One of the murals on the wall at York Road depicting the world’s oldest continuously-used senior football ground by the same club
There is a different kind of pressure at Maidenhead United for chairman Peter Griffin.
The Magpies, established in 1870, will celebrate 150 years of playing at York Road – the oldest known senior football ground in the world continually used by the same club – on Tuesday night against Stockport County.
For Griffin, it is not about winning leagues or promotion, or making big-name signings – it is about maintaining the club’s long history.
“When you’re at a club like Maidenhead you’re conscious of the past and what your responsibility is,” Griffin told The NLP. “The first responsibility is to make sure you hand things over to the next generation, to the next people who run it, in a better state.
“You feel the weight of that at a historic club like this but that is a real privilege as well. It’s definitely what I love about the club as much as the football side.”
York Road is as traditional as a Non-League ground comes and is still going strong ever since its opening fixture on February 16, 1871 against Marlow.
Tuesday’s landmark fixture will, of course, be different than usual, but Maidenhead are attempting to beat their attendance record of 7,989, set in 1936 for an Amateur Cup tie with Southall, by way of a ‘virtual crowd’ tuning in to their match stream.
When Griffin took over in January 2006, Maidenhead were relegated from Conference South four months later but bounced back at the first attempt. They maintained their Step 2 status while recovering the club from debt and then won the title under Alan Devonshire four seasons ago.
Griffin remembers crowds of 200 in his early days which have grown to an average of 1,300 last season.
Progress on the pitch has been evident, with the club now training on Monday and Tuesday mornings plus Thursday evenings meaning boss Devonshire has been able to attract players with a full-time mentality and they’re challenging for a National League play-off spot.
York Road has been modernised over the years with new stands, a five-a-side court, hospitality areas, new toilet blocks and bar but has still retained its heritage. Now though, Maidenhead are looking to the future.
The club is aiming to submit plans for a new stadium in the coming months which would have a 999-year lease after the council agreed to sell land at Braywick Park for it and would be funded by the York Road site being sold for redevelopment.
“Maidenhead town centre has been completely rejuvenated and there’s a number of projects taking place with more in the pipeline,” Griffin said. “Being in the town centre, we had one of two ways we could either modernise the ground or take advantage of it and move.“We’re shoehorned in at our traditional historic home where we’ve got a very small footprint, it would cost millions to do more with it.
“It was about weighing up the options, or we can take advantage of a really decent spot close to the town centre which is what we’re looking to do and get some fantastic facilities.
“It sets the club up long-term and means we would be not only debt free but self-sufficient. That’s a real big accomplishment if we can do that and leave it for the next generation knowing it’s going to be safe for the next 150 years and that’s our legacy.
Tickets for Tuesday’s stream are priced at £10 and available for purchase at https://ticketpass.events/WSlP
The rise and fall of Maidenhead in the Southern League
In May 1894, Maidenhead FC were invited to join the Second Division of the new Southern League and a week later at the Billiter Coffee House in Fenchurch Street, the club’s Mr W Dance chaired a meeting of member clubs to determine fixtures for the 1894-95 season.
Maidenhead played their first ever Southern League fixture on September 8, 1894 at York Road, beating Sheppey United 2-1 in front of a crowd of around 250 spectators.
However, the club resigned from the Southern League following the competition’s Annual General Meeting in 1902 where it had been agreed the subscription to the league would be increased to five guineas.
The club was furious and decided to withdraw but the Southern League imposed a £20 fine on the club.
Maidenhead appealed with club secretary William Walton appearing in front of the League’s Appeal Committee in February 1903.
The appeal was not upheld but the league reduced the fine to £5 with £2.2s costs.
York Road record attendance
York Road’s attendance record was set on March 7, 1936 when a crowd of 7,989 squeezed in to see Maidenhead United’s Amateur Cup quarter-final with Southall.
