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, August 02, 2006

A Tale Of Two Clubs

Printed in the Slough Town v Walsall FA Cup 1st Round Proper 13th November 2004
(by the way Slough won this game, perhaps our best ever FA Cup result)

This is a tale of two clubs. Not so long ago both were languishing in Ryman League Division Three, playing in front of three men and a dog.

One of them, Hornchurch, found a rich benefactor and climbed up the leagues and this season were flying high thanks to a ridiculous wage bill of £1.2 million a year.

The other is Lewes, a sleepy little town near Brighton playing at the Dripping Pan, who just ten years ago finished second from bottom of division three, nearly falling out of the Ryman league altogether and folding. A new manager and board of directors and suddenly the club found success. A great FA Cup run saw them draw Stoke City away, and despite losing they made lots of new fans and used some of the cup money to build an impressive new stand.

This season both clubs found themselves in the new Conference South, but last week it all went pear shaped for Hornchurch, with their benefactor going bankrupt. Their dream lies in tatters, with all their players up for sale, and if they go into administration facing a 10 point deduction.

But not so Lewes – they haven’t got massive backers, instead they’ve been working steadily away, attendances are rising and they now play a big part of the Lewes community. On the day they won the play off final and were promoted to the Conference, there was a mass pitch invasion by hundreds of kids, many I was told who play for the various Lewes youth teams. Teenagers not into playing, stand on the terraces chatting each other up, there’s a woman’s football team and a full social calendar.

What Lewes have done is nothing short of miraculous – but it has come with a lot of bloody hard work, not a magic wad of cash. In an age where there seems a never ending queue of people who appear like the shopkeeper in Mr.Benn ‘as if by magic’ and promise league football in five years, they are an example of how I reckon clubs should be run, and what I want Slough Town to emulate.

The Rebels have faced many kicks-in-the-teeth over the past few years from getting thrown out of the conference to losing our home, but for the past couple of seasons things seem to be on the up.
Part of this is of course thanks to decent management and players, but we shouldn’t forget the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, unseen and often unpaid, and the fact that this hardwork means the club now has a Supporters Trust ready to step in if things go wrong.

We have a hardcore of support who turn up home and away, come rain or shine, because outside of the predictability of the Premiership, the twists and turns of the lower leagues are what keeps us supporters coming back for more. Getting soaked and freezing on the terraces and wondering why we bother – well, it’s games like today that remind us why we do!

Unfortunately Slough Town have a serious problem if we want to emulate Lewes – we need a ground we can call our own, in the town we are from with our own clubhouse and bar to generate extra funds. But just when we thought our ground problems were solved, along came a new council and decided they preferred a game of political football.

So I hope all you new faces enjoy today’s match and catch the Rebel bug. Why not join the Trust and help us put pressure on the council to find us a new home? Maybe you could start by asking why they seemed very keen to save the Tesco cedar tree and the town badge, but not so keen on a football club whose shirts bear the towns crest, and is nearly as old as that cedar tree.