These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. After only 24 years we finally won promotion to the Southern Premier, a mere seven leagues below the Premiership. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time, and despite living in Brighton still go to most games. Still waiting for that bloody new ground in Slough tho.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

HOPPING MAD IN SUSSEX

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Cippenham Town Tuesday 25th November 2014 We drew 2-2 in front of 238 people.

Despite being a Slough Town season ticket holder, sticking pins in my eyes is often more preferable than going to Beaconsfield. A pocket full of pins is usually all i've got left to spend after some of our far flung away trips and with other commitments eating up my Saturday mornings, it's meant that I have spending time sampling the delights of Sussex County League Football.

First up Shoreham were you can always expect a warm welcome from their forward thinking chairman who runs a proper community football club. Shoreham town centre has been transformed in recent years and now even has its very own micropub that makes a trip to watch the Musselmen even more attractive. Micropubs are basically stripped out boozers – no music, no fruit machines, often no bar with barrels of local real ale and cider for the discerning pallet and limited opening hours. Soon there will be 100 micropubs and they are a shot in the arm to the relentless pub closures happening across the country. Especially this one, the Old Star, being in the same place as The Star, a pub that closed 100 years ago!

Next stop Southwick, who to say they have fallen on hard times is an understatement. Changing their trading name, meant that the old club went into liquidation and they had to be relegated under FA rules. So this proper old school club that once spent time in the Isthmian League now play in Division 3 of the Sussex County.

Southwick play at Old Barn Way and the ground is starting to ape its name, which is a shame as the club were the first in the Sussex County to get floodlights back in 1968. It used to have a stand but this was lost to a fire in the late 1990s. A £100,000 grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Trust 10 years ago got the club new changing rooms and a directors lounge.

This was an FA Vase game against Lordswood, and Gods know where they are from. A healthy crowd, crushed into the small seated stand, out of the rain saw Southwick exit the competition. But what was pleasing to see in the programme was that all their players were sponsored and when we left (after supping a Southwick larger) the bar was heaving. The only way is up for the Wickers.

Now to the town of Uckfield, whose population of 15,000 were spoilt with two senior football clubs to chose from last season. Now after a merger AFC Uckfield Town were born and are riding high in Division Two. They are hoping their combined strength will lead to promotion as well as running teams for footballers at all levels while looking to support the development of youth team football in Uckfield.

We were greeted at their tidy little ground by a cheerful man on the gate handing out very impressive free programmes. He said they had a good crowd of 40 the other week when they beat Littlehampton Town in the Sussex County Cup while the other Tuesday just 4 people paid at the gate. The ladies at the bar were discussing how to spruce up their rather forlorn clubhouse and their main problem seems to be that they are so far out of town. The game against Midhurst and Easebourne was an abject example of not taking your chances. They should have been out of site at half time, instead they finished the match as the losing side.

You get the feeling that all these clubs are going in the right direction, and while its not the same as bellowing out my support to the Rebels, it is always a pleasure to sample the many Sussex footballing delights on my doorstep.

HEDGEHOG, COWS AND ONE DETERMINED FOOTBALL CLUB

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Hitchin Town on Saturday 22nd November 2014. We won 2-1 in front of 273 people.

This is the story of a hedgehog, a few silly cows and a stubborn football club who are refusing to be rolled over by what we are always sold as progress.

But this has become more than a tale of a football club near the bottom of the footballing pyramid losing a ground they have called home not long after they formed in 1865 and being shoved on the outskirts of town like an unwanted guest. It is a tale that has managed to galvanise local people and hit the national press thanks to a hedgehog coming on the pitch and delaying the game - even giving the lino a lesson in how not to pick up sharp objects.
Hitchin Town' Top Field is one of those magical non league grounds that make ground-hoppers go all weak at the knees – especially after you've visited a few local boozers on the way from the train station. It's surrounded by greenery and it's still called Top Field and not The Really Fast Pick and Click Stadium of Speed or some other such nonsense. However, the Canaries problem is that they rent the land from the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust. This is a charity 'for the benefit of the community through the provision of facilities for cricket, football or other sports or for other general purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town of Hitchin'. Unfortunately somewhere along the way, the Common Cows seem to have misinterpreted this as 'sticking our snouts in the trough to feather our own nests whilst helping destroy what people love about living in Hitchin.'
What the football club have been clever at doing is showing that this is more than just about a football ground but about the wider community and the economic effects of shoving another supermarket on a greenfield site. On its own, the football club could never seriously mount a campaign against these juggernauts who spout endless corporate social responsibility guff, but at the end of the day is there to stuff cash into shareholders pockets.
So the Canaries organised a packed public meeting where the chair of the Commoners Trust received so much grief she resigned.
Now they are pulling out all the stops to encourage people to March on Saturday December 6 ahead of their game against Poole Town – which they have made free to get in. The march will launch 'The Save HTFC Fighting Fund' and the Hitchin manager is encouraging all their players and youth teams to go along in a show of solidarity.
Club secretary Roy Izzard said This isn’t just about the football club, it’s about saving Hitchin as a town. We need everyone to support this cause. This is a very really threat to the fabric of the town because even if people think Tesco will pull out, there will be other supermarkets queuing up to take over. We want the march to be a rallying cry to help save the town of Hitchin as well as Hitchin Town. Even if you’ve never been to Top Field before, if you care about the town we would urge you to come along to both the march and the game because apathy is a real threat.”
As for the hedgehog, as Mr.Izzard pointed out; “If he can help us to defeat the supermarket it would be amazing. He can join our committee any time."
You never know, you might see a cheeky little hedgehog sporting a fetching yellow and green top marching with the good people of Hitchin - that's if they can offer him enough slugs.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

LEFT IN THE TROPHY CABINET

Printed in the Slough Town v Merthyr Town  FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round Saturday 16th November 2014. We drew 1-1 in front of 300 people.

