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.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Printed in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying round game v Eastbourne Town. Sunday 23rd September 2012. We won 5-1 in front of 183 people.

FA Cup first qualifying round day and me and a few Brighton season ticket holders are heading to Whitehawk, one of the poorest estates in the country. Not that you could get a more picturesque ground, nestled at the bottom of the South Downs with a winding country lane to the entrance. Their opponents Sittingbourne have brought a few very lively fans who sing throughout the game despite being crushed 5-0. I don’t know what they eat in Sittingbourne, but they are the fattest bunch of fans I’ve ever seen.
The last time I went to Whitehawk they were bumbling along in the Sussex County League Division One. Crowds of about fifty huddled in an old wooden shed and tea was served in mugs. Fast forward a few years and they are now in the Ryman Premier with a local backer aiming for Conference South and League football eventually.

Whitehawks ground is slowly being transformed and crowds have picked up but Conference South. League Football. Really? For a team on a housing estate in Brighton? Is this another non league financial car crash waiting to happen? Just look at Truro City who beat Whitehawk a few years back in the FA Vase. They were fired up the leagues by a chairman’s generous pockets. Now he’s bankrupt and the club in administration

A bracing walk over the Downs would find you in Lewes, a place that couldn’t be more different to the Whitehawk estate. Just like the Hawks, Lewes accelerated up the leagues until they found themselves seriously out of their depth in the Conference. A season of horror and financial disaster saw them eventually become a supporter’s run club. This season they announced, unusually for a football club, just what their playing budget was going to be for the season. It meant cuts but they said they were now only going to spend what they received in income. It will probably mean promotion will be on hold, but surely that’s more preferable than no club at all.

Windsor and Eton FC were sunk with staggering debts of 283,000. Chairman Kevin Stott said this wouldn't happen again and looked at ways of making the reformed club more sustainable. Last season saw them finish second in the Combined Counties Premiership with a playing budget probably the highest in the league. Just six weeks into the new season that budget was gone. And so are most of the players. Negotiations for a long-term lease of the ground, a new 3G pitch and gym facility have dragged on a lot longer than planned, as they do. Their chairman said "I do not want us to be in a position where we are top of the league and in the quarter-finals of the FA Vase and not be able to fund the rest of the season. The main objective is to protect the immediate future of the football club and be in a position to work on the long term future." Windsor fans will probably have to get used to the Combined Counties.

With the FA relaxing its rules on 4-G pitches expect more clubs to go the way of Maidstone United who after 19 years finally have their own ground where matches are played on an artificial pitch.

Supporters demand success - but at what cost the long term future of our clubs? As Windsor's chairman Stott said "We are working on different timescales - in my head 10 years is nothing for but others that can be too long to wait."

My heart says get out of this bloody league at all costs, but in the cold sober light of day I know that the only way clubs like Slough Town will move forward is to find as many income streams as possible and return home. And for that we will have to be patient and not break the bank.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Printed in the FA Trophy preliminary round game v Hungerford Town Sunday 16th September 2012. We won 2-1

After reading ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’ I wondered what’s the difference from supporting a top Premiership club and cheering on your local bank?
Of course there’s nothing particularly new in saying how football has only one thing on its mind, but to have page after page of stats and quotes put together so well that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry; well you’d hope that after reading it those that support the top teams would be flushing their new replica shirt down the loo.
Except football fans are as the book puts it ‘the marketing mans wet dream.’ It has become the most one sided relationship, tantamount to abuse or as the authors put it being ‘trapped in a loveless marriage with little in common…Football supporters have become, first and foremost, revenue.’
‘The Premier League website boasts that it is the ‘worlds most watched league and the most lucrative.’ Since when did either of these matter? It’s like boasting how much you earn or how many followers you have on twitter. The X Factor gets an audience of more than ten million people every Saturday for four months of the year, but that doesn’t mean they’re not watching the music industry gone wrong.’
And as the Guardians David Lacey wrote ‘Some dictionaries define a league as “an association of sporting clubs that organizes matches between member teams of a similar standard. If this is the case then the Premier League offends the Trade Descriptions Act on an annual basis.’ 
Of course bigging up the brand, the Premier League and Sky has to shout continually about just how great they are which as the authors write ‘looks very much like the excessively loud assertion of the chronically insecure.”
The same old clubs win it with the rest just happy to be invited to the party sitting in the kitchen sipping their shandy while a few pop the champagne corks. The top clubs buy up the best players stopping any chance of others breaking into the elite (unless you’ve got a billionaire backer). Infact we’ve now got to the situation where the top two buy up players from the club who finished third! The Champions League cements this financial apartheid, bending over backwards to make sure the bigger teams don’t go out too early. And when they occasionally lose, boy do we get an earful of their woes and how it’s just not fair.
This isn’t helped by Sky Sports News clinging on to their every word, which the authors describe as ‘silently rotting your brain. On transfer deadline day, even the most inconsequential story is treated as a moon landing. It is so far beyond satire that even Chris Morris would be skeptical about it. It is on deadline day that you get the clearest sense of the year-round disparity between how much there is to say, and the amount of time and space there is in which to say it.’
Tottenham legend Danny Blanchflower once said ‘The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It’s nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It is about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out to beat the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.’  But as the authors point out ‘Footballs raison d’être has changed so thoroughly that at least as much energy is spent figuring out ways to exploit commercial opportunities as holes in the opposition back four.’
And I want nothing to do with a game which the FA described in their Blueprint for the Future of Football as an ‘integrated leisure experience.’
It also has a welcome pop at fans forums complaining that ‘as in so many walks of life, a gobby minority has ruined it for everyone else.’
So read this book to remind you that you need to meet someone more faithful, and with Non League Day coming up on the 13th October, it’s the perfect opportunity to ditch your whore of a partner and choose instead someone who will appreciate you.
* Jumpers for Goalposts – how football sold its soul’ by Rob Symth and Georgina Turner (Elliott and Thompson)

