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, October 04, 2007

MAD FOR IT

This appeared in the Slough Town programme v Bracknell Town 2nd October 2007. Thankfully we won 3-1 against a very poor side. 165 for a Southern League match in the drizzle.


I must be mad I thought as I got on the 9am train from Brighton to Slough. We hadn’t won a game since January and the bickering on the forum was doing my head in. But as usual a couple of emails and texts and I started to get that Saturday football feeling. I just had to go to Slough v Andover!

It helps that we have swapped Swamp Meadow for Beaconsfield. I can pop in and see my dad, who hasn’t been paying attention to the governments five a day advice. A drink with him in the smallest pub in the world - the Alpha Arms - then off to Touch of Class for a fry up. It’s weird; i spend more time in Slough High Street than i do in Brighton town centre and feel like I live this two-towns double life. Is this what having a second home is like? Anyway, off to Herschel to meet some fellow suffering supporters then a taxi to the ground for some pre match pints. No work, no baby and watching Slough means drinking a few beers beforehand is definetly part of my football ritual.

I’m of the opinion that you try and get behind your team no matter what (well maybe not if they are taken over by a crazed billionaire human rights abuser) but it has been hard since the beginning of the season. Slough have always been a relatively successful non league club, so the past few years have been a bit of a shock – a bit like when you go camping as a youngster with your school; it rains all night, you, your clothes and sleeping bag are soaked, you want to go back home and then some clever clog teacher tells you it’s character building. So let’s put the last couple of seasons down as ‘character building.’

Then out comes research that playing football is good for your mental health! Italian psychiatrist Mauro Raffaeli has been organising competitive football matches for his patients since 1993. Of the 80 who have passed through the ranks over half have cut down their drug intake, but more importantly, more than half have returned to work. "Drugs you can often never get rid of, but reintegrating into society is as important," he said.

So if playing football is good for you what about watching it?

I had a mate called Pete Shaughnessy. He was a bus conducter who got attacked with an iron bar that left him with bouts of severe depression. But when Pete was feeling well he was an inspiration.

If people were proud to be black or gay why not be proud to be mad? So he came up with Mad Pride! They held their first demo outside Bedlem, which was celebrating 750 years. The history of Bedlam isn’t much to celebrate and Pete threw himself into campaigning. “Initially, I entered the non-league scene because I needed to pursue a hobby away from campaigning and find a way of chilling out. I was seeing a ‘shrink’ one day when she turned round and said to me, ‘You do realise before there were drugs, people used to be depressed for up to two years.’ “That’s funny”, I replied. “I’ve taken all the drugs that can be thrown at me with all the side effects and I’m still depressed over two years later, but then again, I do support Crystal Palace!!” ‘Change your team,’ cracked the shrink.


A chance meeting with an old school mate and Pete was persuaded to go along to see Dulwich Hamlet and was hooked. “Non-league football is ethical: you’re supporting a local community and you can have fun while you’re at it. When I’d just started going out with my present partner, I talked her into going to a totally, meaningless friendly, Moseley versus Dulwich. After a night with the “Rabble”, we ended up stranded in Hampton Court, no train or night bus. After a bit of bartering, I managed to get us the honeymoon suite at Hampton Court Palace. She was totally in awe. “This is what you get when you follow Dulwich Hamlet,” I explained!

When he married and moved to Worthing we often went along to non league games, dragging various friends along to the delights of Lewes and Burgess Hill. Pete rekindled my love of football and eventually my long time affair with Slough Town was back on.

Fast forward and here we are facing Andover. Players get used to losing and so do supporters. Confidence is everything in football and when that second goal went in, you could see it come flooding back and we started to play really decent football. When did you last here ‘O Lah’ from Slough supporters? The atmosphere in the second half was great and when that final whistle went; well I had almost forgotten what that winning feeling was like. Matt Miller said the same, and how different it was being in a dressing room that’s just celebrated victory.

With fantastic prospects of a new ground it’s imperative that we don’t drop another league. We’ve got the team and supporters to turn it around. For me the victory mean’t a pleasant train journey home surrounded by happy England supporters who just watched us demolish Israel. I’m sure most of them thought I must be crazy to travel all that way to watch Slough, but I would have been a whole lot bloody madder if I haven’t made the trip and missed our first victory of the season!


* http://www.peteshaughnessy.org.uk/

* Football as therapy http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16691973/site/newsweek/

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