Maidenhead United Junior Tigers sign off from junior football with thrilling win

Maidenhead United Junior Tigers u18s signed off from junior football last weekend, completing a journey which for some started in 2010 with a thrilling 4-3 victory against league leaders Chalfont Saints.

After their last ever match before they move into adult football, onto other sports, the world of work or further education, Tigers parent Lawrence Radcliffe recalls the start of the team’s adventure and thanked coach Chris Hall for establishing an ‘amazing team’ and for also making the last 10 years so memorable.

He said: “My wife and I met Chris (Hall) at the Furze Platt summer fair around 2010 as he was recruiting players for a new football team called the Tigers. My son, Alex - age seven - was already football mad and we signed him to start training and playing with Chris as the coach. Also joining up at a similar time were Dan, Leo and Lee and six other boys. Chris’ recruiting philosophy was for the boys to join on a ‘first come first joined’ basis irrespective of ability and for everyone to have equal playing time during the match and, quite simply, have fun playing the beautiful game.

“Little did I know what this would lead to over the next 10 plus years. The team developed into a group of friends and Chris, partnered by another Chris whose son also played, ‘taught’ them how to play football. Training on a Thursday. Match on a Sunday. Wind, rain or shine.

“Over the years the opposition got bigger whilst the Tigers appeared to be a few years behind in the height stakes. A few players dropped out or moved abroad and there were always plenty of new players to fill their spaces from the boys expanding group of friends. Regardless of ability all players were welcomed.

“Never destined for the Premier League, the Tigers held their own. They won the occasional tournament and cup and finished near the top of the league when they reached the age that competition started. I vividly remember attending a prize giving ceremony in Slough with a few of the players and parents. The parents are also a great group of people. All supportive of the Tigers philosophy, sharing lifts and the joy of watching the team develop week in, week out.

“I started to get involved with helping the Chris’ with some of the admin. Little did I realise what exactly went into this until Chris hung up his whistle in late 2019. One of the highlights over the last few years was the “Tigers on Tour” which Chris and I arranged to take the Dads and lads on tour to Swanage for a long weekend. We first went in 2016 and arranged to play Swanage FC Juniors on the Saturday. We lost the match but oh the memories, canoeing games in Swanage bay, a group curry for 20 dads and lads. Fun times. We repeated this pilgrimage to Swanage another 3 times and at the peak had 35 dads and lads taking the town over.

“Another highlight of note was winning the Fair Play award for the Wycombe & South Bucks league, a testament to the boys, Chris’ fun philosophy and the parents. I helped Chris out with more of the admin and as his son joined another team, Chris continued to train the Tigers however he moved on in late 2019 leaving me with all the admin plus the football coaching. I can manage the admin, but the coaching piece is not my strong point. Thankfully, another set of amazing parents leaned in and I asked them to support the team with running the fitness and training sessions.

“We paused for COVID and waited and waited. We wondered if we’d ever get back to playing before the boys with looming exams, part time jobs and other distractions such as girlfriends and finishing off school or college before starting university and young adult life. Fortunately, we restarted successfully and got the boys back into training and playing. We played our last competitive game as the Maidenhead Juniors Tigers on Sunday 9th May against an unbeaten Chalfont Saints. The Tigers roared on Sunday. Now 17 and 18 years old, it’s a different game to the ‘follow the ball’ tactics favoured by eight-year-olds. Physical. I wouldn’t want to play against them. Tigers won 4-3, leaving Chalfont with a must win next Sunday to see if they or Maidenhead take the league title.

“Of the 10 players that started playing with the Tigers back in 2010, 4 of them have made it through to the final match - Dan, Leo, Lee and my son Alex. Amazing. I would like to say a thank you to the clubs and the respective chairman and secretaries, the facilities team and to Roger, Justin and Johnny and all the parents who have mucked in over years especially my wife Sue who has remained supportive over the years.

“Lastly, I’d like to say a huge thank you to both Chris’ for establishing an amazing team and the players for making the last 10 years so memorable.”

Maidenhead United Juniors are currently recruiting for the new season. If you’d like to start your child on their junior footballing journey today, contact secretary@mufcjuniors.co.uk for details.

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