Friday, September 07, 2012


Printed in the Southern League division one central game v Woodford United on Tuesday 4th September 2012. We won 4-0 in front of 193 people.

Is everyone from Slough? It seems that whenever I mention where I’m from or don the amber and blue, half the world’s population have lived, had a job there or at least smelt the old sewage farm along the M4. You only have to look at our forum to see how Slough fans have been scattered across the land.
So it was no surprise when the bloke I was talking to in the burger queue said he was from Slough. The guy had moved to nearby Ruislip and was supporting Wealdstone who had settled there and whose crowds and fortunes are on the up.

About 150 Stones fans had made the trip to the Dripping Pan, the delightful home of Lewes FC. Being Lewes when he got to the front of the queue he was offered various posh cheese options on his burger before he muttered ‘er, just normal burger cheese please.’
12.30 is too early for a bank holiday kick off, but thanks to crap boy band crooners JLS playing at Hove cricket club later all the local stewards had been bagged so it had to be this time. It’s obviously two early for players as well, as we looked to be heading for a dire 0-0 draw until a soft penalty in the 81st   for Lewes gave them their first win of the season.

Wealdstone were the non league team and in 1985 became the first ever club to achieve the FA Trophy and Conference double but there was no automatic promotion to the football league in those days. Just six years later their chairman had sold their ground to a supermarket, the club were homeless and receiving little money from the sale began a nomadic existence that has lasted 20 years and seen them groundshare at Watford, Yeading, Northwood and Edgware Town. Now they are at Ruislip Manors old ground. But with just six years left to run on the lease who knows what will happen next.

There's also the small matter of the Prince Edward Playing Fields in Harrow. The site had fallen into complete disuse and the club saw it as the solution to their homelessness as well as being in the borough where the club began. They spent a staggering ten years getting all the necessary planning permissions and by the time construction finally started they had put some 300,000 into the project. However it was hindered by various problems and just a year later the private company paying the builders went into liquidation leaving a 70% built stadium. In 2006 Harrow Council put the unfinished ground up for tender and Barnet FC won the bid. Wealdstone still retain the right to play if the ground is completed but on terms that make it no more than a very expensive ground share with no income available from the social facilities or any part of the site.

As Nick DuGard, Press Officer at Wealdstone wrote "In effect Stones had spent 10 years finding, planning, lobbying, funding and partly completing a football facility for absolutely naught, zilch and zero. Is it any wonder that Wealdstone supporters and those close to the club are a little emotional about the currant situation? Wealdstone's toil and dogged effort seems to have been all but forgotten. Barnet however are lauded for this great new facility now known as 'The Hive' by Harrow Council."

Barnet have themselves been locked in a battle with their council over plans to upgrade their ground. They identified one site but this has been handed to Saracens rugby club on a peppercorn rent. They see Prince Edward Playing Fields as a temporary solution if they are forced out of their ground. But as Nick DuGard points out "This is indeed an ironic situation not lost on the supporters of both clubs - a club from outside the Borough of Harrow, being forced into it, will now be replacing a side being forced to play outside its traditional home of Harrow."

For Slough fans these tails of homeless woe will strike a chord and we know that getting your own ground in your own patch is a bloody headache but essential if any team is to thrive and prosper.