These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. After a mere 24 years we finally won promotion to the Southern Premier, just 7 leagues below the Premiership. I’ve been supporting Slough for 34 long years, and despite moving to Brighton still go to most games. Still waiting for that bloody new ground in Slough tho.

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.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

SEVEN YEAR ITCH

Printed in the Southern League Central Division One game v Rugby Town on Saturday 19th April 2014. We lost 2-1 in front of 402 people.

Apart from one Eggy hiccup, Slough have been flying this year and this has got to be one of the most exciting finishes to a season for years. There's a fight for the top spot and play off places while Egham's floodlights continue to blow a fuse.

While the football gets the pulses racing, its behind the bureaucrats desk that the real fate of Slough Town football club is being decided. The 7 years (yes, seven!) indecision on our ground is frustrating to say the least.

A while back I wrote to Sloughs MP Fiona Mactaggart pointing out the Rebels are more than just a football club; more than 22 men kicking a ball around on a Saturday in front of a few hundred fans. That the stadium will be something the whole town can get behind unlike another religious segregated free school. It will not just be a place for Slough Town to call home but have modern sports facilities for the whole town; multi-use games area, athletics track, facilities for the dance academy and of course delivering much needed housing. That's on top of the clubs football academy.

Fiona Mactaggart replied

I asked Stephen Gibson, Investment and Regeneration Manager (for Slough Borough Council), for an update and he provided the following information. 'The council remains committed to the delivery of a range of community projects including a home for Slough Town Football Club at the Arbour Site. However, the site is also being sought by the Department of Education for a free school and unfortunately this is blocking progression by the Council's proposals.'

Can I just say that I agree completely with your sentiments. I do support the principle of a Sikh secondary school in Slough, but there are other sites that are more suitable. I am a supporter of Slough Town myself and have long championed their need for a proper stadium. I knew the delay is frustrating but I hope that you are reassured that Slough Borough Council is committed to providing a home for Slough football.

Unfortunately the 'emergency legislation' that Mr Gove rushed through parliament almost immediately after the General Election gave him an enormous number of powers over local schools and local government, and his civil servants tend to throw their weight about even more than those powers warrant. But they have got a fight on their hands in Slough! Thank you for getting in touch; here's hoping that Slough Football Club have a base very soon.”

So what does our chairman Steve Easterbrook think. He told me “There is really nothing I can add. I welcome Stephen Gibsons and Fiona Mctaggart's comments. However after 7 years of working closely with the officers, councillors and residents of Slough and having delivered a scheme with potentially huge benefits which meets many goals set by all political parties, I fail to comprehend why no one will make the final decision. Indeed it was Slough Council who put forward this site and requested we do all the preparatory work in the first place! (Which we have done at great expense).”

If it was left to me I would stick free schools, religious schools and private schools into the dustbin of unequal history, but I get the feeling I might be waiting a while for that to happen.

So I will pin my hopes on a ground in Slough instead. If nothing else, a football ground in Slough at Arbour Park, will be one of the few places in Slough that can bind the diverse communities of Slough together. A jewel in the town, without burdening the taxpayer with extra cost.

Just someone make a bloody decision soon (pretty please).

Monday, March 31, 2014

MATHMATICAL TWITS

Printed in the Southern League Division One Central game v Royston Town Saturday Saturday 29th March 2014. We won 2-1 in front of 292 people.

