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.

Monday, December 24, 2007

100% English

Printed in the Southern league south and west division match v Marlow Saturday 22nd December 2007. We lost 2-0 (mind you last week we won our first away match since January - and i bloody missed it)

While you lot are standing in the cold watching us play Marlow I will be in the city of Pune in India for a four day wedding. The bride, Tanuka is one of my girlfriend’s best mates. She’s Asian, my girlfriend is Jewish. I’m just a plain old working class boy from Slough, who didn’t go to University so never went to ‘discover’ myself on a beach in Goa during my gap year; apart from joining in the mass protests in Seattle a few years back have never been out of Europe.

My dad’s family are from the Rhonda valley, where whole villagers decamped to the Wexham estate and where apparently you could hear Welsh being spoken more than English. Some of my earliest memories are the taste and smell of my nan’s delicious welsh cakes! My mum’s family moved to Langley after the Second World War which was being expanded as part of the London overspill. Some of her family came from Italy. And on it goes, as humans cross towns and countries and continents to find a better live for their families or escape persecution. When I played for Crusaders and went to Herschel, the football team and school was a melting point of families from across the world.
So what? Well a while back Channel 4 Dispatches showed ‘100% English’, the best TV I’ve seen in a long time. Advances in DNA now allow us to trace our roots back thousands of years. Family trees usually run a blank after about 200, but if you’ve a spare few hundred quid and want to delve deeper into your past, you can rub a small brush inside your mouth to obtain a tissue sample and send it to a laboratory to be analysed.
The programme lined up willing volunteers who believed that they were English through and through, although their definitions of what it takes to be 'English' varied widely. One believed being born here was enough. For another, England had gone down hill since the invasion of 1066 and she was sure she was descended from Anglo-Saxon England. Others said the acid test was simply whether a person supported the England football and cricket teams.
The results and subsequent reactions were hilarious. A stand up comic said that despite ex footballer Ian Wright being hugely patriotic he couldn’t be English because he was black. The comedian had to laugh when it turned out that he was 10% Middle Eastern, 11% South Asian, 37% south-eastern European and 43% northern European. Carol Thatcher, was 24% Middle Eastern. And so it went on, with the crazed woman who said England had gone down the pan since the Norman Conquest threatening to sue the production company over the fact that she wasn’t 100% English. Infact being 100 per cent English or 100 per cent anything, at the genetic level, would be very bad for your health.
The tests are based on mitochondrial DNA – chromosomes passed exclusively through the female line and changing little over time – pinpointing an individual’s maternal ancestry. Go back 150,000 years and all human beings are related from a relatively small area of Africa with scientists identifying 36 clans who inhabit the world. So when we sing ‘your sister is your brother’ to opposition fans and players we are probably right somewhere down the line!
Man has been on the move ever since. Infact migration is not only the norm; it is nature's way of keeping us healthy. The more our genes mix, the better the long-term health of the species - the better we can withstand infectious diseases and the less likely we are to suffer from genetic diseases.
Dr Mark Thomas, of the Centre for Genetic Anthropology at University College, London said new research suggests we are hard-wired as a species to attract those with different genes from our own. When asked just how many pure 'English' people currently lived in England he replied. 'At a rough guess? Er, zero.' Such a thing would only have been possible if a particular social group, isolated from the rest of society, had inbred for centuries. Which probably explains Windsor supporters.
One young soldier who had worried about immigration before the film found out that through his family tree he was from at least a quarter of the globe . “For racists to find out that part of them may be what they have discriminated against for years, well that would certainly throw them off their game.”
Judging someone on the colour of their skin or where they are from has always been ridiculous – we’ve now got the science to show that all of us Little Englanders were ‘bloody foreigners’ at some point!

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Published in the Southern League South and West match v Winchester City Sat 3rd December 2007. We drew 2-2 in front of just 170 people.

So its goodbye to Wilko, a Slough legend who took up the poison chalice of manager last season when most sane people would have run a mile. He played on despite
injuries, but unfortunately his never-say-die attitude didn’t seem to transfer onto the other players. Wilko was always approachable and ready to chat to supporters after the game and to me he was an example of everything that is good about this level of football.

When I start my journey to games early Saturday morning (well you have to get to games early to avoid the rush at the turnstiles) I get on at a small train station just outside Brighton. The friendly guard seems to know everyone, as people stop to chat as they cut through the station. He told me that when he retires, he fears they will close the station and just have the electronic ticketing machines to greet you. Does that matter? While it will be justified in typical economic terms what price losing that personal touch?

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) are sponsoring todays game, and for me, fighting to keep open local pubs isn’t just about saving the local boozer. My dad lives on his own and his local pub is his social. When he fell over and broke his pelvis, it was the local landlord that took him to hospital and rang me up to tell me the news. It was the new manager of the place who popped round the other night to see if he was ok. People in the pub who fixed his broken boiler for free. You can’t put an economic price tag on that.

It’s the same with the local shop. While the big supermarkets suck all the money out of the local economy and the people on the till look like they have had a lobotomy, a proper local shop should be more than someone who just sells you milk and a paper.

With the government hell bent on privatising the post office, local post offices are continually being closed. I had to laugh at one government minister who claimed this is because people weren’t using the service as much; he obviously hadn’t queued up to buy a stamp for a while. Again, in many places, the post office can be the social hub. So is the post office a social service or just another way to look for profits?

