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.

Monday, November 27, 2006

MY FOOTBALL FOOTPRINT

This should have appeared in the programme for the league match v Walton on the 26th November. The game was called off. Players keep threatening to go on strike and more have left over not getting paid. Relegation looks pretty certain.

I did my bit over the past month in reducing my football carbon footprint by only travelling to games in Sussex. As I sat on the bus to Whitehawk to see them play a cup game I wondered - when climate change really starts to kick in and green taxes and the rocketing price of petrol makes driving a car a lot more expensive, will we go back to the days when clubs were full of local players?

Pie in the sky? Nearly 40 years ago Celtic became the first British team to win the European Cup, beating favourites Inter Milan 2-1. All the Celtic players were born within a 30 miles radius of Glasgow.

At Whitehawk, currently top of the Sussex County League, players only get expenses so they are never going to attract players from too far away. Infact one supporter told me, that not so long ago you had to live in the Whitehawk area to play for them.

And on an estate with a bad reputation that has received millions in regeneration money, it’s more than just a football club but a proper community resource with plenty of football teams for all ages, young and old mixing, something community development workers can only dream of. There’s a busy bar with thriving social club that brings in the money – and you get your half time cuppa served in a proper mug rather than a disposable cup. The chairman was running the gate and his grandson selling raffle tickets. They’ve got plans to improve facilities, but I like the place, nestled next to the South Downs with the chalk hawk overlooking the ground.

Former players still come to watch games with their sons in the squad, while the manager Ian Chapman made more than 300 appearances in ten years as a player with Brighton. Chapman was also recently appointed first team coach at the Albion and both clubs face each other in the next round of Sussex Senior Cup (a bit like Reading playing Reading Town).

Next it was a train to Lewes, and how times have changed at the Dripping Pan. Not so long ago they faced relegation from the Ryman League and nearly went bankrupt in fronts of gates of less than 50. Now with their spanking new ground improvements they are knocking on the Conference door. Todays occassion was Darlington at home in FA Cup first round - the first time the Rooks had played in the first round proper at home in 121 years of history. It was a full house of 2,000 and if they had taken their chances the score line might have been a bit different.

Next off was Worthing, for a trip with all my family and Rubens first away game (ok Zoe refused to pay the entrance fee and went shopping instead). Before the game Worthing had showed the door to five senior players with their manager saying it was due to keeping within his budget restrictions, together with the progress of some of their younger players.

Worthing have the facilities and support for Conference South football, and yet one of their supporters told me that Victor Gladwish withdrawing £30,000 has had serious consequences for the club. In terms of premiership football £30,000 is peanuts but at this level can mean the difference between survival and going under. For Worthing the money was helping to fund their youth team scheme. Local players also brings in local support, family and friends as the young girls shouting over the fence at some Worthing player they fancied showed (they just weren’t quite willing yet to pay at the gate).

Obviously money does buy success, but well paid players don’t always give clubs the success they crave. Last year Windsor seemed spoilt with our rent money and squandered it on players from outside the area – result? Relegation. After Slough were thrown out of the Conference we splashed the cash in a bid to regain our Conference status. Result? Relegation. Then look at Ramsgate. Two straight promotions and now flying high in our league on mainly local players who’ve been playing together since they were in the Kent League.

With Sloughs financial problems, wouldn’t it be good idea to pack the team with as many decent local players as possible? Worthing are wise to invest in local talent. I just hope that for the sake of me reducing my traveling and carbon footprint budget that both Rebels can stay in this league.

If you want to check out your carbon footprint http://www.carbonfootprint.com/




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