The FA Trophy is a funny old competition. It doesn't get the pulses racing like the FA Cup although it is more glamours than the Berks and Bucks or the League Cup. Not that that is anything to blow your trumpet about. Having a cup of cold sick thrown over you would be preferable than the Berks and Bucks, where Reading enter their Under Nines and whose early rounds should be played as part of pre-season.

As for the Trophy, last season Luton played their youth team and still beat Staines while the Cambridge United boss complained that the competition should be midweek with no replays and that really he couldn't be arsed. Then, like the annoying kid in the class who does no work but still comes first, they go and win the bloody thing.

Now teams can agree to extra time and penalties rather than a replay. How long before the Not-Really-Non-League Clubs of the competition can just bung some football team low life a couple of grand for a walk-over and a signed shirt for their clubhouse (that's if they've got their own).

So how do we revitalise it? I liked the suggestion to give the winners of the Vase and Trophy a bye to the 3rd round of the FA Cup, but i'd happily compromise with a bye to the First Round Proper (unlike the improper 6 rounds that have happened before). More money in the pot for each round would also help.

Then this happens. Slough go and win against probably the biggest team it could have played in terms of money being thrown at them. I couldn't make it to Margate and didn't expect a result. But beating a club that's threatening to sack the manager if he doesn't get them promoted, makes victory and the manner of that victory so much sweeter. So does does the £2,700 in the bank and singing 'Your just a small town near Ramsgate.' (well I was singing it to my phone as the results came through on twitter; i'm sure they heard).

So now onto round two and its deja-vu and a warm welcome to near neighbours (well just a short trip up the M4) Merthyr. As much as I respect my Welsh roots and don my coalmans cap to Merthyr i'm not sure I will be here. A trip to Beaconsfield is a bit like visiting an old aunt. You know you should, but the place smells of a bit stale and the atmosphere turns you into a zombie-like sleep. Then you have to get the train home half-cut.

But I can sing the praises of a club that was on its knees. Now supporters run, Martyrs to the Cause campaigned to get rid of their old chairman who at one point seemed to be offering to sell their Southern league place to another club! After they were liquidated, the fans began again as Merthyr Town in the Toolstation Western League Division One playing home games 20 miles away in Taffs Well. But it took them just three seasons to regain their Southern League status. A league they have won more than any other club in its history. Thanks to a £500,000 grant they have installed a 3G pitch and did up their ground. Last season they lost in the play-offs. Company secretary John Strand said: "The club sees this development as a springboard to become a hub for football development in Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding areas." More matches on the pitch, more income, more people involved in the club. I know I sound like the pub bore with my support for artificial pitches, but they just make so much economic sense. And its not like it doesn't piss down in the Valleys on a regular basis.

So a win today and the Conference North and South appear like Mr.Ben. I might get off my arse then and take a bite out of the Trophy pie.

Monday, October 27, 2014

WHO WOULD BE A REF

Printed in the Southern Premier League match v Paulton Rovers on Saturday 8th November 2014. We won in a monsoon 4-2 in front of 275 people.

 It wasn't on par with the chaos that ensured when a drone appeared on the pitch in the Serbia v Albania game, but if John Tebbit says he's never seen anything like it, you know its something that is thankfully really out of the ordinary.

As players and officials went off at half time at Banbury with Slough winning 2-1, some idiot decided to hit the ref with a half full bottle of water from 2 foot away. This led to the ref abandoning the game, van loads of police being called and headline news. 

As disappointed Rebel fans dispersed I just wondered why anyone would want to be a ref. Well Ian Lathey, one of our most loyal supporters and his eldest son are, so I felt this was as good a time as any to ask why!

Why does anyone want to become a referee?   

Ian “I think people go into it for different reasons. For some it's to be involved when perhaps they weren't good enough as players. For youngsters it's a good source of income and teaches them important social skills such as communication, people management, conflict resolution. Refs get £45 at our level. To put that into context, Tom and I are assistants at Allied Counties (Slough, Burnham, Windsor, Maidenhead under 18s etc) and we get £32 for being an assistant. Would I want the extra few quid to take charge at Southern Prem level? Not a chance!   

Has becoming a ref given you a new perspective watching games?  

Ian: Completely! It's not just knowing the laws, which I can assure you most fans do not, it's also understanding the officials' decisions and seeing things with a bit more of an impartial eye. For example, thinking back to the Rugby game at home, when Rebels fans were screaming at the ref for Ed Smith's red card, I was completely supportive of the referee. How referees pro-actively manage games is something you can't fully appreciate unless you have been in the middle and done it.”   

