These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Monday, August 27, 2012

EASTBOURNE END CHESSINGTONS WORLD OF ADVENTURE IN THE FA CUP


FA Cup preliminary round  Saturday 25th August 2012 
Eastbourne Town 2 Chessington and Hook United 0



And so after the glow of the Olympics it’s back to the dirty world of football. A hot date with the FA Cup preliminary round and a train trip to the grandiose seaside resort of Eastbourne.
Now Eastbourne might be the retirement dream of many but it’s also a non league hot spot, home to not one but three non league sides.
We are off to see the oldest one in Sussex who are waking from a very deep sleep.
A short walk from the station and we are greeted with an historic turnstile block. 1914 shows this isn’t some young Langney Sport upstart but the home of Eastbourne Town.
The ground is known as The Saffrons named after the variety of crocus which had originally been cultivated on the site for medicine. Now it’s a Mecca to the round ball. Cricket, bowls and crocket fields surround the football ground while church bells sound every 15 minutes just to remind you not to swear in the presence of God when you miss kick a ball.
In the immediate post war years the club averaged attendances of 3,000 a far cry from today’s 120. Over the following decade’s fires, hurricanes and falling crowds saw the club plummet as low as the Sussex County League Division Two and talk of a merger with Eastbournes third club EastbourneUnited (who eventually merged with Eastbournes fourth non league club Shinewater Association). But with ground improvements including memorial park benches behind one goal and promotion to the Ryman League the club are on the up and would love to challenge Eastbourne Borough.
Their opponents are from a league below and play in the Combined Counties Premier Division. If you want to go all Seb Coe Olympic legacy, then look no further than clubs like Chessington and Hook United who have been doing Big Society since 1921. Their ground has been developed almost entirely by volunteers and the club prides itself on the fact that is is run on a totally voluntary basis. All the committee members, trainers, managers, ground staff and adult helpers give their time for free. In an age of unsustainable wages for even lower league players, donning the Chessington jersey will earn you precisely zilch. Infact it will cost you, as all players, from youth to seniors have to pay a membership to play. They have a strong youth set up with 19 teams involving up to 250 youngsters and also host women's football, archery and netball.
Eastbourne Town themselves have an impressive 25 teams under their belt and there are a few youngsters walking round with the regulation tracksuits.
As the counties theme tune ‘Sussex by the Sea’ belts out, so does the rain that has the cricketers running for the clubhouse while the bowls brigade just don their waterproofs. Even the floodlights put in a day time August appearance.
After a pre match pint we head for some chips and before they've been drowned in ketch-up Eastbourne are 1-0 up. A cross into Danny Curd who scores after just two minutes. But for the next eighty three minutes despite flowing attacking football and endless crosses into the box Town can’t put the ball in the back of the net thanks to a combination of resolute defending especially from Hooks no.6 and poor finishing. Chessington have a few chances to level but have seriously left their shooting boots at home.
Eventually Eastbournes Matt Geard sealed the tie in the 86 minute from an improbable angle and its £1,750 prize money in the bank.
And next up a trip to the more down at heel kiss-me-quick seaside town of Littlehampton in the first qualifying round. 

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