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, August 16, 2018

LANCING BOIL THE HEATH

Their enthusiasm reminded me of when I was their age. Waiting at the tunnel to get players to sign my autograph book, shouting out their names in the hope of recognition, legging it for the ball after a wayward shot – and of course queuing at the legendary Wexham Park sweet shop.
Fast forward 40 years and I'm taking seven boys to the Hanbury Stadium, the grandiose sounding venue of Haywards Heath who were entertaining near neighbours Lancing. 

 
Bored of watering my allotments, I'd been asking for rain for months and so on the first day of our annual camping holiday the end of the heatwave was celebrated with torrential rain and hurricane winds. The weather had improved on the Saturday but Haywards Heath playing in the FA Cup Extra Preliminary round just 15 minutes away was too good an opportunity to miss. Like the drunk bloke at the bar, I repeated to any campers that would listen – Yes, the FA Cup really starts in August.
Heath had a brilliant 2017/18 season, winning promotion as champions of the Southern Combination, righting a wrong from the previous season when they had been denied promotion after suffering a nine point deduction. Their heinous crime? Mistakenly playing someone 3 times who not paid a £10 fine with a former club! Now they are in the newly formed Bostik South East Division. Just six years ago they were playing in Division 3 of the Country League, so far down the pyramid you can't enter the FA Cup.
They moved to Hanbury in 1952 and the ground is pretty basic apart from a very impressive grandstand that dominates. There used to be covered terracing along one side of the pitch, but this was later removed – now you can park your car pitch side.
 
I paid my £8 but all the seven boys were free. If you ever want a simple marketing tool on how to attract children to lower league football then this is it. Everyone loves a bargain and the club soon got their money back on the burger, chips and drinks the kids devoured.
Heaths manager Shaun Saunders is the father of Connor Saunders, a promising footballer who was killed with one punch a few years back. The Foundation set up in his name have been tireless in their message in schools that one punch can kill – as well as donating defibrillators, encouraging organ donations and providing football coaching for children with learning disabilities. The effectiveness of their work could be seen by all the Brighton boys I had bought along knowing about the one punch campaign.
The FA Cup starts so early that it was the first competitive match for Haywards Heath whereas Lancing, playing in the Southern Combination, already had two league games under their bootstraps. We had just taken our positions when Lancing took the lead inside the first 90 seconds from a penalty. We were hoping for a goalfest but instead it was a very scrappy first half with Heath looking off the pace. The second half saw the home side dominate without making many clear cut chances. With Heath showing more urgency late on, Lancing hit on the counter, with Jack Langford sent clear in stoppage time to score and confirm a trip to Greenwich Borough. The Lancing players and management were jubilant. They are now just 13 wins away from the final!
The FA Cup matters at this level, as one Heath fan kept shouting in frustration 'This is the FA Cup for Christ Sake'. Still this season the losers now get £750 while the winners receive £2,250 – as well as half the gate receipts of the 106 paying guests. I'm not sure if this includes kids.
What I loved about the day was how the boys totally bought into it. High fiving and learning the names of the players so they could shout encouragement, chatting to the subs, and being amazed at how the players spoke to the ref - language they pointed out, which would see them sent off in their junior league games. One of them even asked hopefully for the keepers gloves at the end.
While Premier League clubs have so much TV money they could afford to let people in free, its lower league clubs who have cornered this market. Be rude not to take them up on their generous offer.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

THE TORQUAY TUMBLE

To be printed in the National South League game v Torquay United on Saturday 18th August 2018. Yes we are in the same league as Torquay! 

When the dust finally settled and the league allocations set, I excitedly scanned the fixtures for possible weekend trips away with the family. These trips always involve proclaiming in a surprised tone – well what's the chances of booking a B&B in Weymouth the same weekend Slough are playing them! So thanks a lot league computer for putting two of these seaside away fixtures in January. 
One game that caught the eye was Torquay United. While Slough are riding the crest of a wave, the same can't be said of our opponents who were relegated last season to the National League South. Just six years ago they were playing in the Division Two play-offs.

I spoke to Dominic Roman whose been supporting the club for 30 years and is editor of independent blog Torquay Talk

Can you describe the last decade being a Torquay fan. From dropping out the football league to playing regional football? 