Forget squeaky bum time. This is one of those seasons when you not only have to be close to the toilets but also a mathematical genius, as a place in the play-offs goes to the wire. Twitter goes into meltdown on Tuesday and Thursday nights as Slough fans indulge in twit-athons trying to work out all the different permutations as results from other clubs come in. Well, a few of us saddos do anyway.
Whereas the majority of Twitter is just inane twaddle, its main reason for being is for revolutions and non league football. In the not too distant past BM (before mobiles) we would have to wait till Sunday or the following week to find out the scores, now they spew forth in a torrent of finger tapping rage.
Well, at least they should do.
In my last bestseller, The Non League Manifesto, one of my key demands was making twitter compulsory for all non league clubs. It doesn't take a lot of effort and puts you in touch with people instantly. Of course its not the answer to getting more bums through gates, but when the weathers iffy its the quickest way to let people know if the game is on.
One of the revelations of our new managers is their use of social media. When there's a two way dialogue between fans, it creates trust and can quickly clear up any issues that otherwise can get out of control and set keyboard warriors off in a frothing frenzy.
And giving supporters a voice is a good thing. I was involved in one of the Slough Town fanzines ‘Rebels Without A Clue’ which was part of the wave of independent football fanzines that started demanding a right to be heard and culminated in the Supporters' Trust movement and supporter run clubs.
Of course fans being taken seriously still has some way to go, but I was particularly impressed by Hull City's owner telling their fans to go to hell if they didn't like the idea of being called Tigers.
We should also be wary of social media. Any idiot can put their thoughts out there – just look at me. And where are the editors checking their facts?
But i have to take my Slough Town bobble hat off to Sam Gardiner, a 17 year school boy who pretended he was a football scout because he wanted more people to listen to his football views. Before he was rumbled, he had 20,000 followers and was being private messaged by footballers and journalists. "When I was 15, I created a Twitter account but no one was taking me seriously. I had 300 followers. Adults don't want to listen to 15-year-olds and I don't blame them, to be honest. But I was getting really frustrated, because I love football, I love talking about football and I just wanted to air my opinions to as many people as possible."
The fact that he wants to be a journalist or an MP gives an indication to his state of mind, but at least his front is harmless compared to some of the bile and hate sent to people in the limelight, or by people like ex-Slough Town Dave 'The Doughnut' Deeney whose under police investigation for threatening to stab Kettering Town fans.
What we really need is some computer geek to invent an app which can act as a breathalyser; that can smell if you have had too much to drink and stop your postings until the morning when you can reconsider them in the cold, sober light of day.
So keep those results and revolutions coming but remember to take the rest of it with large pinch of smelling salts. And despite all this social media business, the best way of communicating is still face to face using your vocal chords. 

Some photos of the day with some cute mascots

Sunday, March 23, 2014

FIT FOR NOTHING

Printed in the Southern League Division One Central game v Leighton Town Saturday 22nd March 2014 We won 4-1 in front of 248.

It seems the job advert for owning a club in England must read something like this.
'Like a bit of money laundering and tax evasion? Have the morals of an axe murderer?
Why not invest in an English football team.'

Last week Birmingham City's owner Carson Yeung was given six years in a Hong Kong slammer for money laundering - £2.8 million of which he used the buy shares in the Blues. The fact that Yeung had been convicted of two other fraud offences before he bought the club, counted for nothing when it came to the FA's fit and proper test. Birmingham City's board now consists of Yeung's long-time Hong Kong-based associate Peter Pannu, and Yeung family members including his 20-year-old student son, Ryan. The league said after the verdict that it is satisfied its rules are being complied with and that "Premier League football is one of the most regulated and transparent sectors of UK sport or business".
Meanwhile Leeds United fans wait with baited breath to see who their next owner is. Will it be Massimo Cellino, who is currently facing court in Italy over suspicion of embezzlement and already has an impressive tax fraud record.

Never mind, what is really getting some clubs hot under the collar is the fair play rules that have been introduced by UEFA. Some are threatening court action over rules which were introduced to address the huge losses sustained by many clubs. Cardiff City won the Championship last season losing £31million while doing so, while Hull City notched up loses of £26 million and came second.

Even Brighton, who have the most season ticket holders of any team outside the Premiership, are having to cut costs to comply with the rules.

The bottom line is players are getting paid too much and it is totally unsustainable. Surely no one needs more than £10k a week to live on?

A report from the High Pay Centre in 2012 revealed that footballers at the top have seen a wage increase of over 1500%. As players’ wages take up a bigger slice of club turnover - up from 48% in 1997 to 70% in 2010 - there is lower levels of investment in the essential infrastructure that could improve the national talent pool, namely coaches.

Of course, not all footballers are on such obscene wages and it does stick in the craw when I hear chairman, managers and players moan about too many games at the top level. Have a look at non league, where many clubs are having to play 3 games a week after the winter monsoon. Or the Slough Town captain Adam Foulser who is out for six months and as a self employed plumber losing wages to boot because of an injury during a game.

So perhaps we will see more clubs like Vauxhaull Motors taking the sensible but regrettable decision to resign from the Football Conference. Their chairman said “Like many other football clubs, we are confronted with the reality of low gates and ever-increasing costs. This now unsustainable position has been going on for several years despite efforts to balance the books and to do nothing would be foolhardy. As a responsible committee administering a club that was founded over fifty years ago and a club that we would wish to continue for another fifty, with responsibilities beyond the Football Conference, to some thirty teams, youth, junior and ladies catering for over 400 children within Ellesmere Port and beyond, it has become necessary to withdraw the senior side from the established pyramid.”

