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.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

NEVER, NEVER LAND

Printed in the Southern League Midlands Division match v Beaconsfield SYCOB Saturday 3rd April 2010. We won 3-1 in front of 283 people to keep us in the play off positions.


In the crazy world of football, those that live in financial Never Never land prosper, while those that try to keep a tight financial ship are penalized by not being able to compete.
Take a club like Rochdale, the leagues most unsuccessful team. But this season it’s different, currently top of League Two ‘the Dale’ are hoping for promotion for only the second time in their entire 103 year history, the last time being over forty years ago.
What’s more remarkable is that the club don’t have their own training facilities, have one of the lowest player budgets and are continually having to sell their best players to survive.
I went to Wembley a few seasons back to see Rochdale lose to Stockport County in the play off finals. Stockport are now in a right financial mess and bottom of Division One. Did they overstretch themselves to get promoted and so give themselves an unfair advantage over Rochdale?
What about second placed Notts County, who have been in financial turmoil all season. The owners who passed the leagues farcical fit and proper test didn’t seem to exist. Their goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, is reportedly being paid a staggering million pounds annually – probably more than Dale’s entire playing budget - while the club are millions in debt.
At the other end of the table Darlington are looking at Conference football next season. Their 25,500 state of the art stadium opened in 2003 and is an albatross round their neck with just a couple of thousand supporters echoing around the ground. It has been renamed seven times in seven years, they are on their third manager this season, and last season went into administration. Their ex chairman who built the ground and promised Darlington fans the Premiership and made home visits to any fans who dared criticise him, recently spent time inside for tax evasion after being stopped with £500,000 worth of cash in the boot of his car.
Compare those antics to the Rochdale chairman Chris Dunphy, a lifelong fan who took over four years ago. “There’s a club down the road from here loaded with £719 million of debt, but if our overdraft goes above £50,000 I’ve got the bank manager on the phone to me. What I’m not prepared to do is to bankrupt the club in order to fund promotion. We may have a smashing team to watch, but my priority is to keep us in business.” And Dunphy has harsh words for those that get themselves in a financial mess "My opinion is that when a club goes into receivership or liquidation, they should drop out of the league. I think it's grossly unfair when we go to places like Bradford City, who have wiped off debts of £38m and been bust twice, and the likes of Rotherham, who've been bust three times and wiped off their debts. It's absolutely scandalous. Leicester City - a fine example - had a new stadium built for £50m and then go bust. We've been very careful in balancing the books and we've languished at the bottom end of the Football League because of it."
Most sane football fans would like to see Rochdale go up this season as champions. That’s nothing to do with being patronising and everything to do with the fact that Dale are a proper run football club who have done things the right way, and are showing everyone that it can be done. For that alone they deserve promotion. As one Dale fan put it “We've spent 4 seasons building a team to win promotion and that’s why nobody hates us for being top, we've worked hard to be there.” Unlike Notts County who are spending money they haven’t got, to store up problems for the future in their bid for Never Never Land.

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