Football is an emotional game and we all lose all temper from time to time. How do we protect refs from abuse from players and supporters or is something that will always be there.  

Ian “Even allowing for the fact I am a qualified official I still lose my temper occasionally when spectating! As you say it's an emotional game and we love our team. Verbal abuse from spectators is always going to be there. Even officiating at kids games you get comments from coaches and parents. I will happily talk to parents after the game and explain decisions however and they usually appreciate that once the passions of the game have cooled. As for players I'm very much an advocate of a global clampdown on referee abuse. It has to be a major and well publicised campaign applied at every level of football however. If that means we have a week or two of games finishing with 8 a side so be it. Players will quickly learn. I would be amazed if it happened however.”   

What do you think should happen to Banbury. Are non league clubs in an impossible position to stop this - like when we had a bloke running on the pitch at the far end of the ground in a league cup match and were threatened with a fine by FA  

Ian “I think the Banbury situation needs a two-fold solution. Firstly, the league has to rule that the points are awarded to Slough. If not, it sets a very dangerous precedent suggesting if your team is losing you simply assault the referee to get the match replayed. I don't think a monetary fine is appropriate but I would like to see Banbury United subject to some serious sanctions regarding their stadium management. The exposed tunnel area is an accident waiting to happen and the lack of officials and stewards was very poor. If they cannot correct this to the satisfaction of the Southern League then I believe the Club should face penalties. However good stadium management is, clubs cannot stop every incidence of misbehaviour. What they should do however is take all reasonable and practical measures and Banbury United fell way short of that from what I witnessed.”  

Cheers Ian, and remember the next time your about to shout cheat at the ref, get a grip of yourself and remember that without them, as we found to our cost at Banbury, there wouldn't be a game to watch.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DECAMP TO DORSET*

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Hereford United Tuesday 21st October 2014. We won 2-0 in front of 276 people.


I do like a bit of Dorset. Every May Bank Holiday Slough try and spoil our regular trip to olde-worlde charm of Knoll House by Studland Bay, as the inevitable play-offs lead to some tense i'm-leaving-the-holiday-early-negotiating skills. This is the hotel where Churchill planned D Day and I half expect Nigel Farage to appear from the bar talking to the working classes as only a former investment banker can.
Later in the summer we always take a trip to Swanage, a lovely little seaside resort that has had a massive shot in the arm from people getting off their arses. If people ever tell you your crazy idea won't happen, hit them over the head with a Swanage steam train. When British Rail decided to rip up the tracks in 1972, a group of determined enthusiasts had a dream. 40 years later, they have not only re-opened the line, but it is now connected once again to the National Rail Network. There's 400 volunteers, 50 paid staff and it contributes £14 million annually to the local economy. 
You can tell it was my missus who picked the time to go on holiday as it coincided with the beginning of the football season, but as we pulled up outside our flat on a Saturday, the noise of players huffing and puffing drifted through the air. And so on Wednesday night, I parted with a few quid to watch Dorset Premier League reigning champs Portland United demolish Swanage and Herston. I love the fact that even at this level 60 people turn up including some away fans. A Dorset official told me that Portland didn't want to go up because of the extra traveling and it was nice to hear a bit of football realism. Yes, I’m all for people working together to realise a dream, but often with football clubs, its some bloke with a big ego and big pockets that pushes clubs to reach for the stars. When the money runs out, these clubs often plummet to whence they came or worse disappear altogether.
No sooner had we returned from Swanage, when it was about turn and off to Weymouth for an end of the summer kiss-me-quick traditional Slough Town away weekend. Weymouth is a fantastic resort. A beautiful sandy beach, Punch and Judy, a lively harbour and plenty of backstreet boozers to quench the thirst. As the Slough hoards descended it felt like we were back in the big time. People had heard of their local football club rather than scratching their heads and telling us they didn't know where West Piddlington Village FC ground was. While their stadium is too out of town for my liking, we can only dream of having something similar in Slough.
With only enough time to empty the sand from my pockets, it was back up to Poole. Poole felt a bit Slough by Sea with a dreary identikit high street. They've even let those bullies Tescos muscle in on a prime spot by the harbour which should be reserved for pubs and restaurants.
Just like us, Poole had fallen on hard times, and were forced to leave their ground to make way for Poole Pirates speedway and greyhound racing. If losing your ground to such ridiculous sports wasn't bad enough, the following season they lost 39 consecutive matches winning just 1 point from 42 games! Since then supporters have pulled the club by their football boot straps, finally knocking together a ground the Southern Premier were happy with and with planning permission for a new stadium, their future looks bright. Their noisy support felt like they are enjoying themselves, whereas you get the impression from Weymouth fans they are just tolerating the Southern Premier and will be sending us a postcard from the Conference soon.
As for us Rebels, this is just about as good as it gets and rather than fleeting Big FA Cup crowds, we are back in the big time and are singing our little hearts out just to show how happy it has made us.

