These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

THE DELUSIONAL GAME

To be printed in the Southern League Premier Divison game v Banbury United on Saturday 10th February 2018
Football Transfer Deadline Day makes me embarrassed to be a football fan. While the media turn the most inconsequential story into a moon landing in the hope of more click-bait, far too many supporters lose all sense of perspective. After one fan tweeted 'Imagine being 12 points clear at the top of the table and taking that as a sign that you need to buy another £100m worth of players while Hartlepool and Chester are going out of business for want of thousands' an angry Man City replied 'Is it your money that they’re spending? Sane out injured and we have 3 players fit for our preferred formation of a front 3. Sterling, Aguero and Silva. So yeah. If he signs it’s because we need it.' Others pointed out that it wasn't their fault that Hartlepool and Chester had been mismanaged, as if 'their' clubs were being run with any financial prudence and wouldn't go bust without dodgy Sheiks, gangsters and vulture capitalists pumping in the cash. And while the Premier League is rolling in it, grassroots football has to contend with mud-baths of pitches and terrible changing facilities.
As the authors of 'Jumpers for Goalposts' pointed out football fans are the marketing mans wet dream. It has become the most one sided relationship, tantamount to abuse' or as the authors put it being ‘trapped in a loveless marriage with little in common…Football supporters have become, first and foremost, revenue.’
While Man United made Alexis Sanchez the highest-paid player in Premier League history, the club can't quite bring themselves to pay all their workers the Living Wage. An open letter to the world’s richest football club, urged them to address the plight of stadium staff who are “struggling to make ends meet.” This despite a commitment in 2015 by Premier League clubs to pay the Living Wage to all permanent staff.
Meanwhile even FIFA have acknowledged how the agent free-for-all is 'intolerable' with President Infantino, establishing a working party to examine how the transfer system can be reformed. Infantino said that he was 'very concerned about the huge amount of money flowing out of the football industry.' Although knowing FIFA they're probably more upset they ain't getting a cut. Uefa calculated that more than €3bn was paid to agents by Europe’s top clubs between 2013 and 2017 with clubs telling them that agents are no longer working on behalf of players to negotiate the best salary but acting as intermediaries, who have to be paid by clubs for bringing the players to them. The approach of some agents is: “Look, you will pay me 50% of the transfer or the player goes somewhere else.” One agent Fernando Felicevich, declined to comment when asked if it was true he was asking for £15 million for himself for Sanchez to agree a move while another agent threatened legal action if people kept asking questions.
So it was heartening to see Newcastle United supporters protest against owner Mike Ashley at St James’ Park with an impressive display reading “Trust me, one day you will get your club back... He is only one man, we are a whole city, a whole population...” while West Ham fans are planning protests against the diamond-geezers that run their club and have relocated them to a soulless bowl of a stadium. But apart from the occasional boycott by supporters like Coventry, Charlton and Blackpool and Man United fans who set up a new club and built their own ground, most continue to support 'their' team no matter how badly they are treated or how dodgy their owners.
Maybe journalist Nick Cohen nailed it 'The fans do not care where the money came from. It is as miserablist to talk about Manchester City's owners on Match of the Day as to talk about the factory farming of turkeys at the Christmas lunch table.'
Yes I know our owners have just butchered political opponents and ripped off the poor, but without that new billion pound winger we don't really need, our season and my life will be ruined.





WHERE'S NOREEN

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Redditch United Tuesday 6th February 2018. We won 4-0 in front of 375.
When Pete Bridle comes to a game, the first thing anyone ever says to him is 'Where's Noreen?' His mum is one of our longest serving and most loyal supporters having been supporting Slough for over 50 years and attending over a thousand games. Time to shine a floodlight on her!
Born in County Kerry in the Republic of Ireland in the 1930's, Noreen's first Slough game was at the Dolphin in the mid' 60's along with husband Max and sons Ted and Pete.
Favourite Player? Ed Smith
Favourite Manager? Steve Bateman
Football Hate? Having my bag and body searched at Southport away in the FA Trophy semi-final
Claim to Fame? The argument with Richard Stokes, then leader of Slough Council at a council meeting concerning our new ground. Also the two days protest outside the town hall asking the council to get behind the new ground.
Football likes? Travelling to away games on the Slough coach and enjoying the company of the family of Slough supporters. The atmosphere at home games, meeting all the fellow supporters and hearing what's going on.
The high spots? Receiving the Supporter of the Year award two seasons ago. Heading the ball against Farnborough recently. We were expecting a bid from Farnborough to sign her up but the approach was turned down by the club
Hopes for the future? With the home coming of the club and the good work carried out by everyone from Steve Easterbrook and the Trust and supporters, we have seen the club grow and encourage new supporters old and new
Final thoughts? Remembering all the people associated with the club who have passed on from our football family.
Once a Rebel always a Rebel”
Noreen - You deserve a medal! 

