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, January 30, 2011


Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Atherstone Town Saturday 29th January 2011. We won 3-0 in front of 208. Since the article was written it seems that Windsor and Eton FC have sadly folded.

Just like so many football clubs, Windsor and Eton’s future is in doubt thanks to money it owes to the taxman. With small crowds and little income, paying players and bonus they couldn’t afford and no rent from any homeless tenants, they have managed to saddle themselves with a staggering debt of £243,000.
However the reward for their financial mismanagement last season was promotion and many in the game question whether clubs gaining advantage by splashing out the cash that they haven’t got is fair. The other side of the coin are clubs like Atherstone Town who are pulling out of the Southern League at the end of this season. They told the league “Unfortunately, current economic circumstances mean that we are unable to continue with the level of costs required to maintain a football club at this level. We are in the same position that many clubs find themselves. Ironically, in terms of non-debt, we are in a comfortable position, but our capacity to raise income is very limited.” Obviously a very sensible financial decision looking at the long term interests of the club, but how would Slough supporters have reacted to news of voluntary relegation when we were in a right two and eight?
Some supporters are calling Windsor thieves for their unpaid tax bills but I’m sorry. I just can’t get upset about a £50,000 unpaid tax bill when our biggest corporations and businessman use every loophole and scheme at their disposal to get away with not paying tax.
Now tax is a funny thing. None of us like to pay it, but we love the NHS. Our schools to open. Bins collected. Street lights to work. Unfortunately you can’t have one without the other.
For the self employed, this Monday is the deadline for the return their self-assessment forms with fines waiting for those who miss it. But whilst people rush to get them in on time, rich corporations and individuals are getting away with avoiding £25 billion of tax every year by employing armies of lawyers and accountants to exploit legal loopholes and dodge what they owe. The government reckons that we’re all in this financial mess together. But while councils across the country are slashing budgets one of the biggest tax dodgers is the owner of Top Shop, Miss Selfridge, British Home Stores etc. Greedy Fatso Philip Green. This is also the man who is advising the government on how to make cuts. Come again? Yes, the same Philip Greedo who awarded himself £1.2 billion, the biggest paycheck in British corporate history, but who channeled it through a network of offshore accounts, via tax havens in Jersey and eventually to his wife’s Monaco bank account. The dodge saved Green, and cost the tax payer, close to £300 million. Which would pay the salaries of twenty thousand nurses.
So I’ve got a radical idea of how to make savings and it starts with Green paying is tax bill.
So what about Windsor. Is points deductions enough? Demotion? Insolvency and reforming at the bottom of the pyramid pile? It’s hard for the fans but sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Demanding success; not questioning that dodgy looking chairman who promises the earth, or at least a place in the football league. Windsor’s projected income this season is £73,000 yet their expenditure is £180,000 and the playing budget alone is £2,500 per week!
Just like the big Premiership clubs who threaten a European Super League everytime the FA don’t lay out the red carpet for them, the top bankers and tax dodgers threaten to grab their coats and go if we try to level the playing field. I’ll be more than happy to shut the door behind the lot of them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Printed in the Southern League Central Division match v Woodford United on Tuesday 25th January 2011. We drew 3-3 in front of 184 people.

I like a good old fashioned strike, been on a few picket lines and taken part in my fair share of direct action. Asking politely is easily ignored by the rich and powerful while taking to the streets sends out a message. The recent student demo hit the headlines because of the aggro at the end. If it had all gone peacefully, one media editor admitted, it would have got just a few seconds on the news. So the Scottish referee strike was an interesting one. Verbal attacks from players and managers; death threats from fans; and demands for an enquiry and reform of their trade from former Labour Home Secretary, now Celtic chairman, John Reid ratcheted up the pressure. Celtic have been attacking refereeing integrity in Scotland making out that there's an institutional bias against them. A line had been crossed and the refs decided they had had enough and downed whistles. We even had a bit of solidarity with some refs from other countries refusing to take their places.
So are Celtic, flexing their muscles complaining about the injustice of it all, just like the big Premiership clubs where top managers are always ready to whine when things don’t go their way? Like a small, spoilt child we must never forget that the world revolves around them.
Of course the media don’t help with the idiotic 24 hour sports news channels desperate to fill it with something. They would throw their hands up in despair if all they heard was managers saying ‘well the referee is only human, he made some mistakes, but not as many as my players who I thought acted in a disgraceful manner.’ Actually that would make news cos it’s so unusual. Instead we get the football highlights with fancy camera angles and slow motion replays followed by managers complaining about a referee's decision that cost them the game, should have been sent off, was never a foul. Or as former England manager Graham Taylor once said to a linesman, "Tell your mate, he's cost me my job". Our blame culture doesn’t help either. Well how about you lost cos your team was rubbish and you got your tactics wrong?
Why anyone would want to become a referee or linesman is beyond me and for that I take my bobble hat off to them. They get more abuse than estate agents, traffic wardens and bankers (well, maybe not bankers) While some argue they only do the job because they are just frustrated footballers who couldn’t make the grade, how about they just like being involved in football? Referees will make mistakes, and they will get things wrong. And this ain’t helped by players diving, feigning injury and chasing them around the pitch.
In most major sports the authority of the referee now goes largely unquestioned and they have multiple officials and assorted technology to help make the right decision. What they also have in common are natural pauses built into the pattern of the game, so looking at technology or asking another official becomes just another break.
But football is a passionate game and I wouldn’t want to see that diminished by stop-start technology. Yes emotions get out of hand, but maybe its time to dish out longer bans for managers and players that persistently argue. I know when Slough players do it leaves a bad taste in my mouth (or maybe that’s just the disgusting food being served up at football grounds?)
The alternative is that it won’t just be Scottish refs who have had enough and we will soon be contending with more than just the weather to see if our game is going ahead.