Dominic '10 years ago we were an upwardly mobile Conference club, with a promotion chasing squad, a brilliant young manager and a local board who knew and respected the local community. We got promoted to the Football League and had two brilliant play-off campaigns, and everybody was very proud. So to find ourselves down in the National League South (NLS) now is horrible really and we still believe we are a football league club, with a league ground and league support.
Around 2012 things started going awry as bad decisions were made behind the scenes (and kept being made) and even though we had a lottery winner (Thea Bristow) who put significant money into the club, she soon realised that it was moneypit that would suck the life out of her and it took a local consortium to save us in 2015. The consortium soon realised they were well out of their depth and the team worked on a meagre budget, only narrowly avoiding relegation in 2016. The consortium borrowed money from Clarke Osborne that summer and eventually he took over the club as other bidders either dropped out or couldn't raise the necessary funds. Since his arrival Clarke has promised numerous things to fans but generally kept his distance and failed in footballing matters as the club eventually got relegated. He has backed the youth system and kept us full time, but when we needed the club to step up it didn't happen.
The NLS is a complete unknown to most of us but after all the mess and what's happened, over 2,000 still turned up for our first home league game on a Tuesday, which is amazing! It been an awful rollercoaster ride, and things have just kept getting worse and worse - leaving us where we are now. To put simply what could go wrong has gone wrong!'

How optimistic are you for the future?

Dominic 'At the moment I'm not overly optimistic to be honest although I think we'll be contenders in the NLS. Overall the club has good people working at it, but lacks leadership from an owner who never attends games and a general manager who is not up to the job. Longer term the owner will continue to push for the stadium and he'll be around for a while trying to make this happen, but if the plans fail then there's a good chance he'll soon lose interest and at that point we'll need someone else to step in. The supporters trust are trying very hard to increase numbers and make better inroads with the club, but generally Clarke Osborne is keeping them at arms length whilst putting out statements here or there to try and appease the fans. I don't particularly fear for our immediately future at least, but things can change very quickly and I really hope to see Torquay turning back into a club the local community can be proud of.' 

What do you think of plans for the new ground given your chairmans previous record at other clubs?

Dominic 'Clarke Osborne's CV is chequered to say the least in delivering projects and anybody who really believes he'll deliver this new stadium without any trouble is kidding themselves. The local Mayor seems to have bought into the idea Clarke is selling him and would clearly love to see this multi-purpose stadium benefit Torbay which is fair enough. However, local councillors and fans are not buying into it, and I'd say it's pie-in-the-sky - a pipe dream that is unlikely to happen. The cost of it is apparently 40 million and the capacity will be ten thousand. Ridiculous figures - even when we were in League One our crowd average was only around 3,000 and at the moment we'll struggle to get over 1500 for most games. He will keep pushing for it and I hope the Torbay top brass will not roll over for him, and of course keep the ownership of Plainmoor out of his hands. That's the main fear, Plainmoor is sold off, we are shipped to another ground whilst the new ground is built - only to suffer difficulties and struggle to survive. Or alternatively we get a big new ground with big overheads and still only have 1500 through the gates.' 

What can Slough fans expect when they come to Torquay? Any places you can recommend? What's the ground like? How much to get in?
Dominic: 'Crikey now you're asking! Torquay has seen better days really and desperately needs investment/regeneration especially around the High Street area, but the seafront and the harbour are still lovely places to walk round and grab a bite to eat - and you have a number of nice beaches dotted around the area. There's quite a few tourist attractions. The model village in Babbacombe is excellent, so is Paignton Zoo which is only a few miles from Torquay. Plainmoor is a pretty good ground I think! Bristow's Bench is the main stand and was developed only 6 years ago - and I think you'll be seated at the end of that. Its not the noisiest ground as sound tends to get lost, and the capacity is around 6,000, so a lot of empty spaces these days. There is a bar at the ground 'Boots and Laces' which is welcoming to away fans (within reason), and also a few pubs fairly nearby in St Marychurch and Babbacombe area. I'm not sure of the price, around £15-20 I think but as a season ticket holder I don't look!' 

Are there any towns/grounds you are looking forward to visiting?
Dominic 'I was looking forward to days out in Oxford, Western Super Mare and Bath, but they have all been scheduled as Tuesday nights so any visits will be for the game only. Apart from that Truro was an option but now they play here! Gloucester for the bank holiday will be a popular one, though I believe even they play in Evesham! The Yellow Army will bring supporters wherever we play, and we have a decent following around London so plenty for them to get stuck into this season.' 
Cheers Dominic and best of luck for the rest of the season.

Monday, August 13, 2018

THE FLEET LEFT HIGH AND DRY

Printed in the National League South game v Weston-super-Mare on Tuesday 14th August 2018. We won 2-1 in front of 651 happy people (well apart from the 4 WSM fans)

