These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

PARALLEL UNIVERSE

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.

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