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, October 24, 2010


Printed in the Southern League Central Division match v Leighton Town. We lost 1-0 to a 90th minute goal in front of 244 pissed off supporters.

I couldn’t face another game against SuperMarlow and that stupid bear, so I decided to swap the Trophy for the Vase. Not that I could sell it to any of my mates to go and watch a team that is just eight promotions away from being in the Premiership. A couple of short bus rides and I found myself at Peacehaven and Telescombes tidy little ‘Sports Park’, facing Hamble Association in the first round of the FA Vase.
Now Peacehaven is a funny old place, surrounded on three sides by the South Downs and coming to an abrupt halt as the stunning cliff face crashes into the sea. The rows of squat bungalows just don’t really sit right. A few miles from Brighton it might as well be 300, although they’ve got the same MP as me. It’s only been a town since 1916 and was originally called New Anzac-on-Sea. This lasted less than a year before it was renamed Peacehaven. The town’s main claim to fame is an obelisk marking the Greenwich meridian time line. It’s also where Peter and the Test Tube Babies were born, and delighted the world with their abrasive brand of punk music. ‘Peacehaven Wild Kids’ isn’t a patch on Elvis Is Dead whose lyrical dexterity includes the lines ‘Elvis had a heart-attack, 'cos he got too bleedin' fat. He weighed nearly half a tonne, he looked more like a pregnant mum.’ Classic!
The football club were formed just a few years after the town and have been in the Sussex County League ever since. They finished runners up last season to big spending Whitehawk. This season big spending Crawley Down poached some of their best players with the promise of more money (some of them apparently on 150 a week). It’s depressing even at this level, that the football economics of the madhouse exist.
As for Peacehaven’s ground; well it’s not up to the standards for the ground regulation bureaucrats, despite enough covering for their crowds that barely reach three figures. They have laid the foundations for a seated stand, without which they will be relegated. Why they really need it is anyone’s guess. I counted about 90 at the game, many of whom seemed to be officials, friends and girlfriends of players.
The South Downs are being temporarily scared by a new sewage works being built behind the ground. I’m told it will disappear behind trees eventually and in return the club will get lots of artificial pitches for community use.
In the end Peacehaven progressed to the next round, and unlike the FA Trophy, which doesn’t seem to be very highly regarded for Conference clubs who just want to get back into the league, the FA Vase still retains its magic. Where village sides can get to play at Wembley and maybe push themselves up the footballing pyramid.
Peacehaven and Telescombe are just another part of the extensive football jigsaw across the country. The sheer amount of football clubs playing a decent level of football is just staggering. I can get to eight clubs who take part in the FA Cup on my all day Brighton bus pass (so instead I make the rational decision to spend over eight hours travelling to watch Slough play at Bedworth United!) The role of course that these little clubs play is immeasurable, where else do you get this mix of people mingling on first name terms? The social glue, the Big Society, the community hub. Whatever the jargon, while the Peacehavens of this world will probably never set the footballing world alight, they play an important role not just on the football pitch but in our communities as well.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Printed in the FA Trophy 1st Qualifying round v Chippenham Town Saturday 16th October 2010. We drew 1-1 in front of 251.