It not a good sign when you have to crowdfund to help pay for your travel costs to games, but that's the situation Fleet Town find themselves in through no fault of their own. The FA suddenly switched the league they were meant to play in at the last minute from Isthmian to Southern League West Division – tripling their travel costs in an instant. 
As Fleet pointed out “We were provisionally allocated to the Isthmian League which is centred around Middlesex. We recruited a management team, players and sponsors within the M25. The FA told us 18 hours before finalising the league structure that we had been moved to the Southern League which plays most of its games centred around Bristol with some even in Devon. This will triple our travel costs not to mention travel time. Our management team and all of the players have resigned and some of our sponsors withdrew including our major ground sponsor. We are told if we resign from the league we will face a 2 division drop and a fine of between £9,500 and £76,000. Being a ‘not for profit’ club run by a handful of unpaid volunteers we can’t afford to do that either.”
The switch was caused by the demise of Shaw Lane from Barnsley who had powered up the pyramid in the blink of an eye thanks to their chairman's deep pockets. Blaming everyone from the local council to Barnsley FC who objected to them changing their name to AFC Barnsley, the fact is that the club didn't attract the support it needed, both financially and through the gates. When he couldn't find anyone to take over he pulled the plug, leaving a number of clubs like Fleet high and dry. To add to Fleets woes their latest manager lasted less than a month, leaving before their season even began. The FA's vision is that by the 2020-21 season there will be a symmetrical Pyramid in place. I'm all for this, which rather ironically was done in part to decrease travelling times. As Head of the National League System Laurence Jones pointed out 'There are 1,641 clubs in the National League System and we’ve had 34 appeals from clubs. That’s 34 more than we’d want but we have to put that in context.' Slough really clocked up the miles last season in the Southern Premier with trips from Somerset to Norfolk and I get that there will always going to anomalies. But this is no way to treat Fleet. Would it really been the end of the world to have the Southern League West Division a team short rather than force a club formed in 1890 into financial ruin?  
I've nothing against cubs being ambitious and moving forward but too many dreams are built on sand. Slough's slow climb back up the pyramid has been painful at times, but if you look back those small steps forward and odd stumble back, its been essential to our sustainable growth. Not once will you have heard our chairman boast at the bar of his 10 year plan to have Slough challenging Arsenal for the Premier League title (yeah I know we probably got as much chance of winning the Premier League as Arsenal). In fact you are more likely to find him behind the bar serving drinks, sweeping the floor or putting up gazebos. 
One of our lowest points as a football club was losing to Fleet Town in the last game of the 2007/8 season. The defeat left us second from bottom which should have seen us relegated for the second season running; this time to the Dog and Duck Doughnut Division and playing in the FA Vase for the first time ever. Yet as the Fleet players huddled in the middle to celebrate a play off place, it was the Slough players who were cheered off by at least 200 Rebels in attendance, fifteen of them who had walked 26 sponsored miles to get there. However, because of another badly run club Halifax Town going bust we were given a reprieve. That defeat was just over 10 years ago and the beginning of the reign of Sir Steve of Easterbrook. The rest as they say is history.  
We seriously need more checks and balances on lower league finances so the Billericay Dickies can't splash the cash and put clubs in jeopardy. Not only does this create a financial space-race as other clubs try and keep up, but when it inevitably goes belly up and the chairman walks out the turnstile after a hissy fit, it's the supporters that have to pick up the pieces. And for those caught in the cross-fire? I suppose it's asking a bit too much of the FA to have been a bit more fleet of foot and not punish clubs who have done nothing wrong and try and live within their means. Let's hope Fleet Town survive the season.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

FINALLY 'WE'RE ON OUR WAY'

Published in the National South League game v Hampton and Richmond Boroughy Saturday 3rdAugust 2018. Our first game back in the big time saw us draw 1-1 in front of 866 people.
 

I'd wanted to sing that catchy little ditty 'On our way, on our way, to the National South we're on our way' the whole bloody season but the promotion party was going to the wire. The amber and blue on the Kings Lynn terraces never stopped singing, and as I turned round to ask Deano how long left, Dobbo played a fantastic ball to Manny Williams who cool as a Trilby topped cucumber slotted in the net on 89 minutes. Total pandemonium. I've watched that clip a few times now, as Rebel Radio Ade blows his gasket 'Manny Williams, Manny Williams - 125 years old' and it never fails to lift the spirits. That's what football is all about. A fantastic season had reached its climax as the 600 Slough supporters serenaded the players and management and welcomed the return of Conference football for the first time in something like 125 years. A day forever to be known as Bank Holiday Manny Day.

99 points, 152 goals, the 6-0 FA Cup win at Gainsborough, televised Second Round match, that unbelievable comeback at Merthyr going from 4-0 down to winning 5-4 and an incredible 25 points from 27 in April to get us into third and finally - promotion to National League South. That's one season that's going to be hard to beat.

I don't think I’ve ever been kept in a ground after a Slough Town game as police with dogs stopped the dregs of Kings Lynn from getting to know us better. We even had a police escort out of the town as we hurtled back to our clubhouse to celebrate some more. When we arrived our chairman Steve Easterbrook was serving beers, along with Ade who like so many of our volunteers I can only assume has cloned himself as its humanely impossible for one person to do so much work for the club. Also serving was Chris Ashley who had driven from Kings Lynn past his home town Milton Keynes to celebrate, serve beer then head back home. To me that summed up non league football, and our Unique Selling Point. We have sold more than 400 season tickets – that's more than our average attendance when we were playing at Beaconsfield and there's a real buzz about the club.

