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.

Friday, October 07, 2016


To be printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Cambridge City. Saturday 8th October 2016.
Did someone mention we are still top of the league?

I'm sure there wont be many opportunities in our Slough Town supporting lifetime that we will be able to sing (to the tune of Pilot's 'Magic') 'O ho ho, its magic, we're gonna win ten in a row....' - and with our voices maybe that's a good thing. Still, despite playing some great football and twice being in front, Slough's third best winning run ever had to come to and end sometime. It's just a shame it was in the FA Cup.
The Dartford fans were a great bunch and could see us in the Conference South soon, but as a cautionary tale they told of life in the Conference. Full time teams and supporter segregation – is this really non league? For Dartford a relegation reprieve from the Conference led to another dreadful season hitting crowds hard. This season Dagenham are even charging £21 for the privilege of seeing them play Braintree and Southport. I saw Lewes taking a battering in their only season in the Conference and gone were the joys of supping a pint on the terraces. I even got my bag full of nappies searched by an overzealous steward. I just wish one had been soiled. Not that I want to get ahead of ourselves, but you can see 'the only way is up' for our club – although thankfully we didn't sing that little Yazz tune. At least not yet. 
One man who sadly wont see our progress is Keith Smith who passed away last weekend. Thankfully Keith did make it to Arbour Park for the opening game. 
Keith had been supporting the Rebels since the 90's and at Beaconsfield him and John Tebbit were our chairmans unofficial 'bodyguards' at most games, standing alongside him near the halfway line. Me and Keith were at opposite ends of the political spectrum but what I like about football is that once you've stopped bashing each other over the head with your parties manifestos you have one thing in common: Slough Town 
Me and Keith also shared a passion for Herschel Park. 30 years ago I helped set up Slough Urban Wildlife Group which scrutinised planning applications and tried to encourage the council to make Slough parks a little less like green deserts with a few lollipop trees and mown grass and a bit more friendly for wildlife and more interesting for people.
I don't think people realise just how many acres of parkland Slough has. From my old house in Wiltshire Avenue I could walk a couple of miles through them to get close to the High Street. Being from the Farnham Road end of town I didn't stumble across Herschel Park until I moved into Alpha Street with my dad (well I think he lived there, more often than not he lived in the Alpha Arms).
Herschel Park is one of Slough's hidden gems. A Grade II Listed garden near the town centre it was originally built in 1842 by Sir Jospeh Paxton as a pleasure garden for the Victorian houses built in front of it. By the 1980's the park was in need of some serious love with its two ponds silted up. We organised some work parties, even held a mini festival then along came Graham McCall who begin putting plans together for the park and the piece of landfill that was fast becoming a nature reserve which would also act as a noise buffer against the M4.
With £2.7million funding from the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery Fund and support from the friends and volunteers the park has been completely restored. There’s a Nature Reserve and all sorts of events throughout the year, along with self-guided trails, including a tree trail and a history trail.
It's a fitting tribute to Keith that thanks to his and others hard work, Slough have a new ground and Herschel Park is once again a jewel in the towns crown.

Saturday, October 01, 2016


Printed in the programme v Dartford FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round Saturday 1st October 2016. 
After nine wins on the bounce we lost 3-2 in front of 733.

