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

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A SEASON TO TREASURE

To be printed in the National League South game v Eastbourne Borough Monday 22nd April 2019 
 

Luckily the football season ends just as my work goes into overdrive. Tomatoes need watering, weeds need pulling, fruit needs picking....the summer is a blur of vegetableness until it all calms down in time for the FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round to get under way.

But what a mighty fine football season it's been. My eldests team won the Under 14 Sussex County League Division Three although I did spend far too many Sunday mornings in Crawley. After a previous season where he picked up two red cards and a seven match ban, he has now learnt to tackle boys twice his size with just enough aggression not to be shown a red. Must have been all that chocolate Clubshop Sue force-fed him when he was a baby.

I went to Wembley to see Brighton but who are now hanging onto their Premier League status by their fingertips.

As for Slough's Towns first season in the National South; well its been pretty sensational. A bit of a flirt with the play-offs we have never had to look nervously over our shoulders, had another brilliant cup run, turned over league leaders Woking at their place and I got a romantic weekend away with Kieran in Torquay. 
 
 

As this season comes to an end, I’ve started looking at potential opposition and places to visit for next season – unless of course we are transferred to the National League North.

Dorking Wanderers rise up the pyramid has been phenomenal. Only formed in 1999 they began life in the Crawley and District Football League. We had a fortunate FA Cup victory a few years back at their old ground and now they are bang in the middle of town in the totally revamped Dorking FC stadium which had been derelict but is now the home of the Surrey FA. Their chairman reckons they can reach the football league while the council are pretty pleased with the new place “Meadowbank Park will be a destination venue for decades to come. There’s nothing like it in the local area and to have a football ground in the centre of town these days is truly unique.”

I'm totally confused who will get promoted from the feeder league play-offs as there doesn't seem to enough spaces for everyone, but I hope one of them is Weymouth. That sunny weekend opening game of the Southern Premier League season when we'd just been promoted really felt like Slough were back in the big time.

Coming the other way we've been some tasty trips to savour. After going bankrupt, Maidstone had to begin again so far down the pyramid is was pear-shaped. Starting afresh in the Kent County League Division Four, they also powered up the leagues, eventually moved to a splendid new stadium and spent a few years in the National League before being relegated. The interview with their former manager about just what a tough league the National is highlighted what Slough has to do not just on the pitch but behind the scenes, if it ever wants a piece of that action. Accuse me of a lack of ambition all you like, but we will have to grow our crowds and our volunteer base for a few more years if we are to go up and compete.

I love a trip along the south coast line and Havent and Waterlooville will do nicely and somewhere i've never been, apart from waiting 15 minutes at Havent station for a connection to Bournemouth. I'm not sure that counts. I've also never seen Slough play at Aldershot, who after a couple of seasons around the National League Play-offs are once again struggling financially.

I was hoping Maidenhead would be relegated for some top derby ding-dongs. Our league paths just never seem to cross but their manager Alan Devonshire is a force of nature and works wonders at smaller part time clubs.

You might think that i'm some ground-hopping obsessive Slough Town junky who would travel to a Manor Farm in Bristol and schlep to Sholing on a school night, but the fact is that being cultured I like to see the sights and sounds this fair Isle has to offer. Well at least some of the taverns. See you next season you lovely Rebels boys and girls. 
 
 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

FROM WITHDEAN TO WEMBLEY

Printed in the National League South game v Welling United on Saturday 13th April 2019 We won 1-0 in front of 801

It started in front of 106 people at Haywards Heath and nearly nine months later, who'd have thought I would still be going to FA Cup games; swapping Wembley over Hungerford Town's Bulpit Lane. Brighton were in the semi-finals of the FA Cup, a competition I'd been watching since August. As soon as the final ends, it feels like the extra preliminary round begins again. The Albion had drawn the short straw playing Man City – although they got so much luck beating Millwall in the previous round, perhaps that was fair.
If I’m honest I didn't think I’d enjoy it as much as I did, or be as disappointed with the defeat at the end. 'From Withdean to Wembley' sang the Brighton fans but the bigger picture was that just over 20 years ago they were homeless and close to tumbling out the football league. 

As thousands piled onto trains, there was a real sense of occasion. I've also changed my mind about it being wrong to have semi-finals at Wembley. For clubs like Brighton, Watford and Wolves the chance to play at the national stadium is one the supporters relish. Does it diminish the competition or the final? Not as much as the top six having so much financial clout that they are there so often it becomes stale.
It was fantastic walking up Wembley Way although in other counties it would be a boulevard to be proud of. This being England, it's becoming high rise hell, hemmed in on all sides with cranes jostling for position and people trying to flog half and half scarves. 
 