For my job I run a community allotment project. We teach youngsters gardening, carpentry, woodland management and cooking skills but probably most importantly social skills. Sitting round the firepit on a winters day there will be children from the local schools, refugees, older residents, people with learning difficulties. I call this the social glue that binds communities together. People mixing together, breaking down barriers, having their sterotypes challenged. In a fragmented society this is really important especially for a lot of the pupils that come down to the project who are often having real problems at home and at school. It gets them out of their comfort zone and they have to grow up and work with sorts of different people. With all the crap that is written in the tabloids with their scatter gun approach blaming everyone for societies ills it is good to see what human nature is like when lots of different people work together. (But isn’t it funny how the tabloids always avoid attacking the super rich whose massive tax avoidance could help fund essential services and where the average boss-to-worker pay ratio stands at a staggering 98:1).

As a society we participate less and observe more. We’ve all got an opinion about the non-entities in the Big Brother house and watch the moaning minnies of East Enders, but we don’t know our next door neighbours. Youngsters are more likely to playing football against imaginary teams on a computer than running round on the local rec against real ones. These solitary pursuits coupled with the end of heavy industry, mean we all have less experience of collective endeavor and working together as a team. Which is why football is so effective in breaking down barriers. I’m not talking about the TV football supporter. Football is a social gathering, not merely an entertainment option. Although in my mind £50 to watch Arsenal sitting, prawn like is not my idea of a properly run community football club; no, a properly run club should not just judge their success on results but on its ability to make people feel that they belong.

So if you want to make one New Years resolution, i would suggest it should be get involved. This could be your local football club, local residents group or school. Forget an expensive gym membership why not do some conservation work instead and get fit working outside and doing something useful? If you feel somethings wrong in your communities then get involved to change it. Don’t just turn up to meetings when you want to moan about something, but get involved in shaping your neighbourhoods and help make them become better places. In doing so, you will also get to know your local neighbours and you might even have fun doing so.

Whoever gets the Slough Town managers job, I hope like Wilko, they have the time to chat to us supporters after the game. The human touch is priceless in keeping supporters onside and cheering on the team, especially when the chips are down.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Printed in the Southern South and West league match v Abingdon United 1st December 2007. We won 4-1 in front of 208 people.

I don’t think I’ve ever been called a Slough inbred before and that all my piercing’s had made my brain fall out! I was being slagged off on the Slough Town forum by a Didcot supporter for being rude to one of their charming caterers. Well I hold my hand up; I was being rude. Being vegetarian I don’t expect to served with the finest of foods when I go on my travels, but I don’t understand why such crap is served up to people at football grounds. Is it too much to ask for an egg butty? A cheese toastie? Some chips? If Lewes can manage it, serving the best food I’ve ever tasted at non league footie, why can’t others make a bit of an effort like Beaconsfield do? So at Didcot when I spotted a cheese pasty being advertised I thought I was in luck. But as I was queuing one of the caterers came out, wiped it from the board, and told me if I wanted one I should have got there earlier. As it was 10 minutes before kick off, just how much earlier should I get there for some food?! There is a way of talking to people, and for some reason I don’t like being talked too like I am a piece of dirt and told her so. It’s a shame because I love this level of football. You can mix with opposition supporters, stand up, swap ends, chat to players. Oh and shout your gob off and let off steam!

The difference to going to League grounds is stark.

Some of my mates made the long trip up to Mansfield to see Lewes play in the first round of the FA Cup. Tickets were reasonably priced at £12, but what they didn’t expect was being ‘stewarded’ by what they described as nightclub bouncers. They were told to take their flag down because it might blow off in the wind. One middle age woman stood up because her back was hurting. When she went for a cup of tea she was thrown out. Later in the game one of the Lewes supporters representatives tried to talk some sense into the crowd officials – and was also thrown out. It spoilt the day and my mates reckoned if it wasn’t for the genial nature of the Lewes fans would have resulted in crowd trouble.

Meanwhile Malcolm, a Dagenham fan, told me about their first season as a league club. “There’s the new rules as Victoria Road is now a “designated sports ground”. You have to remain in the area of the ground where you came in which means all those in the seats are barred from wandering into the terrace area, and therefore from using the club shop or going to book coaches for away travel. I’ve seen people being told their cameras will be confiscated if they attempt to use them. At away grounds some of the stewarding seem far more likely to start trouble than stop it. At home, prices have risen by around £2-3. Some of the away prices though have been staggering, £20 at Brentford for away fans. I also miss the cameraderie of the non-League game. While we all have our rivalries, in general they are much healthier in the non-League game. There are clubs in the Football League who would rather cut your throat than help out with bits and bobs for a rival's programme. And for all that the standard of football isn’t that much higher than the Conference. I’ll continue supporting my club, but the whole experience is less fun in the Football League.”

I got a free ticket from my next door neighbour to watch Brighton the other week. The football Brighton paid was slick and impressive. But as we sat in one of the stands open to the elements, there was more atmosphere when we all get going under the stand at Beaconsfield. The next day the local Brighton paper bemoaned the low crowd – why aren’t more people coming to the games? Er, because it’s £25 to get in.

I don’t want a return of the hooliganism that blighted football, but if you extinguish the passion out of the game, then you might as well be watching theatre. Football is overprized, over sanitized, and increasingly out of touch with reality. New stadium are far too often out of town and soulless.

This was summed up for me in England’s lacklustre performance against Croatia, with the crowd booing the players and singing ‘you’ve got a Ferrari you don’t care’. Golden generation? More like Bling generation.

The FA and Premiership are too dazzled by TV money to see the signs, but if they don’t try and tackle the big four’s monopoly, player’s wages, ticket prizes; distribute money more fairly, reintroduce standing at grounds etc while football is at its height of popularity, then soon there will be a rude awakening.

As for Didcot. With their set up and support, they are a club going places. But if they want to shut me up then I suggest they sell me a pastry full of quick drying cement. And it will probably also taste better than most of the inedible crap that is served up at non league footie grounds.