Its autumn and you can almost smell the first round proper of the FA Cup. Just two more wins and well, who knows. But today there's just the small matter of Dartford, a club who are celebrating a decade of playing back in their home town.
Slough are not only on a fantastic run, but also recently seem to be pitted against teams that have either gone bust, lost their ground or both – Leamington, Cambridge City, Hayes and Yeading and Dartford who just like us, spent 14 years homeless before moving into the impressive Princes Park.
10 years ago they were playing in the Ryman North but since their homecoming have powered up the pyramid with their green roof and recycling systems, even spending three seasons in the Conference before being relegated to the Conference South in 2015.
I only visited their old Watling Street ground once as a 15 year old. I remember a fine old non league stadium packed to the rafters for a tasty FA Trophy game which we unfortunately lost 4-1.
10 years ago I also turned to them in my programme notes for some inspiration amongst the bleak situation our club found ourselves in. Our old ground Wexham Park was becoming a wildflower meadow and Slough Council had voted against even talking to us. Thankfully times and councillors change, some even went to visit Princes Park with our chairman to see how they did it. And here we are pinching ourselves that we are back in Slough and as of Monday night, adding a thick dollop of 'we are top of the league' icing to the cake.
In the wake of the Bradford City fire and Hillsborough disaster, Dartford, like so many clubs, needed to either relocate or upgrade their facilities. Their board went for the latter option. Large sums of money were spent on planning and design fees, crippling them with interest charges.
At the same time Maidstone United needed to move to realise their dreams of playing in the Football League. Unfortunately this dream bankrupted Maidstone and the ground improvements, which Maidstone had paid for, were sold to Dartford at a cost of around £500,000, which made their debts unmanageable. Watling Street was sold to pay off creditors and Dartford withdrew from the Southern League four games into the 1992–93 season.
As is so often the case, it was the supporters and their 400 strong association who came to the rescue and made sure they had a club to support.
10 years ago I asked Councillor Jeremy Kite, Conservative leader of Dartford Council why they had invested in the club and his words didn't disapoint. 10 years later and we are welcoming him to Arbour Park! He told meTen years ago, Slough Town supporters wrote rather wistfully about the difference between our two clubs. Dartford was about to move into a new multi-million pound stadium provided by the Council and in those heady days it wasn’t a case of wondering WHETHER we could play a part in the wider community, but sifting through the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ways we now could. I don’t remember how the views of the Slough Town faithful reached me but I do remember thinking it was sad that any town or club couldn’t experience the fun and excitement we were enjoying. I wrote a small word or two of encouragement suggesting that things wouldn’t always be bleak and hoping things would change for you. I said then, what I still believe now, that Councils can achieve a lot of their wider objectives - pride in place, healthy living, reliability, education, character - if they put trust in their delivery into the hands of sport. Councils don't need to build social and community infrastructure one pencil and paper clip at a time, it’s already there in people running sports clubs.
“Well, what did I tell you? Good things happen if you wait long enough and having been been pleased to offer a small bit of encouragement to keep alive your (then improbable) hopes for a new ground, here I am a decade later actually visiting it for the FA Cup!!! As Dartford supporters know, some things just take a little time, that’s all.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Printed in the Southern Premier League game v Biggleswade Town Saturday 25th September 2016. We won 3-0 in front of 575.
It was late in the second half. Slough had just scored FA Cup goal number five against Chipstead and the usual big mouths started another one of those catchy 'Rebels' chants. Except this time a few youngsters at the front joined in. I looked around and some Asian lads were also getting in on the act . Blimey, loads of people were having a Slough Town sing-song. And this is when it really hit me - the new ground means that everything changes.
We've long bemoaned our dwindling, ageing support, stuck out on an M4 outpost opposite a service station. It might only be a few miles up the road but it makes a massive difference. Our season ticket sales already tell a tale having sold 240 compared to 138 the season before. At the end of the game, the young Rebel converts wanted to know when the next home game was. Hopefully it wont be long before they are leading the singing and coming up with their own, leaving us old faithful to shuffle off into the corner and give our weary vocal chords a rest.
My parents weren't really into football and if my dad couldn't drop me off, I could at least jump on my bike. I wouldn't have ever taken my life into my hands and cycled up the Farnham Road but Arbour Park is just a short bike ride away from most of the towns estates - even Royal Chalvey.
You only have to glance over to Maidstone to see what can be achieved with a new ground. And if you want to find out how not to run a football club then the old Maidstone United is a good place to start! Overspending to get into the football league, they had to groundshare 40 miles away because their ground didn't meet football league requirements. There was even a plan to relocate to the North East and merge with Newcastle Blue Star but this was rejected by the Football League. They were the last League club to go bust and their homeless youth team had to reform at the basement of the footballing pyramid, playing in the Fourth Division of the Kent County League - effectively relegating them seven leagues. It took 24 years to finally get back to the town they represent. From the ex-Football League carcass with crowds of just a couple of hundred while groundsharing at Sittingbourne, they have powered up the leagues and are now in their first season in the Conference playing in front of 2,000 plus a week on a 3G pitch and have become the heart of their community.
Last Saturday we put another homeless club to the sword. Like all homeless clubs, the fans of Cambridge City have been put though the mill. In January 2006 their owners announced that they had sold their ground to pay off debts and planned to scrap the first team and have City’s reserve side play at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium as a feeder team for United.
As you can imagine this went down like a lead balloon and supporters quickly rallied with a 200 strong public meeting establishing a Supporters Trust. Just 8 weeks later the club had become supporters run and the old board were gone - but unfortunately they still lost their fantastic town centre ground and are now pitched up at St.Ives Town. With no disprespect to what St Ives have achieved, their bobbly pitch and ramshackle ground 17 miles from Cambridge is far from ideal. Crowds really reach 200 and on Saturday over half must have come from Slough. Still, they have a new ground lined up and would be playing there now if it wasnt for one anti social neighbour with too much time and money on her hands trying to stop the move on some obscure planning technicality. We hope the success of Maidstone and the resurgence of Slough, can keep the Cambridge City supporters spirits up.
As for us Rebels; back home, top of the league, seven wins on the bounce and into the 3rd qualifying round of the FA Cup, we haven't had so much to sing about for a very long time.

Thursday, September 01, 2016


Printed in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying round  v Chipstead on Non League Day Saturday 3rd September 2016.We won 6-1 in front of 472.

Well that was some home-coming. A sell out crowd of 1,401 (where did the extra one come from?) in our fantastic new stadium with plenty more unable to get tickets. A 2-1 victory in the sunshine after being a goal down. Electric signs announcing the game as you came off the M4, twitter on #RebelsReturn meltdown. Eight deep at the bar and not because of the usual reason that Beaconsfield bar staff had gone out for a fag at half time. Fans old and new, loads of youngsters – you've got to say after nearly 14 years in exile the only way is up for Slough Town. And you could see from some of the old faded Slough tops why club-shop Sue was doing such a brisk trade in merchandise.

