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.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

PASTYGATE


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.

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