Friday, January 21, 2011


Printed in the Southern League Central Division match v Arlesey Town Tuesday 18th January 2011. We lost 3-0 in front of 267.

It’s not often a millionaire comes up to where you work and hands over a cheque for seven and a half grand. But that’s what happened to me a few months back. It was part of the ‘The Secret Millionaire’, one of Channel 4’s flagship programmes where a millionaire goes undercover and looks for deserving charities and people to give their cash too. The programme works because it goes to the underbelly of Britain, pulls on the heart strings and has a happy tear-jerking ending.
So it was one sunny day I received a phone call from researchers who told me they were doing a programme about charities suffering under the recession. All very worthy but not exactly ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. To further their research we of course had to ‘network’ in a pub. I even got to have a few pints with the director and the brains behind ‘Spitting Image.’ The next call was to say that they would like to film at our garden project and would it be ok to bring along a volunteer who has depression, was sleeping in a camper van on the sea front – oh and he has a film crew following him around.
Now every small charity struggling to make ends meet dreams of a fairy god mother to turn up on their doorstep and offer them cash. So having watched previous series we immediately became suspicious. Could a secret millionaire really be coming to our rescue?
Over a hectic week, fifty hours of filming became fifty minutes. That long speech you had been rehearsing became one line. Don’t forget to look natural while they stick a camera in your face, and ask you to do something again and again. Oh, and act all surprised when all is revealed! As it turns out the mystery millionaire, Bradley Reback is a good bloke who is continuing to support us. He found that despite what the media would have us believe, that people down on their luck aren’t all scroungers and scum-bags but are human beings who can be warm and generous with the little they have. He told the cameras the next time someone asks him for 50p for a cup of tea he will stick his hand in his pocket.
This series has been a bit too much poor millionaire with all their problems, but the researchers do a great job uncovering people and small organisations that work hard in their communities on a shoestring. It is a snapshot into another Britain that goes under the radar for the majority of our media obsessed with those idiots in the jungle, premiership footballers and some toffs having a Royal wedding.
As for our little charity working with pupils who are failing at school offering them different skills and opportunities, getting a wide range of people; from school kids to refugees, older residents to people with learning difficulties, working together; well we are really proud of what we do, and primetime TV exposure has really helped raise our profile.
So will my five minutes of fame go to my head? Of course. Infact I’ve decided that Slough Town just aren’t classy enough for me now, and as our Chairman has declined my request for a corporate box (thanks, but that offer of a treehouse in the big beech tree by the M40 just wasn’t what I was after) I’m off to the Arsenal where my new found bling and prawn sandwich swallowing will really be appreciated.
* If you want to know more about where I work and a link to watch the programme go to (but please don’t ask me any gardening questions while I’m watching the football).

Monday, January 10, 2011

Weather Warning

Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Hitchin Town Saturday 8th January 2011. We drew 1-1 in front of biggest gate of the season, 346. Hitchin still top of the league and unbeaten this season. Slough are fourth.

I’ve given up on ever seeing a Christmas football match. With a winter so cold I’ve been sitting in a fridge to warm up, yet another postponement meant, along with hundreds of other clubs, Slough missed the Boxing Day bonus of crowds that are often the seasons best.
Now I am against a winter break – the British weather is just too unpredictable, and if we had two weeks off when the weather was mild and then the country went back into a deep freeze postponing games; well it would not only financially cripple clubs already on the edge, but send football fans into a Slough of football craving despond.
Luckily the two respected secretaries of Slough and Beaconsfield made a quick decision and re-arranged the Boxing Day game for a few days later when a lot of people were still off work and programmes wouldn’t have to be shredded. The second best crowd of the season saw the game with the most goals. Not that I saw any. How I laughed after deciding not to go with the twitter feed on my phone going into meltdown. Three down in 21 minutes eventually became 6-4 to Slough. There hasn’t been a comeback like that since we beat Stafford in the Conference and I roamed the streets looking for a cat to kick.
Even worse was to follow on New Years Day. Surely the league would put on a full fixture list just like the Ryman League? Oh no, another free Saturday and instead we played on the bank holiday Monday. The day when a lot of people are gearing them up for going back to work after an extended break.
There is one simple thing to tackle the inevitable congestion that comes with so many postponed games, and that is play more Tuesday night games earlier in the season. Just imagine; watching games in the barmy evenings of September, rather than freezing to death in February. The Slough manager Steve Bateman seems to agree “I just cannot understand this season in some respects. I spent the first five weeks of the season looking for games and now we’ve got to Christmas and we have this huge gap. It’s just beyond me that at the start of the season when there were dates available and everyone is full of optimism that we weren’t playing. Knowing what has happened in the last three years or so we don’t seem to have learned from it; it’s looking like it might need another extension to the season.” When asked if the club would write to the league to express their disappointment in the fixture list, Bateman responded: “I’m not sure there is any point. If they haven’t learned their lesson from last year they are never going to. What is obvious to the clubs, players and supporters never seems strikingly obvious to the powers that be.”
Well taking up the baton I decided to contact Jason Mills League Secretary of the Zamaretto League to find out their position. “With the last few season’s winter weather decimating fixtures, wouldn't it be prudent to have more Tuesday night fixtures at the beginning of the season when the weather is a lot kinder, you might even get a few more punters through the turnstiles? Be great if you could give me a quote to use.”
Mr.Mills sent a prompt but curt reply “Thanks for your email, however I am unable to offer you a quote for publication.”
So now I understand what our manager is saying about asking the league for a bit of common sense if that’s the response you get.
Watching football in this weather might be good for club shop Sues bobble hat sales but its no good for anyone else.