 




Thursday, January 25, 2018

CAN SLOUGH TOWN CURE LONELINESS ?

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kings Langley on Tuesday 30th January 2018 We drew 1-1 in front of 450

The other Friday afternoon I spent an hour after work helping out at the seniors lunch club that happens every week at The Bevy, Brighton's only community owned pub. I hopped on the bus to help drop people home in our wheelchair friendly minibus and if i'm honest, it was pretty heart-breaking. I wheeled one guy into his flat in sheltered housing and asked how he managed. He told me his mate across the way used to help him but he had just died. As I made sure people's doors were shut I wondered just how many would not see another soul till the following Friday and tipped my hat to the volunteers that run the club.
I know that run properly pubs can play a pivotal role in supporting their local community and running a seniors lunch club isn't just good for the community but also good for business, as these people make friends and become regulars. Having a pub on your doorstep, having someone who knows your name when you walk in, makes a massive difference to the quality of peoples lives.
This fits in nicely with the appointment of the first ever Minister for Loneliness after a report published last year by the Jo Cox Commission, revealed that loneliness was as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
So the government has a ready made answer when it comes to tackling loneliness. Unfortunately with so many pubs closing every week it needs to strengthen planning laws to protect them and other community spaces from property vultures while exempting those that help their communities with tax breaks. That's why it angers me when pubs on estates are shut because they are worth more financially as housing when run properly they can be the beating heart of the community.
So what role can football clubs can play? Getting upset while watching 22 grown kick a ball around seems a bit daft but we all know at our level at least its a lot more than just that. Look at the outpouring of grief that greeted the news of the death of our physio SuperKev. Without Slough Town just how many of us would have had the honour of knowing Kev?
I've been really impressed how our club has put itself so quickly back into the heart of the community, one of the most ethnically diverse in the whole country.
But it’s ironic that the government appoints a minister for loneliness when its very own policies are doing so much to exacerbate the problem. The never ending squeeze on public finance has meant shutting old peoples clubs, day centres for people with disabilities, libraries, youth and community centres. All an apparent drain on resources, and bugger the human cost. Pubs are disappearing at an alarming rate and small charities are struggling to survive while private companies make cash out of anything that moves – old people, education, water, railways, buses and the air we breathe if they could find a way. But its a sick society that only ever looks at the cost, because it cannot consider the genuine worth of things.
Our society is at a crossroads. Governments have lost the ability to act in the best interests of most of us while large corporations can't deliver what we need (they are happy to when they make a profit, but want to be bailed out by taxpayers when they fail) We can moan till we are blue in the face that someone needs to do something about it but the reality is it's up to us too fight for what makes life worth living. Its only when we get involved in our communities that things will change. That could be helping save your local pub or community centre or offering to help behind the bar or on the turnstiles at our football club.
People want to feel like they belong and be part of something. I know that pubs can play a massive part and I know that football clubs like Slough Town can too.
The Bevy Pub, once closed by the police for anti social behaviour, has proved that run for the benefit of the community it can be more than just a pub. With a loneliness epidemic we need places like the Bevy and football clubs like Slough Town more than ever.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

RIP SUPER KEV

To be printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Merthyr Town on Saturday 27th January 2018

There can’t be many physios that have their own football chant. But then there aren't many physios like Super Kev McGoldrick who tragically passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Kev gave Slough Town an incredible 32 years service, enjoying everything from Conference football to the club staring down the barrel of the dog and duck league, losing our ground and nearly going bust – to finally coming home. Words like legend are branded around in football and life far too easily but Kev deserved the title and a whole lot more. Infact you'd be hard pressed to have met a nicer human being and i'm sure there are many people like me today who will be asking why life is just so bloody unfair at times.
You could also say that days like these puts football in perspective. On the face of getting wound up by 22 grown men chasing a ball is slightly ridiculous but we all know watching 90 minutes of football is just a small part of the 'match day experience'. Having Kev about was definitely part of that experience. Fixing not just our players aches and pains but ex-players, opposition players and supporters alike he was like a football mobile walk-in surgery for the NHS. But not only did he treat everyone, he followed it up with messages to see how you were doing. And he always did it with a smile. I remember him handing me headache tablets at some godforsaken away game where we'd lost again and fixing my thumb after an embarrassing sock incident! Infact my only complaint would be that he hadn't found a cure for the grumpiness that we all felt when Slough were bad (ok the beer helped with that).
Or maybe he had found a cure. Because having SuperKev about made supporting Slough Town a lot more bearable. Along with other legends like Dave the Programme and Chris Sliksi, Slough Town was and is more than just a football club for me. It hits the spot where no other club ever can.
When I interviewed him a while back for the programme I asked 'Who do you support' and he replied 'I only support Slough Town' When I asked if he would ever hang up his physio bag he replied.”I have never thought of quitting. I maybe replaced one day for a newer model but that's fine. I have been proud and privileged to serve this great club. I have loved every minute and have made many lifelong friends.”
Kev was a pallbearer at Chris Sliski's funeral because he said  that 'Chris carried this club on his shoulders for so long, the least I can do is carry him on mine.'
 