It was a special night but I must admit that night in the Herschel after we finally gained promotion to the Southern Premier after endless play off heartaches did pip it for emotion - maybe it was the intimacy of the pub with fans who had been properly put through the mill over the years that made it feel that extra bit special. But this Unique Selling Point is something we need to hang onto if are ever to once again grace the Grand National or whatever its called this season.

What a turn around from the last time I saw us play Hampton. It was the last game of 2006-7 Isthmian Premier season which matched top v bottom. Hampton won the league and we won the wooden spoon, finishing bottom with just 18 points and a goal difference of minus 97 which included some eye watering defeats, like 9-0 to AFC Wimbledon and 8-0 at 'home' to Bromley. Home being Windsor at the time. Worse was to follow in the following seasons. Are we really are the same car crash of a club?

One of those stalwarts that make the club so special won't be with us this season. John Tebbit sadly passed away during the summer. John had been supporting the Rebels since 1937 and was a regular contributor to the programme for an incredible 48 years. John was a fountain of football knowledge and I would always try and chat to him before a game. The club has lost a real gentleman.

Another Rebel no longer with us is Mick Langley. Mick was best mates with Deano and was taken to his first game to the Dolphin Stadium aged 5. I can sort of forgive them for following Man United all over the world before finally returning, like so many, full time to the Rebels. I didn't know Mick well or that he had won a Paralympic gold medal for snooker in 1988 but he always had a big smile for everyone and a handshake before every game.

Last season while being dropped off at Arbour Park, my eldest, used to the less intimate 30,000 crowds at Brighton and Hove Albion, asked if I knew everyone at Slough. Not quite, especially the newer fans but it feels like family. Not the sort you'd want to invite round for Christmas dinner but people you are more than happy to share a pint with, stand on the terraces and sing your heart out together for the Rebels.


Monday, April 30, 2018

GUT CHURNING, NERVE SHREDDING PLAY OFF TIME

Printed in the Southern Premier League play-off semi final v Kettering Town Wednesday 2nd May 2018 We won 3-1 in front of 1246 to face Kings Lynn in the play off final, which we won 2-1 in front of 2842 (yeah, right) and promotion back to the National South

Blimey what a finish to the season that was. 99 points and 111 goals; a points tally that would have won the league in 31 of the previous 34 years which just goes to show how competitive the Southern Premier has been this season.

Or to put it another way, Weymouth were fifth with 97 points. That many points in Championship, League One and League Two would guarantee you automatic promotion!

But now it's back to the future, with a play off semi final against Kettering Town.

Who can forget that day four years ago, the first season in charge for our new joint managers, when we went from 2-0 down at half time to winning 3-2 and finally gaining promotion after endless play-off defeats. My favourite photo is our chairman Steve Easterbrook hugging Dave the Programme on the pitch at the end of the game. Dave Pearcy saw us get promoted but unfortunately never saw us back home. As for the scenes back at the Herschel Arms later with players, officials and supporters celebrating. Let's just say many of us didn't make it to work the next day.

But what about Saturdays match. League positions changed several times over the course of the game, but in the end it was ‘as you were’ with Slough finishing in third place. However, Royston were the width of a crossbar away from denying Slough a home tie when they hit the frame of the goal deep into second half stoppage time and took a few more days off my life. 

It’s been an incredible season, with so many highlights to choose from. The TV cameras coming down to Slough. The thrashing of Gainsborough away in the FA Cup first round. Beating Merthyr 5-4 after being 4-0 down at half time and listening to a punch-drunk Rebels Radio star Ady losing the plot at the end. Securing a home tie had looked beyond Slough until an incredible late run of form, with 11 wins from the last 13 games, including 9 of the last 10 away games.

And I couldn't help feeling proud at the end of season awards or how Slough fans have finally found their voices. Before the Royston game, one supporter couldn't quite believe it was our chairman pulling pints (and clearing up the sick in the bogs) But to me that down to earth attitude from Steve is why we are in such a strong position now. How many of our volunteers see much of the game anymore? I know I sound like the drunk bloke at the bar but the transformation of this club has been incredible and the people who make the club tick should take a bow. So it was great to see the awards being delivered by people like club shop Sue and Julie Sliski with Barry Hiron getting clubperson of the year for the amount of work he puts in on matchdays. Barry said it was 'totally unexpected but proud to receive an award bearing the name of Chris Sliski. The epitome of the true Clubman.'

So now the play-offs. Can you enjoy these games? Or is just a gut churning, nerve shredding hair greying experience which you glimpse through the fingers in your hands? Win it and we will have another gut churning, nerve shredding game to look forward to with a place in the Conference South up for grabs. Still at least I can throw away the calculator. The maths are now very simple (even for me).

