These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the National League South in a swanky new ground. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

THE BIG INTERVIEW

To be printed in the National League South game v Chippenham Town Saturday 19th January 2019 
 
It's one year since the passing of Slough Town physio SuperKev McGoldrick. Kev was such an integral part of Slough sticking with the club through thick and plenty of thin for an incredible 32 years. His interview before our FA Cup game against Rochdale, embodied everything that was great about the man and what he wanted for the club. So we felt it was a good time to get our supporters to put some questions to our (non-playing) management team Neil, Jon, Trent and Alex.

What does the future hold for Slough Town FC and yourselves as managers?! Is there a five year plan? Are you aiming to consolidate within the National League South and push for promotion next year? Will Slough be looking at going full time if the success continues?

Neil: Ideally we will remain with Slough for a long time to come, it is a great club and with a wonderful chairman and whilst we still want to progress and feel that we can, we would be mad to leave. It is also nice being some of the longest serving managers around.
I think there is probably a 3 year plan to get up, in that we would like to get up to the next level in that period. Ideally we would do it quicker, however it took us 4 years to get promoted from Step 3 and we are now at a level with big clubs and as we will not throw silly money to get up, we will just continue to strive to be better, and have some enjoyable moments along the way.
There are clubs bigger than Slough that have remained at this level now for a number of years, and people have to understand this.
Personally I believe full time football at Slough is a long way off, I think it has been proved that you can get to the next level and remain part time, although it does get harder, you usually find that going from part time to full time also means having to take different types of players on.
I also do not feel the support is there to substantiate full time football. I would guess you would need to be up near the 2000 mark, and even then would probably need someone subsidising.

Do you plan on staying at Slough for the foreseeable future and or do you plan to go into bigger and better things ie a football league club?
Neil: As mentioned both myself and Jon have loved every moment at Slough, and is now for both of us the longest we have remained at one club as a player or manager, and we would like to continue this for the foreseeable future.
We are always ambitious to achieve more and keep on improving, however we would love that to be with Slough. Personally I could not see many jobs tempting us away at the level up, though if a League One or Two team came in then I think we would have to listen, though I could not see something like this happening anytime soon.

What if a (higher level) club offered the managers job to just one of you, would you take it and split up the partnership?
Neil: I think Jon’s wife Christina would love it, as it would mean the constant phone calls from me would stop, however I can speak for Jon and myself in saying that I would not want to do it without him, and vice versa, we have a great working relationship. Also how would we split Trent, Alex and Togs, as these are 3 vital components to the management team.

What difficulties/experiences have you both found from stepping up another division this year?
Neil: I wouldn’t say we have had any difficulties as such, we always felt that we could compete with the side we had last year, as we knew the vast majority were good enough for the level up, and this has been the case. The league is stronger in terms of no easy games, and teams better organised, but I wouldn’t say any side has frightened us yet with their all round play, and we go into every game confident we can get a result.
One difference I would guess is so many more players are under contract at teams, so you can’t just go and put a 7 day approach in for a player. We have talked too about 3 or 4 players this season that we have come across, and each time we have enquired they have been under contract.
Experience wise it has been great; bigger games in better grounds in front of decent crowds.

How tough has it been losing all the original Godalming players- and are they still on good terms with the ones that have been replaced?
Jon: We currently have 2 left from that Godalming team in Warren Harris and Guy Hollis, and they were probably the 2 when we were at the club that due to age and ability you knew could play at a much higher level, and this has been proved.
I think it is very difficult to replace any player, but was even harder with the Godalming lads, as a lot of those lads were good friends.
Two of the hardest ones to let go were Jamie McClurg and Ben Edwards, both very close friends (Bakes was best man at Ben's wedding). Good players, who would run through brick walls for us. However we felt we needed to start changing the dynamics, and we ended up letting them go on the same day, and to date the toughest thing we have had to do.
However in management you have to put feelings aside, and whilst you want to treat everyone well and with respect, when releasing people it is natural for them to be upset.
In terms of are we on good terms with them all (Godalming), the answer is on the whole yes. We regularly meet up for a curry and the odd night out, obviously there is the odd exception to that, but on the whole I think we remain on good terms with most people we have let go from the club.

Have you ever signed a player based on football manager? What’s the strangest circumstances surrounding a player signing?
Jon: We would never sign a player unless we had seen him a number of times and we were absolutely convinced of his character and that he was signing for the right reasons. Any player we sign has to have hunger and we feel our lack of player turnover is one of the big reasons we have such a strong spirit and togetherness within the changing room.
The strangest circumstances behind a signing would have to be this season when Bakes put out a Twitter plea for a back-up goalkeeper for the FA Cup. Many probably thought it was a strange thing for a senior non-league club to do but it was a one-off situation (needing someone to just come and sit on the bench for us) and we felt it was necessary. It worked; we had lots of response and more publicity for the club, and we were able to sign a very capable lad who was there if we needed him. 
 
