The truth about Maidenhead – from an exiled Portsmouth fan

Maidenhead United's York Road will host Pompey in the FA Cup on Saturday
Maidenhead United's York Road will host Pompey in the FA Cup on Saturday
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Adam Batstone is a life-long Pompey fan and former BBC journalist currently exiled in Maidenhead.

He counts the Magpies as his second team and has unearthed some little-known facts about Saturday’s hosts – and what Pompey can expect upon their FA Cup visit to York Road…

The nation’s great football grounds boast some famous ends: The Stretford End, The Gallowgate End, The Anfield Kop – not forgetting our beloved Fratton End.

Maidenhead’s York Road ground boasts a rather more modest single tier terrace called The Bell End.

Generations of sniggering fans have made their way from the station via The Bell pub and up Bell Street to reach the ground, and it’s where the travelling Pompey faithful will be standing to watch our FA Cup first-round tie.

York Road has another claim to fame, it’s the longest continuously-used football ground in the country. Maidenhead played their first game at York Road in 1870 and are still playing there today, albeit only after staving off multiple attempts to turn the ground into houses or a supermarket.

The club has existed throughout its history in the lower leagues: the romantically named Athenian, Corinthian and Isthmian leagues before their gradual ascent to where they sit now, in the National League.

In fact, die-hard Maidenhead fans will tell you that the visit of Pompey is probably the biggest game in the club’s history – and anticipation for the big day is mounting around the town.

Maidenhead is not really a football town. It’s 25 miles from London so many fans take the train to the capital to watch bigger teams, while a few count themselves as Reading fans, which is the nearest proper local team, if you don’t count Wycombe.

The town is probably better known as the home constituency of Prime Minister Theresa May, although she is not a regular visitor to York Road. Other local claims to fame include Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s historic railway bridge and the multi award-winning Fat Duck restaurant at Bray, which is just a couple of miles from York Road but probably not ideal for a pre-match pie and chips.

And Maidenhead boast their own FA Cup-winning connection in the shape of manager Alan Devonshire, who some will remember was part of the victorious West Ham team in 1980. ‘Dev’ can now be spotted in his trademark flat cap hobbling up and down the touchline urging his team on.

His arrival has transformed the team’s fortunes. Maidenhead are one of the only sides made up of part-timers in the National League.

They survived comfortably last year in their first season following promotion, but this term has been tough, so an FA Cup game against the team currently sitting at the top of League One will be challenging. In fact a recent 6-0 home thrashing by AFC Fylde has left some Magpies fans dreading the arrival of an in-form Pompey.

One other Maidenhead familiar face to look out for is centre-forward Ryan Bird. He spent an unsuccessful two seasons at Fratton Park and it’s fair to say his form has not been great since joining Maidenhead.

He will undoubtedly feel he has something to prove and can expect some ribbing from the visiting fans at The Bell End.