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.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Printed in the Ryman Premier League programme v Hendon Sat 17th Feb. We lost 1-0.

The player exodus had begun with suspensions and injuries taking their toll. As we queued up outside the turnstiles at Boreham Wood everyone - apart from the ever optimistic Nigel – predicted that with a very patched up squad against an in form team, we were in for a thrashing. 6-0 was the final result, but our players got applauded off the pitch. They had down their best. The Wood supporters, whether they were, hardly made a peep.

A week before Christmas at Chelmsford, me and fellow Sussex Rebel Gary were waiting to get in (10 security outside the turnstiles, but no one to man the bloody things) when Wilko (Slough's player manager) told us another two players had left. If it was bare bones before, it was desperate now. Only about 40 Slough supporters made the trip – but whereas at the beginning of the season, our lackluste performances produced bickering, long bouts of silence and abuse for some players, this time it was different. The floodgates eventually opened and Chemlsford, a side who included seven ex Conference players, beat us 5-0. But the Slough supporters never stopped making noise, got in a bit of very successful Jeff King baiting (Chelmsford's delightful manager) and applauded our players of the pitch. Why? Because the players gave everything they had and you can’t ask for more than that. The defeats continued, including 5-1 at Carshalton which led to manager Mark West resigning, despite another loud following behind the goal. Then we got that win at Heybridge – our first since October, sending the players and supporters delirious. Then followed an amazing turn out at Horsham away on a cold Tuesday, where we sung throughout the game even when we went 4-0 down. A couple of 5-0 thrashings at home, but still the singing continues.

It seems our fans are thriving on the backs against the wall mentality. 42 players and 3 managers this season says it all really. The players that are left and pulling on the shirt are doing their best against all the odds – and the supporters appreciate that, rather than cheering for those that threatened to go on strike because they hadn’t been paid earlier in the season.

One Horsham fan commented "I thought the Slough fans were absolutely top - they sang louder the more desperate things got for their team in an attempt to lift spirits on the grass, and the obvious bond between team and fans at the final whistle was very commendable."

At the end of the home thrashing against East Thurrock their manager came and shook the hands of Slough supporters and said what a great bunch of fans we are. He said that at no point did he hear our fans moan at our players and that we were a credit to the club, and that the support was fantastic in such difficult circumstances.

Others from Margate to Wimbledon have praised us. Meanwhile a letter in the local press from a failed BILLD councilor (BILLD a part of the coalition running Slough Council who hate the football club for some reason) wondered if our club wanted council money for a new set of players as well as money for a new ground. Leaving aside the fact that the club has never asked for any cash from the council just a chance to play back in the town, I think most organizations would kill for the active support the club has. Of course, more people are always needed to get involved, and we are down to the hardcore of support, but it was less than a decade ago when we were regularly pulling in 1,000+ to watch us compete in the Conference. On my travels on the train to games, I always seem to bump into someone who used to watch the club and can’t quite believe the mess we are in.

Relegation would leave us at our lowest ever level. Last Saturday I had a chance to peer into that future and I didn’t like what I saw. A few of us went to see Burnham play Beaconsfield. The football wasn’t helped by the mud, but what really struck me was that a crowd of 250 could be so quiet. There wasn’t one shout - apart from one young lad who was wearing a Slough top - let alone a chant and you could hear every word the players were saying. If anything, at least the singing and support makes going to games far more enjoyable, and half the point of football is to let off steam. Maybe the people of Burnham don’t need too?

If Wilko does pull off a bloody miracle and stop us getting relegated, it will be us fans who would have played a major part. As they say in football clichés, whatever the score, it’s up to every fan to keep on being the clubs 12th man.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Printed in the Ryman League programme Saturday 3rd Feb 2007. We scored with the last kick of the match to get a 1-1 draw to lift us off the bottom of the league (and last Saturday we won away 3-2, our first win since October)/

Imagine finishing bottom, yet sill getting a £26 million handout? Another dodgy corporate executive paying himself some over the top bonus? No, it’s what the football club that finishes bottom of the Premiership will get when a new TV deal kicks in next season.

The new TV deal means the Premiership will receive £2.7 billion over three years from next season – so will we see this trickerling down to the lower leagues and grass-roots or will it end up stuffed in overpaid footballers and agents pockets?

Believe it or not, despite Sky’s Year Zero policy, there was life before the Premiership. I can’t argue that some of the football and some of the foreign players have brought something a little different to the top flight but getting relegated is such a financial nightmare, that watching teams fighting relegation leaves a lot to be desired – and is bloody expensive. So now there’s a mooted parachute payments of up to £12 million for those relegated to the Championship, helping to also make that league financially skewered, as the gap between the haves and the have not-been-in-the-premiership grows even wider.

Shooting the golden goose? At Man City gates are down almost 8000 in three years, and there’s already been two boycotts by the clubs supporters of away games over expensive ticket prices. City fans are notorious for their support, but one fan I chatted too told me he and others are just bored of the whole thing. Magic of the FA Cup? In the lower rounds yes, but half empty stadiums where cup upsets becoming more and more unlikely a pointer to attendances of the future?

The Football League are trying to get a slice of the new TV money for areas such as youth development and community programmes. One report ‘Football and Its Communities’ understands the role that football could play in involving, in particular, young people, and helping to improve health, education and community safety, and to reduce crime and tackle social exclusion. Football, the report notes, is identified as an ideal vehicle for working with difficult-to-reach groups, including looked-after children, minority communities, offenders and people with disabilities, because of its glamour and intrinsic, near-universal appeal.

Yet while the top division is awash with cash, out of the current £1.6bn TV deal, the only money the Premier League pays directly to Football League clubs is the £4.2m to help fund youth development programmes, which works out at just £60,000 per club.

The financial chasm wasn’t always so. Before the Premier League was formed in 1992, the TV money was always shared throughout its four divisions. 50% went to the First Division clubs, 25% to the Second and 25% was split between the Third and Fourth. Then came SKY waving fists of cash and the First Division clubs plotted to break away from the League and keep for themselves all the huge money about to pour into football. Unbelievably the top clubs were backed by the FA, whose leaders believed a Premier League would strengthen their rule over English football. In return the FA asked for nothing from the top clubs: no sharing of the money with the remaining 72 Football League clubs or improved regulation of the game. Graham Kelly, the FA's chief executive at the time, has since admitted ruefully about that decision: "We were guilty of a tremendous, collective lack of vision."

On top of all this comes the Champions League – which not only takes away vital support for non league clubs with its mid week televised games – but rewards the clubs that take part handsomely, skewing the financial gulf even further, and making sure that it is usually the same old clubs from across Europe that compete in it season after season.

Any sport has to be about real competition and unpredictability. We may see the odd shock result but we will we ever see another shock league winner? The game has become dull and predictable and the new TV deal will only serve to make it even more so. How can a smaller club build and succeed when as soon as they get a good manager and players a premier league club comes along and takes what they want? What chance of a club coming from the lower leagues of ever been able to compete at the top? Whilst we might still see exciting games the fact is the real competition and excitement in football is dead and died when it sold its soul to Sky TV. If football doesn't act, then just like in Italy, the Premiership could well shot the golden goose.

* To keep up to date with the financial side of football

* To read the Football Foundation report