THIS TOWN AIN'T BIG ENOUGH FOR THE BOTH OF US
Printed in the Southern Premier Central Division game v Aylesbury on Saturday 12th February 2011. We won 3-2 in front of 293 and are fourth in the league.
Just what hope would Slough have of ever returning home if there was another Slough team playing in the town. That’s the situation Aylesbury United find themselves in, after their owner kicked them out of their home in a hissy fit when he didn’t get the planning permission he craved. At the same time local another club were slowly climbing up the pyramid, doing up their ground and finally naming themselves Aylesbury FC in 2009. Having spoken to supporters on both sides, let’s just say that I don’t think many of them swap Christmas cards.
Worse was to follow for Aylesbury United last season – they were relegated from our league while Aylesbury FC took their place. When we visited on a freezing cold murky day in November, the new boys had the feel of a club with potential on a large housing estate on tap to try and persuade them to try out some lower league football. So does a town like Aylesbury with a population of 70,000 have the appetite to support two small non league sides? Or should they merge? Before you answer that just remember how we felt when one councilor suggested we marry Windsor; a suggestion that went down like a lead balloon.
Now I’m all for distinctive areas having their own football teams, as part of that essential glue that helps binds communities together. But I’m often amazed at that just how many non league sides represent a small town or even village. So who to support Erith Town or Erith and Belvedare? Biggleswade Town or Biggleswade United? Daventry Town or Daventry United. Marlow or Marlow United. In Eastbourne you have the choice between Borough, United and Town!
Some clubs are leagues apart such as Staines Town and Staines Lammas while others like Bedfont Town compete with Bedfont Sports and are so close you can sit on the dividing fence and watch two games at once. But if you’ve got a headache look away now.
Bedfont Town were playing Sunday league football in 1965 and had a season or two at Windsors ground as Bedfont Green. This season they moved to the Orchards after the previous occupants Bedfont went bust after one hundred and ten years of existence. Meanwhile Bedfont Sports who were playing Sunday league football just nine years ago are doing well in the Combined Counties League and boost excellent facilities. Outer London is notorious for small crowds so it seems insane that these two clubs are fighting over few supporters and resources. But as one Bedfont Town supporter told me the clubs just don’t get on.
What about those non league clubs suffering under the dominance of nearby footballing giants. Just how do you coax those supporters, many of whom would rather watch a game in the pub, than come and support their local team? Sutton Coldfield Town are just a few miles from Aston Villa. We drove pretty close to Coventry to get to Bedford Towns ground. Salford City struggle with not just Manchester City and United on their doorstep, but with a host of other clubs from all levels of the pyramid.
Gaining new supporters is the million dollar question, but a decent clubhouse offering cheap beer, good food and football on the TV helps. Embedding yourself in the local community, running numerous youth teams, letting season ticket holders for league clubs in cheaper, having a good FA Cup run – well they can all make a difference. Infact the Dutch non league teams seem to have solved it so it’s not impossible.
We can just thank our lucky stars that Slough United or Slough Centre FC no longer exist.