* This column was sponsored by the Dorset Tourism Board

Sunday, September 14, 2014

RIP DAVE 'THE PROGRAMME' PEARCY

Printed in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying round game v Ardley United Saturday 13th September 2014. We lost 2-1 in front of 230.

It was fitting that Dave Pearcy should pass away on Non League Day. A day that is a celebration of everything that is unique about our level on football.
As my twitter feed filled up with tributes to Dave, the few of us who made a weekend in Weymouth raised our glasses to the man who everyone agrees was part of the 'Slough Town match day experience.' Especially Clubshop Sue who Dave would endlessly embarrass at grounds across the country, as he launched into his 'Super Sue' song! The forum was full of praise for the little man with the big bag full of God-knows what and an encyclopedic knowledge of bus and train times who supported his club for over 25 years.
Dave was known as Dave the Programme because, well, he sold programmes. But he did a lot more than that. He was an ambassador for the club. There was nothing clique about Dave, he would talk to old and new supporters alike and it seems everyone's earliest memories aren't just full of players names and games but of Dave flogging them a programme and asking how they were. Infact I sometimes wondered just how much of the game he actually watched, as he talked to everyone and their dog. He could drive me round the bend, when I was trying to watch a game and seemed more interested in what my train journey to the game was like!
But it's not really just about the football is it? Of course we want to see a good game but as the Weymouth weekend showed, its being part of a family of friends with a shared interest in a little football club with a very big heart.
What the club and its supporters did for Dave when it became clear how ill he had become, made me proud to support the Rebels. Paul Lillywhite organised the party in the Herschel that was packed with players and managers old and new and of course the fans. Somehow he managed to make it to the game the next day, coming on as the mascot, with Ian Lathey saying the last he had seen was Dave was late in the evening necking Tom Kings special shots while singing, '1-0, 2-0, 3-0...to the mighty Slough.'
The CAMRA rebels such as Alan, Ollie, Chris, Mark Bevan and Mark Carter would make sure he was part of the team in the quest for a decent pint before and after games and at beer festivals. Or there's the image of Jacko, who got to know Dave as a fan, a player and as a friend, sitting down for a long chat on his birthday on what was to be his penultimate visit to a 'home' game. The image of Dave waving his colostomy bag around a pub in Egham asking what he should do with it, is one image i'd rather forget!
When we beat Rugby in the play off semis, Sean Fraser got the players to run over to Dave to celebrate. When we won promotion at Kettering, they went one better and he was the only supporter invited into the sanctuary of the dressing room to continue those celebrations.
While everyone is so pleased he saw his beloved Slough win promotion after only 24 years, he never got to see us back where we belong. But that promotion has really put the club back on the map and the way our club is being run, I have no doubt that we will be back in Slough soon. 
So Mr.Chairman, how about a statue of Dave selling programmes outside the ground, as a reminder of one of the clubs most loyal supporters?
Dave's dad said Slough Town is the best thing that ever happened to Dave. Well I reckon Dave was one of the best things that has ever happened to Slough Town.
The outpouring of emotion on social media, shows just what people thought of the man. And I have to agree with Mark Bailey who wrote on the forum “For me Dave embodied everything that is brilliant about non league football. What a legend, glad he is at peace now.” 


Dave with Chairman Steve Easterbrook at the end of the Kettering game just after we got promoted

* A minutes applause for Dave before yesterdays game https://www.flickr.com/photos/horshamrebel/15236476015/


Sunday, August 31, 2014

MICRO BREWERIES, NACHOS AND A DASH OF FA CUP SAUCE

I hadn't managed to watch any games in the first round of my favourite cup competition and I was getting twitchy, so rushing back from holiday I spotted the perfect fix. Fighting through the Albion hoards on their way to the Amex, my bus passed through Lewes to the biggest village green ever. Ringmer FC play in the Sussex County League Division One and were pitched against Merstham from a level above in the Ryman South. Last time I saw Ringmer play it was Non League Day and my Seagull following mate Terry nearly joined the jumble sale queue by mistake, not realising that you don't really have queues at this level.

Last time I saw Merstham, their chairman was outside the gates shaking hands with all the AFC Wimbledon fans as their usual crowd of 25 became a record breaking 1,587. There also seemed to be a desire to break the world record for most cheese rolls ever made at a non league football match. That was 12 years ago and since then Merstham have improved their ground, won promotion and average 150 a game. Dons fans still come down to visit and their under 21 development squad will now be playing at Moat Side.

Quite a few Moatsiders had made the short trek to Caburn Pavilion, where the Blues haven't made the best start to the season. Hammered 8-1 on Bank Holiday they could only muster 10 players in the torrential rain; this on the back of a 6-0 opening home defeat to Littlehampton. But they had managed to knock out Corinthian in the extra preliminary pocketing £750. The men on the gate said that they are lucky to get 40 people and that it was hard to compete against Lewes while Brighton's swanky new stadium has sucked fans and players away from them and other Sussex non league clubs.

Turners Brewery have sponsored them for the past two seasons and the players looked very smart in their new blue kits. Turners is the local microbrewery set up in 2010 named after the Turner family who have farmed in Ringmer for generations. They are diversifying their farm with a shop, butchers, smokery and real ales. The beer is brewed in a converted farm building using hay bales for insulation and will soon have a green roof and 200 solar panels. It seemed rude not to sink one of their lovely £2.50 ales to get me in the mood.