Our joint managers Unders and Bakes in their programme notes made it quite clear that without our chairman Steve Easterbrook none of this would have happened. And where was he when I arrived at half one to flog Trust membershipis? On car-park duty! When I left at 6 he was clearing up. Did he see any of the game? Did any of our supporters who volunteer to make our club tick and took on the enormous task of making sure the day went smoothly see more than glimpse of the action?

My only complaint was that it was all over so quick and there were plenty of people I didn't see. But guess what. It's all happening again. Even better the Football Gods have made sure we have an FA Cup tie at home on Non League Day. Now in its 6th season, its become part of the footballing calendar. As they put it "Always scheduled to coincide with an international break, Non League Day produces a platform for clubs to promote the importance of affordable volunteer led community football." So instead of listening to moaning Premier League managers, smaller clubs can grab the spotlight and find ways to entice people to their games. That it's not all about the glamour (and expense) of the Premier League - and that football exists away from TV screens. Crowds often triple but the million dollar question is - how do you keep some of those people for more than just a day? Having a swanky new stadium near the middle of town with the town playing attractive football should help.

What i've also been really impressed with is the link up with St.Josephs School which our academy players will attended as part of their sixth form education. It's just another important part of the jigsaw that will really put Slough Town back on the map.

So why not be part of the story? Fantastic if you can cheer from the terraces, but how about some volunteering? Join the Slough Town Supporters Trust, sign up to the 500 club lottery, help out on matchdays. You never know, you might even meet your future spouse. Or sell a golden goal ticket to David Brent when he turns up to his first game.

The last time I saw Chipstead play they spoilt the AFC Wimbledon party. It was the Dons first ever competitive league match, after the FA thoughtfully gave MK Dons their place in the Football League. With a crowd of over 4,000 and hundreds unable to get a ticket (sound familiar?) it was heading for a draw until in the 84th minute Chipstead scored to make it 2-1. Let's hope they haven't got any ideas of spoiling our week long celebrations today. Still, isn't it ironic that after such a helping hand from the football authorities and millions spent on a ground and players, that MK Dons are now playing at the same level as AFC Wimbledon who have been propelled up the leagues by the thousands of volunteer hours from their fans. Or was it thanks to the footballing Gods? 

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Printed in our first game back in Slough for nearly 14 years. Bank Holiday Monday 29th August 2016 v Hayes and Yeading United. Played in front of 1,401 people we won 2-1

Nothing would change in this world if it wasn't for the doers and dreamers, the people who carry on with what they believe in when others have thrown in the towel. Those were the words I spoke at the funeral of Mr.Slough Town Chris Sliski, who tragically died before he could see this day. But they could equally apply to our chairman Steve Easterbrook who along with others behind the scenes have gone about building our club back up brick by brick rather than waving the magic cash wand and promising the earth. Steve no doubt felt he was banging his head against a brick wall in the fight to get Slough Town back to the town it represents. But he never gave up and now here we are at Arbour Park.

I've always said how much of a monumental effort, mainly from volunteers, takes place every week so we can watch 90 minutes of football; so I hate to think of the years that have been put in to make sure we are finally playing back in the borough of Slough after nearly 14 years absence. Steve Easterbrook deserves a knighthood for the work he has done, but he will probably need to make a substantial donation to the party in power for that to happen.

It's worth remembering that there very nearly wasn't a Slough Town. As we left Wexham Park and began our nomadic journey, we spiralled down the leagues. In our last season in the Ryman Premier we lost one game 8-1 at home to Bromley while our 9-0 defeat away to AFC Wimbledon sealed our fate to play at our lowest level ever. At an away game in Chelmsford our manager told us another five players had left as he named himself and any Slough fan who had a pulse on the subs bench. If that relegation wasn't bad enough we nearly slipped down again to the Dog and Duck League saved only by the whistle by another team higher up the non league footballing pyramid going bust. As we protested outside the Town Hall one councillor, in a fit of civic pride, told us we should merge with Windsor. No money, no ground, no support from the council. It looked bleak. One of those who refused to give up was Chris Sliski. When ever I felt like throwing in the towel he would feed me nuggets of encouragement and help make that five hour round trip from Brighton to watch Slough get beat once again seem worthwhile. Luckily us Rebels developed a backs-against-the-wall mentality fuelled by a few beers, that made a great day out too often spoilt by the 90 minutes of football!

For nearly fifty years Chris supported his club Slough Town and helped shape and build it through its many ups and downs. He always seemed to be there with his trade mark ‘boot’, wading through nettles to rescue another mis-kicked ball. His funeral was as near to a Slough Town state one as you're gonna get. Another legend SuperKev 'the physio' McGoldrick who has been with the club an incredible 30 years was one of those who carried his coffin because as he put it 'Chris carried this club on his shoulders for so long, the least I can do is carry him on mine.' So its fitting that his wife Julie will be kicking the first ball at the new ground just before kick off. Let's hope she doesn't stick it in a nettle patch. There are other supporters who put their heart and soul into the club like Dave the Programme, and later in the season I hope to do a memorial wall of those Rebels who have passed away since we've been homeless.

But today is a day for celebration. Despite me leaving Slough nearly 30 years ago, and in possession of not just a Slough season ticket but a rather more expensive Brighton one thanks to a nagging older son, I remain a Slough Town fan.

