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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Printed in the last home game of the season against Biggleswade Town Saturday 23rd April 2011. On a boiling hot day we won 3-2 in front of 321 people and are in the play offs again.

From the top of my estate, Brighton and Hove Albion’s spectacular new stadium can be seen nestled in the South Downs. For a team that lost the old Goldstone ground to a dodgy politician, nearly went bust and relegated out of the league, had to play 70 miles away in Gillingham and then moved back to a soul destroying athletics stadium it’s been fifteen very long homeless years. Such adversity for any football fan makes the good times so much sweeter, and Brighton will be starting next season in their new ground as Division One champions – with 16,000 season tickets already sold.
I know Slough’s new ground won’t be as flash and the season ticket sales anywhere near as impressive but it will mean just as much to us Rebels who have had to endure over a decade of a nomadic existence as we tumbled down the leagues.
So the recent announcement by our chairman Steve Easterbrook that a full planning application will be submitted for the old Arbour Vale site in the next few months and we should be playing in Slough for the 2012/2013 season; well, we definitely raised a glass to that news!
It’s not just the new ground that I’m excited about, it’s the fact that after viewing quite a few lower league white elephants stuck out in the middle of nowhere, that we have found quite a central site in such a built up town.
I know it will be down to money but I hope the ground is something we can be proud of and enjoy going too. I know Steve and others behind the scenes have been visiting different grounds and models around this country and abroad. And they’ve listened to us big gobs that we need cover behind both goals to create some atmosphere. But I would like us to push the boat out and make it as green as the grass we play on.
Let’s make Dartford’s new ground, the world’s first custom-built eco-friendly football stadium, as a benchmark. Some Slough councilors visited and it really is something to aspire too. Features include a living green roof which keeps in the heat and provides a natural air filtration system. Solar panels provide electricity for the community, changing rooms, toilets and hot water storage cylinders. Reclaimed rainwater collected in two vast ponds are used for the loos and the pitch. The place is also heavily insulated, there’s under floor heating (be nice to have some under the terraces!) and low energy lightings. Slough are already going to be getting the green thumb up just by the fact of being so close to the town centre. Maybe there could be a link up with the local bus service to take people to the ground near kick off time with reduced entry for those producing a bus ticket. Or maybe for those of us planning a walking pub crawl to the ground, we could get a free beer in the clubhouse for drinking and not driving?! A clubhouse with some decent local sourced food being served up, washed down with some local real ale would be good and how about ditching all the plastic cups, plates etc that blight every football stadium. Some decent recycling areas wouldn’t go a miss and what about composting bins? Could this compost feed the vegetables grown for the clubhouse food? Northwich Victoria’s groundsman uses old dried tea bags to repair pitch damage! And is it windy enough for a wind turbine? This isn’t just green tinkering but makes economic sense, reducing waste and cutting bills.
I hope Arbour Vale is a bit more than another identikit ground. As one Dartford fan wrote “It's not often that a whole community can be proud of one, specific local initiative but in Princes Park we have something that is, not only truly exceptional, but a local development we can honestly be immensely proud of.”
That’s got to be something to aim for at Slough.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Printed in the re-arranged Southern League Central Division game v Ashford Town Tuesday 19th April  2011.  We won 2-0 in front 261 and now need just 1 point from 2 games to get in the play offs.

