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
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?