Man City are the football equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters, but its what's happening in the lower leagues, highlighted by Kieran Maquire's excellent Price of Football detective work that's so worrying. Tranmere Rovers lost £45,000 a week in The National League last season when they were promoted via the play-offs. Colchester United lost £65,000 a week in 2017/18 as total losses over the years increased to nearly £27 million. Fleetwood Town lost £90,000 a week while Stadium MK Group Ltd, lost over £100,000 a week – not that anyone would shed a tear if the Franchise went out of business. 
 
Infact the last time I was at Wembley, I saw Rochdale lose to Stockport County in the Division Two play-off finals. Stockport were being bank-rolled at the time which rankled Dale fans who felt their club was being penalised for being prudent. They weren't wrong and it wasn't long after, that Stockports financial bubble burst and they now find themselves playing in the National League North.

Supporters don't help, with impossible demands that help bankrupt the clubs they love, but the football authorities need to seriously get a grip and create a level playing field where sporting achievement not financial muscle is the winner. Alternatively, one journalist has come up with a cunning plan – a trophy for clubs finishing seventh in the Premier League! Johnny Nicholson writing for Football 365 said 'Seventh is the very best 14 clubs can hope to achieve at the start of every season, so the team who resides there at the end should be awarded some sort of trophy for that success. The top six are now protected, not by a glass ceiling, but by a reinforced steel door that would take many hundreds of millions of pounds per season for many seasons to blow open. Without some sort of best-of-the-rest award, the majority of the league now has nothing to play for, nothing to achieve apart from survival; not living, just existing, nothing but existing. ...We might come to the conclusion that the whole thing is a pointless charade, not worthy of our money and time. And we might realise that the Premier League isn’t even about football, it is just about the money. So shut up and give us a Seventh Trophy, yes it would symbolise the dysfunction at the heart of your whole business, but for a while it might take our minds off pulling the whole shameless edifice down and building something that works for the many, not the few.'   

I'm sure Wembley can find a slot to make this happen. But now my Wembley whistle has been truly whetted I want to see Slough play there. I missed out when we lost to a last minute Walton and Hersham goal in front of 41,000 in 1973. Seeing as we are unlikely to reach an FA Cup semi final anytime soon, how about having a real go of the FA Trophy? 'From Windsor to Wembley with Beaconsfield inbetween', is a catchy little number.




Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A SEASON TO SAVOUR

Printed in the National League South game v St.Albans City Saturday 30th March 2019  We drew 2-2 in front of 744 people.

It was my ever first trip to Canvey Island. Once a go-to holiday destination, now most of the mobile holiday homes have become peoples permanent homes. But this visit wasn't for some nostalgic kiss-me-quick day-trip but a mission to see Slough Town cross the waters for the first time ever to play Concord Rangers. It would be fair to say that Concord, named after the nearby windswept beach, are punching well above their weight. The fact that there are two teams in Canvey with a population of just under 40,000 seems just a little insane. A few years back Concord did approach Canvey about a possible merger, but they were spurned and have now overtaken them as the premier side of the island. But just what is the future for a small island with two senior non league teams competing for players, supporters and sponsorship? And with climate chaos around the corner, what is the future for an area that is below sea level in places and still suffers occasionally from flooding? It's marshes have some of the highest levels of biodiversity in Western Europe and i'm all for football bio-diversity but two senior league clubs seems as bonkers as having clueless public school boys in charge of the country.

I don't like to criticise lower league clubs as I know a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into keeping them going, but Concord has to be the worst ground in the league and for once Slough didn't travel in the numbers we have become accustomed too (still about 70 of us tho). Nice and safe and mid table, with the departure of some of our senior players, you would have thought our season would fizzle out. Not a chance - the last few results have shown that our managers and players want to finish as high up the table as possible in our first, very successful season at this level for years.

As the container ships passed by and the wind swirled, play off hopefuls Concord got dealt a good deal of fortune with the harsh sending off of Guy Hollis (later rescinded) then nicked a goal in the dying seconds of the first half. Another Concord goal in the second and a terrible half of football looked over and out until Lets-all-have-a-Party-Francis Amartey's top class goal – which as someone quipped was too good to grace such a game. You'd have thought I would have learnt my lesson after Sholing, but I needed to rush to get back home to a party of my whom and I missed Sloughs equaliser and, as it turns out the party, as all that sea air made me fall asleep at home in a chair. That will teach me for getting old. 