Well Mr.SuperKev you also carried this club for over 32 years and all the good things that are happening now is because of people like you never giving up. I hope you realised just how loved you were by everyone. RIP 


 


Monday, January 01, 2018

A SPECTACULAR WEMBLEY OWN GOAL

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Hereford on Saturday 6th January 2018. We drew 2-2 in front of 1,561 (2-0 up with 90 minutes gone. Arghhh!)
It's as spectacular an own goal as you will see all season.
Wembley FC of the Spartan South Midlands Football League playing in the ninth tier of English football often in front of fewer than 50 spectators have been told that they had to drop Wembley from their title because it could cause confusion with Wembley Stadium.

Come again? Forget that Wembley FC have had their name for over 70 years and are in fact a football club in er, Wembley! 

Wembley Stadium on the other hand was known as the Empire Stadium but this was changed to Wembley Stadium because...well its also in Wembley.

The FA, now backed by a European ruling, said they must act to enforce their intellectual property. (we) "take the enforcement of our intellectual property seriously and only take action as a last resort when an amicable resolution does not seem possible. "  

The two have co-existed for years without any issues so why now? Infact just a few seasons back Wembley FC were the FA's FA Cup poster-boys. The clubs current crest, a lion's head on a shield beneath the word Wembley, was registered in 2012 when the club updated their badge after they agreed a sponsorship deal with Budweiser - sponsors of the FA Cup between 2011 to 2014. As part of the Budweiser deal, the club drafted in former England manager Terry Venables as the clubs technical advisor while Martin Keown, Graeme Le Saux and Claudio Caniggia agreed to play for them in the cup. In 2012 the FA's director of football also opened a revamped Vale Park with the offending badge clearly visible in the background. 

However trouble started when Budweiser's agreement with Wembley FC finished and the rights to the trademark were passed to the club. Wembley National Stadium Limited then applied to cancel Wembley FC's European trademark and the European Union's Intellectual Property Office agreed saying that the English-speaking public could confuse the club with the stadium. Despite "a number of visual differences" in the logos, the use of the word Wembley in both meant there was still "a likelihood of confusion".
To be fair it is easy to confuse the two. On my last Slough Town trip there I wandered off the high street and past some allotments to find the ground – this is just like Wembley Way I thought as I walked down a cinder track, past a row of cauliflowers and an old man picking beans.
As Wembley FC chairman for over 30 years Brian Gumm said “I know football fans are not supposed to be very bright- but I think you can tell the difference between this and Wembley Stadium. We can't even afford to put in an appeal. It will bankrupt the club because we can't afford to change all our signage and kit."
The FA boosts of its support for the grass-roots game but the truth is since the Premier League were formed 25 years ago, it is too powerless to control the big clubs. It really does itself no favours going after the smaller ones. 

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

A RETURN TO THE BAD OLD DAYS OF KNUCKLE-DUSTING BADGERS


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division games v Stratford Town and Farnborough December 2017 (two games, one programme) We drew 1-1 with Stratford in front of  598 and beat Farnborough 5-1 in front of 668

It was a return to the bad old days with knives and knuckle-dusters reportedly found by the police. The Brighton v Crystal Palace game had been hyped beyond parody but the pantomime villain ended by being Sussex Police. 'Oh no they didn't' cried Crystal Palace fanzine Five Year Plan and the cops had to admit that they had made the whole thing up. Yes some people broke in but did that justify kettling fans who had tickets for so long that they weren't allowed in? Yes, some people let off flares but to honest the atmosphere was much better than the game of football on display. It couldn't have been an easy game to police so why make things up? As a wizand old protestor i'm used to police doing this to suit their own agenda, but even the Brighton Chief Executive came out fuming saying the cops really hadn't helped things with such a cock and bull story.  
Anyone who follows German football shouldn't have been surprised when Cologne fans turned up en-mass for a Europa game against Arsenal. It had been 25 years since their last game in Europe and since then they have been relegated five times, nearly gone bankrupt and made a sponsorship deal with a non-existent company from Cyprus. So 20,000 Germans invaded London despite being allocated just 2,900 tickets. Many had bought Arsenal home tickets and wore their colours so they could get in. One Arsenal fan said 'Koln fans were brilliant. It's the kind of support most fans in this country can only dream of. The Premier League has become so sanitized and fans have become irrelevant to most clubs and treated with utmost disrespect.' In the end it was largely peaceful but the football authorities were furious – how dare fans create an atmosphere at the Premier Leagues top library, and duly fined the Germans for supporting their club.

