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.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Printed in the programme v Gosport Borough Southern League (South and
West) 22nd September. We lost 2-1 - not quite sure how.

With Sloughs FA Cup adventure over before it even really began and a free Saturday I decided to hop on the train to catch Horley Town v Erith Town in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying round. Horley is a pleasant enough little town just outside Gatwick – they once merged with Gatwick Rovers - but it’s suprisingly not deafened by the air noise you get in parts of Slough.

It was hardly cup fever for these two clubs as I couldn’t find anything about the game on either of their web sites till the night before. In town there were no posters and when I payed my £5 entrance fee, there were no programmes left cos “we only printed a few.” Which is suprising since it’s quite a while since Horley last played in the cup.

With their old ground falling to bits, they sold it for housing for a decent sum and have built themselves a tidy little ground. The old ground had been donated by a local landowner who became Club President, and was held in trust in memory of those that died fighting for their country; the ground appropriately named “The Defence”. The new ground, called, ‘the New Defence’ has a very impressive clubhouse with seated stand incorporated. The all glass front means comfortable viewing from the heavens to drink beer and stay out of the cold, and the place is open seven days a week bringing in a steady income.

After a few seasons in park football, they got back into the Combined Counties. However, not enough seats mean’t they fell foul of the leagues ground regulations and demotion. With a few extra seats and some covering behind the goal they were able to get back to the Premier after they won Divison One last season. Now i’m all for making grounds better for players and spectators alike, but when Combined Counties crowds hardly ever make it too three figures it seems a bit draconian and pointless.

As for the game. OK, i’ll admit it; it took me until half time to realise i had the teams muddled up and thought Horley were Erith. What the club official thought of my ramblings about the game I don’t know, as i told him i thought Horley were in control when clearly they were not. Me, stupid? Well in my (very poor) defence there were no programmes, but a glance at the seated stand and the clubhouse and Horley’s claret and blue colours were pretty visible. Doh! It’s bad enough doing it once, but i’ll admit that I once went to a Slough game away to Abingdon Town in the FA Cup 4th Qualfying Round in 1989 and did the same bloody thing. I hadn’t been to a match for ages, and Slough were playing in their away kit with Abingdon in yellow, so I spent the whole game not only keeping an eye on the floodlights that looked like they were going to blow over at any point, but thinking Slough were Abingdon! At the final whistle I couldn’t believe we’d lost a cup game to such lowly oppoisiton and it wasn’t till me and my mate got back on the coach that it dawned on us that Slough had actually won. I think it was then I realised I needed glasses.

Once I got over my misconception, i realised that Horley were infact being played off the pitch and had a serious discipline problem. One player had been sent off after 10 minutes and i was told four of their first team were already suspended; not bad for a month into the season. Some of their players just didn’t stop moaning. Erith on the other hand were well organised, had a couple of flair players and should have been more than 1-O up at the break. The second half pretty much stayed the same with Erith in control, as the game got more and more fraught with fouls – one Horley player going off in an ambulance after a clash of heads. It was only in the last 10 minutes that the home side seemed to wake up and realise they had to get an equalisier but it was too late. 1-0 to Erith. Horley’s cup run was over.

As for the future of the club, well it looks very rosy. With its excellent facilities crowds are averaging 140 so far this season. Many of the players come from the youth set up and the local area with 27 teams playing under the clubs banner. There’s more ground improvements on their way and they are aiming for the Ryman where I think they could easily hold their own. Just print a few more programmes next time please so I get the teams the right way round and don’t end up looking such a plonker.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


Printed in the Southern League South and West Division programme v Andover. 8th September 2007 Oh my god, we actually won a game 2-1 - first time since January. Attendance - 215 very happy people.

Just for a moment the people of Iraq were united in celebration. Iraq had won the Asia Cup in a team made up from Sunnis, Shias, Kurds and Turkomans. As he bounced with joy with friends outside his house in Baghdad, Taha Mahmoud, a 25-year-old computer programmer, said: "In 90 minutes, 11 men on a soccer pitch thousands of miles away have made millions of Iraqis happy while 250 MPs, our government, the mullahs, imams and warlords can't provide us with a single smile. I hope this is a turning point for our country." "It is the greatest gift since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and shows how Iraqis from all walks of life can work together to achieve success," said Hozam Mahmoud, a Kurdish policeman, who had abandoned his traffic duties to join noisy celebrations. "Football alone may not be able to heal the nation's deep wounds, but for the moment it has induced a sense of cohesion, and we can all build on that if we try."

While Iraqi’s were celebrating, fans of Edgware Town were reeling from the news that after winning an unprecedented treble of trophies during the most successful season in the club's 68 year history, the club looked doomed. Property developers who own their ground had given notice to quit just a few week before the season kicked off.

Being a small football club in London is becoming a precarious business. The pub that had given the ground its name, the White Lion, has already gone, pulled down ten years ago to make way for a faceless Premier Lodge hotel. Near neighbours Wealdstone have been homeless for 16 years (and spent ten years groundsharing at Edgware). Hendon have to vacate Claremont Road and Enfield Town are still looking for a home to call their own. At least for Wealdstone there is light at the end of the tunnel, but land in London is at a premium and small football clubs are easy pickings for circling property vultures. An unsympathetic council and you’ve had it.

So reading the internet forums, I was surprised to read that it wasn’t the council or faceless developers that were facing the wrath of supporters but immigrants.