Diversity is the name of the game for any lower league club and Ringmer are lucky to have a massive clubhouse, which is open every night with rooms available for hire. The clubhouse was one of the best and as for the tea bar - it didn't just sell chips, but toasted sandwiches and nachos. Nachos at a football ground, now your talking.

The crowd of 69 were treated to a proper attacking cup frenzy, but as expected Merstham were the much better side and scored in the 17 minute. But while it stayed 1-0 Ringmer always had a chance, especially in the second half when they were shooting downhill. While the gentile fans of Ringmer complained about a Merstham player swearing, on the other side of the pitch the Ringmer management were shouting encouragement and going apoplectic at the poor old Lino, who was getting it in the ear for breathing. Eventually Merstham got their second in the 72 minute and added two more to set up a home tie with Chipstead in the next round.

Merstham have the feel of a club going places, helped by that all important diversity and a bar open every night of the week. While Ringmer I suspect will be happy to stay in the top Sussex County League and hope to prize some of those Albion fans to the occasional game. With local real ales and nachos on offer, they'd be fools not too. 


 

MY SLOUGH TOWN SUPERHERO TOP

Printed in the Southern Football League Premier Division match v Histon. We drew 1-1 in front of 291 people.

I always feel a bit sorry for Premier League football fans, walking round with their football shirts advertising scumbags like Wonga. I wonder at what point they would refuse to wear a top and just what it would have to say? The Baby Axe Murdering Society?
I much prefer my amber and blue sponsored by Slough Town Supporters Trust and MyFC. This top also gives me magical powers that no Premiership garment ever could.
It enables me to go up to complete strangers - even in London - and start up a conversation. People will cross a busy concourse to say hello. It makes me invincible and also gets many people to ask similar questions like 'but what league team do you support.'
As soon as I don my Rebel Regalia it's like moths to a flame. First game of the season and I spot an elderly gentleman at Clapham Common in a Scunthorpe jumper. We chat at the platform and I sit next to him on the train. Imagine doing that on any other situation in London without someone diving for the emergency
button or getting a restraining order out on you. I quite liked Scunthorpe until he told me their owner made all his money from helping to break the Miners Strike. And while most fans are wildly opportunistic at the beginning of the season, he told me they would be relegated! Still he was off to Swindon cos he hadn't been there for 50 years and I got a potted history of the club and town.
Everyone and their dog seems to have lived or worked in Slough at some point or know where it is - apart from one of my geographically challenged ex's who asked if it was by the sea. Er no, but I could take you to the Grand Union Canal to count the submerged shopping trolleys and see the Swans nesting in the plastic bags.
The superhero top also seems to stop me getting hit, which is no mean feat with my gob. On a packed train with a friend on the way back from a trip to Wembley FC, Chelsea fans were busy punching each other's lights out while patting me on the head and muttering 'Slough Town mate.' One West Ham fan took offence
when our discussion about race led me to my conclusion that I felt the Hammers were the team most likely to start bringing Asian players through their Academy. 'I would hit you if you didn't support Slough Town' he grumbled while his mates handed me a beer. 'I've done time for Pompey' one crazy eyed guy said as he saddled up to me at Fratton station. A charming way to start a conversation, but he offered me a beer and told me he spoke fluent Lao!
On another occasion the Brighton and Hove Albion Supporters Club wanted to hand over a cheque to the charity I run. Not on a Saturday I said. Realising that I must support another team apart from the Albion, their eyebrows began to meet in the middle until I said I supported Slough Town. They then burst into smiles and said how wonderful Chris Sliski, Alan Harding and other Slough fateful were!
So I say wear your Slough Town top with pride. You never know what avenue it could take you down. You might even meet your future spouse.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

DIY FOOTBALL

Printed in the Southern Football League Premier Division game v Chesham United Monday 25th August 2014. We lost 3-0 in front of 354 people.


