GRASSROOTS HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE #3: IAN MAITLAND
LEAGUE: BARNET SUNDAY LEAGUE, HENDON & DISTRICT LEAGUE
TEAM: HIGHGATE ALBION FC
By Jon Eager
In each issue, we celebrate a player who deserves to have their grassroots career up in lights by inducting them into The Grassroots Post Hall of Fame. For Issue 4, it’s Ian Maitland.
In the upper echelons of the football pyramid, one-club men and women are becoming rarer and rarer. But on the Sunday league scene there’s no opportunity for a couple of years in a sunnier climate, and you’ll typically find that players will see out their careers with the same club.
One such player is Mr Highgate himself, Ian Maitland, who has played for Highgate Albion since he was sixteen years old. He made his debut way back in 1999 and is still playing and captaining the side in 2021. It’s a family affair for Ian, with his dad, Nigel Maitland, playing for the club for a number of years before him. Younger brother Frankie has also played for the club, with the brothers winning the Middlesex Cup together in 2006. But more recently, this season, Ian’s son Charlie Maitland made his debut for the club, playing and scoring for Highgate Albion Reserves in May 2021 in front of his proud dad.
Not surprisingly, his family had this to say:
“Always great to win something, but it means twice as much winning something with your big brother. And when you’re on Slim’s team, whether it be a cup final or a five-a-side in Center Parcs, you usually do win!”Frankie Maitland, Brother and Teammate
“He used to come and watch me play for Highgate as a young kid and all he ever wanted to do was play for Highgate. So to see him turn into Mr Highgate Albion, and to see where the club has gone, makes me very happy. My grandson now is playing as well, so three generations have now played for the club; it’s in our blood!”Nigel Maitland, Father
Ian has certainly had greater success than any other player in the club’s history, and with a twenty-two-year association with Highgate Albion, trophies have naturally followed his career, winning five league cups and two Middlesex Cups during the club’s time in the now-defunct Hendon & District Sunday Football League. Upon joining the Barnet Sunday Football League in 2011, it took Highgate a couple of years to settle, but they were soon back to winning ways with Ian captaining them to five league cup wins and four Premier Division wins.
The most recent win shows Ian’s longevity as a player: this season, during a stop-start Covid-hit season, a thirty-eight-year-old Maitland led his team to a league double of Premier Division and Senior Challenge Cup, where his team saw off the likes of Rising Ballers and Takers FC.
One man who knows a thing or two about Ian Maitland is current manager Adam Shahein, who has been Albion’s manager for eight years and prior to that managed against him:
“I’ve known Slim for about twelve or thirteen years. We used to play against him and he’s a very good player. Always gracious in defeat or victory. Always a gentleman. I had a lot of admiration for him when we won the league at Highgate one day and he came into the dressing room to congratulate us and have a beer with my team. Everyone had a lot of respect for him from that.
“When I folded my team, he approached me to come and join Highgate. I got on well with him from the start so I decided to do it. And then from that next season we went on a winning run with Highgate – I think it was seven seasons in a row of winning cups and leagues together. He is a great leader, the leader of this magnificent club, and a great captain. He started as a forward for me and has now moved into centre-back in his later years. He is probably the biggest influence in the club, playing-wise. His goal record for the club over twenty years has to be at least a minimum 350 goals. He’s a fantastic footballer and he’s got a great brain and is really good on the ball, and understands when he’s called upon what needs to be done to win for the team. Off the pitch he’s a brilliant friend, he’s like a family member. We get on well and I’m sure we will be working together for a long time in the future. Hoping to win more trophies together!”Adam Shahein, Manager since 2013
IN HIS WORDS:
Tell us about when you fell in love with football?
I fell in love with football from watching the old man and going to see Arsenal back at Highbury. Football is my only release, always has been. Although I have always been a lad that’s played plenty of Saturday League football, I have always turned up every Sunday. Sunday League has always been my passion and I was always loyal to it. I am gutted that I am no longer a young nut and can’t still do the things I used to do!
Tell us about your grassroots career, any highlights?
Highlights of my career have always been playing on a wet Sunday winter morning. I never really liked the summer days where the pitches are too hard. Main highlights would of course be winning the trophies, from Middlesex Cup wins to winning back-to-back doubles over the past three seasons, and let’s be honest there is nothing better than a cup final day out or the evenings out with lads that usually follows. Of course the Sunday socials after the games with the lads are also what it’s all about.
What do you love about grassroots football?Grassroots football is an opportunity for everyone to be involved. I’ve always liked to play the best and highest I can be with Sunday league. I am absolutely honoured and privileged to play with a club like Highgate where I have made at least 500 appearances, winning plenty of trophies under various managers over the years, where I have made various friendships at the club and there is such a massive social network. I love all the lads. I dread the day where I have to hang up the boots and at thirty-eight years old I still think I have another couple of years left in me.
What does it mean to be inducted into The Grassroots Post Hall of Fame? To be included in the Hall of Fame would be a massive honour for me – like I say, I’ve just always cracked on naturally and played every Sunday morning without fail because I love the game. But to be recognised for such achievements and to have something in writing and get recognition socially and media-wise would be a great accolade and honour for me. I respect everyone I have played with and against and I still think I’ve got another couple of years in me, so long may the trophies continue!