The new Maidenhead United FC crest to celebrate the clubs 150th year.

‘It means everything to me’ – Maidenhead United Juniors first year

Byron Ward talks Football in Berkshire through the clubs first year
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The new Maidenhead United FC crest to celebrate the clubs 150th year.

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Maidenhead United Juniors this month celebrated its first anniversary of formation and can look back on a successful – albeit truncated – first season.

The club is the de-facto merger of two junior clubs which have served youngsters in the Royal Borough well for a number of years.  Maidenhead Magpies came together with Boyne Hill Boys & Girls FC under the ‘Maidenhead United Development’ bracket, the arm of Maidenhead United which boasts the Academy, MUFC Women as well as Walking Football and Veterans.

MUFC Juniors missions statement is to provide ‘organised football in a safe and secure environment’.  The club does not ‘stream’ players and is open to all, regardless of experience and ability.  The club had 35 teams in its first season, playing across five leagues – East Berkshire Football Alliance, Wycombe & South Bucks Mini-Soccer Conference, Wycombe & South Bucks League, Thames Valley Development League, Berks County Girls Football League – with around 440 boys and girls aged between 6 and 16 registered with the club.

The Club is FA Chartered Standard which means that all of the coaches and volunteers involved with the teams are vetted and must have the relevant coaching and First Aid qualifications.  One of the club’s many dedicated volunteer coaches is Byron Ward of the Under 8s Whites team which enjoyed a fine season in the Saturday-morning East Berkshire Football Alliance, playing 5-a-side home games at North Maidenhead Cricket Club adjacent to the Holyport FC ground.  Byron has been involved in coaching youth football for a few years now as he explains: “It all started when Finley, my son, began going to the drop in sessions the club runs for Under 6s on a Saturday. I would sometimes help and occasionally take the session. I have always been hugely passionate about football, so when Finley showed an interest in joining a team I wanted to actively support him, whilst at the same time help develop other children who were equally passionate about football.”

‘It means everything to me seeing the passion in the kids when they play and the amount of enjoyment they get out of playing football, this is why I do it.’

Early mornings on a Saturday in the winter do not phase Byron either: “It means everything to me seeing the passion in the kids when they play and the amount of enjoyment they get out of playing football, this is why I do it. It is so satisfying coaching each of the kids individually, giving little tips here and there to help them develop but also working with the group to play good football as a team.  When it all comes together in a match on Saturday it is fantastic to see. I am so proud of them all. After Christmas, they were promoted to section B which was a big step up, however they did exceptionally well. All season they have demonstrated a wonderful attitude of never giving up and always giving 100%. On a number of occasions, they turned games around having been 3 or 4 goals down. Our 4 core team values are: 1) to be kind, 2) listen, 3) try your hardest, 4) have fun.  It is really rewarding seeing them improve, but equally seeing them become such good friends.”

Friendship is a key component of good team spirit and some of the brand new teams for 2019/20 have already developed some of the most enduring and endearing relationships.  The Under 7s Colts for instance – a group of young strangers not even nine months ago – have become so close that they have kept in touch during Lockdown online through their shared passion for gaming as well as sharing their training and skills videos and joining in the with the BCA (Berkshire College of Agriculture) Skills Challenge which recently raised money for Cancer Research.  A testament to the unique ability of football to form strong social bonds.

The Under 8s Whites have – like many of the Juniors teams – devised fun plans to keep the team-mates in touch and provide an opportunity to hone their talents during the current hiatus.  Byron explains: “It has been really hard for such active children to find themselves not being able to play a sport they love and also not seeing each other regularly. As soon as we went into lockdown I felt it was really important to keep them connected personally and to football, so I started training sessions every Friday evening via Zoom.  Each session starts with us watching a video compilation I create that includes each of the clips they have each shared doing the weekly challenge I set them the previous week. Examples of the challenges include slow-motion shots, successfully repeating one skill three times in a row, recording doing ten or more keepy ups, or something random like a photo of them helping Mum and Dad at home. Then the hard works starts. We do around 20 minutes of warm-up exercises that focuses on fitness, agility and speed. After a lot of water, we then move into ball mastery exercises. Each week they take a turn sharing a skill which they then all try to master. The session is concluded with an activity with Mum or Dad normally orientated around passing.  They seem to really enjoy our sessions and are certainly worn out by the end, but not as much as I am! It is lovely to hear the parents share with me that it is one of the main highlights of the kids week. They are counting down the days until they will be back playing football together.”

True family values from a family club.  That Community spirit is encapsulated by a number of Juniors parents and coaches volunteering to assist with the Magpies Community Helpline which has helped so many elderly and vulnerable people in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead over the past couple of months.  The Club hope to breed a crop talented footballers but more importantly they expect to develop sporting and socially-aware young adults like Elliot of the Under 11s Falcons who has already raised more than £4,500 for a local Children’s Hospice through his commendable determination to run the equivalent of a marathon inside 7 days.

If you are interested in finding out more about Maidenhead United Juniors please contact the club via [email protected]

Players wanted

Maidenhead United Juniors Under 16 Magpies are looking for new players for their 2020/21 season in the East Berkshire Football Alliance. 

With updated government advice on Grass Roots football likely to be forthcoming in the very near future, the team – who play Home matches on a Saturday morning at Cox Green School – are keen to bring in new blood for the new season.  Players who will be entering school Year 11 in September 2020 will be eligible to play for this team.

If you are interested in joining the Magpies then please contact Martin Long on 07920 113348 or for more information on  the team and the club please contact [email protected]

The Club are also open to enquiries for other age groups and again any interested parties should contact [email protected]

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