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

A Year's A Long Time In Football

Published in the Ryman Premier League game v Hendon 5th November, 2005

What a difference a year makes. Wind back to last year and we were all looking forward to the visit of Walsall. Now with Walsall facing Merthyr in the Cup, their manager Paul Merson said “Losing to Slough last season was the worst day of my football life. The sound of Slough players celebrating their win still haunts me and I don't want a repeat experience!” Our great run in the cup compared to a dreadful performance at home last Saturday with the rumblings from the terraces growing loud. But that’s football.

What a difference a week makes. Crawley Town’s most successful manager was sacked. And how many would have put a bet on Mark West once again pulling on the Slough shirt and then scoring a peach of a goal against Wealdstone last Saturday?

Football is an emotional roller coaster. We pays our money and we have a right to moan, but with no ground and our playing budget slashed from last year I sometimes wonder if we have to all get a grip. Football fans can be fickle, it’s easy to forget the good times (be interesting to see how many Manchester United fans stick with them as they slide down the league and into bankruptcy, or is that just wishful thinking?).

Not that I want the banter and abuse to stop. Football is a great way of getting rid of pent up feelings (often brought along by the game the previous week!). I’m reminded of a story a Bromley supporter was telling me. A bloke asks the guy next to him if he minds toning down his language, and he replies, yes he does actually cos its the only chance he gets all week to let off steam!

No doubt our dwindling crowds will dwindle a little more today, as a few supporters go and cheer on Burnham. A village side, with a revamped ground that everyone is well impressed with in the first round for the first time ever. How much salt do they want to rub into our wounds? Still, good luck to them, I really hope they knock out Aldershot and Matty Miller grabs the winner. Or what about Leamington, who only entered the FA Cup for the first time since they reformed after a phone call from Soho Square. After the old club folded when they lost their ground, a bunch of very determined people kept the club going for 12 years without a ball being kicked. Now they are slowly climbing up the pyramid and this Saturday will be put back on the footballing map. Then there’s Ramsgate, always the footballing lessers to neighbours Margate, who are flying high in Ryman Division One. This time last year they were winning 2-0 at Greenwich Borough; now they are in the FA Cup 1st round for only the second time, with AFC Wimbledon at home the following week in the Trophy, which as their manager says is “the biggest fortnight in Ramsgate's history."

And what about Brighton who have been given permission to build a new 22,000 all- seater stadium at Falmer. Their present ground Withden is without doubt the worst in the league and only holds just over six thousand, but somehow they have managed to cling on in the Championship, helped by a crop of youngsters from the Brighton area and a brilliant community set-up. They had their ground sold by their former dodgy chairman for DIY store, have had to endure two seasons of home games at Gillingham and nearly got relegated into the Conference – and now this.

When I do the Fans Forum pieces, nearly everyone old enough mentions our FA Amateur games against Blyth Spartans, Skelmersdale and of course Walton and Hersham as their highlights of watching the Rebels. Countless times I’m stopped on the tube or train after a game by people who see my Slough top and say they used to support the club. The club were flying high and were a real force in non league football. I’ve no doubt one day in the future we will be once again.

I want us to win and do well, but I won’t scream and shout as much as I used to if we don’t. Despite the dreadful performance, a bunch of us were having a good laugh in the pub before the Chelmsford game – then the game goes and gets in the way and spoils it! (The Chelmsford fans were friendly if a little confused, with one asking us who we were playing – er, you lot!). Sometimes the banter as much as the football match is why I make the long journey.

Football is all about the highs and low. About sticking with your club through thick and thin. The last two seasons under Eddie have been great – promotion, the league cup, the FA Cup and Trophy runs. This season I’ll be happy with mid table, getting six points of Windsor and some movement on going back to Slough.