I usually leave it to the last minute before I enter the heaving cauldron that is Holloways Park on a Slough Town match day. But this time, I'd promised to encourage people to join the Supporters Trust. So instead of some vocal enhancing refreshment, I was at my table, pens in hand and raring to go before the turnstiles had even opened.
And what an eye- opener. Everywhere people were buzzing around, making sure everything was ready for the hoards. All the unseen background work that takes place to make sure the game goes ahead. It's a serious operation and one that is done on the whole by unpaid volunteers, who would get it in the neck if something went wrong and get little thanks if it all goes right!
I keep banging on about how I don't think people are great at pushing the Supporters Trust and its work, so I decided I should offer to Do It Myself.
When the turnstiles did open, supporters had to seriously run the gauntlet. Entrance fee, Trust membership, golden goal, programmes, merchandise. One of the regulars complained he'd spent £53 despite having a season ticket! Still, £53 is still cheaper than going to watch a London Premiership team.
But as Steve Easterbrook said in his programme notes “We have some real challenges ahead, both on and off the field and I would like everyone to perhaps have some perspective as we continue to try and move the club forward. We are now in a league where the vast majority of clubs are established and operate from their own grounds located in their own towns. We of course do not - and I cannot emphasis enough how difficult it has been and is trying to run a club in this environment.”
Yes its great to finally be in the Premier but its going to cost us an arm and leg just to keep still and without income from the bar and all those other extras that you get when you have a home to call your own.
One regular complained that he spent more on the football club than on his wife and that we need to find different funding streams rather than pick pocking the same old regulars. That's true and having MyFC involved has spread the load. The club are always looking at getting more sponsors involved. But how? Why would some multinational corporation on the trading estate bother sponsoring us? Mars didn't even when we were in the Conference preferring instead to sponsor another local club. Er, Napoli from Italy!
The million dollar question is how to prize people away from football on the TV and convince them that watching non league is much more fulfilling than shopping.
How do Potters Bar compete with Arsenal just down the road. Well with Arsenals cheapest season ticket a snip at £1,000 they have decided to give away free season tickets to try and get a few more punters through the turnstiles. And bobble hats off to Prescot Cables for their 'Don't let your kids grow up thinking football is a programme' advert.
So I would say to all supporters – join the Trust, sign up to the 500 club, sponsor a game, encourage kids to become mascots, hassle your company to take out some advertising, put up posters and get behind the team even when things aren't going well on the pitch.
We've had a fantastic start to the season, and the council have indicated that we could be in our new stadium by January 2016.
We can all tell the club to do this and do that, but in the end it's up to all of us to do what we can to help out. It's what football at this level is all about.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

TOP FIELD NOT SHOP FIELD

Printed in the Southern Football League Premier Division match v Biggleswade Town Tuesday 19th August 2014. We drew 1-1 in front of 300 people. 

When Hitchin planners were scratching their heads wondering how they could improve their pleasant little market town, do you think someone jumped out of their seat, shouting 'how about we knock down our football club, destroy a nice part of the town and help damage our high street – all in one smart move? W e already have 3 supermarkets, but what we really need is four?' If the Tesco juggernaut gets it way, then Hitchin will have all this and more.

Hitchin Town' Top Field has got to be one of my favourite oldy-wordly higgledy-piggledy charming little grounds that make ground-hoppers go all weak at the knees – especially after you've visited a few local boozers on the way from the train station. It's surrounded by greenery and it's still called Top Field and not The Really Fast Pick and Click Stadium of Speed or some other such nonsense. However, the Canaries problem is that they rent the land from the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust. This is a charity 'for the benefit of the community through the provision of facilities for cricket, football or other sports or for other general purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town of Hitchin'. Unfortunately somewhere along the way, the Common Cows have decided to stick their noses in the trough, and try to flog the land while offering Hitchin a lovely new community sports facility elsewhere in the town.

So what's the problem? Well along with Hitchin Town fans, a number of other town organisations are again the plans with Chairman of Hitchin Forum, Mike Clarke, saying: “Tesco, the original suspect, has attracted opposition in other areas because of the impact it has had on local businesses. But whether it is Tesco, or another superstore, do we need a fourth large supermarket in town? Should a Hitchin charity be making a deal to do so? We think not.”

Football clubs should be at the heart of the communities, and non league clubs especially cannot expect to survive shoved out of the way on the outskirts of a town.

Supermarkets on the other hand are the opposite of community, despite all their social responsibility guff. They even expect governments to top up their workers low wages with tax credits. You won't catch Jeff Stelling crowing that they will be dancing down the Tesco aisles tonight. Your never hug complete strangers in a superstore - well, unless you want to be sectioned. Infact you'd be hard pressed to find someone smiling. You don't applaud cos some kids done some fancy footwork with the broccoli. There's no reminiscing of the old times on that fantastic 2-for-1 deal. And while you might shiver by the fridges, it's not the same as freezing on the terraces with a nice warm cup of tea moaning with your mates that the games bloody awful. But that's it. Mates, friends, colleagues, acquaintances – people. Human beings not bloody customers.

Bill Grimsey, former chief executive of Wickes, Iceland and Focus DIY, who knows a thing or two about shopping habits reckons that we need to completely re-vamp our high streets as community hubs. With ever increasing home deliveries and on-line shopping, the way we shop is changing fast and even Tescos are starting to flog off all the land they have banked and know they will never use. So he says that people will need more good reasons merely than just than shopping to visit shops.

So let's hear it for our local pubs, micropubs, independent shops, community centres, cafes, art spaces and of course football clubs that will be at the forefront of regenerating town centres. Creating places where people can meet rather than encouraging more social isolation.

Destroying Top Field might be a short lived economic shot in the arm for Tesco shareholders but it will do long term economic, social and cultural harm to Hitchin and help send another much loved football club towards the dustbin of history. 

* For all your 24 hour a day campaigning needs against supermarkets go to Tescopoly http://www.tescopoly.org/




Sunday, August 17, 2014

FANS UNITED: BACK TO EARTH WITH A BUMP

Printed in the Southern Football League Premier Division v Banbury United Saturday 16th August 2014. We won 2-1 in front of 312 people.