Win our next two games and we are promoted. If only it were as easy as typing those words.



Saturday, April 28, 2018

MATHEMATICALLY CHALLENGED

Printed in the last Southern Premier League game of the season v Royston Town Saturday 28th April 2018. We won 2-1 in front of 759 finishing third with 99 points and 111 goals scored!
 

For those mathematically challenged like myself the past few weeks and have been a play off permutations headache, trying to work out who we might play and have we got any chance of a home draw.

Fair play to Hereford who are out of the equation and do what all champions do and grind out results and last minute goals (sorry for bringing that up). Still, at least I don't have to worry about going there for a while incognito after my Benny Hill escapades with various stewards earlier in the season. I don't really want Kettering away cos you can't actually see if there are more than 8 people at the ground and where big games bring out friendly locals who like to offer knuckle sandwiches for free. How they must pine for the splendid old Rockingham Road now reduced to dust thanks to the vanity of another boom and bust chairman. I hope they get a ground back in town soon.

This is one tough league and the teams in the play-offs are all worthy of being in a higher division. A couple of seasons back Poole Town got promoted with 93 points – we have 96 and a win today would take us to 99! We've just won an incredible seven away games on the bounce and are 19 points of our nearest rivals, who just happen to be Royston Town. What's more the run of form means we are now in third place. That's some achievement for any team, let alone part-time ones. It wasn't so long ago that sponsoring Slough per goal used to cost you about 6 pence, now some people have had to re-mortgage their houses as we easily smashed 100 goals a season.

If we don't go up it looks like we will be in the new Southern League westwards section, welcoming Salisbury and Taunton Town. The next time I go to Taunton I will remember that drinking a Christmas bottle of Baileys before the game isn't big or clever but very, very sickly. If we do go up, I will be more than slightly peeved that the two nearest clubs to me in the Conference South have been relegated. One so near I could walk there in 15 minutes.

The football season is perfectly timed for my job, where I rush back and forth watering plants and look after caterpillar ravaged Brussels sprouts and fight with giant, ravenous slugs. Oh how I hate those gardening programmes that show you perfection cos they've got full time experts working round the clock to make them pristine. Gardening ain't like that!

What ever happens, its good to see after a stern telling off by Headmasters Bakes and Unders we have are finally flexing our vocal chords. See you in the play offs – wherever that may be and don't forget to make some noise for Bakes and Unders boys, cos its a lot more fun when we do. 
 

* I'm sure all Slough fans will join me in giving very best wishes to John Tebbit who due to illness can sadly no longer write for the programme. John first contributed 48 years ago in 1970 and his amazing enthusiasm and memories have graced these pages ever since. John played for Old Pauldians and almost played for Slough after the war – but didn't have any boots with him! Get well soon John. 
 

* While you're all watching England once again fluff their World Cup lines, remember that clubs like Slough cannot function without volunteers. It's the usual suspects who help with the turnstiles, bar, selling programmes and raffle tickets. If you don't fancy that, maybe you could write the occasional article for the programme. If you need inspiration or a ' if-he-can-do-it-i-bloody-well-can' bit of motivation my 12 years backlog catalogue is available at http://sloughtownsoapbox.blogspot.co.uk/