A town that has always been a melting pot of people in a world far too riven by others hatred for anyone thinking or looking different. So what better way to bring them all together, under one roof in a new community facility for the whole of Slough. In a climate where services are being cut to the bone, this is something councillor Rob Anderson and the council should be proud of. Football is one of the best ways of breaking down barriers, so wherever you are from, however long you have supported the team, be this your first match of 500th, let's get behind the team and make those who can't be with us today proud.


Check out some fantastic photos of the day by Gary House

Monday, August 22, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v St.Ives Town on Saturday 20th August 2016. We won 3-0 in front of 349 - our last game at Beaconsfield before moving back to Slough.

I still haven't forgiven Yeovil for knocking Slough out of the FA Cup 36 years ago. Their charming fans also tried to knock seven bells out of the hundreds of Slough supporters that made the trip to their lopsided old ground, with grown men partaking in the Somerset sport 'gob-on-a-youngster'. They also broke our hearts with a last minute goal which meant that once again we missed out on reaching the Third Round of the FA Cup. At least they lost 3-0 to Norwich in the next round.

And so on a hot August night as my family walked back to our holiday apartment, it seemed rude not to follow the unmistakeable player shouts and go and see Swanage Town and Herston take on Yeovil Under 18's in the home clubs last friendly of the season.

While Swanage's Dorset Premier League hasn’t started yet, many Step 5 and 6 clubs have already been thrown to the FA Cup lions. So many clubs want to enter, its a tribute to the glamour it still attaches at this level – and of course the prize money. But it did mean the FA Cup extra preliminary round seem to start about 20 seconds after the FA Cup final. Swanage are too low down the pyramid pecking order to enter but want promotion this season back to the Wessex League where instead of playing against Bridport Reserves they will play Bridport first team.

I had intended to spend the first day of our holiday traveling to watch Bridport in the cup but I sacked off three hours on public transport to travel just 44 miles for getting sun burnt on the beach instead. Bridport had been most accommodating with my inane questions and really at this level twitter is such an essential means of communicating all clubs should be using it. I can also spot a marketing opportunity for Swanage Railway, which was re-opened by volunteers after British Rail thoughtfully ripped up the tracks in 1972. Now its once again linked to the National Rail Network and seeing their love for retro, it would be good if they could start to put on those football special trains again so it doesn't take all day to get not very far.

Swanages ground could do with a spring clean and a Football Foundation grant but its pretty decent with loads of space to develop. The long seated stand could do with well, being replaced with a new one, with its school assembly seats and bolts that dig into your back; not that the 30 punters that paid £3 to watch the game cared about my discomfort. In the end it finished 2-2 and I managed to refrain from shouting such classics as 'cider' 'sheep shaggers' and Worzels because I'm all grown up now.

After reading The Secret Footballers compellingly brutal 'Access All Areas' book - brutal in its honesty and how the beautiful game ain't so pretty after all you wonder what's in store for these Yeovil 18 year olds. Just how many will make the professional grade?

And if any Yeovil youngters do make it, well as the Secret Footballer puts it “Footballers are still being treated like highly paid babies off the pitch while expected to show leadership and decision-making qualities under pressure on the pitch. When the merry-go round finally stops and we step off, is it any wonder that we hardly know how to cope with marriages and bills and debts and responsibilities? We're all speeding towards divorce, addiction, depression or bankruptcy."

Blimey, maybe its best to stick to playing with two jumpers for goalposts. 

Thursday, August 04, 2016


Printed in the first programme of the season v St.Neots Town Saturday 13th August 2016. We won 2-0 in front of 345 people.

There is of course only one thing to write about, but I want to save it for the Big Day. Nearly 14 years since leaving Wexham Park, Slough Town are finally going back to Slough – hopefully on August Bank Holiday against another nomadic club who've returned home.

Instead, I want to spoil the party mood to talk about the threat to lower league football.

It was another of those football summers, but apart from the other Home Nations games and Iceland, it was a bit dull won by a team led by a spoilt brat who hardly won a game. England were even more dreadful than usual, but they've been rubbish for so long no one really seemed to care. I hardly saw a Three Lions flag flapping, we've come to expect so little. However, when it comes to solutions to the national teams perennial problems, it's the lower leagues that get punished for the FA's failings and Premier League greed.

The inclusion of Academy teams in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy is seen by many as the thin end of the wedge – a Trojan Horse to get B teams playing in the football league. The FA Cup is seen by big clubs as an irritant they could do without so the FA is scrapping FA Cup replays from the quarter finals. With an average of 1 replay in this round this will really make a big difference to the fixture congestion that apparently so hampers the England national side. What it will mean is a bit less money in the pot to be shared by the 32 non league sides that reach the first round proper. To cut down on the number of mid-week games, a new Division 3 has been proposed. This would mean the National League (or Conference in old money) would get its wish for more promotion places with up to eight clubs getting promoted. Virgin Media is also challenging the 3pm rule, which states that no live football can be shown at 3pm on a Saturday. Finally, that old winter break chestnut is once again back on the agenda. Forget that most lower league clubs get their largest gate of the season on either Boxing Day or New Years Day and football fans need a winter break from mince pies, mad aunts and endless repeats on TV. 