If you could add one National League South Player to the Slough squad who would it be and why?
Jon: The standout player from the games we have seen this season has been Nassim L’Ghoul, the winger at Welling, who was superb when we went there in October. Based on his performance that day any team in this league would want to have him in their side!

Create a best xi of the players you’ve managed
To answer this question we have decided to remove any player that is currently with us as it’s not right to pick one player over another in our current squad. We do believe our current squad is the best we’ve ever managed so technically you could list them all as our best xi!
Mark Scott
Stuart Harte Adam Foulser (capt) Dave Woozley Paul Stonehouse
George Short Jamie McClurg Ben Edwards Darren Wheeler
Matty Stevens Scott Harris

Who is, or has been your favourite player to work with? (could be work ethic or just fun and amusing)
As you would expect some of our longest serving players would come in to the reckoning here as managers tend to stick with players they know and trust so many in the team above would certainly fit in to this category but the one player we would always pick out would be Warren Harris. He has been with us for 7 years and not once has he not given 100% when he’s stepped on to the pitch. He’s had great games, scored some vital goals and as with any player he’s also had some bad games but you will never see him not give his all and a lot of players could learn from him. He never misses a training session and remains a pleasure for us to manage.

You can sign any current player in the world for free - who and why
Well that’s an easy one. Lionel Messi, the best there has ever been.

If you need a new player have you thought of giving Trent a swear jar?
Ha ha that’s not a bad idea! To be fair we all have our ‘moments’ on the sidelines and that is due to our passion for the game and will to win. Trent is a fantastic character around the dressing room and we wouldn’t have him any other way!

Trent, can you give us a bit of background about yourself
'Like Bakes I had been brought up in a football family with my father Gordon having been a professional at Brentford, football has always been a massive part of my life. Like my Dad I took to being between the sticks but my brother Kelly made his name as a decent centre forward for Staines and Hampton (when Super Kev was their physio). I was lucky enough to gain promotion to the Isthmian Premier with Walton and Hersham and Staines on two occasions as well as winning the Middlesex Senior Cup and Carlsberg Cup Final, however it is fair to say I have enjoyed more success in the dug out first with 9 seasons under Steve Cordery and Craig Maskell at Staines Town before taking a year out. I then received a call out of the blue from Jon Underwood, which is probably the best phone call i've ever received.
Slough Town have always been a massive club and one that we used to look up to when I was at Staines, I used to love playing at Wexham Park. To be playing a small part in getting the club where we are going is amazing. My wife Claire and my eldest Darcie attended her first game at Arbour Park recently and I think the biggest compliment I could give the club is how professional she said everyone was whilst also being so polite. 
 
Alex, can you give us a bit of background about yourself
Not much to say about me really! Grew up in Swindon where football was a big part of my life, being a season ticket holder at Swindon for a number of years (not doing too well in recent years) and playing for a local team for 11 only to stop after injury (Ironic I know!). Moved to Cardiff for University completing working for Cardiff Devils & Cardiff hockey club before moving back over the bridge to complete a masters in the local area. I was lucky the club gave me the opportunity to join up and work with Kev at the start of last season, loving every minute of what is a special club with some great fans. Was a pleasure to play a small part of the success of last season, with the FA Cup run against Rochdale and the promotion via the playoffs, and reaching the second round this year again! Great club to be involved with, and love working with Bakes, Unders, Trent, Togs and the rest of the team!

Questions for everyone
Best away ground you’ve ever been to in any capacity and why?
Bakes: Doncaster away in the League Cup Final when I was playing, due to the circumstances of a sell out crowed of 7500, and 1000 being kept outside.
Unders: Same game as Bakes, due to the big crowed and the imitating atmosphere.
Trent: The Goldstone ground, proper football ground when Brighton were there.
Alex: For me 2nd visit to Kings Lynn in the playoff final, great atmosphere and lovely to win the game the way we did in front of their crowd. 
 
Only Fools And Horses or Minder?
Management team (All): Easy question! Only Fools and Horses all day long!
Whose the funniest player you've seen in a dressing room
Bakes, Unders & Trent: Johnnie Dyer, was a fantastic character in the dressing room, very funny and would come out with some absolute gems.
Which club has served the best aftermath grub
All management: Think you would go a long way to beat what we have at Arbour Park, always lovely and massively appreciated from the management and all the players!

Alex, it must be hard to have such massive boots to fill with the passing of SuperKev. How did you end up working at Slough?
Of course it was, like everyone says Kev was a true Slough legend and was rightly in everyone’s eyes Mr Slough Town himself. I worked very closely with Kev for 5 months and even in that small amount of time, I learnt a lot of the techniques he used every day in the job and the stuff many would find boring in my job, however the main thing Kev taught me was how to conduct myself as he was the prime example. Kev would always be the first to arrive, and the last to leave to ensure everyone got the treatment they needed. Even when his illness started to get worst, Kev used to say as long as the players are okay, that’s all that matters, which shows the character he was, and is something I aim to follow in his footsteps at Slough.
I ended up at the club after a chat with John Porter who I got in contact with after I moved to the area after qualifying in Cardiff. I came in for what I thought was a chat/interview with Kev, and sat down and just started talking for 20 minutes about the club, the history etc. Next thing I know, the players have arrived for training and started giving some treatment to some of the squad and have never looked back and am loving every minute.