Thursday, April 12, 2018

WASH OUT

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kings Lynn Town on Saturday 14th April 2018. We drew 2-2 in front of 822.
We all get a little too obsessed with the weather but for non league supporters, finger aching from constant refreshing of twitter to see if a game is on, has become far too commonplace this season. For too many lower league clubs this season has literally been a wash-out with the added splash of white to add to the backlog. Of course there's a solution to this and it's one that Slough Town chairman Steve Easterbrook said was a no brainier at the time when our ground was being planned – artificial pitches. In an ideal world we would all love to play on grass, but the world and climate is changing and football clubs need to maximise their one unique selling point - their pitch - if they are able to compete.
The flip side of Slough having no home games called off, has meant that this is just the second time Slough have played at home in the past month with nine away games! From Weymouth to Kings Lynn, Frome to Bishop's Stortford that's a hell of a lot of travelling for part-time players and seriously expensive for supporters. So fair play to the Rebels who have still travelled in numbers despite adversity. Kieron's train taking so long to get to Weymouth he was forced to drink from the toilet bowl while Swindon Steve decided it was more fun to travel on the Slough coach to Weymouth than go direct from Swindon, getting back so late on the coach he stayed overnight in a Slough hotel! That's dedication (or insanity). Slough supporters said they could see their reflections in the puddles on the Dunstable pitch. We got a game in a snow storm at Bishop's Stortford and these matches would have probably been called off earlier in the season, but I heard that refs have been told to take a more pragmatic approach if we want this season to end before the new one starts.
I'm thinking of Biggleswade when the game was called off by the ref as the supporters coach was arriving and when both managers wanted the game to go ahead. Surely there can be some sort of waiver when this happens when both managers disagree with the ref to overrule him.
In fact I’m in total agreement with TalkSport pundit and non league champion Tony Incenzo who wrote “Such late postponements have been commonplace this season. They are particularly unfair on the away teams’ players and fans, who may have taken time off work and travelled long distances at great personal expense.” His suggestions to eradicate the problem are :
  • In times of bad weather, a pitch inspection must take place by a qualified referee before the away team and supporters set off.
  • This inspection should also fully take into account the weather forecast.
  • If there is any doubt whatsoever about the game taking place, call it off there and then.
  • No postponement should be allowed after this cut-off point unless there is a huge deterioration in the pitch condition that wasn’t envisaged by the earlier weather forecast.
It would also help if the football authorities were more interested in investing in pitches rather than punishing clubs for not having a new stand they will never fill.
The FA is letting some leagues extend the season but some like the North West Counties League which has had 357 postponements so far this season are not happy with the small extension. “The League is disappointed with the FAs decision not to extend to Saturday 12th May given the recent poor weather, as this will impact the League, its clubs and the staff, players and volunteers.” One of their clubs 1874 Northwich are only halfway through the season thanks to postponements and getting to the semi-finals of the FA Vase. Having so many games called off also seriously threatens clubs finances.
The fixture pile-up is not helped by too many games. A good cup run and it gets worse. Does anyone care about League Cups? Can't the earlier rounds of the Berks and Bucks be played pre-season? It's good to see that the re-organisation at our level will mean less league games to play and more local derbies.
Artificial pitch crunch time could come if Sutton or Bromley win promotion to the Football League. “We went one winter without being able to play a home game for seven weeks,” says Sutton chairman Bruce Elliott. “Now our pitch is used by 800 players a week: first team, academy teams, ladies, disability teams. It brings a togetherness. Average attendances have increased [from around 700 to over 2,000]. It’s wonderful.” However Football League clubs are against artificial pitches. So the continued ban means if Sutton or Bromley get promoted they will have to rip them up. And if they don't, they will be punished by relegation to the National South. Blimey. I think someones been smoking too much grass.


Sunday, April 01, 2018

BAKES AND UNDERS REBEL ARMY

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Chesham United Monday 2nd April 2018. We finally beat them for the first time in 18 years 2-1 in front of 784.

The Rebels fans behind the goal were in fine voice – or at least those of us not suffering from rigor mortis as we huddled together like penguins for warmth. I'm not sure I’ve seen many games in a snow storm and definitely none painted with bright blue lines that got the blow-dry treatment to melt the snow, so fair play to Bishop's Stortford for getting the game on. I am also slightly jealous of their apostrophe as I tried to get it into a song or two, seeing as their fans jaws had clamped up in the cold.
Away supporters are usually more vocal than home ones, powered by beer and a little bit of insanity as their zigzag up and down the country for 90 minutes of football. 


But what the hell is happening at the morgue that is Arbour Park? It comes to something when the managers have to ask in the programme for people to get behind the team and when players are coming off the pitch saying that all this negativity is affecting them.
My eldest was 12 last week and I looked at old programme notes that celebrated his birth as we dragged him to his first game at just 5 days old. Homeless and playing at Windsor in one of the worst seasons in our history we still enjoyed ourselves (OK, the 90 minutes of football usually spoilt a good day out). A lot has happened in that time and for the moaners and groaners I’m going to build a time machine (I’m thinking of calling it a Tardis unless anyone can come up with a better name) and take them back to the terraces at AFC Hayes where we not only lose again but are taunted by their officials; where the three collective fans of Burnham and Beaconsfield not only enjoy seeing billy big bollocks Slough Towns fall from grace but financially profit from our demise; like your best mate nicking your girlfriend then rubbing your nose in dogshit.
Why have so many supporters got spoilt brat disease or go into hyper-winge at the first misplaced past? Have the radio phone-ins and football forums become little more than, as When Saturday Comes put it 'a national session of primal scream therapy rather than something entertaining or even thought-provoking.' Should keyboards have a breathalyser built into them, making it impossible to post whilst under the influence?
Just what is that people don't understand about supporting your club?
Who'd have thought that getting on players backs had a negative impact? I'm happy to come into your place of work and shout at you when you do things wrong to see how this will make you work better.
Perversely though supporters will often back their club to the hilt in a siege mentality when they are criticised, just look at Crewe supporters after their paedophile coach scandal
Sure, have a moan and groan after the game. You can even do it in the bar and know that your drinking and moaning is at least making money for the club to help strengthen the squad.
We are having a great season in a tough old league. We reached the 2nd round of the FA Cup and are on target for the play-offs. We might even get in the final of the Berks and Bucks Cup which we haven't won since beating Old Wolverian Train Sidings in 1876.
Surely that's something to sing about? 

