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.

Friday, September 29, 2006


Published in the league match v Carshalton Athletic Tuesday 26th September. We lost 2-0

Shock, horror I nearly fell out of my armchair. Last week a TV programme informed us that dodgy people are involved in football, making money out of the game illegally, while managers are taking bungs and players are being approached when they shouldn’t. I just couldn’t believe. Just what, as I watch on the terraces with my rattle and Bovril, has happened to the beautiful game?

Of course Sports minister Richard Caborn talked tough "Everyone was saying we would not root out cheats in sport on anti-doping but we are doing that systematically. What has been discussed is a new licensing which every club will have to sign up to and if they break the rules there will be consequences."

Of course those tough-taking hard decision making men at the FA would be the ones dishing out consequences and they are going to launch - an investigation! But as one agent put it they couldn’t organise a…– well just look at the England manager fiasco to get your answer; Sven on £13,000 a day until May unless he finds another job, which I doubt is high on his list of priorities (and just who would employ him as their manager?). So these muppets that negotiate a pay deal that continues after someone leaves their job are going to sort out corruption? Yeah right.

The top levels of football are a business and that’s why, just as I wouldn’t cheer on my local Tesco’s store, I won’t support Man United/Chelsea etc PLC. Unfortunately with football being so high profile, non league isn’t immune either to dodgy dealers.

No, the real scandal is the lack of money trickling down to the lower reaches of the football world. It’s the dodgy chairman who get involved in football clubs and bankrupt them. The parasitic agents who make money by creating player unrest (they make more money the more their players are transferred) inflating players wages, and ultimately increasing prices at the turnstiles.

And the cost of being a football fan just keeps rising – and fast. A fan that just goes to home games can expect to spend £1,130 a season, if you include a pint of lager, some food, a programme, replica shirt, transport and pay-per-view costs. Infact 'football fans inflation' is up 8.7 per cent in the last three months. And for what? While the media pundits talk up the excitement of the Premiership everyone knows it’s a sham. Statistics show that 89% of supporters believe only the wealthiest clubs will win the title now and in the future. Even the majority of fans of the 'big five' - Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and er, Newcastle - would prefer the league to be more competitive. But currently nearly half of the £1.5bn generated by the Premiership is shared between just the top five clubs. OK no one expected Portsmouth to be top, but we pretty much know how it will pan out at the top come the end of the season. Which can’t be said for the Ryman Premiership. I had Ramsgate as dead certs to be relegated, yet their team of local players, largely unchanged since their back to back promotions from the Kent League have made a flyer start. Money bags Chelmsford are mid-table while Wimbledon can’t stop drawing while Harrow are flying high. It’s a much more level playing field and that makes it interesting.

So what could the FA do about making the Premiership more equal? Well, we have to look across the pond to those commie hating Yankies for the answer. If you ignore the Franchise bit, the National Football League’s most famous feature is the salary cap introduced in 1994; a limit set yearly on how much each team can spend on the wages of playing and coaching staff. The cap is based not on a percentage of a club's turnover, but a figure calculated by the governing body which may be exceeded by no team. Breaking the cap can, as San Francisco 49ers and Pittsburgh Steelers fans will tell you, incur financial and points penalties. And the cap works: the Superbowl has seen only two repeat winners since it was introduced, and the championship games have had eight different winners in 10 years, compared with only 10 different winners in the 28 years previous.

Of course the cap would have to be rolled out across Europe otherwise players will move abroad, but if something is not done, then the Premiership will become even more predictable, boring, and expensive, and its bubble will burst. If don’t think that could happen then just look over to Italy and Serie A. Once the most powerful European league, it now finds itself with falling gates and an exodus of players. Being bunged up, I reckon is the least of the FA’s worries. Time they launched an investigation!

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Printed in the Ryman League game v Folkestone Invicta 27th September 2006 (We lost 2-0 to the team bottom of the league.)

