost crippled the club. These days the area is used for contract car parking in the town centre from which the club derives valuable income. Instead, more modest facilities are now in place on the site of the old stand.
Both ends of the ground are terraced. The original terracing is still in place behind the west goal (the Bell Road End), where there are two large covered areas providing the requisite shelter. The current tea bar stands at the near corner but of particular interest at this end of the ground, is a mural painted onto the wall at the opposite corner, depicting various stages in the club’s history. In recent years the eastern end of the ground has been updated, with the addition of shallow terracing and a covered area behind the goal.
York Road may not be blessed with excellent sight lines and spectator facilities, but remains a typical Non League ground that bares the tell-tell signs of a chequered past. For this reason alone, to my mind it is far more of a pleasure to visit than so many modern soul-less grounds that are becoming increasingly predominant.
Exit the M4 at Junction 7 and take the A4 to Maidenhead. Cross the bridge over the Thames and turn left at the 2nd roundabout, passing through the traffic lights. York Road is the 1st turning on the right, and the ground is approximately 300 yards along on the left.
Maidenhead (BR) approximately 400 yards.
THROUGH THE AGES
If you would like to look further into Maidenhead United’s history click here. This section includes archive photographs dating back to 1894.
IN THE BEGINNING
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. The York Road site is now officially acknowledged as the oldest continually used football ground in the world, eclipsing Northwich Victoria’s old claim by several years. 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.
THE EARLY YEARS
Maidenhead entered the Southern League in 1894 but competing with the likes of Watford, Brentford, Fulham and Brighton proved too demanding and eventually 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.
MERGERS AND SUCCESS
After the Great War the two clubs amalgamated and 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 year 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 3rd 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.
BLACK DAYS & SUCCESS
In 1963 United joined the Athenian League, but were unable to repeat their success, but in 1973 were elected into the new Isthmian League 2nd Division. 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, then John Clements and then John Watt took on the manager’s job with mediocre results, the club regularly finishing mid-table.
THE DEVONSHIRE YEARS
So, 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 Millennium 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 May 4th 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. A good late run eased the Magpies well clear of relegation – at no point in the season, strangely, were they ever in the bottom three.
A new 700 capacity enclosure was completed in May 2001 which increased York Road capacity to 4,500 and covered terracing for 1,700. The York Road ground, though, 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 United’s move to a new stadium has always faltered due to a lack of available sites in an area locked in by green belt.
United continued to consolidate their place in the top division in the last two years of Devonshire’s reign, winning the County cup in both seasons.
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 Assistant Manager Phil Gray having to bring in virtually a new squad. Off the field new Chairman Jon Swan was busy organising the redevelopment of the Magpies Social Club into Stripes bar. The summer also saw the return of the youth team managed by Steve Beard and they proved to be an instant hit by winning the Allied Counties League East Division at the first attempt.
The 2003-04 season, unsurprisingly saw a shaky start and after seven games the Magpies 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 Nationwide South football, the highest level the club have played at since the Southern League days in the late 19th century.
Away from the League, John Dreyer made his mark on the club’s history by leading the Magpies to the quarter finals of the FA Trophy, beating Conference full timers Halifax Town on the way.
The Magpies struggled to adjust to life in the Nationwide 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 combined with a win for fellow strugglers Carshalton 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 last 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 have returned to the Southern League after an absence of over a century.
Another consequence of the struggle to retain Nationwide 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.
A 5-0 thrashing by bottom club Clevedon, compounded by a mediocre start to the current season led to manager Carl Taylor leaving the club in September. Johnson Hippolyte, known as “Drax”, was appointed as Taylor’s replacement and had immediate success leading the club to their first FA Cup First Round proper appearance in 35 years. Progress in the Southern League took a little longer but an amazing run of 12 wins from the final 14 games saw the Magpies finish fourth and qualify for the play offs. The winning run then continued in the semi final at Kings Lynn and onto promotion by beating league runners up Team Bath 1-0 to return to the Conference South a year after relegation.
A full list of the clubs honours can be seen here.