OK, so I get the Governments ‘Big Society’ idea, even I don’t believe their reasons behind it. Maybe I get it because nowhere is the “Big Society” more evident than in sport. Every week thousands – maybe millions – of people play sports all organised in local communities and often affiliated to non-profit-making national organisations. You can see the Big Society in action at every Slough Town home game. Sure we’ve got a chairman who puts his hand in his pocket to keep us going, but he would be the first to acknowledge that without the people that give their time for free to run the Supporters Trust, be on the management committee, man the turnstiles, write and sell the programme, be a steward, collect wayward balls during games, walk stupidly long distances at the end of the season…well you get the picture.
You want something to happen? Then get involved to make sure it does. Simple. If that’s not the Big Society in action then I don’t know what is.
But sport is something people are willing to give up their free time and energy for because it’s something they enjoy. It is also something that can bring whole communities together. But that enjoyment is being eroded by expensive ticket prices, clubs going into administration or disappearing from the footballing map entirely.
During the World Cup, Supporters Direct - the government-backed initiative to encourage democratic, mutual ownership of football clubs - published a report. It found that for all its faults football remains of immense social value, and its clubs, when not falling into rack and ruin, are widely considered to be rallying points for civic pride. The report concludes that clubs should acknowledge the social role they play and adopt it as one of their core aims.
So perhaps we have to forget the leave-it-up-to you Big Society. If we are to sort out football finances then the FA needs to be leaned on by Big Government to stop so many idiots taking over our clubs. On a local level, councils helped by cash from the Football Foundation should work in partnership to build new facilities. You just need to look at how successful Dartford have been to show you what a really good partnership can achieve.
However, this is where we can see that the Big Society is just mutton dressed up as lamb (which isn’t really surprising as David Cameron apart from being minted comes from a PR background). Thanks to the bankers bail-out, who will still get their bonuses, it is we who have to pay the price and sport is an easy target. So it’s the end of free swimming lessons for under 16’s and over 60’s. The cancellation of a £25 million swimming pool refurbishment programme. No new school buildings will mean clapped out old school gyms will not be refurbished. Councils getting reduced funding will also mean local sport facilities will take a hit.
Of course we should get together to improve our communities – but run our local libraries, schools, leisure centres and rubbish services. Er, isn’t that what we pay local councils to do? Have people really got time to do all this? You won’t exactly get the same buzz as being involved in your local team as sorting out the local bin collection. Call me cynical but Big Society is just an opportunity to close services and push through more privatisation. Still I suppose as we fill in all the pot holes in our street with our uncollected rubbish we can at least have a football sing-song. How about ‘You’re not delivering services anymore.’ Or what about ‘tax top footballers wages and spend it on more sports facilities for all.’? I’m sure one of the lads behind the Slough goal could come up with a catchy tune for that one.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


Printed in the FA Trophy 1st round match v Marlow Saturday 2nd October 2010. We drew 2-2 in front of 221.

Lewes Football Club very nearly didn’t celebrate their 125 anniversary. Like so many others, they overstretched themselves and the taxman was ready to wield the axe. Their sensational climb from one man and his dog in the Isthmian League Division Three to the Conference National saw this small market town team up against ex-league clubs with full time players. These uneven odds weren’t helped by sacking their manager on promotion day with most of the winning team leaving. Then the Conference decreed petty ground officials moved in. No more drinking on the terraces, segregation, bag searches and bossed around by half witted security - it was a financial and PR disaster. They were relegated and then nearly demoted again last season. But those behind the scenes knew they needed to get not just their supporters but the whole of the local community back on side. They appointed a manager who is well known and respected – and then astonishingly, the chairman handed the club over to the supporters. Lewes became 100% community owned.
And this, claim Lewes fans, is where are they are different from other supporter run clubs “In the best traditions of the town we are making history. To date every football club that has found its way into the 100% control of the fans has done through bankruptcy or via a period of divisive, adversarial relations between owners and potential community owners. Not so at Lewes. This is a velvet revolution where everyone is on board and up for it.”
Lewes is no doubt a very unique place with its olde-worlde feel. They’ve got their own currency, the biggest bonfire celebrations in the country and so many independent shops it could be the 1950’s. And there’s no McDonalds. This place is posh! Where else could get away with charging 4.50 for a cheese toastie (just add the word pesto and watch the suckers flock in). The football club is where all clubs should be, in the middle of the town where it has been for 125 years. How many other institutions can claim to be in the same place, carrying out the same duties for that long?
So instead of making the tedious trip to Atherstone I decided to join in the 125th celebrations. Half jokingly they said wouldn’t it be great if 1,250 fans came. In the end it was 1,346. Despite being second from bottom crowds are up 81% on last season. Kids under 16 getting in for free is an obvious no brainer. The fact that you can drink all day on the fantastic terraces behind the goal , get to watch football amongst the politest supporters in the country – and get brownie points for looking after the kids. Well, who wouldn’t want to come? And with a population of just 16,000 it’s a stumble away from most people’s houses.
There’s a real buzz about the place again, no doubt helped by the copious amount of real ale being sunk. There’s a thriving youth team, excellent food (other football caterers take note) and the shirt sponsorship has been given away to charity.
Travelling to Lewes by bus, Brighton’s new ground is rising spectacularly on the edge of town. No doubt as my son Ruben gets older he will want to be part of that and the atmosphere thousands of people can generate. But non league football is what I feel most comfortable with (and I don’t include the Conference as non league anymore). A pint on the Dripping Pan terraces run and owned by the fans is always going to wet my appetite – and so it seems a good portion of Lewes people as well.