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 21, 2010


Printed in the Southern League Midlands Division match v Atherstone Town 20th March 2010. We drew 3-3 in front of 200 people. My son Ruben didn’t end up being a mascot cos he has chicken pox.

Football supporter’s loyalty is much abused by football owners. Supporters have an emotional attachment to the club they support, which often means they will put up with being ripped off by ticket prices, food and drink and ever changing replica tops; but there comes a point when even the most fanatical of supporter has had enough. Up to one in four Premier League season ticket holders are considering not renewing next season, according to the Football Fans' Inflation Index. Unsurprisingly Manchester United face the biggest potential exodus of season ticket holders with 15% giving up going to games entirely while another 44% only buying tickets when it suits them. This could cause serious problems for the Glazer’s who are facing supporters-led green-and-gold protests but banking on fans continuing to pass through the turnstiles to pay off the debts.
Since the Index began in January 2006 the cost of attending games has risen by 31.5 per cent. It now costs on average ninety quid to attend a Premiership game once the Index calculates essentials such as the cost of a gallon of petrol, a pint of lager, a bacon roll, a train fare, a match ticket, a replica shirt, pay-per-view cost and a programme.
Still, who cares about the Premiership cos what’s bad for them is an opportunity for lower league clubs. Today’s guest appearance on the bobbley Beaconsfield pitch will be my son, Ruben and two of his cousins Liam and Rafi. Rafi is from North London and I doubt is ever going to be a Slough Town fan, but the younger you can get children through the turnstiles the better. Ruben and Liam have both been mascots before and have notched up quite a few games between them. Mind you I’m waiting for the moment when Ruben questions my sanity of watching Slough when we live in Brighton when there is a perfectly good football club just down the bottom of our estate.
Once they grow out of the running-away phase, lower league football is the perfect place to take your kids. They can’t easily escape, their hardly like to be crushed by crowds, other people look out for them, there’s no dogs mess to fall in – and of course their vocabulary is widened! It’s also better for them to be involved in a shared communal experience than staring at a screen. Infact I reckon there should be a mascot for Slough every game. One supporter came up with the great idea of having a lucky dip draw at schools where the winner gets to be the mascot. We wouldn’t get the mascot money but we’d get more people through the gate, people who wouldn’t normally come.
At the age of four and still with serious ants in his pants, I would never dream of taking Ruben to a game where he had to sit still for 90 minutes. With Premiership crowds getting older, fatter, balder and more middle class, the lull of terraces and changing ends at half time should appeal to a lot more people and be affordable to most.
It’s also the younger supporters that start the songs and create some kind of atmosphere. Something that Jon Keen, from the Football Supporters' Federation, predicts is fast disappearing in the Premiership. He warns that the forty-something white-collar lot who do go are often simply too polite to generate the sort of electric atmosphere which used to be English football's hallmark. "The atmosphere is declining, if not dying, at many matches - it's not as vibrant as it used to be. And that is not what the television companies who fund our clubs want."
So, how about treating your offspring or junior relatives to the Slough Town mascot match day experience. It may not be the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ but the younger ones will have a great day out that won’t leave you eating bread and gruel for the rest of the month to pay for the privilege.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Printed in the Southern League Midlands Division game v Leighton Town Tuesday 9th March 2010. We won 3-1 in front of 182.