Clapton is a small team in the Essex Senior League that has seen its crowds grow from an average of 25 to hundreds of new supporters, priced out and fed up of league football. They get behind their team, create an atmosphere and are more than welcome by most clubs in the league who usually struggle to get three figures through the turnstiles. But the Clapton Ultras are political and we all know that's a crime for any football supporter. The other week the Met Police banned all their supporters from attending a London Senior Cup game. And with a crowd of just 28 looked like home fans were banned as well! Then on the Saturday Southend Manor did the same. Why? The Ultras are unhappy with the man who runs Clapton and are themselves boycotting their teams home games. They went to Southend anyway, I mean who wants to miss a day out by the seaside, and cheered on through the fence. We moan about a lack of atmosphere but the authorities don't like fans that are noisy, political, organised and have the cheek to stand up for the rights – they just want them to sit down, shut up, be complaint, wealthy and put up with being charged a fortune for games that are moved at the drop of a TV hat.

I don't want to go back to the bad old days – my uncle stopped taking me to Fulham after crowd trouble with Spurs and Chelsea. Even big Slough games were quite hairy at times. There is still some head-bangers who like to go to football; often grandads by day with their bald heads and fat necks that turn into Neanderthal man on match-day, but treating all football supporters like they've committed a crime isn't the answer.

* Before twitter I used to hang around Clapham Junction station in the winter months waiting for the dreaded call – 'The game is off' and I scuttle back to Brighton looking for any match that had escaped the bad weather. No more with our 3G artificial super-pitch. The Boxing Day birthday knees-up game is safe; save for a Trump inspired nuclear war (which would burn the pitch) or more snow than the Alps. So spare a thought for Dudley Town who have had to call off games because badgers kept digging up the pitch looking for worms and insect larvae to keep them going through the harsh winter months.

* You wait an eternity for Slough to assemble a fantastic team, and well, if any of us really needed confirmation of just how competitive the Southern Premier League is, then check out the table for the 10 top rated teams in England. Hereford are 2nd, Slough 4th, Kettering 5th and Kings Lynn 9th. Piece of birthday cake getting out this league.




Wednesday, December 06, 2017

ITS BEGINNING TO FEEL A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Bishop Stortford Saturday 9th December 2017 We lost 4-2 in front of 551 people.

As its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas let me tell you a story of an act of kindness that happened to British writer Bernard Hare that changed his life forever.

He was by his own accounts a bit of a low-life when he heard his mum was in hospital and not expected to survive the night. Living in London, he got to the railway station to find he'd missed the last train and could only get as far as Peterborough. He would have to nick a car, steal some money, anything to get home. "Tickets, please," he heard, but after he stamped it, the guard stood there looking at him. He'd been crying and looked terrible. "You okay? Is there anything I can do? Hare felt like thumping him 'What's it got to do with you, get lost and mind your own business." The guard ignored the fact that there was a good chance that he was going to get walloped and instead sat down opposite "If there's a problem, I'm here to help. That's what I'm paid for." So Hare told him his story "Look, my mum's in hospital, dying, she won't survive the night, I'm going to get home. It's tonight or never, I won't get another chance, I'm a bit upset, I'd be grateful if you'd leave me alone. " The guard finally left but 10 minutes later he was back and Hare was ready to punch him. "Listen, when we get to Peterborough, shoot straight over to Platform One as quick as you like. The Leeds train will be there." Hare looked at him dumbfounded. What do you mean? Is it late, or something?" "No, it isn't late. I've just radioed Peterborough. They're going to hold the train up for you. As soon as you get on, it goes. Everyone will be complaining about how late it is, but let's not worry about that on this occasion. You'll get home and that's the main thing. Good luck and God bless."

Hare suddenly realised what a total git he'd been and chased the guard down the train. He caught him up and grabbed his arm. "I wish I had some way to thank you, I appreciate what you've done." The guard replied "Not a problem. If you feel the need to thank me, the next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out. That will pay me back amply. Tell them to pay you back the same way and soon the world will be a better place."

