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

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Busy Bees

Printed in the Ryman Premier league match v Wealdstone 18th February 2006

Just what would we have done without our link up with Brentford?

Our chairman Bernard Devine told me that he and Roy Merryweather know Brentford manager Martin Allen from way back, and that friendship has certainly come in handy as our thread bare squad picked up injuries and suspensions.

The link up suits both clubs – players that aren’t getting games get match practice, youth teamers get first team experience – look at Mousinho, who put in some impressive performances for the Rebels, went back to Brentford on a non contract no pay basis and got himself signed up. Goalkeeper Clark Masters has just been getting better and better and Charlie Ide was on the Brentford subs bench for their game against Bristol City. Others haven’t been so lucky, with George Moleski and Aaron Steele both released by the club.

Allen worked wonders with cash strapped Barnet propelling them back in the football league. Now he’s working miracles with cash strapped Brentford seven million in debt but on a dizzy FA Cup run (I wonder where Slough Town programme editor Glen will be today?) and knocking on the door of the championship.

Allen was known as ‘mad dog’ during a playing career with West Ham United, Portsmouth and QPR. And now? Before last seasons cup game with Southampton Allen dived in the icy River Solent after a dare from his players. “I stripped naked and dived in like Mark Spitz. There was a ruddy great tanker, bigger than this ground, 100 yards away. I nearly had a heart attack from that and the freezing water.”

His non league contacts have certainly come good, plucking DJ Campbell for just £5,000 then selling him on for £1/2 a million to Birmingham. Slough can of course claim some unwanted credit for the meteoritic rise of Campbell, who played in the FA Cup Yeading team that defeated Slough to earn them a publicity spinning tie with Newcastle. Let’s hope Campbell’s rise alerts more top clubs that there are plenty of bargins playing in footballs basements. Players who know what it’s like to work for a living and are often hungrier than those footballers who have always been spoon-fed.

Last month Brentford supporters under the Bees United banner acquired the majority shareholding in the club. Every member of Bees United is a shareholder of the Trust and is able to take part in electing representatives and calling special meetings to hold the Trust's representatives to account. Of the 9 Directors on the board, 4 are nominated by Bees United, whilst the other 5 are Investor Directors with each board member having just one vote irrespective of their shareholding or investment in the club.

While not in the basement, Brentford are low down on footballing pecking order and have had to sell their best players in order to stay out of administration. Brian Burgess Chairman of Bees United explained “The Bees United strategy is to break away from that kind of dependency, to improve Griffin Park to earn more revenue and claw our way up the food chain so that we can become a big club again. I have said before that running football clubs is not for the faint hearted. Until we are one of the big boys with the deep pockets we will continue to be faced with tough choices.”

One of those tough choices is their home Griffin Park, which they have been trying unsuccessfully to move out of for 20 years. This search has not exactly been helped by the local Council (where have we heard that before?) The attitude was, to describe it generously, indifferent. “Which was not what would be hoped when dealing with such a unique and cherished community asset as BFC.” So what did the fans do? They stood councillors in the local elections under the A Bee C Party – ‘A future for Brentford in the Community’ – and got a supporter elected! Luke Kirton polled enough votes to become a councillor for the Brentford ward on Hounslow Council in May 2002. His election brought a sea change in attitudes within the Council who recently gave a £500,000 loan to help Bees United become the majority shareholder in the club. Hounslow’s Leader, Cllr Colin Ellar said: “What won us over was the amount of work the club does in the community. Their Football in the Community scheme is often held up as one of the best in the country, and the work of the club and their supporters for our young people is valued and appreciated by the council.”

Maybe a bit of a Rebel election shock this May is just what Slough Council need to get them focused on the plight of Slough Town.