Forget the wedding nonsense, the big news from the Royal Borough is that after 118 years of history Windsor and Eton Football Club are no more. Downed by debts of a staggering £283,000 the club folded a couple of weekends back and have been erased from the Southern Premier League. We’d heard it was bad but you’ve got to ask how a club that pays just a peppercorn rent to the Crown Estates had got itself in such a mess.
Windsor’s demise makes this season a non league financial car crash.
In theory financing a football club should be quite simple; don't spend more than you earn unless you've got a guaranteed safety net. But it’s not as black and white as that. It costs a lot of money to keep a club going, irrespective of wages. Rent, electricity, gas, water and other bills add up whatever league you play in. Cut the wage bill and the football suffers; crowds drop and that loss of income becomes a vicious circle.
Then there’s the other flip side of the coin as one Bridgwater fan pointed out.  “There may be an element of sour grapes here, but we nearly got promotion to the Southern Premier, on allegedly a lower budget than most. We even slashed our playing budget due to cash flow problems, towards the end of the season. Now where do we find ourselves for cutting our cloth to fit? Windsor take one of the promotion places, despite paying wages they could never afford, Weston Super Mare (WSM) are reprieved in the Conference South due to other clubs doing much the same and instead of a very possible scenario where we could have been in the same division as WSM, we are two divisions apart. Then our manager leaves for WSM taking almost all the players with him. At least we still have a club still (we've gone bankrupt before in 1984), but we're struggling to get any sort of decent side together and crowds have dipped substantially. These things do have knock on effects for other clubs even if the links aren't direct.
It’s high time for the football authorities to act. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson recently described football as the "worst run sport in the country." In their election manifesto, the Conservatives promised a "wide package of reform of football finance and governance". Although they’ve probably cut that along with everything else they can get their scissors too.
There’s currently a House of Commons enquiry into football. Lord Triesman, the former FA chairman, Graham Kelly, ex-chief executive, and Lord Burns, who conducted the last football review, explained how they all tried to get English football to change and why, due to entrenched vested interests, it didn’t happen. Triesman said on the issues which really matter and which the FA is responsible – financial wellbeing, ownership of clubs, treatment of fans, making the national team's success a priority – it has "backed out of regulating altogether." Football, and this might come as a surprise, has become dominated by the Premiership to the determent of everything else.
As for Windsor it looks like they will reforming a couple of leagues lower. Their new chairman Peter Stott promises to do things different  this time around “The idea is to change the business model to create income streams that are not reliant on benefactors. So in the future for example, if you have got a 3G pitch and if we have got a gym in a stand, we are generating income. The bottom line is we either change or a few years down the line the next benefactor for whatever reason, dies, goes away or doesn’t want to know anymore and you are back to square one. It’s about trying to break that cycle.” 
Despite our rivalries we wish them well and hope they can rise from the ashes and become a force again in regional football.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Published in the Southern League Central Division game v Northwood Saturday 9th April 2011. We won 4-3 in front of 303 people and stay in the play offs.

You’d think when a club comes up with a way of getting more punters through the turnstiles, regular fans would be shaking their rattles in agreement. Unfortunately, it seems some supporters would rather have the terraces to themselves.
Despite being in the Conference Bath City always struggle too persuade the egg-ball loving townsfolk to give football a go. So they came up with an idea to try and get Bath's Polish community to come and watch the club. One of their directors said ‘'I have met a prominent member of the Polish community and he was enthusiastic about the idea because the community suffers from a lack of integration. We were already planning a substantial discount for Bath's student population so I proposed rolling in the outreach to the Polish community as well.” Bath fan and film director Ken Loach gave it the thumbs up saying 'It is a good idea, I hope they will chant in Polish.' With the nod from the Equality and Human Rights Commission the promotion paid off with Baths second biggest gate of the season, with more than 1,800 fans turning out to see City win 2-1. OK so the Polish people taking advantage of the deal was in single figures but there were 150 students. Others might have been attracted by the adverse national publicity the club attracted. Some supporters moaned and of course the Daily Mail was up to its usual rabid frothing indignation.
But one grumpy Grimsby Town fan really took the biscuit complaining to the Non League Paper. ‘I am half Scottish, and part Italian, as a minority nationality, I duly asked for my discount at the turnstiles. After all, should not ALL nationalities be treated equally and fairly. I was told ‘No, you’re not Polish’ by the turnstile operator.’ She then droned on to anyone who would listen, wrote to the club and the Equalities Commission. ‘Football is about equality from the top to the bottom – and I really don’t think this is helping matters.’  Get a bloody grip, it was a one off to try and get and get new fans supporting the club. Why not complain that OAP’s and students get a discount or that bloody kids get in free or for a quid. I’m surprised she even managed to get through the turnstiles with that massive chip on her shoulder.
I’ve seen one Barkingside fan (and there ain’t too many of them) letter complaining when the club offered free entry to one game to increase crowds. What about us season ticket holders he fumed (what all two of you?). At least I couldn’t see any complaints about Hitchin Towns Ladies Day where every woman that attended got in for nothing and received free entry for the raffle. In a crowd of 628, 126 were ladies and club secretary said "We are delighted. This sort of figure vindicates our strategy of reaching out to the broader community." Could this work at Slough or would some Rebels just use it as an excuse to practice a bit of cross dressing?

So Ms. Grumpy Grimsby if you’re gonna write letters of complaint then at least do it about something that stops people coming to games. You could start with England’s helpful decision to kick off against Wales at 3pm on a Saturday thank you very much. Mind you as watching England is usually about as entertaining as having your teeth smashed out with a sledgehammer, my cousin Mark said it just gave him more incentive to go and watch Slough play instead.