Hare was at his mother's side when she died in the early hours of the morning. Even now, he can't think of her without remembering the Good Conductor on that late-night train to Peterborough – more than that the Good Conductor changed him from a selfish, potentially violent hedonist into a decent human being, but it took time. "I've paid him back a thousand times since then," he tells the young people he works with, "and I'll keep on doing so till the day I die. You don't owe me nothing. Nothing at all. And if you think you do, I'd give you the same advice the Good Conductor gave me. Pass it down the line."

It's a lovely story worthy of 'Its A Wonderful Life' but what the hell has this got to do with football? Well, two things. First, if you're not sure how non league football clubs tick then I suggest you volunteer one day for a couple of hours before the game. It must have taken a monumental effort to put the Rochdale match on. The majority of work done by volunteers, some of whom had taken the day off work to be at the ground from 9am to help and wouldn't have left till midnight (and some who came back the following night after work to move the segregation fencing) They are proper Slough fans, many who would have missed one of the biggest games in our history to help. Good Samaritans who make this club tick.

Secondly, i think the above story should be required reading by all stewards. Look I run a charity working with kids and adults with learning disabilities, I help run a community pub, I'm a governor at two schools – these organisations could hide all day behind rules and regulations so they never have to give a helping hand to anyone who needs it but we don't cos otherwise what's the point in us being there. So don't make someone with a walking stick climb a massive flight of stairs when you could easily escort them a few yards to meet their sister who incidentally had spent the whole game flogging merchandise to raise money for the club. Don't threaten supporters that its time to go for simply chatting to people after the game. Or as happened recently let someone in a wheelchair get soaked cos you couldn't use a bit of common sense and let them in a fenced off covered area. People aren't criminals for coming to football and maybe if we are all treated with a bit of decency it might stop some situations getting out of hand.

That train guard didn't hide behind its-more-than-my-jobs-worth mentality, he did the right thing. And the more of us that do, well maybe the world wouldn't seem such a hostile place.

Yes i'm being idealistic, but my pub and charity wouldn't exist without idealism (and a lot of bloody hard work) and this football club which was on its knees not so very long ago, wouldn't either. 

It really is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

PAVED WITH GOLD

Printed in the FA Cup 2nd Round game v Rochdale Monday 4th December 2017. We lost 4-0 in front of a sell out 1,950 crowd.

Just when I thought this season couldn't get more surreal up pops up double hat-trick boy Matt Lench and joint manager John Underwood on the box at Arbour Park. Even my kids are transfixed. Slough. Town. On. The. Tele. I was half expecting Kieran and clubshop Sue to be rummaging around in the ball-bag.

To think back to the first 15 minutes of our cup-run - away to more-trees-than-fans Berkhamsted; when our former managers club really should have been two goals up which might have put a spanner in the works to this cup run (and Berkhamsted still haven't lost a league game this season). Since then we've beaten Dulwich, Poole, Folkestone and Gainsborough and it was the manner of that last victory that really was something special. Our joint managers said the Gainsborough game was their best day ever in seven years of management and who are we to disagree. Chatting to older supporters, we have got one of the best squads ever. We are flying in the league and scoring more goals than anyone else in the football pyramid apart from Manchester City - whose reserve keepers boots probably cost more than all our squad combined.

And so to Rochdale. I've always had a soft spot for Dale when between them Workington and Southport they fought over who could finish bottom of Division Four safe in the knowledge that it was a pretty closed shop and you wouldn't get voted out of the league. It's fair to say that anyone who supports Rochdale is not a glory-hunter. In fact A Fans Suffering Index had them top as the most long suffering fans!

They have only been promoted three times – in 1969, 2010 and 2014 - playing 36 consecutive seasons in the Football Leagues bottom division from 1974 to 2010, the longest time any team has been in the bottom division of the League.

Of course we all know the longest suffering fans are Arsenal ones, or maybe that's the most insufferable.

My missus Uncle Steve happens to be a Dale fan and i've twice sat in the Spotland home end when we visited Manchester to cure my football withdrawl symptons. I even went to see them in the play off finals at Wembley where they lost to Stockport County, who were splashing the cash at the time - a plan that went spectacular wrong with Stockport now playing in the Conference North.

Surrounded by wealthy neighbours Rochdale are impressively punching above their weight establishing themselves as a League One side. As Steve told me “We are local family club which does a lot for the community and where you are valued as a spectator. Our chairman and directors are supporters who have stood on the terraces and our manager is a genius. He mends broken players and then we sell them on. We nearly got to the play offs last season with the smallest budget in the league but have struggled a bit this season after selling our best three. We recently bought the ground and have plans to develop it and put on events to help with finances but getting in the third round will be massive for us.”

