05:10PM, Tuesday 24 January 2017
These are exciting times to be a Maidenhead United fan. I have followed the fortunes of the Magpies for about 40 years and cannot recall anything like the current fervour.
Sure, they have had the odd decent cup run, even reaching the FA Cup early rounds, but that was just a temporary frisson that was never really likely to end at Wembley.
This is different. They are on the verge of playing in the National League next season. They are so far ahead in the National League South this year that only a Devon Loch like collapse will deny them. Crowds have multiplied as word has spread about the high quality, free flowing football to be seen. Last year there were about 300 spectators. When I attended their fixture on New Year's Day there were nearly a thousand more fans on top of that.
I am one of those Johnny come latelies, keen to belatedly but unashamedly join the bandwagon, with the hope of seeing goals like the incredible one scored by striker Dave Tarpey, which has had more than ten million viewings on the internet.
The turnaround is nothing short of sensational. Since taking over a struggling club at York Road in 2005 Peter Griffin and Una Loughrey have made a series of sensible, pragmatic decisions with the future in mind. They have focused on making steady, but sustained progress. Loyalty has been a maxim, with only two managers in the last decade, which bucks the trend of the football industry.
A new grandstand has been built and they have put money into the club while simulataneously building the Link Foundation charity with monies earned from their successful Pharmalink business. Drugs money used to improve lives in the community isn't normally how it works.
Next season the Magpies are on course to be playing household names Tranmere and Torquay, which have a rather different footballing pedigree to Tonbridge and Truro, teams at their more recent levels. As if to highlight the reversal of fortunes in this fickle game, it is possible that the year after they could play previous Premier League stalwarts Coventry City.
The second coming of Alan Devonshire has taken the Maidenhead Advertiser-sponsored club to the precipice of success. He has made some shrewd signings which have been coupled with fine man management. The excellent youth team are also winning their league this season, run by a pair of Aarons, so hopefully the future is bright too.
Back in the day I was fortunate enough to play in the same team as Griffin. I think it is fair to say he makes a better chairman than he did a left midfielder.
Planning permission for 200 new homes on the outskirts of Hurst have been declined by Wokingham Borough Council.