I thought good things came to those that wait? After a mere 24 years Slough finally get promotion and are rewarded with an opening game at near neighbours Burnham and a Tuesday night trip to the lepers of Hereford.
But let's rewind for a moment and savour that Bank Holiday in Kettering. 2-0 down, craning our necks inbetween Kettering fans and that all too familiar sinking feeling – the Slough Town nearly men. But this is a different Slough, with a different mentality and as soon as the first goal went in, Kettering who had been so dominant, began to wobble. That third goal and the celebrations were a bit of a blur and with a few of their numbskull 'fans' threatening all second half we bid a hasty retreat. Me and my mad cousin Mark and his unruly beard arrived as the vanguard at the Herschel Arms, letting landlord Tom and the few stragglers in the bar, that his pub was about to get busy. Fast forward a couple of hours, a few shots of god knows what, the players coach blocking Herschel Street as we all sang in the street, and the party was in full swing. It was one of the best nights i've had supporting Slough.
Like many Rebels, I gave work a miss the next day. Nursing my thumping head on the train back to Brighton, it took a couple of days to get rid of the hangover and quite a few weeks to wipe that grin off my face!
Not even the stupid plans to destroy lower league football by imposing Premiership B teams on us or England's predictable dismal performance in the World Cup could get rid of that grin.
But the Hereford United game brought football reality back with a bump. Hereford are yet another Conference basket-case, a league which Bath City's director of football says is no longer “viable.”
Thrown out of the Conference and £1.4 million in debt, you do wonder why the Southern League accepted them. They didn't even get a ground safety certificate until 3 days before the season began. The Hereford United Supporters Trust believe the new owners have only one thing in mind and that's asset stripping the club. They have asked their fans to boycott the team after over 95% of their members voted in favour. Their local MP agrees with the boycott and ex-players, officials, admin staff and the groundsmen are still waiting to get paid. They have a third winding up petition at the beginning of September. Will they even finish the season is doubtful.
The Hereford Trust have also organised an alternative fixtures list with ex-players and supporters donning the kit and 821 fans turning up for a Fans United fixture against Worcester. That's more than Herefords crowd against St.Neots on the opening game of the season.
The reason football authorities and clubs get away with treating us like mugs is because we act like ones, complaining about the way football is run but still willing to go along with it because of our sense of loyalty to our clubs.
This time fans have stuck together and I think we should respect that. Just like Coventry City fans refusing to go to Northampton, Wimbledon fans setting up their own club and Manchester United fans forming FC United of Manchester, who will be soon moving to their own ground, built in part thanks to £1.5 million raised by community shares.
That's the power of football fans. And until we make that stand, then the endless convey belt of financial football car crashes will continue while we all look over our shoulder and wonder if our club will be next.
Personally, I'd love to have gone to Edger Street, but I know that this isn't just about me going to a football match. It's about standing with other supporters. I would never cross a picket line and going to Edger Street is no different for me. And hopefully it won't be long, before we are playing a reformed supporters-run Hereford United at Edgar Street.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WHAT HAVE THE TRUST EVER DONE FOR ME!

Slough Town Supporters Trust was formed in 2003 and since then have handed over £30,000 to the club! They currently sponsor the home shirt and recently sponsored the youth and reserve teams. They run the coach travel to away games and members volunteer behind the scenes on match days. They run the Golden Goal and 500 Club Rebel Lottery while Trust board member Sue runs the club shop. They organise the end of season walk where money raised is split between the Trust and a local charity. 3 Trust board members are also on football club management committee and so have a say in how the club is run. 

So why not become a member?
 
Why should I join?
All Supporters Trust have a pivotal role to play in the health and success of their club, so get yourself along to the Trust hut at our next home game and become a member – and don’t forget to keep throwing your loose change into the collecting buckets on the way out. You will be supporting the long term future of Slough Town Football Club.
How much is it
It's a minimum of £10 a year but more money welcome! Junior membership is £5
What do I get
If you travel by coach to any of the Rebels away games you get £5 knocked off the cost along with travel and accident insurance.
Juniors also get a discount along with birthday and Christmas cards.
How does the Trust raise its money
Through membership fees, raffles, quiz and race nights and bucket collections at the end of each home game.
How can I get more involved
The Trust always need more management committee members. Please see Ollie, Mark Hunter, Mike or Alan if you are interested.
To join the Trust please send cheques (made payable to STSA Ltd) c/o 17 Swabey Road, Langley, Slough, SL3 8NR or see the above people on match days.

But don't listen to us, this is what Steve Easterbrook has to say “Apart from all the great work that the Trust does in the community and all the benefits that members receive, being a member of the trust is a great way of being more connected to the club. The Trust also has a healthy representation on the club's management committee and therefore members have a direct input on how the club is actually run. At the end of the day...... the fans are the club and any organisation, such as the Trust, that brings true fans together can only have a positive impact on the long term future of this great club.”

SO JOIN THE SLOUGH TOWN SUPPORTERS TRUST TODAY!