                                       Container Ship Ahoy!

Next up Woking. As the Brighton train heaved with people going to protest about Brexit, it took an hour just to get to Lewes. Our leaders tell us leaving Europe will be a breeze, but we can't even run a train service. I finally found Slough fans in pubs in a high street which makes Sloughs look thriving. Slough hadn't played at Woking since 1997 but for some reason I'd never been to the ground.

Woking's Kingfield looks like they've stolen a football league stand while no one was looking and plonked it behind one of the goals. Unlike Dulwich which is now more of a street food carnival and dog show, they are not maximising their revenue with just one bar – with average crowds of 1,600 that's a lot of queuing. Today 2543 packed in to see the league leaders take on the mighty Slough. With only the Thames to cross for this game, we were in fine voice and arrived in numbers, some even deciding it was quicker to walk than get the train. It wasn't always thus. In 1985, for an FA Cup qualifying round game Slough fans recalled arriving at the ground and no one being available to run the bar! With Wokings agreement, Jock who used to help behind the bar at Wexham Park stepped in, while the Rebels helped themselves to a 5-1 victory in front of 340 people.  

The National South is a tough old league with no team a push-over, but in terms of resources and facilities there's a chasm and its hats off to teams like Concord, East Thurrock and I would add Slough that they more than compete week in, week out. For the Rebels they put in a masterclass, closing down Woking, protecting a 1-0 lead and coming away with all 3 points. It's been a brilliant season, and you've got to say the future for the amber and blue is looking very bright indeed. 

                                    Anyone missing a stand?
 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

EARTH UNITED

Printed in the National League South game v Billericay on Saturday 16th March 2019. We won 2-1 in front of 759 people.

I love football. I love watching the game with a group of people who have little in common apart from the fact that we are from Slough, often like a beer and make some noise. I hate politics or the kind where we are at each others throats, where Brexit has become an all encompassing drone.
And yet we seem to be happy to ignore what's really coming round the corner.
We depend on so many of earth's life support systems, but it would only take one of them - the soil, aquifers, rainfall, ice sheets, pattern of winds, pollinators, biological diversity - to fail to trigger catastrophe. When the Arctic sea ice melts beyond a certain point this could render runaway climate breakdown unstoppable.
So forget Brexit, the collapse of our insect populations would give any sane society pause for thought and yet we carry on like the bees and other insects that pollinate our food are just annoying buzzing things we can live without.
The world produces an estimated 10 tonnes of plastic a second and our oceans are being suffocated in the stuff. About 5 trillion pieces currently float in surface waters, mostly in the form of tiny, easy-to-swallow fragments that have ended up in the guts of albatrosses, sea turtles, plankton, fish and whales. We then eat some of these fish and so end up eating plastic (which is probably more nutritious than some of the grub served up at football grounds.)
Any sane society would cut plastic waste as soon as possible, and yet here we are sipping from a plastic water bottle that is tossed in the bin as soon as we've drunk it dry.
Thanks to intensive farming, the worlds topsoil could be gone in 60 years while we continue to build on the best farmland in our never ending quest for economic growth - hardly the smartest move if we want to grow the food we all need to eat. And when we do grow it, we throw an unbelievable one third of it away each year. 
We spend billions on the possible threat of a terrorist attack but don't seem to prepare for the climate chaos that's being unleashed. I've only just heard about ocean heatwaves which are killing swatches of sea-life similar to wildfires that burn huge areas of forest.
We criticise kids for school strikes which aim to remind politicians they need to do something now about our changing climate. Telling them they are ruining their education, while we are ruining the planet we all live on won't wash. It's the adults who need to be given the detentions for their head-in-the-sand attitudes.
We've got solutions to many of these problems, and we need to act fast, yet our politicians haven't got the brains or recycled bottle to change.
I'm not going all Forest Green Rovers and say Slough should change from playing in amber and blue to green, or that we should have a wildflower meadow in the goalmouth but we are called The Rebels and we could for example aim for zero waste on match days. Ditch the plastics, turn the food waste into energy and power the floodlights with all the hot air that's generated on the forum.
I don't blame people for wanting to switch off when the environmental problems seem so overwhelming but when I look at football crowds, and think if us lot can get on under a common purpose surely that's possible when it comes to looking after the planet?  Seeing as we all live and rely on it to survive. 