A second half goal was enough for the Spartan League hosts, who had won three rounds to reach that stage, to see off the Athenian League side.-
Sir Matt Busby trains the GB Olympic Team at York Road
When Britain hosted the 1948 Summer Olympics, the GB football team – under the management of Manchester United boss Sir Matt Busby – used York Road as its training base.
The team stayed at Grove Hall Hotel in Twyford and travelled the short distance to train in the morning and afternoon at the ground.
Busby heaped praise on Maidenhead’s hospitality, he said: “Maidenhead can be very proud of its excellent ground and accommodation…a credit to the club and its supporters.”
Lights, cameras, action at York Road!
York Road has seen plenty of action over the years – including in front of the movie cameras!
In November 1951, the ground was transformed into a film set for ‘The Card’, featuring actors Alec Guinness and Petula Clark and produced by Pinewood Studios.
Local footballers were paid £2 for a morning’s work as the ground to convert it into the home of the fictional Bursley FC while members of the crowd for Maidenhead’s Corinthian League clash against Maidstone United were used as extras.
The pitch was flooded to create the effect of a rainy afternoon and the Magpies later struggled on the surface, going down 4-2 to the Stones after Petula Clark had ‘kicked off’ the match.
Maidenhead United 2-1 England
In 1969, Maidenhead United celebrated its centenary one year early.
A match against an England Amateur XI was held at York Road on September 9 to commemorate the anniversary which the Non-Leaguers won 2-1.
England manager Charles Hughes said: “Maidenhead’s teamwork was vastly superior.”
New club crest
Maidenhead marked their 150th year by designing a new club crest which traces its origins back to October 1870.
The club involved its supporters in the journey of creating a refreshed club badge fit for the next 150 years.
The Magpies 150 Challenge
Maidenhead United have been celebrating their 150th anniversary by attempting to raise £150,000 to be shared between 15 local charities.
The Magpies 150 Challenge is any activity based around the numbers 1.5, 15 or 150. For example, chief executive Jon Adams walked 150km in seven days around Maidenhead and Windsor back in June.
Donations can be taken via the Magpies150 website or by setting up a fundraising page on Just Giving or Virgin Money Giving. For more information, visit www.magpies150challenge.co.uk
Two long-time supporters have teamed up to record an unofficial charity single, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the first football match at York Road.
‘Two for Joy’, by KSG & The Sunshine Man (Matthew Foster and Gordon Sweeney), will be digitally released on Tuesday with proceeds donated to the Maidenhead United Community Trust as part of the Magpies 150 Challenge initiative.
“I first wrote lyrics for a Maidenhead United song in 2012,” said Foster. “But there have been several rewrites since; to incorporate moments such as James Mulley’s famous goal at Port Vale, and winning the Conference South title at Margate.
“It certainly doesn’t sound like your typical football song, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s for charity, at the end of the day, and so I’d urge all to buy a copy!”
York Road dogs
In 1970, York Road went to the dogs – literally!
Dog racing came to Maidenhead’s home ground in May that year with eight meetings planned for the off-season, headed up by local owner and trainer Roy Furby.
The grass track circled the pitch but encroached on some parts due to lack of space. Admission was priced at four shillings which included a race card.
Two decades later, whippet racing came to York Road and raised a crowd of around 220 – the following day only 219 turned out for Maidenhead’s fixture against Ruislip Manor.
The West Ham United legend holds the same status at Maidenhead United for his two spells in the dugout.
The former winger first joined the club in 1996, becoming joint-manager with Martyn Busby, but Devonshire soon took over the reins entirely and won the Isthmian League Full Members Cup – the club’s first piece of silverware since 1970.
Maidenhead reached five more cup finals in the following six seasons under Devonshire and won promotion to the Isthmian Premier League in 2000.
He left the club in 2003 and enjoyed success with Hampton & Richmond and Braintree Town before re-joining the Magpies in 2015.
During his second season back at the club, Maidenhead became champions of the Conference South – the club’s first title since 1962 – and were promoted to the Premier division for the first time in their history.