And what of the Olympic Legacy? Just two years ago we welcomed the world to an awe inspiring contest that made you proud to be British, now we seem to have stuck two fingers up at the world and returned to a 'Life on Mars' time with some retro Thatcher thrown in. Our grassroots football struggles with souring pitch hire costs and terrible facilities as everything that is not a statutory service is seen as an expense we can ill afford.

So it really is a testament to those those behind the scenes, that against this backdrop, Slough Town has finally got itself a brand spanking new sports stadium for the whole community. I'm not sure how many games I can make, but I couldn't resist the £100 Euro-deal season ticket. It's certainty cheaper than the £800 I shelled out for me and my eldest to watch Brighton and Hove Albion, whose games are moved at whim so often by TV that I can still stand on the non league terraces (see modern football isn't all bad). I've got my Slough Town Trust membership on line and I’m raring to go – well apart from missing today’s game cos i'm on holiday. Hopefully I’ve persuaded my missus that she would like to visit Bridport for the day so I can catch them play in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup against Alresford Town where replays apparently wont ruin England’s chances of winning the World Cup in Qatar. 

Non-Premier League football faces an overwhelming number of threats. Whether it be football being shown live on TV on a Saturday at 3pm, the scrapping of FA Cup replays, League 3 and B teams; football mimics society where the have-a-lots don't just want even more of the spoils but blame those at the bottom of the barrel for any of their failings.

In this climate you have to be so much more than just a football club if you are to not just survive but prosper. A new ground in Slough in a community stadium on a 3G pitch will give the club the chance to show just what it is capable of. I can't wait. 

* To find out more about all those proposals go to 


Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Stratford Town on Tuesday 16th August 2016. We drew 0-0 in front of 336

Two games of football in two days; both promotion challenges, but the contrast couldn't have been more stark.
On Friday night I watched Brighton demolish Fulham in their swanky stadium in front of over 28,500. Taking my sons ten year old mate set me back £22.50.
On Saturday I was entertained by Southwick who might have blown their chance of back to back promotions after a 2-2 draw against Midhurst and Easebourne in front of just 16 people.
Just a few miles and nine levels seperate Southwick and Brighton and while the Albion are chasing the Premiership Promised Land, Southwick are hoping they can reclaim a place in the top division of the Southern Combination Premier Division (Sussex County in old money) after a long absence.
To say Southwick have fallen on some hard times is an understatement. At one point they also fell on hard drugs, with a former chairman sent down for a long stretch. Changing their trading name, meant liquidation and then relegation under FA rules. So this proper old school club that once spent time in the Isthmian Premier League were in Division 3 of the Sussex County.
They play at Old Barn Way and the ground unfortunately apes its name and is need of a good spring clean. They were the first club in the Sussex County to get floodlights back in 1968 and it used to have a stand but this was burnt down. A £100,000 grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund a few years back got the club new changing rooms, a directors lounge and rather bizarrely a press box (which is now in a right sorry state).
Funded by the Premier League the Football Stadia Trust dishes out capital grants to clubs from the Football League down to the lower levels of the National League System to improve safety and to enable them to satisfy FA’s over the top ground grading requirements. Last season that budget was just £6 million.
At Southwick if you are so inclined, you can combine your ground hopping with a bit of train-spotting, spoilt by a carbuncle of a bridge. The architects of such monstrosities should have to live opposite so it spoils their view every time they look out the window.
Last season they won promotion back to Division Two. A few of us set off to the promotion party game only to find out they did it without kicking a ball because the other team couldn't field a team! This season a late charge has seen them get close to the a very different Premier Division than the one Brighton are hoping to join.
Kick off was delayed while a sub run across the pitch with a coffee, kids played on a bog of a pitch before the game and there was no programme cos the printer had broken.
Just 16 punters paying £4 to get in wont even cover the refs and linos expenses so they've got nearly as many phone masts on their floodlights as fans and luckily they have a clubhouse open every day where many ignored the game for a beer, putting valuable coppers into the coffers.
As for Midhurst, they had a complete new team from the week before so despite being third from bottom put in a proper shift, making for an entertaining game. I thought it was to avoid relegation but one of their officials said that this was unlikely as teams in Division 3 grounds weren't up to scratch – well apart from AFC Varndeanians who play at Withdean stadium.
The gulf might be immense but the Southwicks of this world are the bedrock of the game and I don’t want to bang on about Jamie Vardy but it was only six seasons ago he was playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels. And it wasn’t so long ago that Brighton nearly fell through the Football League door.
While the Premiership sloshing around in so much cash they could let everyone in free next season, grassroots football is suffering a thousand council cuts. Would it be too much to ask to hand out a bit more to the Football Stadia Trust so clubs can improve their grounds and youngsters don't have to play on mud baths with no proper facilities.
And now that there seems to be a TV rule that Brighton aren't allowed to play games on a Saturday at 3pm its worth checking out some lower league football with a pint in hand and see how the other half live.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kings Lynn on Saturday 16th April 2016. We won our last home game of the season 2-0 in front of 338 and hopefully our last game at Beaconsfield, as we will be moving into our new ground next season