Kev was such an integral part of the Slough Town squad, how did his death effect everyone, and how can we best remember him.
Management team (All): Kev was and still is a massive part of this team, and someone we still think about constantly. I think how he was thought of with past and present players shows the character he was within the team, and what some probably don’t know is the whole team travelled up to the hospital on a free Saturday after training to spend time with him, along with the fantastic turn out from the club at the funeral shows and speaks massive volume of what he means to us all.
We have a few different ways we like to remember Kev. At all home games Kev’s bag sits in the dugout in his normal seat just like he did every week, and we take Kev’s bag away to a lot of the important away games for a bit of luck (worked in Kings Lynn for the final!). Massive credit needs to be given to the council for allowing us to change the name of the medical room, which has been renamed to the Kev McGoldrick treatment room, which is a lovely little touch when we are playing at home.
Last thing which is really nice for us is how the McGoldrick family have become more and more involved in the club, with a new legacy being created. You can regularly see Kev’s sister and daughter in the crowd and is a joy to catch up with them before and after each game.'

Thanks to everyone for taking time out to answer these questions. RIP Super Kev

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

FINANCIAL EXHAUSTION, FAN POWER

Printed in the National League South game v Chelmsford City Saturday 12th January 2019 We won 1-0 in front of 765.

While Slough fans were enjoying the delights of the English Riviera it was also FA Cup 3rd round weekend. This is the Orwellian stage of the competition, where pundits go hoarse telling us its the best cup in the world while Premier League managers nod their heads disapproving and send out squad players ready for the slaughter worried they might finish 9th rather than 7th if they get distracted. That's because years down the line fans always remember a mid table finish rather than winning a cup.
The main story for me was the protests and the people behind clubs that have risen from the dead thanks to fan power. Pride of place must go to Newport who after going bankrupt had to start again. Refusing to be part of the new Welsh League they became The Exiles playing 80 miles away in Moreton-in-Marsh in the Hellenic League while their old ground stood empty. They piled up the pyramid, took the Welsh FA to court and 29 years later here they are knocking Leicester City out of the cup celebrating by spraying everyone with water as there was no champagne to hand. Over in Blackpool, the supporters boycott of the club held firm despite the glamour of Arsenal rolling into town. Mass protests outside included one supporter refusing to budge off the top of the Arsenal players coach, making them get another one to the game. Owen Oysten recently won Against League 3's worst football chairman award, which is some going with such a low bar. A convicted rapist, he has asset stripped the club and threatened court with any fans who dared criticise. He's been taken to court, had his own assets frozen but is refusing to sell, so the supporters are refusing to go.
Tottenham fans had their banners confiscated that spelt out their displeasure about TV moving their game away to Tranmere to a Friday night, making it impossible to get home by train, just a few days after they had travelled to Cardiff on New Years Day. We often here about how the players are exhausted after the hectic festive period, but never anything about the fans financial exhaustion.
Another Roy of the Rovers story was Oldham Athletic whose caretaker manager is an Oldham fan who had bought tickets to go to the game but ended up managing their victory at Fulham! I was also pleased to see Accrington Stanley knock Ipswich out and earn a few bob. The club is run by the most honest and transparent chairman in the league. Recently their away game to Sunderland was moved to a Friday night thanks to TV with Accrington rewarded with just £10,000 for this inconvenience. They are using the money to offer free coach travel and paying for anyone out of pocket who'd booked Sunderland hotels for the Saturday.
Sloughs hectic games of football has meant I've had to go to a payday loan shark to keep up, but who worries about clothing the kids when you have Torquay away in the League. A lot of us felt we had to go as we don't expect them to playing them next season, as they sit pretty on top of the National South on a club record tenth league unbeaten run. With the Billericay Dickie financial bubble bursting, its a two horse race between them and those gravediggers from Woking.
As we approached the ground, I had to pinch myself. We were such a homeless basket-case for so long; following Slough used to be like having needles poked in your eyes in villages of the Damned. Take today's opponents. The only time I have been to Chelmsford was just before Christmas 2006 the season they moved to their new ground. As we waited to get in our manager at the time told us another 5 Slough players had left and warned Nigel to be ready for an Eton Wick comeback gig. We lost 5-1 and were relegated that season from the Isthmian Premier League with just 18 points conceding a staggering 123 goals!
Now its a joy and going away is like mini holiday where you drink beer with your mates, have a laugh and watch some great football.
120 of us clambered into Plainmoor, many needing oxygen masks and vertigo tablets from their carers to handle the steepness of the stand. We were once again in fine voice and while not pretty Slough were frustrating and snuffing out a full time team with a heavy Bristol City presence. Now everyone wants a player like Ben Harris in their team, he gives full blooded commitment and let's opposition players know he's there. But on the stroke of half time, after a crunching tackle we were down to 10 men when the ref said he gesticulated to the Torquay crowd. The ref admitted later that he didn't see it, but that match changing decision left us with a bigger mountain to climb than the Torquay terraces and they ran out 4-0 winners - the first time we had been beaten by more than one goal all season. Yes Torquay were good, but I wasn't the only one to cringe when we heard man of the match was given to the manager and whole squad. You might as well have given it to the Slough fans for non stop singing.
Still onwards and upwards as they say; time to prostitute myself so I can afford a train ticket to Weston-super-mare.


