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.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Printed in the Southern League South and West Division match v Paulton
Rovers Saturday 28th March 2009. We won 1-0 in front of 209.

I was expecting so much more this season. Being stupidly optimistic,
as most football fans are, I was rather foolishly hoping for at least
a sniff at the play-offs and a little run in the cups (even the Berks
and Bucks would have done). Instead we have been looking over our
shoulders at the bottom clubs and have had do with a few sporadic
highlights like beating Windsor. But it was the defeat at Uxbridge
that really did it for me and to be honest if there hadn’t been a
change of management I wouldn’t have bothered with much of the rest of
the season. Fair-weather fan? Whatever. But a five hour round trip
(and more if we are away) each week becomes pretty tiresome, and
watching Slough started to feel like a chore rather than something to
look forward too at the weekend.
Everyone’s agreed Derek Sweetman is undoubtedly a nice bloke. He
steadied the ship, but in the end it just wasn’t happening. I’m
pleased despite some really poor performances the majority of the
Slough supporters didn’t take out their frustrations on the manager or
the players. Especially after listening to some of the plonkers on the
football radio phone-in’s. So i’ve come up with a new reality TV
programme (because we need a few more, don’t we).
Forget Wife Swap, what about ‘Football Fan Swap’?
Any Arsenal fan found booing their team has to spend two months
watching Wingate and Finchley.
A season ticket watching Cowdenbeath to the knuckle-head Celtic
‘supporter’ who called for Gordon Strachan to be sacked for losing to
St.Mirren in the Scottish Cup.
Any Man United fans that ring up from Devon complaining that ‘it’s
just not good enough’, are banished to Barnstaple Town for six months
and made to clean the toilets after the game, preferably with their
United scarf.
As for Slough. Well as a gardener and it being the busiest time of
year for me, I have only seen a Steve Bateman team take apart Bishops
Cleeve in a very enjoyable day out in Gloucestershire.
But again, as we drove through Cheltenham, I felt depressed. Twenty
years ago I was watching Slough play Cheltenham. Now we are going to a
tiny little village outside Cheltenham. Now I mean no disrespect to
clubs like Cleeve – Slough deserve to be playing at this level, and
are of course, lucky not to be playing at the level below. Cheltenham
based Rebel supporter Grandad told me that Bishop Cleeve have had
their fair share of upheaval, losing their old ground when the Church
sold it off for housing and having to ground-share until they moved
into their new stadium. They had a nice clubhouse, but the ground was
a bit thread-bare, although tidy with sweeping views but unfortunately
there were more sheep watching the game than home fans.
I take my hat off to clubs like Cleeve. But – again no disrespect, I
have had enough of playing these clubs every week. I don’t want to
outnumber home supporters. I want some banter. Some atmosphere. And I
don’t want to lose nearly every week for THREE BLOODY SEASONS!!!
Just as successful managers like Arsene Wenger knows its at least top
four in the Premiership to stop the booing, Steve Bateman will know
the pressures of the new job. I expect nothing less than a battle for
a play off place next season!
I’ve got enough nice views from my front room window thank you very
much, without having to travel westwards every other week to look at

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Printed in the Southern South and West Division league match v
Bracknell Town. 0-0 in front of 218 spectators.

There’s been plenty of talk recently about a lack of younger people
coming along and giving their time for free to lower league football
teams. But one of the clubs to buck that trend is Slough Town. I
caught up with Gary Thomas, to ask him how he became a club secretary
in his twenties

How long have you been supporting Slough?
My first game was an FA Cup game, as I'm sure it is with many non
league supporters. Saturday 13th November 1993 against Torquay United.
Didn't manage to get to many games in the "good years" due to working
on Saturdays, but became a full home and away regular in 1999.

Were you involved in helping the club before you became secretary?
Yes, I was helping out on the website so occasionally would talk to
the manager, club personnel and players to get information. Perhaps
most famously, former manager Mr. Browne gave me a proper dressing
down for something I had nothing to do with! In addition, my wife Emma
agreed to run the club shop in the final years of Wexham Park and
again whilst we were at Windsor, so I had time helping out with that
also. In the years at Windsor, I did a lot of filming of matches which
was used to make two seasons review DVD's, something which we still do
occasionally now. I began to help Roy Merryweather out in the final
season at Windsor with some of the administrative work and took on the
role as football secretary for the start of our time at Beaconsfield
in 2007.

Why did you decide to become secretary?
Roy Merryweather had taken on the role originally and worked with kit
man Paul Lillywhite on a matchday to arrange everything for the
referee. I was happy to help out and wanted to get involved, so it was
a natural progression. It's been a great experience meeting other
admin staff at other clubs and talking to those in the Southern
League, the majority of whom have been exceptionally helpful as I
learn the ways of football rules and regulations. I enjoy all aspects
of football and felt I could add something to the club and wanted to
help the club get back on the right track and moving forwards again,
something which we are now able to do thanks to the dedication and
hard work of Roy and the chairman, Steve Easterbook in addition to the
other members of the clubs board.

