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.

Monday, October 22, 2012


Printed in the FA Cup 4th Qualifying round game v Gosport Borough on Sunday 21st October 2012.  Finished 0-0 in front of 523. But not me, I overslept and missed the bloody train!  

Well what a resounding success Non League Day was. Radio coverage on BBC 5 live's breakfast programme and TalkSport. Sky Sports News live at Bromley against Welling United and Soccer AM at Woking. Football Focus talked about Non League Day with features on Newport County and Forest Green Rovers. On twitter #nonleagueday was trending alongside Rick Astley and #NoBraDay while league clubs were encouraging their supporters to go to a local game. There was free entry at Bexhill if you dressed like a pirate and pay what you want at Wingate and Finchley.
So did it get those all important punters through the turnstiles?
Five of us went to Lancing v Peacehaven in the FA Vase and while no one lost their non league virginity, people seemed suitably impressed with Lancing’s set up and the football on display as Peacehaven trounced their league rivals 5-0. On that performance they must be one of the favourites to get promoted to the Ryman League Promised Land.  It was a decent attendance too with 170 people and crowd congestion temporarily shutting the tea bar!
In the Blue Square Premier there was a three game ground-hop. Maidstone had nearly two thousand for their Ryman League Division South game v Dulwich. Wealdstone had 300 more than their average – playing a side bottom of the league and bringing no more than 20 supporters of their own while Lowestoft, Tilbury and Cleethorpes Town drew their best gates of the season. Swanage had five times their normal crowd against Newport Isle of Wight in the Vase.
The man with the fantastic plan James Doe said “A bit of very basic number crunching showed me that 70% of games across Steps 1-4 (about 130) had crowds in excess of the season's average. Several sides posted season's bests, with AFC Fylde setting a new stadium record for the visit of FC United of Manchester. The biggest crowd of the day in London came at Bromley for their aforementioned derby with Welling where 1,334 turned out, which was around 800 more than their average - a truly massive increase.
To all those that helped out with Non League Day I thank you. An event like this can only succeed when people pull together and give their time and effort for free.”
The football pyramid in this country is unparalleled and something we should be immensely proud of. Just like the Olympics that relied on an army of volunteers to make it tick, so does lower league football. But with many finding it hard to attract people its days like Non League Day that shine a spotlight on grassroots football.
But it’s also so much more than ninety minutes of football. Before the Lancing game the Connor Saunders Foundation presented the club with a defibrillator, becoming the fourth Sussex team to receive one. The Foundation was set up after Connor Saunders, a Peacehaven player and son of the manager was killed by a single punch in an unprovoked attack outside a shop.  The small Sussex town and the wider community were in shock at such a pointless death but out of the tragedy his friends and family stepped up to commemorate his life. The Foundation puts on fundraising events, football matches, has established a new football academy and is building a multi purpose sports court.
To me this shows the power of small football clubs like Peacehaven and how the people behind them play such an invaluable role in our communities and are pivotal to society’s health and wellbeing.  
Anything that encourages more people to support them should be cheered on loud from the terraces.
Here's to Non League Day 4. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


It’s often the simple ideas that are the best. And you couldn’t get simpler than Non League Day. Pick a date when international football means no Premiership or Championship games and encourage people to go and watch their local non league club. You never know they might even enjoy it. Now in its third year the day just gets bigger and better.

Non League Day is not just a celebration of our level of football but a chance for fans of bigger clubs to dip their toes and experience football at a level they may be otherwise unfamiliar with. It also helps promote hundreds of clubs across the country who are almost exclusively volunteer run and do so much good for the local community. 

I’ve been rehearsing for Non League Day by dragging people along to local games especially cup ones. Often my text invitations are ignored, people pretending their dead or theirs some Very Important Match on the TV which they certainly can’t miss. One man I can usually count on to come is Luke, a Notts County and Glossop North End fan “You're not there in your 1000's, but in your 10's. You’ve grown up with the same supporters as extended family, taking trips to unknown places. Both sets of supports enjoy the game together, friendly ribbing between intelligent supporters as you laugh and joke about the lopsided pitch, the awful misses and reminisce about that one time your team nearly came to glory, for that to never return. All along sipping beer from plastic cups on the terraces."

James and Terry are both long term Brighton and Hove Albion season ticket holders. James came along to watch Whitehawk knock Sittingbourne out of the FA Cup. “The difference in football was like the difference between eating a greasy spoon (Whitehawk) and an Egon Roney rated restaurant. Both good but in their own different ways.”

Terry said: “One of the the first things that I find different from going to a Football League game and going to a non League game is the amount of people travelling to the game. Even a League game with a small crowd of 3000 people it is very noticeable. When I recently travelled on the bus to FA Vase game involving Ringmer and Littlehampton I was expecting everybody to get off the bus when it pulled into Ringmer. But everybody stayed on except the two other guys going to the game with me. Then I saw a large queue in the distance and thought to myself there's Ringmer's ground when in fact it was the queue for the local jumble sale!

It's difficult to compare professional footballers with amateurs as from my opinion to even to play at non league level you have to be quite a good footballer. Obviously there is a difference in fitness. With most non-league guys having jobs and lives outside football they cannot dedicate their bodies into becoming athletes as the professional footballers have the time and advice to do it nowadays. But when you see non league footballers out there running on those sloping pitches they are giving as much effort as players on £200,000 a week. That's the beauty of football.