It might as well as be a parallel universe. While Wexham Park falls to bits and the pitch becomes a wildflower meadow, Slough councillors vote against even talking to the club. But just 60 miles down the road in Dartford, the town’s football team are coming home in style after 14 years in exile.

It might seem odd for followers of Slough Town, but Dartford councillors have bent over backwards to bring the club back home. The Princes Park Stadium will host its first match on 11th November. A community football stadium in the heart of town, it will be one of the most ecologically sound ever built, with timber cladding, its own water recycling ecosystem and a living grassed roof!

Dartford lost their old ground in 1992 when debts spiralled out of control. Maidstone United had been groundsharing with them until they went into liquidation after their ill-fated foray into the Football League and it wasn’t long before Dartford followed suit, resigning from the Southern League just four games into the 1992/3 season. But fans didn’t give up and their 400 strong Supporters' Association came to the rescue, keeping the youth team going until a new team was established at the bottom of the pyramid playing in the Kent League in front of an average gates of 300 plus.

Now all that work has paid off. I got this inspiring message from Jeremy Kite Leader of Dartford Council and a Dartford Supporter which puts Slough Councils current attitude to shame. He told me “Everyday, councils throw bucket loads of money at schemes to deal with anti-social behaviour, childhood obesity, community cohesion, civic pride and community relations. Here in Dartford, we took the view that rather than fund a series of expensive here today- gone tomorrow initiatives, we would invest in football as a catalyst for all those things. I'm sure every Council thinks they are doing things right, but I've never regretted or doubted the wisdom of our investment in a new Stadium. You simply cannot put a price on the sense of pride and worth that is developing around the town as a result of The Darts coming home. Princes Park will not only become a centre of spectator sport, but also as a participatory one too - for kids of all ages. I have told the club that they MUST bring kids in and encourage school sports finals and training to take place on the first pitch.

”My other advice to councillors is 'invest in quality'. We could have built a typical 'iron and block' stadium but what does that say about us? What confidence does it give others if WE won't invest in great architecture? How can we expect people to respect the building if it doesn't deserve respect?

”I know that many Council's feel that they 'can't' do this, and 'can't' do that, and if we had stopped every time somebody had said that our dream was impossible then we wouldn't have got beyond advertising for an architect. Leadership is about legacies, not bureaucracy, and when I'm dead and gone they will bury me with a smile on my face because I know we have provided a facility that will makes tens of thousands of people happy every year.

Slough deserves a good home for its football and I sincerely hope you can persuade Councillors to go for it. In the last year, we've opened the best Judo facility in Europe (confirmed by the BJA who are moving their Olympic squad in) and supported sports from cricket and rugby through to carpet bowls. We've had enormous fun on the way and as far as this leader is concerned, creating great opportunities for community sport is EXACTLY what we should be doing. Forget casinos, Forget Business Parks, Forget Shopping Centres (the Private Sector will take care of itself) - it's getting kids introduces to the discipline, pleasure, rigours and routine of sport that matters. Show me a kid that participates in, or follows team sport and I'll show you a good kid.”

Another Dartford supporter Dave Kent told me “The last council was Labour controlled, they did have it in there manifesto to help re house the club. But a scheme a bit like Margate's with a hotel etc fell through so we ended up back at square one. Then the Tories got in and we thought that's it, but they came up trumps! They said that they wanted to do something for the town, because we have only got the tunnel. The Stadium in funded by the council for the community, it cost about £6.5 million. In the summer the Kent Ravens, a rugby league side will play there. There is also a 9 hole golf course which will use the club house and facilities along with the roadrunners(joggers). There is a second enclosed floodlit pitch that can be rented out to the public. The main pitch uses the same type of grass that Real Madrid have, it cost about £125,000, Charlton have been to see it and are going to have the same at the Valley. There will be weddings and conferences etc which will help run the stadium. This will be managed by contractors. Any profit will be split 3 ways between us, the Ravens and the golf club. I hope I don't wake up and find it's all a dream. You just got to hang in there, miracles do happen.”