It's also been great on the playing side to work with Darron
Wilkinson, Mark Betts and Derek Sweetman as you can see the amount of
extra hours they put into the football above and beyond matchdays and
training sessions. Whilst performances may not always have been to all
our liking, all three were more than happy to talk to anyone about the
game in the bar and after training. Most importantly, they are all
good people which makes the working relationship all that bit easier
and the role all the more enjoyable.

With the birth of my son Steven, it has become a little more difficult
as responsibilities change, but thanks to a very supportive wife I
have been able to continue to dedicate the required time to the role
that it requires and still enjoy every minute of it. I think it's
great to see Steven coming along to games and in some cases getting
into boardrooms at away clubs to enjoy hospitality!

My only regret in taking on the role is that I can no longer get in
behind the goal and get in with creating or joining in the atmosphere.
With an official role at the club, there are often things going on
which mean you cannot watch the game in its entirety, although this is
offset by having the pass for away games.

So what’s a typical match-day for you?
An average home match for me will see me notify the officials and
opponents at least seven days prior to the match, take delivery of the
programmes on a Friday afternoon and confirm with the officials that
they are all ok for the journey. On the Saturday, I aim to get to the
ground for between 1 and 1.30. Programmes are put out for the
officials, opponents, our players and into the boardroom. Then I can
afford myself a twenty minute break and usually some lunch from the
tea bar. Line ups have to be done and in to the officials by 2.15 so I
am often looking for Sweets at around 2pm to get the line up written
up. Once these are done and the papers exchanged with the officials,
the line ups need to be printed with the leagues logo and added into
the boardroom. We also print out a few extras for any press and one is
always pinned up for the supporters.

During half time we'll make sure the match officials expenses are done
and marked up and then after the game the result has to be rung
through to the press association and also to the league.

For away games, I will confirm our attendance at the game and also
send over details of pen pics, club history and expected line up to be
included in the home teams programme for the day. I will look to
arrive between 1.30 and 2pm to an away game as the line up will need
to be done and in to the referee by 2.15, but one this is done, I can
relax a bit and soak up a pre-match drink either in the bar or in the
boardroom and then enjoy the football on display.

So are you the youngest secretary in our league?
I’m certainly the youngest secretary and committee person I know of in
my season and a half of doing the job. The only one which comes close
is the secretary at Didcot who is in his thirties. Most of the
committees tend to be forties and above. We do of course have another
exception in Glen Riley (programme editor). I think between us, our
combined age totals less than some of the people I see in boardrooms
around the league!

I’m not quite sure why the trend is that way. There is obviously a lot
of time and dedication required to do any official role with a club at
this level and it is voluntary work as well, so there isn't the
financial benefit to spending the extra hours watching your club play
football. I say watching, but a lot of time for me is spent either
providing updates at away games for the website or chasing round after
my boy at the home games these days!

I think the workload involved can put people off, but we have been
blessed at Slough with a number of volunteers over the years and
people who continue to put in many hours of their own time into
helping out the club. We've also seen some of the "younger" supporters
begin to help out with the Supporters Trust raffle on a matchday and
have had previous instances of younger people running things such as
the Junior Rebels on behalf of the Trust and of course in our own

I think it comes down to the people available to you. The average
supporter will just want to come along and watch the side play
football which is fair enough. Once you become a regular though, if
you feel you can do more to help out and offer to do so, there will
always be something to help out with. Essentially, that's how I got
into the position I am in today and I don't regret a minute of it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Printed in the Southern League South and West match v Andover. We won
4-3 in front of 230.

