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.

Monday, December 22, 2008

FOOTBALL FIX

Printed in the Southern League South and West match v Didcot Town Saturday 20th December 2008. We lost 3-2 in front of 295.

It was a freezing cold Saturday, Slough didn’t have a game, but I still needed my football fix. Finding myself in London to see the family’s newest addition (and the usual arguments over whether baby Natasha will support Man United or Chelsea!) I headed rather briskly up Summers Lane to see Wingate and Finchley take on Sutton United in the FA Trophy.
Wingate and Finchley were two separate clubs until 1991. Wingate were established after the Second World War by four Jewish sportsmen who believed football was a positive way to fight anti-Semitism. However, in 1972 they lost their ground thanks to the extension of the M1 motorway and although near neighbours, Finchley came to the rescue with a ground share arrangement, eventually the two clubs merged. They both now play at this famous old ground with its 1930’s Art Deco stand – a groundhoppers dream.
Unlike Sutton, I’ve been to the grandly named Abrahams Stadium a couple of times and things definitely seem to be on the up. They have refurbished their bar and seem to have a thriving youth team policy with lots of youngsters in team tracksuits. However, their fans were easily outnumbered by Sutton supporters. Being so close to Arsenal, Barnet and Enfield, the club struggle to reach crowds of three figures. The Sutton attendance of 149 easily the best of the season. As for the game, it was excellent and Wingate and Finchley’s youngsters should have won it. Still, they made sure in the replay, going through to the next round on penalties.
While I was freezing in North London, a small delegation from our club’s management committee were in Holland to check out Rijnsburgse Boys, who play in a small town near Amsterdam and have recently built a new stadium similar to the one proposed for us at Arbour Vale. Slough general secretary Roy Merryweather explained the reason for the visit: “Rijnburgse Boys play at a similar standard to Slough, but the main difference is that they are supported by large crowds and are really a thriving part of the local community.” Roy was joined by Chris Sliski and programme editor Glen Riley, who is apparently ‘concerned with projecting the image of the football club’, which if you see the state of Glen is a bit worrying!
Roy added: “If football is going to go forward in this country, we need to modernise and have facilities fit for the 21st century. If we don’t, crowds will continue dwindling and football clubs won’t be the centre of attraction for a town. We need to reach out to a bigger audience and give clubs a stronger chance of success. We want a community base and hub in the town, which will also encompass a wide range of recreational facilities for things like boxing, gymnastics, ballroom dancing — anything active.”
For me the visit to Holland again shows how far our club has moved in the right direction. That if we do end up at Arbour Vale, it will be more than just a football stadium but a sports hub for the whole town.
If we don’t take these lessons on board then we could end up in the same boat as Wingate FC and Finchley FC who had to merge to make ends meet. It’s up to all non league clubs to play a pivotal role in the local community and do what they can to attract new supporters like Natasha and her brother Rafi away from the child snatching claws of the Chelsea and Man United’s of this world!

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