Dartford’s success story should be remembered by all Slough fans in our fight to get back in the town where we belong.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Printed in the programme v AFC Wimbledon Ryman Premier 5th September 2006 (excellent hardworking 0-0 draw in front of the massive Dons travelling away support).

By the time you read this we should know our opponents, but when I first heard the draw I could almost smell the sea air and taste the ice-creams. I convinced myself it would be a trip to the town where old people go to die to see Slough take on Eastbourne United Association in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying round. Their used to be four clubs in the Eastbourne area until Eastbourne United FC and Shinewater Association merged three years back. It amazes me that Eastbourne can support three, let alone four clubs. Still, doesn’t matter now as bloody Cobham went and knocked them out in an extra preliminary round reply in front of just 45 people.

Sporting Bengal United would have been somewhere different. Although the name is far more exotic than where they play, an athletics stadium in Mile End, but they lost to Slade Green in front of 155 spectators.

So then it was down to either Slade Green of the Kent League or Cobham of the Combined Counties. Wasn’t Slade Green the place where Fletcher was locked up in ‘Porridge’? Apparently not, “Slade Green is a suburb of Erith situated close to the Industrial Development alongside the River Thames between Woolwich and Dartford” which doesn’t sound quite as nice as a deckchair on the beach in Eastbourne.

So what about Cobham? Now being a bit of a saddo (please don’t say ground-hopper) I visited Cobham last season with a few other Rebels to see ex Slough favourite Matty Miller bag a hat trick for Burnham in a pre season friendly. The place is ultra posh with nearby St Georges Hill having the most expensive houses in the country and home to Cliff Richard. St Georges was also the place where the Diggers made their declaration of land distribution and revolution over 300 years ago. All I can say is, if we end up going there, I hope it doesn’t rain otherwise we will get very wet.

So four teams, most of us have never visited, playing games in the world’s oldest cup competition at the beginning of August. Most people would no doubt never believe you if you told them the FA Cup started a month back, but then most people have probably never heard of any of the above teams– or Slough Town for that matter.

Despite this 258 teams battled it out for a chance to place in the Preliminairy round, with tie of the round going to West Allotment Celtic v Stockton and Norton Ancients, played in front of a grand total of 86 people over two games! Lowest attendance was at Atherton Laburnum Rovers who managed just 17 – two weeks later they lost to FC United of Manchester in the league in front of 1,324; while St Blazey down in Cornwall got nearly 300 through the turnstiles to see them beat Bodmin Town. Then there’s Eton Manor who won their first FA cup game since 1957 beating St Margaretsbury on penalties! It’s probably safe to say that none of these clubs competing in the extra preliminary will reach the 1st round proper but along the way there will be a few non league shocks and giant killing.

Just look what happened to us last season at Wroxham! As journeys go it was the longest of the season. I set off at 7am and five hours later and two more Rebel fans in tow we arrived at Wroxham, where we wandered round the small tourist town in the Norfolk Broads where everything seemed to be owned by someone called Roy. The ground was very picturesque, surrounded by fields and a river, but the pitch wasn’t up too much, and neither was the Slough performance. The fact that we lost to a village side two leagues below us probably tells you everything you need to know about the FA Cup. Nearly 100 Rebels made the trip – a full coach, and Slough supporters descending from all over the country – Brighton, Horsham, Peak District, Ashby de la Zouch, Cambridge. Although most ridiculous journey probably goes to Yeovil Steve who set off at 6am to drive to Wexham Park to get the coach from Slough. His journey back must have been a barrel of laughs, when at least the half dozen of us on the train back managed to drown our sorrows together.

We could really do with a decent cup run, but then all clubs say that. But for us homeless ones, the money and prestige, the focus on the clubs plight, really does mean something that little bit more. Still knowing our luck if we’d did get to the first round we’d up end up playing MK Dongs, when really deep down we all want Wycombe.