I'm not sure i will really be able to enjoy the game, there's too much riding on it. If getting a ground back in Slough has transformed the club from Basket-case to Brazil of the Southern League, imagine what the finances and exposure of the FA Cup 3rd Round would do? Yes i know there's no magic of the cup for Premier League teams, but for both teams the 3rd Round would be paved with gold. However, defeat to Rochdale would mean the Rebels would hold the unenviable record of the most 2nd round exits without ever making the 3rd round. So no pressure then boys. 
Let's go and make history. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

ON THE BRINK

Printed in the FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying round replay v Hendon Tuesday 28th November 2017. We drew 1-1 then lost 3-0 on penalties in front of 626 people.
 
There isn't a week when the Non League Paper doesn't report on another football club in crisis. Before the Southern Premier League season even began we knew Gosport would be relying on youngsters to try and avoid this seasons one relegation spot, while Dunstable Town became a supporters run club after their main backer left the building.
Now it's the turn of Merthyr Town who last week announced an 80% budget cut with the majority of their players leaving. Their youth players stepped up and were duly battered 13-1 by Chesham United. Merthyr were resurrected not so long ago as a fan owned club, but as one of the committee members said “Being fan-owned means that finances can sometimes be tight and mistakes can be made. Two and a half years ago we tried to increase spending on and off the pitch after our successful promotion. At the end of last season we increased that again. Again there was the hope that income would increase significantly. Unfortunately that just hasn’t happened hand we’ve lost thousands of pounds since.” The club now have a £25,000 tax bill they are hoping to pay off with a crowdfunding page, collections and increased attendances at their Pack the Park promotions.
Dulwich Hamlet are one of the best supported teams at our level but have found themselves caught between property developers Meadow Partners (who set the playing budget) and Southwark Council over plans to build houses on their ground. The developers promised to build a new ground and hand the club over to the supporters if they got permission for new houses. Southwark quite rightly said that not enough of these houses were affordable and so the Hamlet are on the brink being used by property developers as football pawns to get their own way.
Meanwhile they are up against Billericay who have been allowed to get away with spending a totally unsustainable wage bill by a chairman with an ego that would swallow a lion. And we all know what happens to clubs when big-ego chairman lose patience and walk away.
We also have 135 year old Skelmersdale United locked out of their ground, Clapton Ultras boycotting home games because of the actions of the clubs chairman and Waltham Forest plunged into uncertainty after the death of their chairman. Waltham Forest is run by volunteers with players paying their own travel expenses. They have set up a crowdfunding page in the hope that they can raise enough money to celebrate next seasons 150th anniversary.
While football clubs should be run properly, running a football club isn't like running a business. Liam Hickey is Dulwich's club chairman and a supporter for nearly 50 years. He has found Meadow increasingly difficult to deal with. “At nearly every level of football, people invest money for the love of the game...What is very clear in discussions with certain people at Meadow is that they don’t get this concept at all. They can’t understand why anyone wants to put money into football. It is completely alien for a property company to try to run a football club.”
Even when you are doing well fans still like to have a pop. After years in the doldrums, Slough Town are flying but some people are moaning that season ticket holders and those that actually go to a game are rewarded with the first chance to buy tickets for the Rochdale cup match! Imagine that, rewarding people who support the team.
It takes an enormous amount of work to build a football club, but a couple of poor seasons, the wrong manager, a chairman blinded by their own pig-headness, and fans impatience and you can see all your hard work come crashing down.
So what is the answer if even supporters run clubs can find themselves in a financial mess? Or will it ever be that some football clubs will find themselves flying too close to the financial wind? And how is it with the Premier League awash with cash that grassroots football is in such a mess?
Thankfully non league re-organisation will cut the travel bill for many clubs but I would like to see the FA level the playing field with financial fairplay and a wage cap on teams. Our planning laws need to be strengthened to protect football grounds from property vultures. But probably the most important thing you as a supporter could do, would be offering to volunteer for your local non league club.
* If you want to make a donation to Waltham Forest campaign https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/save-london-s-second-oldest-football-club-london

Monday, November 06, 2017

I REMEMBER

Printed in the Southern Premier League game v Weymouth Saturday 18th November 2017. We won 3-0 in front of 923 wet fans hunting for FA Cup tickets.

After our stunning 6-0 victory away to Gainsborough Trinity in the 1st round of the FA Cup I wanted to say this...

I remember when we lost Wexham Park and became homeless.

