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 27, 2011


Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Bedworth United Saturday 26th March 2011. We won 2-1 in front of 253.

Some people walk, some cycle, but near the end of every season the more discerning Rebel will pick a town to stay en masse. This tradition dates back to, oh the Newport Isle of Wight game, where you couldn’t go down a street corner without seeing someone in amber and blue. Truro wasn’t as popular but Bury St Edmunds had plenty of supporters taking in the cathedral, curry houses and one or ten pubs.
This year it was the turn of Rugby for the annual away day bonanza. So straight after work I jumped on the train to join a few fellow Rebels who by the time I arrived had already ticked off the Coventry Transport Museum and quite a few local real ales. Infact Best Man was a walking real ale pub guide, sniffing out loads of Rugby’s best boozers.
Now the law of unintended consequences meant that the trip to Rugby finally gave me the kick up the back side to join the local gym. Why? Well Rugby, being one of only three clubs in our league with enough fans to form a supporter’s team, challenged us to a game and stupidly I said yes. After playing with a bunch of five year olds a few weeks before and nearly dying of an asthma attack I felt it was finally time to get my finger out and try and give Mr.Universe a run for his money.
Not that it helped much. Just whose idea was it to stick me at right back with a 20 year old sprinting past me every time? Luckily he couldn’t shoot for toffee, or was too busy tredding on various parts of our keepers Phil the Flags anatomy. Anyway apart from my humiliation, it was a great exercise in football fraternity and despite my efforts we somehow won the game on penalties before the walking wounded dragged ourselves to the football club bar. And what a friendly little club and town Rugby is.
But scratch beneath the surface and some people won’t go near the football club. Now I’ve tried to make sense of Rugbys football club history and I’m none the wiser. Liquidations, name changes and financial melt downs abound.  What we did find out talking to some people in town, is that some would rather support neighbours Leamington than Rugby Town.
It seems with the takeover of FA Vase winning 50-year-old VS Rugby FC in 1999 by a new owner there were just too many changes for some supporters to swallow. Almost immediately he dumped of the name of VS Rugby and changed the kit and many saw that the junior Rugby club had taken over the senior one. Six years on some people have still not gone back to support the club.
With a £1.5 million football foundation the club has facilities to die for with deep covered terraces behind each goal, astro turf for community use, a smart clubhouse and even toilets that sparkled clean. But despite such a fantastic ground Rugby club were relegated last year
As an outsider, I can understand peoples passion, but it is a shame. From our point of view I wish their were more grounds and supporters like Rugby Town at our level of football although maybe one supporters game a season is enough for most of us creaking Rebels. 

Monday, March 21, 2011


Printed in the Southern League Central Divison game v North Greenford United on Saturday 19th March 2011. We won 2-1 in front of 267.

It was one of those perfect Saturdays; a timely reminder why I take the long trip from the south coast to watch Slough play. Greenford won’t mean a great deal to most people unless you are interested in the history of the chemical industry. But North Greenford tube was my final destination for a match Slough had to win to stop a run of four defeats on the bounce and some people calling for the manager’s head. The vista that greeted me as I stepped out the tube was one of industry and commerce but our local real ale detectives knew of a decent boozer by the canal. Rewind 100 years and The Black Horse Pub would have been nestled in farmland on the outskirts of London; now it was part of the Capitals urban sprawl with surroundings that would give the Slough Trading Estate a run for its money in the beauty stakes. Still, I really wasn’t expecting to be sitting by a big bay window in old coaching inn overlooking the Grand Union Canal. And was that really Anil swapping his coach duties for the canal boat trip of a lifetime for Slough supporters with Dave the Programme serenading his missus as he punted along the water? Nah, must have drunk to much beer. Still for an hour or two we could sup with fellow Rebels and look at the scenery before making our way to North Greenford United’s ground through 1930’s suburbia nestled on the edge of a wooded hill.
There are clubs in our league which smell of desperation and clinging on for dear hope. North Greenford wasn’t one of them. For sure their ground was spartan but the clubhouse was cheap and had a good buzz – one of those where many punters stay in the bar rather than watching the football. 
I’d never been to Greenford before; to the ground or the town and that’s what I like about following the Rebels away. I’m not one for holidays and laying on the beach, so a kiss-me -quick fix of away days is enough wanderlust for me.
I reckon over the 33 years of support I’ve visited about 180 grounds. When I was young I boarded the supporters coach on the Farnham Road and went straight to our opponents ground. But as I got older we’d make long weekends of our northern trips in the Conference, going clubbing and eating curries in Manchester. Hitching to Kettering. Heading towards Wales when Telford was our destination. They were the prehistoric  days before SAT NAVS, mobiles, websites – and in my cousin Marks case, any knowledge of maps or directions.
As we plummeted down the leagues, our current level of football has meant towns and cities being swapped for the more genial market towns and villages of the south.
Sitting in the market square of Hitchin waiting nervously for the play off game. Spending a romantic weekend without Ruben. Just me, Zoe and 30 other Rebel supporters in the picturesque Bury St.Edmunds. Beers in the old market town of Biggleswade. Slap up breakfast in Dulwich. That great trip to the Isle of Wight. The fantastic atmosphere in the Gravesend pub before our Trophy game. And just last weekend the visit to Rugby.
Most of these places aren’t going to be on anyone’s holiday destination list. But so what?
Despite Tesco’s, McDonalds, Starbucks etc trying to make everywhere look and taste the same, most places (bar maybe Stevenage) have enough history and higgidly-piggidlyness to make them different. So when you come out of that train station (if they’ve still got one) you are ready for another adventure, with binoculars ready to spot a pub.
Who really needs to go to the American mid west when you can traipse for miles through tumbleweed in search of Arlesey Football Club? 