That's one honest chairman who would pass any decent 'fit and proper' test.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

QUICK MARCH TO THE POTTERS BAR


Printed in the Southern League Central Division One game v St.Ives Town on Saturday 8th March 2014. We won 1-0 in front of 252 people.

I'm always a little underwhelmed when people boost that they have visited all 92 Football League clubs. So what? If I really wanted to show off I could reel off at least 150 grounds I've graced over the years - and that doesn't include league clubs. From Gateshead to Truro, Boston United to Bridgewater Town, I’ve been there, done that. Not as some sad ground-hopper but with my Slough Town bobble hat on. Thing is with football, I can't watch it as a neutral with anywhere near as much enjoyment. Which is why I can't be arsed watching games like Chelsea v Man United because I want both corporations to lose. 

So despite the pull of Lewes v Dulwich and a rail replacement service ahead of me, when I got the text that the Potters Bar game was on, I grabbed my coat and headed to boldly go where no Slough Town team had ever been before.

Three hours later, and I’m joining the fat old Rebel gits in a Weatherspoons for a pre match pint. The very ones who according to one particularly irate Dunstable player have got nothing better to do on a Saturday than grace the very same non league terraces he plays in front of.

PottersBar didn't exist until 1960 when they were known as Mount Grace Old Scholars. And their new (ish) turnstile block comes from the old Wembley Stadium and they have a certificate to prove it! The old wooden one, surrounded by mud and debris, was something ground-hoppers would go all weak at the knees for. The ground staff had done a good job at getting the game on, but getting round the ground was like re-enacting the Battle of the Somme. We lost 3 fans down a sink hole while a Scholarly official thoughtfully laid down old doors across the bog. Dashing young Rebels made a rope bridge out of scarves so Clubshop Sue wouldn't muddy her Prada shoes.

Slough really are playing some lovely football at the moment, and have also discovered that Wilko spirit with some of their tackling. We coasted to a 3-0 victory and rejoiced as most clubs around us dropped points. Oh the immediate joy of twitter; it was made for non league football. Whereas once we used to wait days to find out scores delivered by carrier pigeons now its just an endless stream of results.

The crowd was just 141, the vast majority were Slough and you've got to take your hats off to the volunteers who've obviously put in masses of unpaid hours to get Potters Bar to where it is. So it seemed rude not to have a drink in the bar afterwards and it was good to chat to one young lad who has decided to watch some real football than the soap-opera Sky sell us (and where the plot line is usually so predictable). He had hardly seen a game or goal this year and told us how just recently a coach load of Watford fans turned up to for a County Cup match only for it to be called off. We either need to stick County League Cup games into the dustbin of football history or play some of the early rounds as part of pre season.

Also joining us for a beer was our chairman Steve Easterbook. The more you talk to this man, the more you realise just how lucky Slough are to have such a clued up, down to earth chairman.

On the way back we bumped into some friendly Sunderland fans staying over night and hoping to put one over the money men from Manchester. Even the rail replacement journey that took me all the way to Littlehampton before finally depositing me at Brighton at 11pm couldn't dampen another great away day with the Rebels.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

THE GRASSROOTS ISN'T GREENER

Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Dunstable on Saturday 22nd February 2014. We won 4-0 in front of 262 people.

You would think that our football mad nation with apparently the best league ever, that grassroots football facilities would be the envy of the world. Where muddy fields, dog poo and dilapidated changing rooms would be a thing of the past. But we all know that's not the case and that the football world perfectly mirrors our unequal society.

Last year the Premier League income was a staggering 2.4 billion – of which they gave a paltry £12 million to the Football Foundation, or 0.5% of their riches. Having initially bowed to government pressure to give 5%, the league now insists that commitment was for one broadcasting rights deal only and, despite securing a
record £5.5 billion for 2013-16, has cut its funding to the Football Foundation.

So one MP launched a petition to ask for 7.5% of the Premierships income be given to grassroots campaign rather than wasting more TV money on increasing players wages. But less than a week to go it has astonishingly only got just over 30, 000 signatures. It would have attracted more with the backing of the 50
county FAs but not one replied when contacted about the campaign.