My Slough Town report for the season has arrived and it makes for grim reading.
There was a time when I wouldn't miss a friendly, would travel up for trust meetings, fun days, infact if someone was blowing up an amber and blue balloon, I would be there with my puff.
But this season, I'm not sure i've even reached double figures watching the Rebels. I made it to the trips to Kings Lynn, Dorking Wanderers and Basingstoke. I've got my six-hours-on-train ticket to Merthyr and am looking forward to see how their 3G pitch plays out cos i'm sad like that.
It was the first time in years that I didn't get a season ticket and didn't buy a new top. A combination of work, community pub and children have conspired against me. Even more sacrilegious is that I now have an overpriced Brighton and Hove Albion season ticket thanks to my son.
But it really isn't the same. Yes, there was nearly 30,000 at Brighton v Burnley (despite it being second v first, two opposing supporters were still managing to moan to each other about their clubs). It was a lovely spring day, great atmosphere and Brighton were denied 3 points by a last gasp Burnley goal, that would have put them top of the league. But it didn't gut churn me as much as a last minute goal would have done against Slough. I didn't really care when the pantomime figure Joey Barton trod on players and wound up the crowd. I just thought everyone would like a Barton type player in their team and that people take football far too seriously.
I can still remember that Yeovil cheer nearly 40 years ago when they scored with a few minutes to go to knock us out of the FA Cup and deny us a place in the third round for the first time ever and i'm still slightly peeved about losing to Basingstoke in the FA Cup earlier in the season.
To be honest, I can feel my life force being sucked out of me every time I walk into the Beaconsfield clubhouse and being in our new ground actually in Slough will make things a lot easier for me – as well as bring in new supporters from the town. (it might also liven up the forum which reminds me of a few old blokes in a pub arguing over the price of a stamp). It would also be good if a few more saved all that hot air and wrote an article or two for the programme instead.
I've watched from afar as the Supporters Trust have really stepped up, increased membership and had a good presence in the town. Photos of the ground taking shape have put a spring in my step. Forgot the fact that for the past couple of seasons, the squeaky bum play-off/relegation battles have been replaced with boring old consolidation. Just what the doctor ordered!
As new Brighton fans need reminding that their club lost their ground thanks to a dodgy owner and were moments away from being relegated from the football league and that they mounted an impressive direct action campaign to get their new ground. As time goes by, new Rebels will not know the basket-case that was Slough Town FC. No ground, no money, no players losing 9-0, 8-0, bucket collections from other fans to keep us going. We were teetering on the brink.
So there's much to be proud of, and the fans that have stuck with the club, should give themselves a big pat on the back. A new ground will breathe new life and new supporters into the club and will at least give us a realistic shot at being in the Conference South in the next few seasons. Oh and as we are still waiting for that first ever appearance in the FA Cup 3rd round can I put in a request for that to happen before I go senile and forget that I was ever a Slough Town fan.
See you next season (hopefully, sometimes). 

Thursday, March 31, 2016



Printed in the Southern League Premier Division programme v Chippenham Town on Saturday 2nd April 2016. We won 1-0 in front of 255 people.

Lets be honest. Most of us cant see beyond next weekends football match, forget big occasions and are more concerned that we cant find our car-keys than climate change. We complain about games being postponed but don’t like the idea of artificial pitches. We don't like pubs closing but buy cheap beer from supermarkets. Politicians are even worse. They know they have a very limited time to change their world – and they will only really try and change it if looks like its a vote winner. We have an education system that is obsessed with measuring everything and heading the same way of the housing free-for-all. In short not many of us really do much future planning and many football clubs don't seem to do any planning at all.

So take a bow Sweden, for their
Minister of the Future. Not some Dr.Who Time Lord Sketch but headed by Kristina Persson. But the idea is a simple one: for Sweden to remain competitive tomorrow, it might, unfortunately, have to take unpopular steps today—and since politics and politicians, given elections and interests, tend to focus on the short-term, a watchdog for the long-term was needed. It's easier said than done. Can you think of a politician willing to risk re-election for a better future they cannot benefit from? Thought not.

Ms Persson explains: “'The ministry is organized in three strategic groups. The first is concerned with the future of work, the second with the green transition and competitiveness, while the third one is what we call "global cooperation." Each strategic group brings together people with different backgrounds. Some come from the business community, others from civil society, trade unions, and academia. This variety is of the uttermost importance as the questions we are trying to address are complex, and finding solutions needs the cooperation of all of society’s stakeholders.
Let’s take into consideration the "future of work". There is no point trying to resist technological change and the expected automation of a great number of jobs in the coming years. Such an attitude would be short sighted. So the real question is not how we can try to delay the process but how can we best prepare? And again, how can we guarantee that Sweden’s unemployment rate remains low and the level of social welfare the same as today? You see, these are not easy questions and if we want to find answers, we better start working now.
We live in a world that is transforming at an unprecedented speed, a world that is constantly challenging and disrupting the old ways we are used to do things. Given the context, I believe that if politics wants to remain relevant and be useful to citizens, it needs to change its approach. It needs to experiment with new ways and new solutions. This is what we are doing at the ministry and it's quite ground breaking. A lot of colleagues from other countries have expressed interest in my work and I hope a similar institution will soon be developed in other parts of the world.”

