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

An Historical Perspective

Published in the Ryman Premier League game v Bromley 4th February 2006

The Rebels last two away games in London have shown just how big the gulf in non league football can be.

First off was a trip to Leyton to their intimate little ground in East London. Leyton are apparently ‘the oldest football club in London.’ A history with so many twists it left my heard spinning trying to work it out. With Leyton Orient just down the road (the club even used to play at Orients ground) Leyton are always going to struggle to attract people through the gates and have an average attendance of just 124.

They certainly have a chequered history and from the seventies went on a confusing spree of mergers, that ended with a court battle with
Leyton Pennant arguing over who owned the original Leyton history, a battle that Leyton eventually won in the High Court in 2002.

AFC Wimbledon are probably
London’s youngest club, although they are also struggling with their history, if not their crowds. Their poor support in the Premiership translates well in the Ryman Premiership, and nearly 3,000 were crammed inside Kingsmeadow last Saturday for the visit of the Rebels.

A club as big as AFC Wimbledon are going to get peoples backs up, but I am really impressed with their set up, it’s how a club should be run. OK, so they've got some idiot fans, but then it's to be expected when your pulling in so many thousands a game (think of some of the plonkers supporting Slough that came to the Yeading game.) Still all the Wimbledon fans I met before and after the game were a friendly bunch. They reckoned we had the best support they’d seen at a league game and thanked us for not chanting MK Dongs songs at them. With £1/2 million needed to pay off the ground-debt, they probably can’t buy their way out of the league so easily, and could be in for a long haul in the Ryman Premiership just like Aldershot where. Personally, I hope AFC Wimbledon don't go up this season, cos I would much rather go there for the afternoon than places like Leyton.

Gail Moss, the press and publicity officer of the Wimbledon Independent Supporters Association (WISA) told me “I've read some of the guest books and am disappointed if some of your fans think of us as arrogant. It's true that we were robbed of our League position, and that we believe we have a moral right to be back in professional football. But at the same time, the blame for what happened lies fairly and squarely with the then owners of Wimbledon, Asda/Walmart and the authorities who let it happen. It's not the fault of other clubs, it's not up to other clubs to give us an easy passage to the League, and the vast majority of our supporters do know that any League place has to be earned by results on the pitch.”

But assuming the history of the old Wimbledon FC? Their website explains “The supporters of AFC Wimbledon believe that our club is a continuation of the spirit which formed Wimbledon Old Centrals in 1889 and kept Wimbledon Football Club alive until May 2002. We consider that a football club is not simply the legal entity which controls it, but that it is the community formed by the fans and players working towards a common goal. We therefore reproduce the honours won by what we believe was, and will always be, 'our' club, in our community.”

Whether you agree with that is up to you, but I take my Slough Town bobble hat off to those who reclaimed their football club from that joke of a franchise that play in Milton Keynes. The next question now is – should us supporters make the journey to MK Dons to support the Rebels in the Berks and Bucks Cup?

I asked Simon Wheeler, chair of WISA who said "Since May 28th 2002, WISA has been calling for fans to boycott games played in Milton Keynes. WISA is extremely grateful for the amazing support that we have received from genuine football fans. By boycotting Milton Keynes Dons matches and not helping to finance Pete Winkelman's property deal, football supporters have sent out a clear message that football franchising is unacceptable and has set a dangerous precedent in the English game. However, we understand if Rebels fans feel they have to support their team and go to this cup semi-final. In that case, we'd ask you to spend nothing
besides the price of your ticket.

WISA is continuing its campaign to ensure that the football authorities tighten up their rules to ensure that what happened to us can never happen again, whilst fighting for the history and honours of Wimbledon FC to be
returned to AFC Wimbledon and/or the Community of Wimbledon."

Personally I won’t be making the trip to Milton Keynes, and hope other Rebels feel the same.