Monday, August 04, 2014

HEREFORD IN THE BULL-SHIT

Football is a dirty old business and the higher up you go, the more corporate and soulless it becomes. But at our level, we still celebrate with the players, can chat to the managers and are on first name terms with the chairman. Hell, they even let some of us print our rants in the programme.
But there are times when politics and football collides even at our level and Slough fans have been debating ever since the fixtures came out whether or not they should go to cheer on the Rebels at Hereford.
Before we get to Hereford's mismanagement, kicked out of the Conference and currently £1.4 million in debt, let's look at another lower league club who asked fans to boycott their games.
Chester City were averaging almost 2,000 in League Two the season before, decided to boycott games to get rid of their hated chairman who had run their club into the ground. Their last 3 games averaged less than 470 and one home fixture with Eastbourne was postponed after 75 minutes following an on-pitch protest. A survey showed that 95% of fans supported a boycott while "99.5 per cent of respondents believed a change of ownership was essential.” Chester were eventually wound up and thrown out of the Conference.  A new club was formed by supporters who got behind their team with volunteers helping to run every department of the club, and fans turning out in numbers at matches – breaking a number of attendance records along the way. The reborn, supporter run Chester, won 3 back-to-back titles and are now back in the Conference averaging 2,366 a game.
So what of Hereford? The Hereford United Supporters Trust have also asked to their fans to boycott the team after over 95% voted in favour of the move in a poll of members. They have asked all supporters to not attend home matches, take up advertising and sponsorship with the club, or participate or contribute to any event held at Edgar Street or to the financial benefit of Hereford United until the owners make good with the promises to pay the staff and players, meet all football creditors, settle the debts owed to Herefordshire Council, and settle all outstanding winding-up proceedings. Their local MP agrees with the boycott and ex-players, officials, admin staff and the groundsmen are still waiting to get paid. They are under a transfer embargo and have a third winding up petition at the beginning of September. Finishing the season looks doubtful.
The trust have also organised an alternative fixtures list with ex-players and supporters donning the kit and 821 fans turning up for a Fans United fixture against Worcester at Malvern Town.
So I would say to Slough Town and any other fans thinking of going to Hereford. Just put yourself in their shoes for a moment and wonder just what it would be like? Or how would you like to not be paid for work you have done?
Personally, I'd love to visit Edger Street, home of one of the greatest FA Cup upsets of all time, but I know that this isn't just about me going to a football match. It's about standing with other supporters.
The reason football authorities and clubs get away with treating us like mugs is because we act like ones, complaining about the way football is run but still willing to go along with it because we have loyalty to our club.
This time fans have stuck together and I think we should respect that. Just like Coventry City fans refusing to go to Northampton, Wimbledon fans setting up their own club and Manchester United fans forming FC United of Manchester, who will be starting their new season in their own ground, built in part thanks to £1.6 million raised by community shares.
That's the power of football fans. And until we make that stand, then the endless convey belt of financial football car crashes will continue while we all look over our shoulder and wonder if our club will be next.
So yes, I support my team, but sometimes but there is a greater footballing good. It's not the end of the world me not going. And hopefully it won't be long, before we are playing a reformed Hereford United at Edgar Street soon.
 

Friday, April 25, 2014

I HATE FOOTBALL

Printed in the last home game of the season v Chertsey Town who have already been relegated and conceded 116 league goals this season. We need to win to get the last play off place. What could possibly go wrong.

Most football fans will tell you that their club puts them through the mill. As I sat stoney faced on the Brighton train after last Saturdays defeat by Rugby, my mood was not improved by realising that i'd got on the wrong train and was heading towards East Grinstead. Thanks a lot football, I hate you.

I couldn't make the Easter Monday game but thanks to twitter Slough did their best to spoil a nice afternoon by losing at Aylesbury.

Now its winner takes it all. Do better than Barton Rovers today and we will get to the play offs. A game where peoples hair will visibly grey or fall out while nails and nerves take a battering. Of course playing a team that was already been relegated and conceded 116 games will be easy, won't it. Well only if you never been to a Slough Town match before.

And this is what I do on my day off!

I had already spent Easter Sunday testing the water to see what the reaction would be to leaving a family holiday early to get to the play of final. Timing the conversation so a football fan was in the room was vital. Now if we do get to the final I will travelling by train from Studland Bay on a Bank Holiday Monday.

Why do we do it to ourselves?

Supporting Slough it can't be for the glory, but when we arrive in numbers at away games, I take my Slough Town bobble hat off to opposition fans who turn out each week to watch teams who'd be chuffed with 100 fans. To the people behind the scenes who make the clubs tick, getting to grounds hours before kick off to make sure the games go ahead. To the boards who sit through endless meetings, trying to make ends meet. To the turnstile operators, programme sellers, raffle ticket pushers.

So one last gut churning, nerve shredding game. Win it and we will have another gut churning, nerve shredding game to look forward to with the stakes even higher. Once again, an all or nothing battle to escape this level of football.

So throw away the calculator. The maths is now easy. Win our next three games and we are promoted. If only it were that easy.

And if we don't? Well whatever happens, you know most of us will be back for more next season after a summer break recharging the football batteries. Looking forward to the fixture lists, plotting our away days and new grounds, hoping for an away day or two in the early rounds of the FA Cup. Getting that cheque for the season ticket in the post.

I'm sure there's a word for this sort of behaviour but i'm not sure its printable in the programme.