I remember being told by local councillors we should merge with Windsor

I remember getting thrashed every week one season culminating in a 9-0 defeat at AFC Wimbledon which sealed our relegation.

I remember turning up at Chelmsford and our manager telling us another five players had just left and half-joking with Nigel that he might have to pull on his boots. I remember another one of our favourite players telling us at Oxford City after another defeat that he'd had enough. It was ok for him – he could change clubs; we were stuck with supporting Slough!

I remember clubs enjoying taking us down a peg or two, with the AFC Hayes tannoy man and their manager asking sarcastically how our search for a new ground was going as they once again beat us.

I remember sitting in the pub having a laugh with all the Slough fans, knowing the next 90 minutes of football were going to sour that mood.

I remember cheering the team off at Fleet despite defeat meaning relegation to the Dog and Duck League (lucky for us we were reprieved)

I remember losing another play off game as we were stuck in a Southern League feeder division loop. Worse was losing to Beaconsfield whose rise up the tables was helped with our rent and beer money (a bit like your best mate nicking your girlfriend just after you've treated her to the holiday of a lifetime).

I remember being knocked out of the FA Cup by Erith Town, Hanworth Villa and Wroxham

I remember feeling sick to the stomach when I heard Mr.Slough Town Chris Sliski had died.

I remember being impressed as our chairman Steve Easterbrook was introduced after a game. With Steve at the helm the building blocks for a new club were slowly put in place. He didn't splash the cash or promise football league in five years like so many flash-in-the-pan idiots who are foolishly entrusted with running football clubs.

I remember that incredible play-off final fight-back against Kettering Town to see us finally win promotion to the Southern Premier. I don't remember too much of the celebrations in the Herschel afterwards!

Of course the last 20 years haven't been all doom and gloom; in fact it was amazing what was achieved with little income and playing away from Slough for over 13 of those years. Just think what we could do with a community sports ground that would massively benefit everyone in Slough we used to ponder.

I remember because it makes what's now happening to our club so much sweeter.

The fact that we still have a club to support is thanks to people who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes. Too people who sadly are no longer with us. To joint managers who have built the team up steadily. To a chairman who is passionate, patient and doesn't panic and who finally got us back in the town we represent.

I remember because now when I raise a glass its usually one of celebration rather than to dull the pain of supporting Slough Town. And I bloody love it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

THE REFEREE'S A

Published in the Southern League Premier Division game v Gosport Borough Tuesday 24th October 2017 We won 5-1 in front 678 and are top of the league.
 

I never thought I'd be reading a book by a ref nodding my head in sympathy. Football is a passionate sport and it's the done thing to criticise the man in black often to cover the shortfallings of your team; but as I’ve got older I’ve got less and less tolerant of the 'ref had a shocker' brigade.

For the most part I found Howard Webb’s 'The Man in the Middle' book pretty absorbing. I must admit I didn't realise the hours ref’s have to put in to climb the ladder and Webb’s tale is one of totally dedication, lots of sacrifices and bloody hard work – and he admits to making mistakes! He's also a football fan through and through; OK he only played Sunday League football but he supports his home town team, Rotherham United (not Man United as many often accused him off).

Mind games from managers, slattings in the press, pulled apart by pundits, judged every game by referees assessors, tricked by players and grief and death threats from supporters – who'd put up with their family having to get police protection after a split second decision you've made? You need to be pretty thick skin to put up with all that.

There's some great insights into certain managers and players – you wouldn't be surprised by the tricks of Alex Ferguson, but maybe surprised by a haunted Jose Mourinho telling him after a game we all make mistakes but that 'the Man' will now fire me (which Abramovich did a week later).

Watching Match of the Day through your hands after Gary Neville had bollocked you for the lack of a red card, only to find you had in fact got it right 'Never believe anything you hear from players or managers at half-time until you've seen it with your own eyes' I'd warn my rookie refs who worked alongside me. 'They'll try every trick in the book to get into your head and alter your mindset. Be strong. Don't be swayed. Believe in yourself.'

Webb’s performances led him to officiating for 11 years and nearly 300 Premier League games, an FA Cup and Champions League final, nine major international tournaments and finally a World Cup Final 'By the summer of 2008, FIFA had short-listed sixty referee's teams for the 2010 World Cup and, for the next couple of years, they watched us like hawks. The governing body needed to reduce this elite group by half in time for the finals and, in order to whittle it down, instigated a rigorous programme of continuous assessment and aptitude testing....along with seminars all over the world and intensive training camps.' He passed the tests and ended up being in charge of the World Cup Final in South Africa 'What I’m doing tomorrow is just huge. Footballs the biggest sport in the entire world. Millions of people will be watching this one game. And I'm the man in the middle. Bloody hell fire...'