Saturday, March 02, 2019

SHEIKH IT UP

Printed in the National League South game v Hemel Hempstead Saturday 2nd March 2019  We won 1-0 in front of 669
 
I could just lie and say that I got all cultured in Bath last weekend, but the shameful reality is that I just went to the pub and then watched Slough lose a game of football. But I did use Bath City's toilets which judging by the state of them, must be a listed building. Bath's ground is a wonderful old stadium, but its not pulling its weight and in the bar before the game they were showing off plans for its redevelopment.
Bath moved into Twerton in 1932 when it was just a village, and it wasn't really until the 1960's that the area started being developed. But the club and Twerton need a boost and the football club need to increase income streams if they are to progress. If approved the multi-million pound investment will include new shops, a refurbished High Street and improved public space with a new community hub, a gym, 3G pitch student accommodation, affordable housing for local people and co-living apartments for key-workers – oh and a new grandstand.
Supporters took over the running of the club in May 2017 raising £300,000 to pay off debts and this development is a throw of the dice, life saver for the club.
A life raft is what Notts County currently need to stop them going into administration with debts of £7 million, taking the chairmans company with them. The oldest professional football club in the world, in the country in which the game was founded, where the top flight is the richest in the world and has revenues in excess of £5 billion, totally bust. Or to put the £7 million debt into prospective. £7m a year is less than West Ham are paying Javier Hernández this season. Five league goals to date.
There are more than 50 league clubs in England and Wales who'd had their hundredth birthday before the Premier League was even founded. Yet only six teams have ever won it and its wealth is becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of the Big Six. Man Utd's £19.6m pay-off to Mourinho and his staff, would pay the wages of all the players, managerial team, coaches, and all other staff, at an average League Two club. For eight years.
Football at any level is a game of chance. One slip, one misplaced pass, one wrong decision. Small margins between success and failure but as with life money can buy you success and football club owners now have two simple strategies: Plan A: Be lucky Plan B: Find an oil sheikh/oligarch. What could possibly go wrong?
Last season Cardiff City lost £654,000 a week to get promoted to the Premier League. Cardiff paid out £137 in wages for every £100 of income as their wage bill increased by 67% while directors pay increased by over 400% ! Their loses last season will probably come in at around £400 million.
Cardiff took a punt and won but how long can these joke shop economics of the madhouse go on?
Martin Calladine from The Ugly Game Blog pulled no punches “The entire Premier League is built on a pyramid of tens of thousands of clubs, and on the accumulated prestige and game-going culture of millions of fans over many generations. The Premier League's wealth was founded on a century of other people's work. And while lower league clubs slip into financial danger, the handful of clubs at the very top insist that they alone generate the massive wealth in the Premier League. It's gangsterism. They have their hands in the pocket of every league club in Britain. And while Notts County slip away, remember this whenever you hear of a football club in trouble. Premier League owners, who insist lower divisions clubs must survive on a pittance, had a whip round to give a departing employee a £5m goodbye present.”
As someone much more eloquent than me put it 'UK football is the Wild West. A billionaires poker table. A bonfire of money. A castle in a slum, a banquet while people starve.'
Of course clubs can be run better, and Bath City have come up with one way to generate extra income but when I hear Slough fans moaning about our recent run of results, I wonder what they want. With average crowds of 815 at our council owned ground, we only have income from the gate money, half the bar takings, Slough Town lottery tickets, golden goal matchday sponsorship and ClubShop Sue's bobble-hat fund. How much do you think we should risk on player wages to get promoted? I would love Slough, infact, all football clubs, to publish their gate receipts and expenditure after every game and ask supporters for their ideas of how they can increase income. Introducing a rich shriek to the club is not the answer or the solution, but bringing a new mate or three along would help. Especially if they drunk loads of beer in the bar and had to buy a new pair of lucky Slough Town underpants for every game.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

SHALL WE SING A SERMON FOR YOU

Printed in the National League South game v Dartford Saturday 16th February 2019. We drew 2-2 in front of 701 people.

In last Saturdays Hampton & Richmond programme, the Clubs Chaplain pondered that age old question – 'why are fans more vocal away from home'? He might well be onto something with one of his conclusions that 'It may have something to do with the amount of alcohol consumed on route.' Slough fans definitely like to partake in the Holy Water; during our wilderness years it was the only thing that got us through the game.