This week the government launched 'Moving More, Living More' initiative to build on the Olympic legacy, but as sports journalist David Conn told me "it should have been issued in 1997 and incredibly the document suggests they are just thinking how to increase activity. It's too little, too late. "

Despite all fine government words about getting more people involved in sport, 100,000 people have walked away from grassroots football since April 2012 and it is now behind swimming, athletics and cycling in the participation rates. Mick Baikie, national clubs services manager at the Football Association complained "one of the biggest challenges we face is facilities. We've got qualified coaches but we haven't got the facilities for them to coach and play. The big problem now is the public sector cuts – 80% of games are played on local authority sites that have been heavily subsidised in the past but we are starting to see an impact with the cuts. One council recently raised their fees from £400 per pitch, per season to £1,600. That's happening all over the country."

Lord Harris, Chairman of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee has expressed his disappointment at the lack of movement by Government. "Our report endorsed the consensus that the 2012 Games were an outstanding success. The Government’s response certainly talks the right talk, particularly on sport in
school age children, but at a time when the UK faces an obesity epidemic, costing £20 billion a year, encouraging more physically active lives is of critical importance, and I think more investment than the Government are planning will be essential in the long term."

As one football coach pointed out "We don't look at the bigger picture in this country. If kids can play football regularly that will help in some way towards the obesity crisis and the strain that puts on the NHS. And it's not just about the football but about making friends, instilling discipline and helping the community."

While Cameron tells us 'money is no object' when it comes to the floods, wouldn't it make sense to tell the Premiership that not properly investing in our national game just isn't an option anymore.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

CHANGING CLIMATE


Printed in the Southern League Central Divison One match v Aylesbury United Saturday 15th February 2014. We won 5-3 in front of 272 people. 
 
I'm not sure I will ever lose that buzz of an away game. As I sit on the early morning Slough Town Express wondering what beery delights Nigel has lined up for us, as I hurtle towards hamlets and towns that would otherwise pass me by. Saturday in your colours is also the only time you can go up to complete strangers and start to chat about football without them ringing the police.
Now I always love a trip to Marlow. We were lucky the Marlow Donkey was running as the Thames lapped the tracks and flooded the riverbank houses. With climate change this wild weather is a sign of things to come and while the flooded fields looked strangely beautiful and peaceful, for the people affected it must be devastating.
After supping in one of those gastro pubs that aren't really pubs, the Real Ale CAMRA Rebels sniffed out the squat ugly building across the road that houses The Marlow British Legion club. Now I’m not too fussed about real ales and I’ve never been into a British Legion club but what a warm welcome we received as they signed us in, chatted about football and recommended ales. If this place don't tick all the boxes of what a community pub should be I don't know what does. Chatting to the management committee you also realised that they had the vision to make sure the place could adapt, with their beer festival and other events keeping the punters coming, to make sure it survives the relentless closure of our community spaces (and have you noticed that its always the village pub where residents meet and organise when floods and disasters strike – what happens when there isn't one?).
Next up was Shoreham. Thanks to another Rebels wash out I decided to make the trip to one of my favourite Sussex clubs. It seemed the right thing to do, as a group of fans from Hertha Berlin in Germany were coming to watch their game against Rye United. When they found out Shoreham played in the same colours and were formed in the same year as Hertha they decided to adopt them as their second club.
Shoreham certainty rolled out the blue carpet to their new found friends with a great atmosphere – although probably a little different to what the 10 German lads are used to with their 77,000 capacity stadium. They got invited into the board room and later officials joined them in a pub in Shoreham to watch the Hertha game and sink a few more beers. How could I resist a night learning about German football and chatting to Stuart Slaney Shoreham's young chairman whose passion for youth football has seen him take over the club. As he pointed out “They wanted to see a bit of UK football and fortunately instead of a Premiership or Championship team, they chose a grassroots club. One of our players got sent-off in the 90th minute and the Hertha supporters thought it was because they were shouting him encouragement to go into tackles, so they paid for his fine. They were shouting for Shoreham and it was one of the best atmospheres we have had in quite a while. We are hoping to return the favour nearer the end of the season and maybe try and get a friendly with their supporters club."
Just like the people behind Marlow British Legion, the chairman of Shoreham is savy enough to spot opportunities that come his way to make sure that the Musselmen continue to flourish. The German visit was splashed all over the local papers and Non League Paper, where he lamented "It's a shame that these supporters travelled 750 miles, but we can't get local supporters to come 500 yards to see us."
Now I’m all for keeping and respecting tradition but also realise that in a rapidly changing world of climate and lifestyle football clubs and pubs must learn to adapt if they are not only to survive but flourish.