11:37AM, Friday 01 July 2022
Striker Adrian Clifton admits he’s no spring chicken but says he hasn't returned to Maidenhead United simply to see out the tail end of his career.
Having signed for the club for a third time this week, Clifton is confident his goals could help guide the Magpies to a top half finish next season and he's also got a point to prove to anyone who thinks, at 33, he's passed it.
Clifton is a popular figure among Maidenhead fans, having been one of their key men in two previous spells, but he'll have his work cut out to be a regular starter, with Josh Kelly, Shawn McCoulsky and Emile Acquah also vying for the forward roles.
Clifton, who revived his career after spending several years in the prison system - famously featuring in the Sky One documentary 'Football Behind Bars' with Ian Wright - initially joined the Magpies under previous manager Johnson Hippolyte. A key member of the team between 2013-2015 he helped the Magpies to success in the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup, scoring in a 4-0 win over Aylesbury United in the final.
That match proved to be Hippolyte's swansong and, although new boss Alan Devonshire tried to persuade him to stay, he opted to sign a two-year contract with Havant & Waterlooville.
The bridge back to Maidenhead was never burned, however, and he returned in July 2017 after the club's promotion to the National League.
He grabbed his first goal following his return in a 1-1 draw at Barrow, but really came to the fore the following season, scoring 15 goals in all competitions, winning the golden boot and manager's, players’, and supporters' player of the season awards. He left again for Bromley ahead of the 2019/20 season and most recently played for Boreham Wood, making 27 appearances, and helping them to the fifth round of the FA Cup, where they lost
2-0 to Premier League side Everton.
Having signed for a third term at United, he believes his tactical nous and experience can be a real asset.
“I am buzzing to be back, Maidenhead is like a home for me,” said Clifton. “It’s my third spell with the club and I’m hoping it will be third time lucky.
“What made me return? I think it’s right for me as I’m 34 this year and I know Dev has brought in mainly younger boys, but I think I will be a great help with their development. Throughout my career, I have been in a few dressing rooms, and I would say I have always been one of the leaders.
“I think I will be a massive credit to the boys Maidenhead have already got up front too.
“I know Josh (Kelly) well and I know what he is capable of, and young Emile (Acquah) is a great player as well. Hopefully I can score a lot of goals myself, maybe more than when I was here last time.
“I am hungry, and I’ve always got a point to prove. I don’t want to hear this ‘Oh, Cliff has come back at the tail end of his career’. I don’t think it is the tail end of my career – I think I can still play for another five or six years.
“I’ve looked after myself, I am not injury prone, so I want to score lots, especially at York Road.
“I’m happy to put myself under pressure to score loads of goals and be the main man. I buzz off pressure, I just need to show the gaffer what I can do in pre-season to earn my place in the starting XI.”
Clifton added: “My game ain’t based around speed necessarily. As you get older, you lose the pace, so my game ain’t based around that. I’m more into holding the ball up, playing it into the boys, and getting in positions to score. You don’t need to be quick or young to do that, you just need to be clever.”
On where he hopes the Magpies will be positioned at the end of the forthcoming campaign, Clifton says: “We should definitely be sitting in that top half of the table come the end of the season.
“Maidenhead United fans are very loyal, and they always show up in their numbers no matter the run the side is on, so they deserve a promotion push.
“I don’t think that’s a lot to ask considering the new boys that have come in and the team Dev is building.
“They are hungry and keen to push on as well so hopefully we can reach the play-offs.”
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