The last time I visited Hampton was one of those seasons. It was April 2007 and they needed to win the last game of the season to get promoted from the Isthmian Premier while Slough had been relegated after losing 9-0 to AFC Wimbledon months before. A crowd of over 1,000 saw the Rebels take the lead only for the inevitable to happen and we lost 4-2.

Now Hampton is a funny old place for a football club. It's gentile. The pubs are full, the streets are clean, even the dogs clear up after themselves. It's the picture postcard of what those rose tinted among us like to imagine the 1950's was minus the rationing. A sort of parallel universe to Slough. Hampton fans must have extended Dry January cos I didn't hear one Hampton song, see one flag flapping, hear a peep until they equalised six seconds from the end.

I had another one of those parallel universe moments when I went up to South Kensington the other night for an awards ceremony with our community pub The Bevy. Walking through the doors to this restaurant/night club/Tarzan jungle, I felt like stone-age man blinking into the light. Blimey, the Bevy couldn't be further away from this party. There was such a bewildering range of drinks, I stupidly asked what was in one cocktail and just got a jumble of words stuck together that didn't mean a thing. Telling some beer boffins I like a Fosters shandy after a day working in the sun and they look at me as if I drink sewage. But I don't want a witches brew of slightly crushed rhubarb crumble, eye of newt, hint of seaweed, foraged elder twig beer that's been fermenting in a wasps nest for a month and tastes like fagbutts. I love pubs and what they can achieve but talk of beer just puts me to sleep; its about as interesting as getting stuck on a bus with a train-spotting groundhopper going into apoplectic shock cos there wasn't a programme.

Just like a football club, pubs can and should be the cornerstone of a community. In the last week alone the Bevy has delivered meals to older residents who couldn't get out cos of the snow, given cooking lessons to families and children, hosted two lunch clubs, a dementia cafe and arts and craft club, parkrun, our local MPs surgery, smoking cessation, had a free bus to the Albion as well as serving breakfasts, roasts, beers and been home to our darts and bar billiards teams. Our customers put up hanging baskets, fixed broken doors and lights because it is their pub. Next week we launch our newest venture offering community lunches each weekday for just £3 cooked from food that supermarkets would otherwise throw away.

Just like pubs, a football club to be successful has to more than just kicking a ball about for 90 minutes. For starters, it has to generate more than just a match day income stream if it doesn't want to rely on one person (and i'm so bored of the grass or death saddos in the Non League Paper complaining about 3G pitches). The fortunes of a club can also cause boom or bust in the local economy especially those in poorer area where a match day injection of cash to local pubs and cafes, hotels and cab firms makes a big difference. I remember reading about how the relegation of Dagenham and Redbridge from the League hit the poorest borough in London with fewer away fans. The pubs around West Ham's old ground are closed or dying while Torquay taxi drivers said not being in the football league means they all lose at least £60 each in fares on match days.
Slough Towns increased support should help its ailing pubs -it might even help Stoke Road, which let's be honest, needs some serious love and investment. Slough fans should support those locals that support the club (well, apart from McSpoons). Just ask the landlord of the Wheatsheaf how well he did at a packed pub on a Sunday morning before the Gillingham game.
Maybe the Hampton vicar is onto something. We should drink more beer at home games and loosen those vocal chords while helping pubs and our football club. That's got to be something to raise a glass too. We might even sing a sermon or two for you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

AN EVER BIGGER SLICE OF THE PIE

Printed in the National League South Division game v Gloucester City Tuesday 12th February 2019. We lost 2-1 in front of 463 people.
 
What person in their right mind would buy a football club? With so many clubs flying close to the wind the sugar daddies don't seem to be queuing up like they used too. It's hardly surprising, when the rewards are gambling away a fortune and be given endless abuse for the privilege as you try and grab a slice of the Premier League pie.
The top clubs load the dice so much in their favour – and yet still want more. Like the worlds richest people who recently met in Davos they don't want to be governed like the rest of us, but allowed to do as they please.
Manchester City's Pep Guardiola wants B teams in the football league, because as we can see from the Checkatrade Trophy this has really excited fans of lower league clubs with all sorts of records being broken - for the lowest crowds ever recorded in a competitive match.

I think the reserve league for the young players is not good enough,” Guardiola said. “They compete in these second teams but the consistency is not physically strong. Here, they play with no spectators. I think it’s a real problem for English football. So why can we not create Man City or Man United second team and not play in the Championship against Newcastle? They’d play for the second team of United, City, Tottenham and they compete with Newcastle playing in front of huge [numbers of] fans. That is the future of English football.”