Sunday, March 06, 2011


Printed in the Southern League Central Division match v Soham Town Rangers on Saturday 5th March 2011. We run 2-1 in front of 252.

Now being a gardener you would expect me to stick up for grass, but I’m beginning to wonder if a bit of the artificial stuff is the way forward. After another wave of bad weather everyone at Slough is really looking forward to late nights and a hectic end of season fight for the play offs. But does it have to be like this?
With the club slowly edging towards a return back to the borough wouldn’t it be better to install a 4G pitch at the new ground, guaranteeing the club fewer postponements and the pitch available for use seven days a week. The harsh financial reality is that lower league clubs are taking a battering. You just have to look over the river to see what’s happened to Windsor.
So what’s the problem?
Maidstone United, homeless for over twenty years, have been told by the FA that should they go ahead with fitting an artificial pitch at their new stadium, they will not be able to gain promotion or play matches at home in the FA Cup. But their owner reckons that the only viable way of the club returning home is be to have an artificial pitch which can be used 7 days a week all year round. Windsor’s new owner reckons the same.
The FA have banned artificial pitches in the Premier league, football league, and FA cup, although they are allowed in the Trophy and Vase. The Conference have also banned them and this led Durham City nearly folding after their sponsors pulled out when the club were told they couldn’t get promotion. In the glue sniff league Woodley Sports also play on plastic.
Now were not talking about crazy bouncing balls and gashed legs courtsery of the old style astro turfs. Technology has come along way. In any case, by the end of last season at Beaconsfield there wasn’t a blade of grass left on the pitch and at one match I nearly had an asthma attack there was so much dust.
After relaying the Wembley grass every other week, it now has artificial fibres meshed into the grass – although at a cost of £250,000 this might be a bit prohibitive for Slough.
Bob and Gary Breen run Breen Consultants, and Bob Breen is chairman of Burnham FC. They have been advising everyone from UEFA to the smaller clubs on the grass alternative. Gary explained the possible benefits: "It was an eye opener to see how football clubs are running. Fundamentally this club (Burnham) and many others haven't got any money. You look at the clubs' assets - the pitch. Selling it as an 11-a-side and seven-a-side artificial pitch you can easily sell it to 40,000 people, at the moment you are struggling to get a 1,000 on it. All of a sudden 40,000 people are using your bar, your changing rooms, your vending machines. That suddenly becomes a real sell commercially, we are putting people through here and it is about community. You can play on football turf 52 weeks of the year because you don't have to maintain and prepare it over the summer. Players can train on it over the summer and knees don't get knackered on the old ground so you can have a more limited squad and the local professional teams are not reluctant to send you their young stars because they know they won't get injured. It's really important that the FA and leagues set standards and make sure that they are maintained, it is a no brainer if it is done properly.”
Something needs to give in lower league football unless we want many more clubs to go to the wall. This could be part of the solution. At the very least the FA could look at the issues. Perhaps the problem is that they are all just addicted to grass.