So what the hell as this got to do with football - an immediate win-at-all costs results business. Mr.Big comes along and waves his wad and we don't care if its all built on sand. What can possibly go wrong. Brentford might be working out victory from a mathematical viewpoint but what about those clubs that are working hard behind the scenes for the long-term benefit of their team. That might be investing in infrastructure, 3G pitches, marketing strategies, scouting systems, academies, renovating the clubhouse, It might be adopting a model that has loads of different income streams so you are not just reliant on football.

The Minister of Future certainly has bigger fish to fry but we can learn from them because it is those clubs that plan properly for the future that will flourish while others will be footnotes in the football history books. So look beyond another defeat and see victory in the future!


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Hungerford Town on Monday 28th March 2016. We lost 2-0 in front of 319 people. 

Last weekend Haywards Heath Football Club won promotion to the Southern Combination League Premier Division after winning an incredible 24 league games in a row. After a 24 years absence from Sussex footballs top flight an official from the Sussex FA tweeted that they were sleeping giants. While there's no doubt that Haywards Heath have been underachieving for many seasons, could they really be described as a sleeping giant? A small commuter town in mid Sussex town with a population of 23,000? Surely one to file under football hyperbole.

I've often heard of Slough being referred to as sleeping giants. Our many seasons in the south west and central Southern divisions playing village teams (and often losing to them) where we would outnumber the home support – yes, we were definitely a big fish in quite a small teacup. But when you look at clubs in our league like Kettering and Weymouth, who I think would both fit in the football league, are we really a sleeping giant or more a drunk bloke that's sobered up after years of being on the lash and is finally turning his life around.

Are Leicester City a sleeping giant? Not according to Charlie Stillitano, a US sports Executive who recently held talks with 'top' Premier League clubs about the pre-season International Champions Cup. Stillitano met with the chiefs from Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool to discuss this closed tournament, where he admitted a 'restructuring of the Champions League' was also discussed.
He recently told US satellite radio station SiriusXM : “What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]? Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It’s a wonderful, wonderful story – but you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view, too...I guess they don’t have a birthright to be in it every year but it’s the age-old argument: US sports franchises versus what they have in Europe.
"There are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful elements to relegation and promotion and there are good arguments for a closed system. This is going to sound arrogant and it’s the furthest thing from it … but suddenly when you see the teams we have this summer in the International Champions Cup you are going to shake your head and say, ‘Isn’t that the Champions League?’ 
Of course the European Super League idea has been around for as long as 'When Saturday Comes' which just celebrated its 30th birthday and is really worth a read if you like your football coverage a bit more down to earth than the usual over-hyped nonsense. In its editorial it said 'The one thing uniting the various oligarchs, potentates and venture capitalists who have bought into English club football over the past decade is that none is remotely interested in sporting principles. If the shake up we've seen at the top level of the Premier League this season was to become a regular occurrence, with former Champions League habitués continuing to fall well short of the top four, then some owners might come to see the appeal of a self-selecting new league free of the upstart over-achievers who don't even have merchandising outlets in Tokyo and New York.'

Forget that Leicester (who aren't exactly short of a bob or two) have brought some much needed unpredictability to the Premier League. To the money-men these upstarts have upset the apple-cart and threaten their long-term investments. Ignore the back pages of the tabloids, this is Football for the Financial Times. Where the best-branded teams in the world shouldn't have to sully themselves with those who haven't worked out that flogging more tops in China is a much better way of deciding who gets to play in the Champions League

* Since i wrote this Leicester have been invited to play in the International Champions Cup

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division match v Weymouth on Saturday 19th March 2016 We drew 0-0 in front of 320.

Me and my big mouth. 'You should support your local team' I droned on and on to my eldest as he flirted with Arsenal and Barcelona. 'You've got no chance of me taking you' as I made him a Slough Town mascot or took him to the Dripping Pan and Eastbourne Town. For once he actually listened and now I've got a £900 bill for two Brighton and Hove Albion season tickets – the price increasing because my eldest is now 10! With my last Slough season ticket costing me £120 that price has not only made my eyes water but means we will now be eating porridge for breakfast, lunch and tea for the next couple of months.

Football clubs know they can get away with charging so much because football fans stick up for their clubs more than they do their spouses. And then ten thousand Liverpool fans walked out of a game on the 77 minute in protest about increased ticket prices and their team imploded and the owners changed their tune. A few weeks later, after a long-running Football Supporters Federation Twenty's Plenty campaign, the Premiership kindly agreed to put a £30 cap on away fans ticket prices. This was of course helped by a TV deal that is so lucrative they could let away fans in for free. They also acknowledged that without away fans the atmosphere that helps them sell the TV rights is diminished (until they find a way of canned cheering).