Forgetting for a moment that Newcastle are still a Premier League side, a brilliant article on the Plymouth 'Argyle Life' blog by Nick Saunders Smith pulled his argument to pieces 'At the moment, the b-team debate is academic: the English Football League (EFL) ruled out their introduction back in September 2016. However, the financial muscle of the Premier League must not be underestimated. The promise of financial reward could, one day, persuade enough EFL teams to back the plan, so it’s always worth re-affirming why the argument is not only arrogant, but also utterly wrong.

'It doesn’t matter if a player demonstrates that they can physically compete in the Championship. Top Premier League clubs simple do not care. They have so many young players coming through their academies (players who have swept up from academies all over the country) that if a player isn’t a world beater, they can write them off and move onto the next one. Understand this, Pep: managerial cowardice among the top Premier League clubs – Manchester City and Chelsea in particular – is a far bigger factor than the lack of b-teams. You wouldn’t even start Phil Foden against Burton Albion! A midfield of Kevin De Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva? Two World Cup winners against Burton Albion! No wonder Sancho left. No wonder Hudson-Odoi is trying to escape Chelsea. You are the problem, not the lack of b-teams.'

Rather than destroying the football league, maybe those clubs should stop hoarding players like people banic buying before Brexit. As the Plymouth Blog continued 'A main reason why b-teams are appealing to these rich clubs is that they can exploit the system to stockpile players and guarantee them professional game time. It’s just another power-play designed not to progress these players so much as it is to allow them to hoard the best young talent from their rivals and – as Chelsea have done so well – monetise their potential.” The fact that Chelsea are currently waiting to hear from Fifa whether they will be banned from the transfer market after being investigated over potential rule breaches with regard to more than 100 foreign players under the age of 18, says it all. 
 
Does it have to be like this? 
 
We need a fairer footballing formula where financial muscle isn't rewarded but footballing ability. Communities build there clubs, not billionaires – and as we can see from a car crash of clubs – Sunderland, Charlton, Blackpool, Coventry, Bolton, Notts County, Hull... - it rarely ends well. As the breath of fresh air that is Accrington Stanley's chairman Andy Holt points out “Every owner outside the Premier League is a rogue owner in waiting. Clubs are not sustainable, it’s just a matter of time before they get sick of throwing money down a black hole.” The average League Two club lost £13,500 every week. Those that made a profit did so by selling players (unlikely to be repeated every year) or other assets. 
 
Clubs like Slough Town are so far from the top end of football its almost a different sport. And yet even here, where we are enjoying success both on and off the field beyond our wildest dreams from a few years back, people complain. I suppose that's human nature, but that where's I love the attitude of the Accrington Stanley chairman whose let's supporters know the real cost of running a football club. So should Slough take the lead and publish how much we earn from the gate receipts, the bar, sponsorship, the golden goal? Then ask supporters do they want to gamble and bankrupt the club?
But as Andy Holt talking sense once again 'The general consensus amongst owners is that it’s their club, they should be able to spend what they want on it. I couldn’t disagree more. Overspending damages most clubs. It makes not overspending a massive disadvantage. The rules around spending are next to useless... It's not my club. I can't pick it up and take it home. There were 20 or 30 people before me. They were just custodians. I want Accrington to be here in 50 years time.' No wonder the club that refused to die is punching so far above its weight and is quickly becoming everyone's favourite second team.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

THE BIG INTERVIEW

Printed in the National League South game v Chippenham Town Saturday 19th January 2019 We drew 2-2 in front of 605 people.
 

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


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


Neil: Ideally we will remain with Slough for a long time to come, it is a great club and with a wonderful chairman and whilst we still want to progress and feel that we can, we would be mad to leave. It is also nice being some of the longest serving managers around.

I think there is probably a 3 year plan to get up, in that we would like to get up to the next level in that period. Ideally we would do it quicker, however it took us 4 years to get promoted from Step 3 and we are now at a level with big clubs and as we will not throw silly money to get up, we will just continue to strive to be better, and have some enjoyable moments along the way.

There are clubs bigger than Slough that have remained at this level now for a number of years, and people have to understand this.

Personally I believe full time football at Slough is a long way off, I think it has been proved that you can get to the next level and remain part time, although it does get harder, you usually find that going from part time to full time also means having to take different types of players on.

I also do not feel the support is there to substantiate full time football. I would guess you would need to be up near the 2000 mark, and even then would probably need someone subsidising.


Do you plan on staying at Slough for the foreseeable future and or do you plan to go into bigger and better things ie a football league club?