Thursday, January 03, 2019

SLOUGH TOWN CHRISTMAS CHEER

Printed in the National League South game v Bath City on Tuesday 8th January 2019  We drew 0-0 in front of 520 people.
 
Every football fan knows that away games are more fun and over the festive period we've been spoilt with some Christmas crackers.
Dulwich Hamlet's timing to go back home for Christmas couldn't have come at a better time for Slough and our game at Champion Hill felt more like a carnival than a football match.
The last time I saw Slough play there was February 2004. Both teams were doing well in the Isthmian League Division South but just 226 people paid to see us win 4-2; at least half of those Slough fans. Fast forward 14 years and 2,900 are packed into Champion Hill – at least 226 of them Slough fans who never stopped singing or drinking. Christ, I even got a halloumi burger rather than the usual soggy, under cooked chips that seem to be a football speciality. I've said before that Slough fans are more hip replacement than hipster, but its an easy insult to throw at Dulwich who have worked bloody hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for families. Thankfully Slough is blessed with supporters like Kieran who with his camo shorts and bobble hat showed the beards whose boss when it comes to the fashion stakes. 


It's great they are back home for at least 18 months but they have definitely outgrown their current facilities. Apart from the seated stand one Slough supporter commented that the ground looked more like an Eastern European prison camp. And it can't be much fun when it rains. Or when you need the loo. We crossed our legs and Slough delivered a proper smash and grab to earn three more points.
Goodwill from the home fans was in short supply for our Boxing Day trip to Wealdstone, who under the stewardship of long term manager Gordon Bartlett shot up the leagues and eventually found a home again at the tranquil surroundings of Ruislip. Clocking up 22 years, Bartlett was the longest serving manager in the whole of the football pyramid, but stepped down in the summer of 2017 to take on a backroom role. But all is not well and a club who were gearing themselves for the next step up look on that performance like heading back down (Wealdstone have of course got the last laugh beating us on New Years Day at Arbour Park). We battered them in the first half so having to leave at half time wasn't ideal. Yes I got a birthday double header of football and saw Brighton play Arsenal but really when you pull a goal back I expect the Brighton ground to be rocking. Sometimes it feels like i'm in a theatre with people nervously looking at their watches leaving early to queue for public transport. So I was more than happy to give my season ticket to one of my eldests friends and miss the Brighton – Everton game so I could indulge in some Hamlet.
Sloughs support has been getting bigger, louder and more of a laugh (well apart from at home where I’m wondering if they are putting tranquilizers in our beer). Even when we were homeless in the dog and duck playing Small Village United (and losing) we traveled well. But after watching the highlights of the win against Dulwich in 2004 the language and abuse of the ref made my hair curl.
I can't say at Wealdstone I was that impressed with the abuse former player Matt Lench was getting. A former hero now zero, I get he's easy to wind up and he probably felt he had something to prove but come on, unless someone’s been a proper plonker let's knock that and the 'your s*** ahhhh' goalkeeper kick chant into touch. We can and do do a lot better and have more fun while were at it. So it was good to see a couple of tweets from Dulwich fans praising us, comments like 'nice to see enthusiastic away supporters without the boring baggage you so often get unfortunatelycredit to your club.' I'm just surprised they didn't mention our fashion sense as well. 

 
The legendary Wealdstone Raider. Wantsum? 




Friday, December 28, 2018

THE SECOND BEST CHAIRMAN IN THE LAND

Printed in the National League South game v Wealdstone 1st January 2019  We lost 1-0 in front of 985
 