Last Sunday Charlton fans held a death march for their club and halted the game with a bouncy ball protest – ironically being on TV helped publicise what is being done to the club by its owners. Forget the fact that Sky had broken league rules by giving Middlesbrough and Charlton fans just 17 days notice that the game was being moved to a Sunday. Writing in Teesside’s Evening Gazette journalist Anthony Vickers described Sky as rolling “a hand-grenade” into the carefully prepared plans of thousands and outlined how fixtures changes leave fans feeling powerless. “That needs addressing urgently. By government intervention if necessary. No other product or service is delivered in such an arbitrary fashion and with no redress. It is a scandal,” writes Vickers.

Leeds have been so incensed with their fixture run around that they threatened to lock the cameras out while FC United of Manchester, set up by Man United fans fed up amongst other things of being dicked around by TV companies, where threatened by the FA when they initially refused to have their FA Cup game moved to a Monday.

Brighton's chief executive argues that the TV money comes in handy and reaches a new TV audience – which is fine, if you disregard all the thousands of fans who turn up week in, week out.
It's like Tescos punishing their regular customers while pandering to the ones that cant be arsed to come to their stores. Eventually the regulars are going to tell you to stuff it up your turnstiles.

So far this season Brighton have had 10 games moved because of TV. Imagine if you had bought tickets for a gig, you'd organise work and travel and then the promoters change the date and time. You would rightly be banging on the ticket office door demanding a refund. Not if you are a football fan. Richard Robinson is a Leeds United fan based in Luton while his son studies at university in Newcastle. Both are season ticket holders at Elland Road. “I am increasingly appalled by the way paying football fans are treated by TV companies. My son, aged 20, is at university in Newcastle and had already booked his train ticket for the Saturday. When the match was changed the ticket was obviously invalid,” says Richard. He contacted the Football League for a refund – “patronising beyond belief” – and Sky. The broadcaster offered merchandise in lieu of a train ticket refund. And it wasn’t even Leeds United gear. “Why would my adult son want a teddy bear of Paul Merson or Matt Le Tissier?” asks Richard. A question to which there is literally no answer.

My answer has always been for fans to tell their clubs to stick it and go and support a local non league team. Then my eldest becomes a Brighton fan and i'm caught with Monday night tickets on a school night that I cant give away, egg on my face, a Slough Town top gathering dust and porridge for tea. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Dunstable Town on Saturday 5th March 2016. We won 1-0 in front of 226

As the ever hopeful Uckfield Town twitter account so rightly pointed out, 'Forget the Old Firm, Manchester and North London derbies. This is the one that matters. The A272 derby away at St Francis Rangers FC.'
And what a derby we had lined up. St. Francis Rangers rock bottom of not only the Southern Combination but probably the worst team in the footballing pyramid. Played 26, lost 26 scored 3 whilst conceding 179!
Just before the season started, their manager and the whole team walked. Since then they've nearly had as many players as goals shipped, with over 100 registered. And they are still getting hammered every week. Ironically as their bad results have continued, their plight has resulted in greater publicity. So when they sacked their third manager of the season, an article by top Sussex non league football journalist Ian Townsend was picked up by Joe Monks, Head of Academy Recruitment at Barnet Football Club. He contacted the club offering to bring his players down to play for Rangers, supported by his coaching staff with Barnet paying wages and expenses.

Now I have never had to drive through a hospital car-park before to get to a game of football but St. Francis Rangers ground is behind Princes Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath. The ground is overlooked by the former Sussex County Lunatic Asylum, now converted into flats – handing one of the former tenants St. Francis Hospital the nickname ‘The Mental Hospital.’

St. Francis Rangers FC themselves was formed in 2002, following the amalgamation of St Francis Hospital and Ansty Rangers. The latter had earlier been formed as a result of a merger between Lindfield Rangers and Ansty FC in 1996. The merger was very much a marriage of convenience: St. Francis were about to be relegated; whilst Ansty Rangers were struggling to achieve the required ground grading because their changing rooms were too far from the pitch. It's a fabulous setting, but playing at the back of the hospital isn't great for crowds unless you could convince doctors to prescribe a bit of non league football medicine to patients. Despite being the highest the club had ever played they average just 36 people – the worst in the league.

There used to be two teams in Uckfield but another marriage of convenience means it is just AFC Uckfield Town that represents the towns senior football – that's when they get to ever play a game. Building a football pitch on a former spring that apparently an old farmer used to bottle, perhaps wasn’t the wisest of moves. Having a ground miles out of Uckfield town centre doesn’t help matters either. Despite promotion last season they average just 53 paying punters.

So the battle lines were drawn and with talk of improving performances could this be the day St Francis picked up a point? Er, no. We had only just got out the car and they were 1-0 down and thanks to some poor goal-keeping it was 4-0 by half time.
Its a big step up from Academy football but for Barnet it makes perfect sense. As the game went on, they started playing some football. They get a penalty to make it 4-1 and that's how it finished. Bobbly pitch on a freezing February, some of them must wonder what they've done to deserve this! 
Its easy to throw in the towel in seasons like this but their chairman, secretary, match secretary, kitman and part time groundsman John Goss and his small team of volunteers deserves credit for carrying on. Being so bad has meant crowds have improved as people like me wonder just what is going on. But just like lower league clubs up and down the country they need more people to get involved. Maybe that person could be you?

For a more indepth article on St.Francis head to the fantastic David Bauckham blog