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.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Published in the Southern League South and West match v Windsor and Eton Easter Monday 24th March 2008. We lost 1-0 in front of 260.

I know that it’s a long way off but if we do get a new ground let’s make sure it will be as green as the grass we play on. The
Arbour Vale site gives us the perfect opportunity to make the club greener than Kermit’s bum, with plenty of grants available to help make it happen. The fact that it is next to a school, a field and some houses that are part of the redevelopment plans, there should no complaints about noisy wind turbines or festering compost bins – unless the noise and smell wake the dead at Slough Crematorium. Not only would some bold energy conservation measures tick lots of planning boxes (Slough Borough Council tell us they are “committed to making the town a cleaner, safer and greener environment for its residents”), it would in the long term cut costs, and with ever rising fuel bills this is something that should be given serious consideration.

Dartford’s new home was the world’s first custom-built eco-friendly football stadium. I know some Slough councilors have visited and it really is something to aspire too. Features include a living green roof which keeps in the heat and provides a natural air filtration system. Solar Panels providing electricity for the community changing and public toilets hot water storage cylinders. Reclaimed rainwater collected in two vast ponds and used for the loos and the pitch. The place is also heavily insulated, there’s under floor heating (be nice to have some under the terraces!) and low energy lightings.

Other examples include Manchester City’s stadium which has the world’s first football wind turbine powering not only the stadium but also up to 1,250 local homes. They serve up local food and encourage fans to use public transport. Germany’s SC Freiburg roofs are packed with solar panels generating electricity equivalent to the annual power consumption of 800 homes. Infact in Germany every public bin - including at football stadiums - is divided into four sections: paper, cans, plastic and general waste. And anyone who collects bottles and cans for recycling earns cashback.

So what could Slough do to lessen the environmental impact at the proposed new ground? The main drawback to Beaconsfield is the fact that it is so far away from Slough that driving is the only options unless you want to chance the crap bus service. The proposed new ground will be near the City Centre and many fans will be able to walk. Maybe there could be a link up with the local bus service to take people to the ground near kick off time with reduced rates for those producing a bus ticket. Or maybe for those of us planning a walking pub crawl to the ground, we could get a free beer in the clubhouse for drinking and not driving? How about some decent local sourced food being served up, washed down with some local real ale. It would also be nice to ditch all the plastic cups, plates etc that seem to blight every football stadium. Some decent recycling areas wouldn’t go a miss and what about composting bins? The Northwich Victoria’s groundsman apparently uses old dried tea bags to repair pitch damage!

If we do end up at Arbour Vale, I hope we get a stadium that is a bit more than another identikit soulless mechano set. As one Dartford fan wrote about their new ground “It's not often that a whole community can be proud of one, specific local initiative but in Princes Park we have something that is, not only truly exceptional, but a local development we can honestly be immensely proud of.” Now that’s got to be something to aim for at Slough.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Published in the Southern League South and West game v Burnham Saturday 22nd March 2008. We lost 3-0 in sunshine and blizzards. Had our sixth new manager in two seasons and are deep into relegation trouble. Dog and Duck League here we come!

It’s that ‘squeaky bum’ time of the year where teams across the country are worrying about relegation and promotion – and for those of us in the non league pryamind, ground grading rules and regulations.

Already the Blue Square are welding the big stick threatening clubs with relegation if they haven’t got their grounds up to scratch and throughout the non league pyramid, every club seems to have a ground grading horror story.

Many moons ago, Slough finished eighth in the Conference. Unfortunately we didn’t have the required number seats in our stand, it went to a vote and we were booted out of the league.

Evesham United were ground sharing at Worcester City when they were told by the Southern League that they would not be promoted because Worcester’s ground wasn’t up to scratch. Forget the fact that Worcester were playing two leagues higher in the Conference and had passed their ground grading rules! Mind you the reason for rejection was a serious one – there were gaps under advertising boards surrounding the pitch!

Many moons ago when Wealdstone were playing their home games at Watford’s Vicarage Road, they had to have their own portable dugouts because the Football League club’s dugouts weren’t deemed suitable by the Southern League.

When Yeovil Town moved to their new ground in the mid 1990's, the Isthmian League apparently had to think twice before passing the ground fit for their Premier Division as there was no covered terracing, even though there were five thousand covered seats!

Walton Casuals originally failed ground grading because the seats in their new stand weren’t numbered! Instead of allowing them to number the seats while they were there officials made them wait over two months before coming back and passing the ground just a couple of weeks before the season started. Burscough have to spend £60,000 on improvements even though they are moving to a new ground. Or what about Beaconsfield and that extra set of turnstiles – when was the last time they were used?

While these stories might make us laugh, unfortunately they are not isolated incidents. Unless there are real safety issues surely flexibility should rule the day. Just what is the point in spending money on facilities that hardly anyone will ever use?