The decision to scrap replays in the FA Cup 5th round, says all you need to know about football (a decision which would have denied Rochdale their chance to play Tottenham at Wembley last season and add to the hundreds of thousands they made from their cup run). The football authorities continue to bend over backwards to the top teams, but like spoilt brat corporations demanding tax cuts this is never enough, threatening to take their ball home and set up a Super League if they don't get their own way.
Anyone who takes even a cursory glance at football knows its the economics of the madhouse (talking of madhouse Mourinho spent £537,000 staying 895 consecutive nights in a Manchester hotel!). The Premier League agents, players and clubs are like drug addicts hooked on TV cash while clubs in the lower leagues throw good money after bad to try and grab a place at the table.
Thankfully Slough have a chairman with his head screwed on and now its official – Steve Easterbrook is the second best chairman in the land! Against League 3 asked for supporters to vote on the best and worst owners. It was no surprise that Blackpool were the winners for worst whose fans continue to boycott the club until their dodgy owners have left the building.
The winner was one who really stands out from the crowd and is refreshingly honest. Andy Holt is chairman of Accrington Stanley who are seriously punching above their weight in Division One with the smallest crowds and the lowest budget in the Division. Not afraid to speak his mind and very open about the financial aspect of running a club, Andy is a twitter breath of fresh air. I couldn't resist asking him what the FA could do to support lower league clubs and make the game more of a level playing field.
Andy Holt “The first thing that has to happen is an acceptance by all that football clubs play a major role in local health, well being and social life. They are starting to get this. There’s no point worrying about the high street because of the success of Amazon when the shops are gone. Action should have been taken 10 years ago. There’s no point of worrying about pub and clubs closing because of big pub companies actions when many are derelict. It’s too late. Communities are under attack from all sides and policy has to resist this decline in a timely fashion. I am meeting an all party group in Westminster next month on this. There has to be a sea change in attitude, proper regulation and distribution of funds. We see the social impact of leaving these decisions to the market. 
I am continually in trouble for speaking my mind, but feel someone has to. There are many clubs on the edge. The truth is without change our clubs are doomed. The mathematics behind the finances assure this, year on year smaller clubs are squeezed further by the rich clubs who effectively set the rules. We are in the second phase at Accrington Stanley FC, the first was to stop the rot. The second is to grow the club, which is a number of initiatives taken over different time frames, £1 a pint short term, school shirts long term initiative. Whatever I do I can’t beat the authorities if they continue down the path they’re on.”
Anyone whose been watching Sunderland Till I Die can see that while football might be big business, it isn't a business in any other sense of the word. It's one of the only ways left in our fragmented society of bringing people together. The problem is you need very deep pockets and a bit of luck to keep peoples dreams alive. It's just lucky for Accrington and Slough Town fans that they have people in charge who have their heads screwed on.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE THAT WAIT

Printed in the National League South game v East Thurrock United Saturday 22nd December 2018. We won 3-1 in front of 581 people.
 
Good things apparently come to those who wait and Dartford had to wait 14 years to move back home – but what a home. It's not often I get stadium envy but all the Slough Town fans turning up at Dartford's Princes Park experienced the wow factor. I'd heard good things about the ground but wasn't expecting just how good it was going to be. A crowd of over 1,400 just before Christmas in the pouring rain, hundreds of kids in Dartford kit. The Councils decision to invest in the best facilities possible have clearly paid off.
10 years ago I turned to Dartford in my programme notes for some inspiration amongst the bleak situation Slough found ourselves in. Our old ground Wexham Park was becoming a wildflower meadow and Slough Council had unbelievably voted against even talking to the club. Thankfully times and councillors change, and some including Slough supporter and leader at the time Rob Anderson went to visit Princes Park with our chairman to see how they did it. Jeremy Kite Leader of Dartford Council and a Dartford Supporter told me at the time “Everyday, councils throw bucket loads of money at schemes to deal with anti-social behaviour, childhood obesity, community cohesion, civic pride and community relations. Here in Dartford, we took the view that rather than fund a series of expensive here today- gone tomorrow initiatives, we would invest in football as a catalyst for all those things. I'm sure every Council thinks they are doing things right, but I've never regretted or doubted the wisdom of our investment in a new Stadium. You simply cannot put a price on the sense of pride and worth that is developing around the town as a result of The Darts coming home. Princes Park will not only become a centre of spectator sport, but also as a participatory one too - for kids of all ages. I have told the club that they MUST bring kids in and encourage school sports finals and training to take place on the first pitch. My other advice to councillors is 'invest in quality'. We could have built a typical 'iron and block' stadium but what does that say about us? What confidence does it give others if WE won't invest in great architecture? How can we expect people to respect the building if it doesn't deserve respect?
“I know that many Council's feel that they 'can't' do this, and 'can't' do that, and if we had stopped every time somebody had said that our dream was impossible then we wouldn't have got beyond advertising for an architect. Leadership is about legacies, not bureaucracy, and when I'm dead and gone they will bury me with a smile on my face because I know we have provided a facility that will makes tens of thousands of people happy every year.” 
Pre-match and I met the usual Rebel Rabble in Dartford Working Mens Club. These are the sorts of places that usually refuse to change with the times and many have shut or are hanging on by their dirty fingernails. Not this one. It was massive, clean and busy – it even has its own twitter account. I'm not a real ale drinker but it had 15 on tap and my omelette and chips cost just £3.50. Why would anyone from the town want to go to Dartford Wetherspoon's? I get why people go to Spoons if your skint or if you like your food reheated in a microwave, but if you want to support our beleaguered pubs then surely you shouldn't mind paying an extra few pennies for a pint especially in Slough where many pubs have taken a battering and closed for good.
On the pitch, it was Dartford who were taking a battering from Slough. Infact we were so good, Chris Flood could go off injured in the warm up and yet still be in the National League South team of the week! See, we told you he would Tear You Apart Again. But for all our endeavour we only had Josh Jackman's superb 37th minute goal to separate the sides at half time. While people threw bird seed at me as I attempted a 'Same old Dartford, always warbling' song, they joined in heartedly with Chris Ashley's 'Same old Dartford, always crossing' one. Despite the torrential rain, we stayed dry under the cavernous stands and really got behind the team. Dartford eventually equalised and for a team in the play-offs the Darts can feel lucky to get a point out of the game.
As we drunk a post match pint in their stunning bars, its hard not to pinch yourself. Here we are, now playing in the same league as Dartford and back in Slough with crowds rising and the whole community using the Arbour Park facilities. 
So it must be true; good things do come to those that wait.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

