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Home > News > Muted celebrations as Maidenhead embark on 90th year
Your News Muted celebrations as Maidenhead embark on 90th year

Next Saturday, February 11th, 2012, should have been a real red letter day for one of Berkshires top clubs and current SSE South West 1 East table-toppers Maidenhead.

It was on that day, 90 years ago, back in 1922, that the club, founded as Thames Valley RFC, played its first match, but plans to mark the occasion with a repeat of that fixture against the then Berkshire Wanderers side, now Reading RFC, have had to be scuppered.

The two clubs had intended on fielding veterans teams for the match but, unfortunately, Reading now have a Berkshire Veterans Cup match to play against Windsor.

Downcast Maids President Keith Lawton is, however, putting a brave face on the situation and expects the club to make up for their initial disappointment.

He admits: Its a whole year anniversary rather than just one day, but its a pity as A, it just happened to be a clear day for league fixtures and B, it happened to be a Saturday.

We dont know yet what we will do to celebrate our 90th, but were working on it.

The club are, however, still trying to get a special veterans fixture for this Saturday so that, at least, the day will not go totally unmarked.

Inspired by founder-father Roy Bonberry, that first match against Berkshire Wanderers was actually played at Cookham Football Club, a village on the outskirts of Maidenhead, before they moved venues to play at the Bray Showgrounds, another of the towns outlying villages.

In 1926, however, the burgeoning club established a permanent pitch at Kidwells Park, in the centre of the town, and remained there until moving into their current council run home at the Braywick Sports Stadium in 1967 and changing their name to Maidenhead.

It proved a very positive move and was quickly reflected in Maids future success, fielding seven teams regularly and, in the 1974/5 season, the 1st team, under influential skipper Derek Harris, had their best ever season winning 36 of their 38 matches

One of their two defeats came at the hands of Les Cusworths Wakefield at Braywick, 20-0, in the first ever round of the John Player Cup and when they kicked-off early to become the first sponsored Cup match in the RFUs history.

However, since the advent of leagues, apart from a seasons sojourn in the old National Division 4 back in the 1989/90 season, Maids have generally enjoyed life amongst the top echelons of the South West leagues and are currently on a nine match unbeaten run and four points clear at the top of South West 1 having won 14 and drawn 1 of their 18 games.

And, while promotion is the target this season, the club, in general, have boldly adopted the strictly amateur policy of not paying players to don the violet, magenta and black shirt.

Were happy to play at this level in one sense as its all local derbys, admits Lawton. But we do aspire to play at higher level, but then you run into semi-pro issues.

I dont think well ever be able to pay players even if we thought it was the right thing to do.

Its as much as we can do to break even anyway without paying, so its now a total community club and its working well.

Were even finding players who went away to play at a higher level have drifted back to us.

Theres little doubt that Roy Bonberry and the myriad of players and officials who have played and administered the club over the preceding years would be proud of the way the club has evolved and now stands as one of the finest around the South of England.

And, the clubs current Chief Executive Officer John Wanklyn is the man charged with maintaining that momentum towards its centenary year.

He says: Were certainly on the right track for the next 10 years and fully recognise what we are and what we have to do as a community club.

We now have 650 youngsters playing in the youth set-up, which is the fastest growing section of the club, while we also have an Academy in place to help with the pathway between colts and senior rugby.

We are also producing our own high-quality rugby players and its going very well.

Plus were also in the process of working on a programme to improve the playing facilities and continue to improve the club, so its all going in the right direction.

Thanks to several generous benefactors Maids now have both playing and social facilities second to none within the immediate area and, while they may not be able to celebrate their 90th birthday on Saturday, February 11th, quite how they intended they can certainly start planning now for their centenary celebrations in 2022!

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