Clubs at Step 5 of the pyramid must have a capacity of 1,000 with 250 covered of which 150 must be seats. Take a club like Whitehawk (basically an estate in Brighton) whose picturesque ground has a decent covered stand but no seats - hardly necessary in crowds that average 57. But so what, they face relegation unless they build a new stand – one that will undoubtedly be as distinctive as a Tesco superstore.

Now I am all for facilities being improved for the spectator, but forcing clubs who are lucky if they get 100 people come through the gate into over the top ground improvements is ridiculous. Especially when many of these clubs should spend the time and money on improving the most important part – the pitch.

The story of Merstham just about sums it all up. A few seasons back they won promotion from the Combined Counties League only to fail the ground grading. The foundations were in place for a new stand but unfortunately the steel supplier let them down. So when the ground grading committee turned up, despite Merstham having the plans, receipts and the ground work done, they turned them down. 10 days later the stand was erected in hours so they appealed. That cut no slack with the bureaucrats who once again rejected their request, telling them there could be no exceptions with the rules and that grounds must be on budget and ready by the given date.

What, just like Wembley stadium?!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Printed in the Southern League South and West match v Paulton Rovers Saturday 8th March 2008. A 2-1 defeat and another dismal performance in front of 204 fans (at least my son and his cousin had fun being mascots).

Well what a great couple of weeks it’s been. OK, let’s forget about the Winchester AFC Hayes and Godalming games where 90 minutes of football spoilt a good day out; that win against top of the table Fleet really was something special, something to celebrate in the Beaconsfield shed!

Afterwards as we crammed into the bar it felt like Wexham Park old days as we were introduced to our new chairman Steve Easterbrook. Steve is a retired successful businessman who said “I’ve been a supporter since I was a boy. I continued to follow the club after moving away, and reading about the team falling down the leagues over the past five years made me want to help. So I phoned Roy Merryweather (club secretary) and it went from there.” Born and bred in Slough he was educated at Langley Grammar School. “I see my role as someone who steadies the ship, gives the club some direction, financial stability, plots the course forward, gives the fans some confidence and brings a bit more commercial awareness to Slough Town.” Steve joined the club last autumn as part of the management committee and has been involved in negotiating with Slough Borough Council over plans for the new stadium at Arbour Vale.

News of his appointment comes off the back of the meeting where councillors gave the thumbs up to outline proposals for a new ground. The club now have three months to come up with concrete plans to satisfy the council. There’s a long way to go, but it was the positive response the club desperately needed from all of Sloughs strange mix of political parties.

It was good to read some good news about us for once in the Slough Observers; especially how Slough Amateur Boxing Club are really keen on the move. This isn’t surprising as they are stuck at the dilapidated old Centre Stadium building in Manor Park, Sloughs home more than sixty years ago. A new boxing facility could end up playing a part 2012 Olympic Games.

I think all Slough supporters have felt battered and bruised especially over the past few seasons so all this was something to savour. That’s not to say there hasn’t been some enjoyable times since we got thrown out of the Conference, but mainly its been stumbling from one crisis to another like some old basket-case, until we are facing the possibility of playing in the FA Vase next season!

To be truthful I nearly didn’t bother with the Fleet game myself. My chauffeur, Gary House, had flu and I couldn’t face a five hour round trip to watch certain defeat. If I didn’t need to sort out a few things for my dad, well I would have been kicking myself and any cat that came near come 5 o clock Saturday night. But football is like that. It’s why we come back for more. It’s why we scratch our heads and wonder just why we can’t play like we did against Fleet and Farnborough every week we would be hoping to be in the play-offs not battling to stop ourselves dropping into the Dog and Duck League next season.

As for us fans, well it was good to see manager Mark Betts acknowledge the supporters in the programmes interview. Losing week after week for two seasons does knock the stuffing out of you! “It’s a great motivation before kick off knowing the support they are going to receive. The lads love it being applauded off.” Well you can thank the Beaconsfield ‘shed’ for that. How much better to be on some proper terracing under cover than stung out in a line and stuck in the open at some grounds we’ve visited this season, where its very hard to get the vocal chords motivated; and as for Windsor’s picturesque morque – let’s not even go there.

If that sort of atmosphere is good for the players, it’s certainly good for hooking younger supporters. While it has been doom and gloom, reading what other clubs supporters say about us gives us a lift. Lots of ex players come and watch, Matty Miller and his dad even have season ticket holders. How many players buy season tickets to support the club! Today I’ve got my son Ruben and his cousin Liam making an appearance on the pitch. This thankfully isn’t due to another financial crisis where all the players have left, but because they are mascots. Let’s hope we can get a win, get some singing in the shed and get away from that relegation trap door.

* To read about the new ground proposal plans

* For some history and photos of what happened to our old ground Wexham Park