 



Friday, March 09, 2018

COMPUTER SAYS NO

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Frome Town Saturday 10th March 2018. We won 2-1 in front of 581 people.

When so many lower league clubs are getting punished for messing up player registration, its time the authorities took a proper look at how its come to this – especially when it has such a dramatic impact on promotion and relegation. 
 
Just a flick through the Non League pyramid and you have Shaw Lane, Halesowen, Sutton Coldfield, Cleethorpes, Frickley Athletic, Molesey, Shoreham, Potters Bar, Dareham Town, those well known law-breakers Met Police, Swanage, Bemerton Heath, Guisborough Town, Hall Road Rangers, Wivenhoe Town, Ely City, Burnham, Witheridge, Bedlington Town, Arnold Town, Farleigh Rovers, Kent Football United (actually they deserve a points reduction for such a ridicolous name), Folland Sports, Gravesham Borough, FC Bolsover, Portishead Town, Cheltenham Saras and more all falling foul of the regulations.
You've got to feel sorry for Swanage whose season has been derailed thanks to a 12 point deduction by the Dorset Premier League for fielding a player who had not got international clearance. That player is Nat Scott who went to college in the USA between August 2011 and April 2015. His last game was in November 2014 for Oklahoma City FC. The standard of college football is unpaid and non professional but to play football in the USA you need international clearance (that's right, international clearance to play football, but only a pulse to buy a gun). This international clearance would be done by the University you were attending, so the student would be totally unaware of this process. On your return to your home country you would again need to obtain international clearance and this is what Nat failed to do. At first he signed for Handy Sports and after three months he was signed by Swanage who said that signing him from a fellow club in Dorset they were totally unaware and are now appealing.
Last year a mistake cost Haywards Heath Town promotion after one of their players failed to pay his part of a small collective fine imposed whilst he was playing for Fisher FC. His suspension for not stumping up a whole ten pounds was not listed on the FA website at the time of his signing and instead was only entered there retrospectively; so how the hell would they know about it? Worse, it wasn't till June that they found out that a points deduction meant that Shoreham got promoted instead – but with so little time to prepare that hasn't worked out well for Shoreham who are rooted to the bottom of the league (and ironically have a points deduction for mucking up player registration).
It really doesn't do anyone any favours to make secretaries jobs harder. And its not just me that thinks you shouldn't need a law degree to be a football secretary. Northern Premier League Chairman Mark Harris says it must be an 'absolute priority' for Non League football to keep working towards a robust registrations system that reduces the number of rule breaches. “The administrative burden on volunteering secretaries at this level is getting tougher and tougher. Why?”
The manager of Bowers & Pitsea have said they feel sorry for two of their rivals after they were docked points ahead of the final push for promotion. The Football Association charged Potters Bar Town and Dereham Town with a breach of rule E10 - failure to comply with an automatic suspension – with the points deduction meaning they have lost vital ground. Bowers have also been the victim of an FA charge this season and were thrown out of the FA Trophy after playing someone suspended. Bowers, like Dereham and Potters Bar, had been relying on the FA’s Disciplinary System to gauge how many yellow cards the player had accrued this season, unknowing that the player had been registered twice for different clubs. Bowers manager Rob Small said “Having been through a similar situation in our FA Trophy debacle this season I don’t like to see this sort of thing happen even when there is a perceived benefit to my club. I sympathise with the players and management at both clubs because they will feel robbed of what they believed to be three well-earned points. I’m not educated enough around how the systems work but if a system is allowing double entries I would like to know what the FA plan to do moving forward to reduce the risk to clubs.”
The lower you go down in the football pyramid and the more work falls on the shoulders of too few volunteers. Infact the situation is so bad that Northern Premier League Chairman Mark Harris reckons that if you offered either £20,000 or more volunteers to people in charge of football clubs, they would plump for more volunteers.
So how about this FA, make it easier for people who are doing a job for love not money and not punish them and the clubs they are trying to support.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

DAVE 'THE SHIRT' CARPENTER

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Basingstoke Town on Tuesday 6th March 2018. We drew 1-1 in front of 471 people.

                        Dave Carpenter 1946 - 2018 

Dave (second from left) at the Get Berkshire Active awards ceremony (note, the shirt!)

So here we are again, mourning the passing of another Rebel, this time Dave 'the Shirt' Carpenter who sadly passed away on Thursday.
Dave was a larger than life character who had been supporting the Rebels since the early 1950s and continued to support the club even when his work as a civil engineer took him all over the country. 
Supporter Trust membership secretary Ollie Hayward said of him ' I first met Dave at the Dolphin Hotel in 1966/1967. We both had the same interests with the social and football life at the Dolphin. He had supported the Rebels all his life; he had lived in Wexham Court Estate and caught the Rebels bug then. He was called The Shirt, because whether he wore casual or formal clothing, his shirt would be hanging out! I think his colleagues in the building industry gave him that nickname.'