It wasn’t my most rational of decisions. Slough were playing Truro
City and when my plans for a weekend away with Windsor Rebel, Best Man
and Big Lens fell threw, it was always going to be a mission to get to
the game. But get to the game I must – this could be the only time I
would see Slough play a league match in Cornwall!
I woke at 4.30am and walked to Brighton train station. Clubbers sat
shivering and disheveled waiting for the first train home. The train
to Victoria was fine, but my tube broke down so at 6am I was hailing a
taxi to Paddington, then jumping on a fast train to Slough to meet the
supporters coach. The Supporters Trust did a great deal for members
where it was just 20 quid return. Phil the Flag supplied the
refreshments, Pepe the chocolate and by early morning I felt like I
had eaten half the daily output of the Mars factory.
And then the coach broke down at Bristol.
For two hours.
It limped to the services and Anil the coach-driver, became Anil the
mechanic. He managed to fix it and then drove at speed and we arrived
at Truro with 3 minutes to spare, joining about 50 plus Slough
Unfortunately rather than a friendly Cornish welcome we had four
middle-aged skinheads who threatened and abused us and enjoyed light-
hearted racist banter with themselves. It was like one of the episodes
of ‘Life on Mars’, the four trapped in some 1970’s football time warp,
unable to comprehend that life had moved on, football had moved on.
The majority of the Truro fans were friendly enough – infact these
bunch of retards were from London. ‘No One Likes Us’ they sang. Hello!
We are playing eight leagues below the Premiership – no one’s heard of
I had seen Truro play before, on their way to winning the FA Vase in
front of a record 36,232 fans. On the way to Wembley they played
Whitehawk, an estate in Brighton. They came en masse and some of them
foolishly decided to sing ‘Does your boyfriend know your here’; a song
Brighton fans have to put up with everywhere. But with no police, no
stewards, no segregation, the song was ended some-what abruptly by the
locals with the Whitehawk manager having to leave the dug-out and
appeal for calm.
As for the game, Slough had the better of the first half and
incredibly took the lead and could have had more, but Truro always
looked dangerous. This is not surprising really since most of their
squad seems to be made up of ex league and Conference players. So what
about player budget cuts of 50%? One fan told me that their third
choice goalie was on a grand a month! Truro’s chairman has – or at
least did have - money to burn with plans for a new stadium and his
eyes on the Football League.
The second half was Truro’s. The cold Russian wind that would bring
the snow the next day, was doing us no favours. Phil’s flag nearly
blew away from the empty seats and Truro took control. We lost 2-1 but
played well – why can’t we do this against the teams below us?
As for the journey home. I finally got to bed at 2.30am after an epic
twenty two hour round trip. My girlfriend was still nodding her head
in disbelief the next day that I had gone all that way for 90 minutes
of football. Perhaps she had a point.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Printed in the Southern League South and West match v Cinderford Town
Tuesday 3rd March 2009. We lost 2-3 in front of 176 people. We now have
a new manager, in former player Steve Bateman.

Brace yourself - you are reading an article from one of ‘the most
influential blogs in the UK blogosphere.’ Yes that’s right, my Slough
Town Soapbox currently features at no.61 in the Wikio Sports hit
parade. Up six places and the highest ranking non league footie blog
in the monthly charts, just behind Real Madrid.
Let me explain. All the articles I write for the match day programme
get stuck on my blog for all the world to see. A blog is basically a
website written by anybody with something to say, reviews, rantings
and ravings, anything basically. And there are a hell of a lot of
blogs in the world - a year ago there was 112 million (I don’t know
who had the job of counting them). For the most part they are pretty
dull, and you do wonder who reads the stuff. Where once a private
diary, rant in the pub or tatty old fanzine would have sufficed now
it’s posted onto the internet for everyone to see. Now I’m all for
everyone putting forward their views, but to be brutally honest most
of what is posted is crap.
So how did articles about Slough Town get to rub shoulders with
Arsenal, Liverpool, and Letchworth Girls Rugby? To be honest I’m not
quite sure but they explain “The position of a blog in the Wikio
ranking depends on the number and weight of the incoming links from
other blogs. These links are dynamic, which means that they are
backlinks or links found within articles. With our algorithm, the
weight of a link from a top blog is greater than that of a link from a
blog that is less well ranked.” Which sounds like a load of bloggocks
to me!
Not surprisingly, in the sports blog top 100 football dominates, but
there’s also rugby, cricket, motor racing, and motorbiking. However it
is dominated by Arsenal blogs – twenty of the bloody things. Don’t
they get enough coverage in the national press? Is this just
confirmation that Arsenal have the geekiest supporters? It’s also
quite disconcerting that Letchworth Girls Rugby and Swaffham Girls
Rugby are higher up than me! There’s also 7 Formula 1 motor racing
blogs, writing about a sport that makes televised darts seem exciting.
I couldn’t quite bring myself to read them but at least I now know
where to go if I have any bouts of insomnia. There’s a blog called
Beautiful Aim – about ‘a 23 year old fanatic with average footballing
skill, who hopes with the guidance of a team of experts, to make
Premiership football in just one year.’ Don’t know about Beautiful
Aim, more totally deluded.
Oxford United are the only other non-league club in the top 100, and
well they aren’t proper non league really are they? The most
interesting are ‘The Referee - The Ups & Downs of an English Football
Referee’ just for an insight into referees minds. ‘Ground-Hog’ with
reviews of one mans visits to various footie grounds and ‘200 hundred
per cent’. This is easily the best with excellent, well written, in
depth footie articles with a non league slant. Some of the blogs
mentioned I reckon shouldn’t be allowed in the chart, with the BBC and
Times included, with both organisations having substantially more
resources than little ole me .
So there you go, this article was bought to you by your very own blow-
its-own-trumpet top non league football blog in the country. Now I’m
just waiting for the New Years honors list invite to drop through my
letterbox. Sir Brighton Rebel has a ring to it don’t you think?