Neil: As mentioned both myself and Jon have loved every moment at Slough, and is now for both of us the longest we have remained at one club as a player or manager, and we would like to continue this for the foreseeable future.

We are always ambitious to achieve more and keep on improving, however we would love that to be with Slough. Personally I could not see many jobs tempting us away at the level up, though if a League One or Two team came in then I think we would have to listen, though I could not see something like this happening anytime soon.


What if a (higher level) club offered the managers job to just one of you, would you take it and split up the partnership?

Neil: I think Jon’s wife Christina would love it, as it would mean the constant phone calls from me would stop, however I can speak for Jon and myself in saying that I would not want to do it without him, and vice versa, we have a great working relationship. Also how would we split Trent, Alex and Togs, as these are 3 vital components to the management team.


What difficulties/experiences have you both found from stepping up another division this year?

Neil: I wouldn’t say we have had any difficulties as such, we always felt that we could compete with the side we had last year, as we knew the vast majority were good enough for the level up, and this has been the case. The league is stronger in terms of no easy games, and teams better organised, but I wouldn’t say any side has frightened us yet with their all round play, and we go into every game confident we can get a result.

One difference I would guess is so many more players are under contract at teams, so you can’t just go and put a 7 day approach in for a player. We have talked too about 3 or 4 players this season that we have come across, and each time we have enquired they have been under contract.

Experience wise it has been great; bigger games in better grounds in front of decent crowds.


How tough has it been losing all the original Godalming players- and are they still on good terms with the ones that have been replaced?

Jon: We currently have 2 left from that Godalming team in Warren Harris and Guy Hollis, and they were probably the 2 when we were at the club that due to age and ability you knew could play at a much higher level, and this has been proved.

I think it is very difficult to replace any player, but was even harder with the Godalming lads, as a lot of those lads were good friends.

Two of the hardest ones to let go were Jamie McClurg and Ben Edwards, both very close friends (Bakes was best man at Ben's wedding). Good players, who would run through brick walls for us. However we felt we needed to start changing the dynamics, and we ended up letting them go on the same day, and to date the toughest thing we have had to do.

However in management you have to put feelings aside, and whilst you want to treat everyone well and with respect, when releasing people it is natural for them to be upset.

In terms of are we on good terms with them all (Godalming), the answer is on the whole yes. We regularly meet up for a curry and the odd night out, obviously there is the odd exception to that, but on the whole I think we remain on good terms with most people we have let go from the club.


Have you ever signed a player based on football manager? What’s the strangest circumstances surrounding a player signing?

Jon: We would never sign a player unless we had seen him a number of times and we were absolutely convinced of his character and that he was signing for the right reasons. Any player we sign has to have hunger and we feel our lack of player turnover is one of the big reasons we have such a strong spirit and togetherness within the changing room.

The strangest circumstances behind a signing would have to be this season when Bakes put out a Twitter plea for a back-up goalkeeper for the FA Cup. Many probably thought it was a strange thing for a senior non-league club to do but it was a one-off situation (needing someone to just come and sit on the bench for us) and we felt it was necessary. It worked; we had lots of response and more publicity for the club, and we were able to sign a very capable lad who was there if we needed him. 
 

If you could add one National League South Player to the Slough squad who would it be and why?

Jon: The standout player from the games we have seen this season has been Nassim L’Ghoul, the winger at Welling, who was superb when we went there in October. Based on his performance that day any team in this league would want to have him in their side!


Create a best xi of the players you’ve managed

To answer this question we have decided to remove any player that is currently with us as it’s not right to pick one player over another in our current squad. We do believe our current squad is the best we’ve ever managed so technically you could list them all as our best xi!

Mark Scott

Stuart Harte Adam Foulser (capt) Dave Woozley Paul Stonehouse

George Short Jamie McClurg Ben Edwards Darren Wheeler

Matty Stevens Scott Harris


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


You can sign any current player in the world for free - who and why

Well that’s an easy one. Lionel Messi, the best there has ever been.


If you need a new player have you thought of giving Trent a swear jar?

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


Trent, can you give us a bit of background about yourself
'Like Bakes I had been brought up in a football family with my father Gordon having been a professional at Brentford, football has always been a massive part of my life. Like my Dad I took to being between the sticks but my brother Kelly made his name as a decent centre forward for Staines and Hampton (when Super Kev was their physio). I was lucky enough to gain promotion to the Isthmian Premier with Walton and Hersham and Staines on two occasions as well as winning the Middlesex Senior Cup and Carlsberg Cup Final, however it is fair to say I have enjoyed more success in the dug out first with 9 seasons under Steve Cordery and Craig Maskell at Staines Town before taking a year out. I then received a call out of the blue from Jon Underwood, which is probably the best phone call i've ever received.