LOVE IT, HATE IT

Printed in the National League South game v Truro City Tuesday 11th December 2018. We lost 2-1 in front of 416 people.

One of those annoying football sayings is 'We go again' – but what if you don't want too for a while? What if you want to wallow? And how do you pick yourself up after that? The picture of Scott Davies looking totally dejected after the final whistle perfectly summed up my mood. I haven't felt that deflated after a game of football for a very long time as I kept asking myself how did we not get anything? I could sort of could handle losing to Rochdale but to dominate Gillingham, full timers playing three leagues higher than us, and not even get a draw. It just sucked. The second round of the FA Cup is becoming a proper wind up.
I was 13 when I went to my first ever away game which just so happened to be against Carshalton Athletic in the FA Cup 1978. I remember it being sunny so it must have been an earlier round and I also remember my dad telling Chris Sliski there better be no trouble and to look after me and my school mate Wise. I remember Slough fans singing about not being very nice to Robins but that's about as rowdy as it got. I also wished i'd gone to Southall away in the next round to see their old ground before it went the way of so many London non league stadiums.
I darent of told my parents what happened at Yeovil's slanty old Huish ground although they would have seen it on Match of the Day as we fought out a 2nd round tie on the pitch, terraces and around the town. I was 14 but that sound when they scored in the last few minutes still haunts me nearly forty years later. Protected by older Yeovil fans who told us to take off our scarves to stop us getting thumped. We watched more fighting in the clubhouse before going home to the news they had drawn Norwich in the 3rd round. I still look out for Yeovils scores each week, hoping they've lost and wishing the grown men who spat at kids an eternity of listening to the Wurzels.
Being homeless and potless, the FA Cup brought us perhaps our most unlikely of victories at Windsor's Stag Meadow. Paul Merson had told his family to bet their homes on his Walsall team winning, but in the end we gave the ex Arsenal player 'the worst day of his footballing career' as we won 2-1. Walsall fans were gracious in defeat joining in with our red card protest to encourage the council to help us find a home back in Slough. Then in Round 2 we lost to poxy Yeading. The next day hearing the news that they had drawn Newcastle at home in the 3rd round and suddenly their 100 supporters became thousands for the day.
I missed us beating Millwall at Wexham Park, were we strategically left rubble and half bricks on the terracing that was being built around the ground. Local lad Gary Attrell netted the winner near the end and Millwall fans reacted with dignity and restraint. In the second round we lost 4-1 at home to Bishops Stortford.
If we are honest we were deflated before a ball had even been kicked before the Rochdale game as we heard the news that the winners would get rewarded with a trip to Doncaster. If a trip to Doncaster could ever be described as a reward.
I remember being on the terraces of Brisbane Road as we went 2-0 up against Orient at half time before they pulled two goals back. We lost the replay 3-2 which also happened to be the first game for our legendary physio SuperKev McGoldrick who stayed with the club for an incredible 32 years before sadly losing his battle with cancer earlier this year.
The greatest Slough Town FA Cup come back game ever must have been against Reading. 3-1 down on 90 minutes before equalizing in nine minutes of injury time! The night in the Wheatsheaf afterwards was one to be remembered.
I missed the Swansea and Birmingham games but was at Hertford, Wroxham and Erith when we were knocked out by lower league opposition.
Maybe I'm being greedy. Slough have a fantastic pedigree in the FA Cup compared to many non league sides but I think our managers, our volunteers, the supporters that stuck with the club when we were pants, deserved this time to go one better. And just to rub it in Matty Stevens was recalled by Peterborough. The lad has a promising football league career ahead of him and I think I can speak for all Slough fans and say thank you for your time at our club.
I love the FA Cup but I bloody hate it as well.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

FA CUP MONKEYS

Printed in the FA Cup 2nd Round game v Gillingham Sunday 2nd December 2018  We lost 1-0 in front of Arbour Park record crowd of 2,084
 