Eventually the intensity became too much 'To be honest. I was becoming increasingly weary of the flak that kept coming my way.... but if there was one insult I hated being hurled at me, it was 'disgrace.' It really got my back up. I was just a referee who tried to do an honest job and who occasionally made genuine mistakes. I may have been far from perfect, but I didn't think I was a disgrace....'Life as an elite referee had been like the proverbial roller coaster, with exhilarating highs and plummeting lows. After nearly a quarter-of-a-century in the middle, however those dips had started to take their toll.'

As football takes on even greater intensity and financial stakes become even higher, the pressure on the ref will only get harder, so hats off to anyone who wants to step into the middle.

I recommend you read this book before the next time you shout cheat.


* Howard Webb 'The Man in the Middle' published by Simon & Schuster 2016 (Buy from an independent bookshop rather than the tax-dodging Amazon)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CAN'T HELP BUT DREAM

Printed in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying round game v Folkestone Invicta on Saturday 14th October 2017 (coming after our remarkable comeback in Wales where trailing Merthyr 4-0 at half time, we won 5-4!) We won 1-0 in front of 926 and are now in the first round (proper) of the FA Cup


It's FA Cup 4th Qualifying round with the First Round Proper - as if the previous six rounds have somehow been dirty and improper – within touching distance. I can almost hear the commentators harping on about the butchers, bakers and candlestick makers up against the big boys. Just like Folkestone fans and every other club in this round, you can't help getting ahead of yourself and dreaming of glamour ties that would raise not just funds but also let people know that there is actually a club in Slough.

After the West Brom friendly it was my pleasure to go for a pint or two with former Rebels manager Eddie Denton and Slough captain Steve Daley where I got the inside story of our famous victory over Walsall in the FA Cup 1st round. It was 2004, we were in the Ryman Premier, homeless and our budget had been cut again. As the Match of the Day cameras were there we organised a red card protest against Slough Council – which to be fair to Walsall fans they joined in when they heard our miserable lack of support for our plans to get a ground in Slough. One councillor helpfully pointed out we should merge with Windsor.

Before the Walsall game we had a goalkeeper who had done well for us, but Eddie was worried he was a bit too young and inexperienced for a game like this. Leeds reserve keeper Shaun Allaway, who had once been tipped to play for England, became available and the young lad was dropped from the team and Shaun brought in for his debut against the Division One side. At the time we felt this was pretty harsh but as a manager you live or die by these decisions. Walsall had Slough watched previously and their player-manager former Arsenal and England International Paul Merson apparently told his family and friends they could bet their house on a Walsall victory. I'm not sure I slept much the night before and I arrived early in Windsor where we were groundsharing as the pub opposite the ground filled up. In the end over 2,000 packed into Stag Meadow to witness an historic 2-1 victory to the Rebels. Considering the constraints Eddie was under, it has to be one of Slough's greatest cup victories and was the shock of the round. As for Merson, well he said "Losing to Slough was the worst day of my football life. The sound of Slough players celebrating still haunts me."

However being Slough we drew another non league club in the second round – Yeading who were flying in our league with a certain young striker called DJ Campbell firing on all cylinders. Despite scoring a 3rd minute penalty we lost 3-1 and once again lost out in appearing in the Third round of the FA Cup. Worse was to come the following day when Yeading drew Newcastle United at home while Campbell ended up playing in the football league.

* While our managers are no doubt happy with a third home cup tie on the bounce, spare a thought for programme editors. In between full time work our editor Steve Chapman spends between 5-10 hours putting each programme together. On average we sell about 175 a game and give away around 50. All senior league football clubs are required to produce programmes but the lower you go the more sparse these are and I do wonder in an age where info is at our mobile phone finger tips how long they will survive. I would never think of buying a Brighton programme for my eldest (especially as they are £3.50 a pop). So will the football programme eventually be a thing of the past?

** While we are dishing out sympathy spare a thought for the long distance football fan. I was ready to board the Slough Town express to watch us play Biggleswade on Non League Day when the horror of rail replacement flashed up on my screen. Nearly 4 hours to get to Slough seemed a bit much and so my season ticket stayed a virgin. Is this some sort of record? It's looking like its going to be mid-November before I get the chance to finally flash it at Phil and Aiden. Talking of Biggleswade, for a town with a population of just 6,500 they have 3 senior clubs! Eastbourne also have 3 (they used to have 4) while Worthing have three. Anyone know which town holds the record for the most clubs in a town that can compete in the FA Cup/Trophy/Vase.