He was an active member of CAMRA and Dave and his brother Bob could drink for England! You never tried keeping up with him at a beer session. On one Slough away day to Southsea he decided to get on a moving Waltzer which didn't quite go to plan. He shot out like a bullet and landed in front of the Slough supporters but miraculously got up with no sign of injury just plenty of ear-ache from the fairground people!

The eldest of four siblings Dave was a very dedicated member of the Supporters Trust, volunteering on many promotional events, but also arriving early on a Saturday to watch the PALS training. Dave was instrumental in introducing PALS, the disability team to Slough Town, and put in a huge amount of time supporting them including organising the travel arrangements and giving players lifts to tournaments and training. They won the League Division Two title last year and last week he was at the Get Berkshire Active awards ceremony, where the team were runners-up in the Team Performance of the Year category. Scott Miles who plays for the PALS team said of Dave 'He would always come along to every training session, every tournament, would always cheer us on, words alone would never describe how much he helped us.'
It feels somehow fitting that Dave fell ill on a game he had sponsored, something he would do frequently to support the club. His dedication to Slough Town was second to none and I'm glad he got to see us begin to become a footballing force again. He never turned his back when we were in our dark days, often livening up our away travels with his endless supply of jokes. His support for refs was also absolute and he could often be seen having some heated discussions with ClubShop Sue and others about that!
As Ollie said ' He always had a story from Slough Town games, supporters matches and socials that are long gone from the memory of most. '
Dave had mastered the habit of balancing his Slough Town bobble hat so high up on his head it looked like it was floating, like a Rebel halo! Dave was a true Slough Town legend, who gave up so much of his time to make the club tick and matchdays won't be the same without him. RIP Dave

             Wearing his beer glasses at Chertsey

           Me and Dave after a top day out in Histon

Saturday, February 24, 2018

GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v St.Neots Town on Saturday 24th February 2018.We won 2-1 in front of 615
'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it' said the philosopher George Santayana, who no doubt had football fans in mind when he penned it.
You would expect most Brighton supporters, 20 years after being homeless and so nearly tumbling out of the football league, would just be happy to cling onto Premier League survival by their boot straps. But not with this new type of fan; one who would crash and burn the finances and doesn't understand that apart from maybe six teams everyone else has a good chance of being relegated. I try to stay away from football forums as they are not good for anyone’s mental health, probably because a lot people who frequently posts have questionable mental health. Or maybe we have all grown so used to instant gratification that we can't acknowledge the enormous amount of work that goes into even signing a player. You can't click your fingers and its done.
Unfortunately the same can be leveled at some Slough fans. Our managers have assembled the best squad we have had in years, playing attractive, attacking, passing football. So I was pretty taken aback when I recently heard criticism of them. Yes we've gone off the boil a bit, that last second Hereford equalizer was beyond sickening, but the first half of the season was so blistering, no one can be expected to keep that up. But how come the 200 of us that watched Slough lose 9-0 away to AFC Wimbledon in a season of horror, made more noise than I’ve heard at nearly game at Arbour Park? How the hell can that be?
SuperKev's wake epitomised everything that is brilliant about Slough Town. A packed church, £7,000 raised to pay for his funeral, a guard of honour from today’s team, a great eulogy from our mangers, so many old players mingling with supporters and a whole host of former managers with a coffin decked out in Slough Town insignia. But SuperKev was gone; another hugely important person in the thread of the club, that did so much to keep us going through the dark times. How do we honour his and others memories and make sure they are not consigned to history?
At the wake one of newest supporters was sitting next to Steve Daly, another Slough Town legend, who captained us from the dizzy heights of the Conference to the dog and duck or even worse playing and no doubt losing to our nemesis AFC Hayes. The young lad didn't have a clue who he was. And why should he?
Before every Brighton game there's a TV montage of various important moments in the clubs recent history and I would love to see something like that at Arbour Park. A two minute clip on the new electronic score boards that should be on their way. At the very least something in the clubhouse – a display featuring former players, managers, supporters and of course SuperKev. Capturing key moments that would give everyone a sense of our history and hopefully a sense of perspective.
Don't get me wrong, after years of being a football punch-bag, I love what is happening and the match day experience has got even better now the club is running the bar (yes I know I shouldn't have had the extra pint, but i'm only drinking it because half the profits go to the club.
But let's not be Year Zero supporters. We all have opinions but I trust our managers to get it right on the pitch. However, behind the scenes, the club will only grow if we all muck in. At the very least, let's back the team vocally when things don't always go to plan, cos I can tell you from season after season of bitter experience, it tastes all so much sweeter when it does.