While Slough Town have pocketed a tidy sum from another fantastic FA Cup run, the opposite has been happening to my bank balance. From Bristol to Southampton on Tuesday nights to Eastbourne and Sutton where we attempted the world record of how many Slough fans can be squashed in one pub. I just hope my children don't mind that instead of Christmas presents they will be getting mementos instead. I can't wait to see their little faces light up when I present them with FA Cup matchday stubs, old train tickets and programmes.
As a few people asked if I would be sneaking out after the full time whistle went against Sutton, I thanked them for their concern but that unlike Sholing I had contingency plans in place this time.
Sutton was one of those nights that our managers seem keen to give us. Starved of success for so long – just 10 years ago we were homeless and losing at Beaconsfield to AFC Hayes in front of 240 people. Now we are gorging and it's all a bit surreal. Kettering, Weymouth, Kings Lynn, Merthyr, Gainsborough Trinity....
The best atmosphere there has ever been at Arbour Park saw us more than match a top National League side. And then it came down to penalties I could hardly look - which combined with my height and the shallow terracing often happens at home games. Bud even left before a penalty kick was taken, unable to take the pressure but hopefully hearing the roar of victory as he got to Wexham. After 10 perfect penalties it all went a bit Pete Tong for both teams but eventually was won by perhaps the worst one of the lot as it slipped under the keepers body to send the Rebels into raptures – and finally to the bar. How can anyone not like football when it serves up nights like these?
I even saw our chairman relaxing at midnight with a beer in his hand – admittedly probably after a 12 hour day where he'd unblocked drains, served drinks, dusted away spiders webs and other activities you expect the man in charge to do. One day I promise I will pin him down to do an interview for the programme. It's not for want of trying!
After just three hours sleep Neil Baker was off to Hartlepool to see Gillingham come back and win in extra time after being 2-0 down at half time. Cold as brass monkeys was Neil's verdict which was apt seeing as Hartlepool are famous for monkeys. Apparently during the Napoleonic Wars, locals held an impromptu trial of the only survivor of a stricken French ship which just happened to be a monkey dressed in a French uniform. Since the monkey was unable to answer their questions and because they had seen neither a monkey nor a Frenchman before, they concluded in Trump-esque logic that it must be a French spy. The poor creature was found guilty, duly sentenced to death and hung. Still I suppose if we do get a replay I wont be raiding the children's money boxes to get to the North East on a Tuesday night.
Slough already hold the record for number of times they've been in the second round proper but never progressed to the third round (eight, since you ask). Today is going to be one almighty test as according to FA Cup FactFile this is the joint biggest league gap of the round. The big gobs will be gathering in the South stand to get behind the boys. So don't be shy; the songs, given the calibre of those that make them up, aren't that taxing to learn - although i'm still trying to add 'girls and non-binary individuals' to the 'Slough Town Boys' one.
So come on make some noise. Isn't it about time we got this FA Cup second round monkey off our backs? 
 
* Once again there will have been a monumental, military style operation from an army of unpaid volunteers to make sure the game goes smoothly. Non League clubs rely on these volunteers and they have all helped bring the success the club is now having; so why not get involved if you have a few hours to spare on matchdays?

Monday, November 19, 2018

SCUDS IN NEED

Printed in the FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying round game v Weston-super-Mare on Saturday 24th November 2018 We lost 3-2 in front of 426 people.

Imagine giving up your day to rattle buckets outside your clubs football ground during match-day. You raise an impressive £35,000 to help fund your football clubs charitable arm that uses the power of sport to deliver everything from health checks, school work, skills, training, support for those with disabilities and of course football sessions for everyone to enjoy. 
A couple of weeks later Brighton and Hove Albion decides, along with the majority of other Premier League clubs, to agree to a £5 million goodbye to the outgoing chairman Richard Scudamore. A man who has earned over £26 million in 19 years for basically feathering the nests of the footballing elite.
In what sort of insane world is this right? How would you even have the brass neck not be so embarrassed you'd hand it over to football charities? 
Only Huddersfield, Wolves, Leicester, Burnley and Crystal Palace to their credit had the balls to say no to a golden handshake while others defended the indefensible. People like former pornographer-in-chief and now West Ham United owner David Gold “He deserves everything he gets, this is all very appropriate and we’re all very pleased.” Just as pleased no doubt with the fact that you’re paying a peppercorn rent to use the London Stadium at taxpayers expense. 
The money works out at about £250,000 per club and We Are Brighton compiled a list of what the cash could have better been spent on including money off season tickets (instead of the inevitable rise), free travel to away fans, buying eight new minibuses for Albion in the Community and get this, paying every person employed by the Albion the Living Wage. The money could also add over a quarter of the cash to the sports and recreation budget of Brighton and Hove City Council. As We Are Brighton pointed out 'Grassroots football is dying and a lot of it has to do with an appalling lack of facilities. Cuts from central government have forced councils to chop away at budgets allocated to sports and recreation, leaving substandard changing rooms, dangerous pitches and a lack of basic equipment such as suitable goal posts. At the start of the parks football season for example, teams turned up to find mountains of grass left all over their pitches because the council couldn’t afford to pay anyone to clear up five months worth of cuttings, rendering most pitches in the city unplayable. A freedom of information request revealed that the City Council spent £866,540 on sports facilities in the 2013-14 financial year, a figure which is bound to be less after five further years of cuts.' Newcastle's contribution could he handed over to Gateshead Council who plan to save £246,000 by no longer providing maintenance for bowling greens and football pitches.
We are now entering Children in Need season. Where just like those at Albion in the Community, people do extraordinary things and go that extra mile to raise money. Yes its fantastic that £1 billion has been raised since it began but to put it in perspective that’s the same amount the Prime Minister bribed the Ulster Unionists with just to stay in power after the last election. Infact, being you know, the government they could reduce the number of children in need tomorrow if they made it a priority. This might sound odd coming from someone who runs a charity, but like all charities you try and wean yourself off grants. One of our primary aims is working with pupils with struggle in the classroom. Not so long ago our books were full with pupils who got a more hands on education, rather than an academic one which was failing them. Some even get the only qualifications they would ever receive building their self-esteem while learning practical skills, helping them do better in school and even making them enjoy education. However, thanks to school cuts we are now having to fundraise to support schools sending their pupils to us. Our work is the sort of thing Children in Need would fund. So the virtuous circle goes; Government cuts school funding so parents, children and charities fundraise to keep services going. I think this is called trickle down economics. Or passing the buck. What's more the Children in Need grant form is a crystal maze of questions where at the end too often the computer says no. All that time and money filling in forms when if schools were properly funded they would pay us the going rate for our work and our small charity could get on with what we set out to do (you know, helping kids) rather than forever holding out the begging bowl.
Maybe it would be easier to see if the Premier League have any jobs going. Or maybe i'll just write Scuds a begging letter.