No doubt Edgware has changed beyond all recognition since the club were set up at the start of World War II by construction and engineering workers. I don’t have the figures handy but I doubt Edgware Town have ever really pulled in big crowds. Despite their best season ever gates averaged just 73. Would it have been any different if the area had stayed the same since their formation? On my Slough travels to the very white commuter belt places like Epsom and Marlow these clubs are hardly packing in the punters. Football has a hell of a lot to contend with nowadays, not least an explosion of matches live on the TV. There’s tons more leisure pursuits available and people have a lot more cash in their pockets if they want to spend the day, god forbid, shopping!

One fan complained that all these immigrants ‘probably don’t even know we have a football team’ - but whose fault is that? Football is popular throughout the world, and as the Iraqi victory shows can bring people together and build bridges. It’s an extreme example, but if it can happen in a country rocked by civil war, then surely it’s within the capabilities of smaller clubs to come up with ways to reach out to the communities in their area and get them through the gates?

Football can be a force for good but losing community assets such as football grounds, pubs, allotments, community centres etc is one sure way of losing any kind of social cohesion. This isn’t just romantic old tosh, but having these places where people can meet makes our neighbourhoods better for everyone. After the longest and most expensive study in the history of criminology the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighbourhoods concluded that the most important influence on a neighbourhood’s crime rate is neighbours’ willingness to act for one another’s benefit. For example if your local park was full of rubbish and the local council removed it all, the rubbish would probably return in a few weeks. But if the local community organised a meeting to clean up the park, with a chance for people to meet, solve problems and work together, the benefits would most likely be much longer lasting and the park would probably remain cleaner for longer.

The research in the Chicago Neighbourhoods study shows that crime and anti social behaviour is most effectively fought not with more laws and more jails, but by building strong communities where people take control of their own lives.

But what the hell has that got to do with Edgware Town? In the melting pot of humanity that is London, it is clubs like Edgware, that play a game of football that can help bring different people together, that is priceless and worth fighting for.

For the time being the club are safe; playing back at their higgidiggly piggidly ground just off the High Street. But their future doesn’t look bright, unless they find ways of getting more people through the turnstiles, be they immigrants or people who have lived in the neighbourhood all their lives.

* Edgware Town blog

Monday, September 03, 2007


Printed in the programme for the FA Cup Preliminary Round tie against Fleet Town 1st September, 2007. We lost 4-1 . Attendance 202.

Well it felt as near to home as it could; it’s on the Slough Road, even if the taxi from the centre of town did cost £12. Pre match pints and shopping in Slough before the game – and no tourists! It was a very warm welcome from our new landlords Beaconsfield. Being so out of the way supporters actually went into the bar before and after the game; the Taunton fans created a good atmosphere, the rain meant a lot of us were crammed into the covered terracing behind the goal and apart from the last minute goal we conceded it would have been a great start to the season. It certaintly was a lot more fun than the opening fixture against Leyton at Stag Meadow last season, with an atmosphere that wouldn’t have been out of place at a morgue. The move to Beaconsfield has been a positive one, and not just financially. I’ve never liked Windsor’s Stag Meadow as a ground, sure the backdrop of Windsor Great Park is an impressive one, but Beaconsfield is more compact, more conducive to getting some sort of atmosphere going. And like i said it’s on the Slough Road, you can almost smell the Mars bars.

And now to the FA Cup. Well, it might be predictable and dull as dishwater at the later stages, but not so for us minnows battling it out in, well i was going to say the summer sunshine but i’m not quite sure what that is. For clubs like Slough entering the FA Cup Preliminairy Round it’s a time for dreaming. To be honest it will probably only be dreams this season, but a bit of a cup run, some new places to visit, a few extra quid in the bank and who knows.

I remember last season coming back on the train depressed about our defeat at Farnborough, telling some incredulous Brighton fans that yes the FA Cup had already started – and that we were already out! It was also the match that Eddie Denton decided he’d finally had enough of Slough, and our promising young manager was off.

There’s already been a round before today’s game, with 342 Extra Preliminairy ties taking place. Team Northumbria, a side made up of students from Northumbria University, were stuffed 11-0 by Consett in front of 72 people, while Dereham Town thrashed Fakenham Town 12-0 with ten different scorers! 193 saw that clash. Biggest gate was 602 where Dinnington Town beat former mining village Maltby Main 2-1.

Just 38 people saw Frimley Green lose at home to Colliers Wood United who must be over the moon sharing those gate receipts which are split in half; luckily for them all winners in the last round receive a £500 prize. The prize money is really welcome at this level, but is a million quid for the winners and £900,000 for semi finalists really necessary? Do Chelsea need another bloody million quid? Or maybe John Terry needs another pay rise. The FA Cup is a great way of getting some of that cash to those scrapping at the bottom of the barrel, but it should be distributed a lot more evenly.

As for the magic of the cup being over. “If anyone wants proof that the FA Cup still has all the old magic they should come and see us.” So says the manager of Chasetown who two seasons back featured on Match of the Day where they managed to draw with Oldham in front of an audience of 3.2 million. “The FA Cup transformed our club. We quadrupled our gates to about 320 and got new sponsors. We got a new car park, new dug outs and went on to win the league and get into the Southern League.”

Meanwhile Dinnington from South Yorkshire were only formed seven years ago and their progress has been rapid. Their game against Maltby was moved to 7.30pm on the Friday night so Sky could film the first kick of this seasons cup. The club were inundated with press and the FA Cup was on display, and even at this early round the club were hoping that interest shown would encourage increased support for both teams.

As for Slough, I often wonder what would have happened if we had beat Yeading and played Newcastle United at ‘home’ in the FA Cup 3rd round. Our victory over Walsall was only two seasons back, but it already seems like a dream. Or has it been a nightmare ever since?