How bad do things have to get that you want the football team you support to fold? Very bad, for the majority of Chester City supporters who were boycotting home games and praying the Conference would throw the club out of the league and into oblivion (which the Conference did). It was the only way they could get rid of their owners and run the club themselves even if it meant starting at the bottom of the pyramid pile.
What Chester fans actions make clear is that football clubs are not business in the same way that Woolworths or Northern Rock were businesses. People didn’t rally round to sort out those companies financial mess, not even the much loved Woolworths (people seemed to love the idea of Woolworths, but not the idea of shopping there). Football clubs should be run in a businesslike fashion (you know crazy things like just spending money they actually have) but no-one can pretend it’s a normal business. If a fan thinks their club charges too much or is rubbish on the pitch, they don’t go and support the club down the road.
Unfortunately such loyalty has a flip side that is ruthlessly exploited by owners as they know football fans put up with just about anything in their love for their club. Sometimes they get blinded by the good times, even though the good times can spell disaster. Just ask Portsmouth, who bbecame the 53 club to go into administration since the beginning of the Premiership.
Last weekend FC United of Manchester organized a Beyond the Debt rally. FC United formed after the Glazers took over Manchester United, are supporters owned and bill themselves as punk football. Speakers included respected journalist David Conn, of The Guardian, representatives from German Bundesliga club Schalke FC, and Supporters Direct, which represents football fans throughout the country. There was also delegations from Portsmouth, Chester City and Manchester United Supporters' Trust (Must). Must is campaigning for the removal of the Glazer family. Instead of red, expect to see green-and-gold scarves as supporters show their discontent with a family that has saddled one of the world’s most successful clubs with millions of debt. Meanwhile the Red Knights plan to buy Manchester United and in a very short space of time have over 120,000 members!
Speaking at the rally Andy Walsh, General Manager of FC United, said “Football is at a critical juncture, with the need for clear leadership and regulation never more evident. We aim to make the point that supporter ownership is the only way forward.”
The Glazers take a very different view. For them supporters are mere customers. In the small print of the recent bond issue, designed to temporarily alleviate the debt, they said ticket prices, could rise inexorably: the customers would always fork out whatever it took to see their heroes. That was the nature of football support.
And that’s where they have supporters by the balls. Unless Man United and other fans start boycotting clubs in their droves, will anything change? How would TV companies react if the protest groups from Liverpool and Man United manage to persuade the majority of supporters not to go to the next fixture but protest outside? An empty Anfield would send a powerful message to both the clubs owners and the football authorities.
Boycotting games is what Chester fans were driven too, with their lowest ever home gate in what eventually turned out to be their last ever match. They can take massive heart and encouragement from Aldershot, AFC Wimbledon, Newport County, Telford United, Leamington – all clubs that have risen from the ashes, and climbed up the pyramid.
It will be a lot of hard work, but it will put the football club back firmly where it belongs, run and owned by the supporters, and part of the community rather than some idiots plaything.


Printed in the Southern League Midlands Division game v Soham Town Rangers.
We won 2-0, attendance 227

The Slough Town forum has been busy of late with the question ‘To Moan or Not to Moan.’ Flying high and looking good for a play off place after season after season of utter despair it seems that some people are never happy. But apparently that’s nothing new. One supporter remembered going to Bishop Stortford in the early 70’s. Slough were a very successful team then yet their programme included an article in which home supporters suggested collective nouns appropriate for the supporters of various opposing teams. Ours was "a misery of Slough supporters".

This debate was prompted by Jamie Jarvis, Burnham’s manager, Slough boy and former player who has been putting the psychological boot in whenever he can. Talking about last weeks Burnham’s game (postponed of course – the ground was too wet this time, which at least makes a change from games being postponed because they are too hard or too white). Anyway, he said “If we can keep a clean sheet for 80 minutes their fans will get on their backs. I know what they’re like.” According to The Jarvis we also have the biggest budget in the league, and referees unfairly pick on him and his shrinking violet of players. With these sorts of mind games he’s destined to become a Premiership manager.

Slough manager Steve Bateman in his recent programme notes spoke about “expectations have certainly been raised, and I have no problem with that at all, it’s what motivates me to want to succeed.” To be fair, all clubs go through this. Take Eastbourne Borough whose manager has transformed a team playing in the Sussex County League to the Conference. But now, because this part time club, who has to travel the length of the country to play the likes of Barrow and Gateshead and play full time teams many of them ex league clubs, they aren’t doing so well and some supporters have been calling for his head! That’s gratitude for you.