Slough Town have always been a massive club and one that we used to look up to when I was at Staines, I used to love playing at Wexham Park. To be playing a small part in getting the club where we are going is amazing. My wife Claire and my eldest Darcie attended her first game at Arbour Park recently and I think the biggest compliment I could give the club is how professional she said everyone was whilst also being so polite. 
 

Alex, can you give us a bit of background about yourself

Not much to say about me really! Grew up in Swindon where football was a big part of my life, being a season ticket holder at Swindon for a number of years (not doing too well in recent years) and playing for a local team for 11 only to stop after injury (Ironic I know!). Moved to Cardiff for University completing working for Cardiff Devils & Cardiff hockey club before moving back over the bridge to complete a masters in the local area. I was lucky the club gave me the opportunity to join up and work with Kev at the start of last season, loving every minute of what is a special club with some great fans. Was a pleasure to play a small part of the success of last season, with the FA Cup run against Rochdale and the promotion via the playoffs, and reaching the second round this year again! Great club to be involved with, and love working with Bakes, Unders, Trent, Togs and the rest of the team!


Questions for everyone

Best away ground you’ve ever been to in any capacity and why?

Bakes: Doncaster away in the League Cup Final when I was playing, due to the circumstances of a sell out crowed of 7500, and 1000 being kept outside.

Unders: Same game as Bakes, due to the big crowed and the imitating atmosphere.

Trent: The Goldstone ground, proper football ground when Brighton were there.

Alex: For me 2nd visit to Kings Lynn in the playoff final, great atmosphere and lovely to win the game the way we did in front of their crowd. 
 

Only Fools And Horses or Minder?

Management team (All): Easy question! Only Fools and Horses all day long!

Whose the funniest player you've seen in a dressing room

Bakes, Unders & Trent: Johnnie Dyer, was a fantastic character in the dressing room, very funny and would come out with some absolute gems.

Which club has served the best aftermath grub

All management: Think you would go a long way to beat what we have at Arbour Park, always lovely and massively appreciated from the management and all the players!



Alex, it must be hard to have such massive boots to fill with the passing of SuperKev. How did you end up working at Slough?

Of course it was, like everyone says Kev was a true Slough legend and was rightly in everyone’s eyes Mr Slough Town himself. I worked very closely with Kev for 5 months and even in that small amount of time, I learnt a lot of the techniques he used every day in the job and the stuff many would find boring in my job, however the main thing Kev taught me was how to conduct myself as he was the prime example. Kev would always be the first to arrive, and the last to leave to ensure everyone got the treatment they needed. Even when his illness started to get worst, Kev used to say as long as the players are okay, that’s all that matters, which shows the character he was, and is something I aim to follow in his footsteps at Slough.

I ended up at the club after a chat with John Porter who I got in contact with after I moved to the area after qualifying in Cardiff. I came in for what I thought was a chat/interview with Kev, and sat down and just started talking for 20 minutes about the club, the history etc. Next thing I know, the players have arrived for training and started giving some treatment to some of the squad and have never looked back and am loving every minute.


Kev was such an integral part of the Slough Town squad, how did his death effect everyone, and how can we best remember him.

Management team (All): Kev was and still is a massive part of this team, and someone we still think about constantly. I think how he was thought of with past and present players shows the character he was within the team, and what some probably don’t know is the whole team travelled up to the hospital on a free Saturday after training to spend time with him, along with the fantastic turn out from the club at the funeral shows and speaks massive volume of what he means to us all.

We have a few different ways we like to remember Kev. At all home games Kev’s bag sits in the dugout in his normal seat just like he did every week, and we take Kev’s bag away to a lot of the important away games for a bit of luck (worked in Kings Lynn for the final!). Massive credit needs to be given to the council for allowing us to change the name of the medical room, which has been renamed to the Kev McGoldrick treatment room, which is a lovely little touch when we are playing at home.

Last thing which is really nice for us is how the McGoldrick family have become more and more involved in the club, with a new legacy being created. You can regularly see Kev’s sister and daughter in the crowd and is a joy to catch up with them before and after each game.'


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

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

FINANCIAL EXHAUSTION, FAN POWER

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

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