SOGGY SARDINES UNDER A WET TIN ROOF

Printed in the FA Cup 1st round replay against Sutton United on Tuesday 20th November 2018  We drew 1-1 then won 7-6 on penalties on the best night ever at Arbour Park in front of 1,360 people.

FA Cup Day. First Round good and proper. Four hundred Rebels squashed like soggy sardines under a tin roof as the rain lashed down, who didn't stop singing or encouraging our players. The only time we fell silent was to commemorate the 100 years of the Armistice. As a bugler played the Last Post the crowd fell deathly silent. I can't even begin to imagine the horrors that people faced in that war, but I do worry that as those that witnessed it are no longer with us, the drums of war become louder. The longest surviving World War I soldier, Harry Patch who died aged 111 in 2009 did not talk about it until he was 100. He said “I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves, instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder.”
The game also marked the 300th competitive match for our management team, half of which Slough have won with two promotions thrown in. The fans also marked the fact that our physio SuperKev is sadly no longer with us.
No disrespect to Sutton, but this wasn't a glamour tie but a very tough draw against a team in the National League play-offs who had only lost three times this season. But there's something very special about this team, about our club at the moment.
Sutton United might be the National League now but they are old adversaries from the Isthmian League days and have played some historic games against us. We won the Isthmian League at Gander Green Lane in 1981 coming from behind to score two late goals that saw us pip Enfield to the title. Sutton were the first ever visitors to Wexham Park in November 1974 when the ground and the pitch resembled more of a farm-yard than a football ground and we pitched up there for our first game after being thrown out of the Conference in 1998. Both these games we won 1-0 but 1998 was beginning of the decline of Slough Town until a certain chairman took over and appointed a certain management team.
Sutton are a great example of how clubs like Slough can survive and prosper in the National League. Gander Green Lane is an old fashioned higgledy-piggledy ground which has seen crowds steadily rise. One of those reasons is down to having a 3G pitch which the local community can use regularly. Of course the football authorities don't see that and if Sutton had been promoted to the Football League they had two choices. Either rip up the pitch (well, it only cost £420,000 to install) and replace it with grass (£300,000 for that to happen) or face punishment and be relegated to the National League South! As their chairman said “It is frustrating that World Cup games can be played on them, as can European game, FA Cup matches but not games in League One or Two.” Frustrating is one word; I can think of a few others aren't printable in this programme.
The game was tight, but Slough were immense especially our defence and we know that our goalkeeper Jack Turner always has at least two world class saves in him every game. The pivotal moment happened in the 74th with Mark Nisbet's volley was destined for the net only to be headed off the line by Sutton skipper Jamie Collins. The resulting ball hung in the air and with Matty Stevens ready to fire the Rebels ahead, he was dragged down. Everyone could see it was a penalty apart from the one man who could do anything about it. And so it ended 0-0 with Sutton manager saying after the game 'We deserve to be out of the cup. Slough were by far the better side on the day. Should have had a penalty. We were well and truly beaten up today.'
Slough are certainty doing it the hard way – tonight will be our seventh FA Cup game this season. As our managers told the world on another Match of the Day appearance, since they joined the club they have taken us one round further every season. So no pressure boys. Just two more wins will do it.