So does Jarvis have a point? Perhaps; but some of the moaniest gits are also the ones that start the singing and get most behind the team. Oh the paradoxes of life! However the Slough Town choir seems to be a dwindling bunch. A lot have gone on to greater things (like becoming the Slough Town secretary) or moved to distant places (like St.Ives), become dads or lost the will to live during our ‘wilderness’ years.

And I know this will sound snobby, but I really have had enough of playing at this level. I know its where we deserve to be and no club has a God given right to be in any league, but I have had enough of visiting small towns without railway stations, that make Holloways Park look palatial. Where two men and a dog is a big crowd. It’s like we are in an FA Cup Preliminary Round feedback loop nightmare unable to get to the next round. I finally snapped at Atherstone and became one of those moany gits, Blame the weather, the lack of food at the ground, the football. After an eight hour round trip to hell "misery of Slough supporters" summed me up perfectly.

Our expectations have been seriously raised, and instead of relegation or extinction we have a real chance of a play off place this season and have been playing some enjoyable football. This winter has dragged on and postponements have played havoc with the games but I am really looking forward to the business end, or squeaky bum time, of the season. Let’s all get behind the team, get our vocal chords going, and help push our club onto promotion.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Printed in the (re-arranged) Southern League Midland Division match v Chesham United Tuesday 2nd March 2010. We lost 3-1 in front of 286.

There’s only one possible subject for this programme and it’s the weather. Infact weather you will be reading this at all is pretty unlikely with the Siberian freeze set to continue and the Chesham home game probably off. Still, we all love to talk about the weather – too hot, too cold, to wet, to dry – but the last few weeks have given everyone, especially the 24 hour news channels, something to really get their teeth chattering mouths into.
Then it’s the who is to blame game. Residents moan that the council haven’t spent millions on snowmobiles and gritting small roads (these people will also be the first to complain that all of that will add to their council tax bills). My advice to them is to shut up, grab a shovel and brush and clear your paths and do your elderly neighbours while you’re at it.
The same old dreary business leaders complain that people aren’t risking life and limb to get to work and that millions is being lost on the economy although I’m pretty sure sales of wellies, salt, shovels and hot chocolate have rocketed.
Still, the species of humans I am most concerned with is the football supporter. When Premiership matches are called off you know it’s bad and like many other fellow suffers I have been like a junkie, looking for my football fix.
For the Marlow home game I had already travelled to Slough to do some errands for my dad. Just before midday the inevitable happened and I was told the game was off.
Not to be beaten me and Gary Big Lens headed to Horsham where we were told there would be a late pitch inspection. We got as far as the turnstiles, when a steward informed everyone the game was off. What’s worse is that these festive matches will often see the biggest crowds of the season, as people finally snap and need to escape the family home.
Last weekend was even worse. A blanket of snow and ice engulfed the whole country and every non league game was off apart from St.Stephens Borough in the Cornish League. A bit too far too travel even for me. People began to starve in the homes and eat the larger members of their families. Actually worse than having to eat Fat Cyril was finding myself shopping on a Saturday. While Club Shop Sue said her house had never been so clean, I was fighting in the aisles singing ‘you don’t know what you’re buying.’
Still, if you think it’s bad now, what about the freezing winter of 1963. The football season had to be extended by a month, the game between Airdrie and Stranraer was postponed a record 33 times and Halifax Town flooded their pitch then charged people to ice skate on it!
Actually one of the only real sane things I have heard was from an Inuit student living in London. The weather gets so bad in Greenland you know it will cause disruption. She was laughing about how we complain when buses are 10 minutes late, and said they start to worry after delays of 10 hours! As I sat in my work shed putting wood in the burner and drinking tea I thought of those words and knew that apart from bashing snow off the fruit cage there wasn’t any work I could do and that the world wouldn’t collapse because I couldn’t dig out any parsnips. Might as well just enjoy the winter wonderland and keep my frozen fingers crossed that I will see Slough play sometime this month.