One of the things I do love about non-league is that you can get a beer. But most of the club houses I have visited are quite ropey and not even up to the standard of the toilets at the Brighton's new stadium! But it's nice to stand and watch the game with a beer on the go and was disappointed that in the FA Cup and Vase games this season it was prohibited to take a beer outside the club house. I guess they want to give these games a more professional feel but then it would not be amateur and non league would it.

With the non league supporters there is much more friendliness and are always up for a chat. Since I have gone to non-league football I have quite enjoyed it and will go again. I am sure there will be thousands more like me who will go to their non League game this Saturday. It reminds me a lot of football in the 70's when I first went and with the price of admission to League football becoming increasingly out of each to the ordinary man's income this can only be good for Non League football and long may the institution prosper.”


Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Thatcham Town Tuesday 9th October 2012. We won 4-1 in front of 198 people.

For the past year I’ve been working with other people on my estate to try and re-open our local boozer as a community pub. None of us get paid and as anyone who has set up a totally new venture will know, there’s a hell of a lot of work to do. Meetings, business plans, more meetings, leases, licensing and then the small matter of trying to raise up to 200,000 to make it happen! And because we want to make it the first co-operative pub in the country on a housing estate we will be issuing shares and have been working on a prospectus. Why am I telling you all this apart from the fact that this is a sales pitch to ‘buy someone a pub for Christmas?’ Because occasionally people ask or post remarks implying that we should get our bloody finger out and get the pub open. Forget that everyone is working, has families, is giving up a considerable amount of their time for free. From the outside the pub sits empty and nothings being done.
I think that’s a fair analogy with running a non league football club. Most people go to a match, maybe have a pre match pint, buy a programme, a raffle ticket, watch ninety minutes of football and go home. If you don’t like what you see you can post straight away on our forum and if we really get ourselves into a hissy fit, tell everyone who will listen (probably all 20 of us) that we will never darken the turnstiles again unless X happens.
Now I’m all for fan power and salute the people behind AFC Wimbledon, FC United of Manchester and especially the fan owned club pioneers Enfield Town. But really boycotting us at the moment is seriously cutting off your hand to spite your face.
This isn’t unique to Slough Town, I spend too much time on other clubs websites when researching my pieces (ok I’m just being nosey) and many of them are so full of woe after a defeat that it brings a tear to my eye. Some so full of anger I wonder if its one of our supporters posting.
When our backs were against the wall, Slough supporters stuck together and despite enduring defeat after defeat, carried on supporting our team. When we lost 9-0 to AFC Wimbledon their fans clapped us off the pitch, their mascot bowed, their applauded our coach and brought so many drinks for those of us that stayed behind that I can’t remember leaving.  Fast forward a few seasons and the club has come on in leaps and bounds but with last season’s third play off defeat in a row we are stuck in some nightmare southern central division one loop. And it’s draining moral. Our new ground remains tantalizingly close, we’ve all seen the wonderful plans, it feels real, and yet we continue to groundshare.
But some time you just have to step back and smell the coffee. Glass half full or half empty?
That’s why I propose something simple that won’t cost the club a penny apart from a bit of time. It can be done after a match so no one has to make a special journey. I’m talking about an occasional fans forum. To clear the air. To give a chance for people to ask questions. For people in charge to let us know why certain things happen.
People could of course speak to people behind the club in the bar after the game. They don’t usually bite.  Our management team aren’t idiots – they might make mistakes – hell, even I do. But they are doing our best.
Football at our level it is about being part of a community, supporting your club through thick and thin, victories and defeats. Sometimes it’s worth taking a step back and seeing that when it comes Slough Town FC our glass is a whole lot fuller than it has been for a very long time. Cheers!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


Published in the FA Trophy 1st Qualifying round game v Gosport Borough Saturday 29th September 2012. We lost 4-0 in front of 190.

I feel sorry for Premiership fans (sort of) As well as being ripped off and treated like mugs they also have to put up with watching football on days that completely muck up the rhythm of the week. Sunday football? Monday night? Please.
Now Slough seem to have become a Sunday League side. And it ain’t because the cameras have rolled into town.
I think ground sharing is a bit like house sharing. You start off the best of mates but slowly you just get on each others nerves. The chip portions are too small, the loo seat lid is never down, you feel second best. Then you pay for the privilege or being knocked out in the play outs (which feels a bit like being mugged)!
Then to rub salt into a simmering wound, you have to go and play some of your games on a bloody Sunday.
Being single for the week and with a serious FA Cup addiction, I couldn’t resist watching an FA Cup game on the day God intended football to be played. Saturday 3pm. And let’s face it; you couldn’t get more traditional than Maidenhead United’s York Road, which is the oldest continuously used senior football ground in the world, home of The Magpies since 1871. I love their old ground right smack bang where football grounds should be – in the town centre. It could do some investment but with old fashioned terraces and covering behind both goals what’s not to like?
As a few Slough fans supped our beers Maidenhead scored. At least we think they did, the sound was pretty mute until the announcement came. As we eventually took up our position on the traditional terraces (these’s a theme running through this article) we watched a fantastic game of football as Maidenhead steamed ahead only for their opponents Bognor Regis Town, cheered on by their raucous fans, to come back it into it. But the gap in the leagues showed and whereas Bognor squandered chances, Maidenhead were clinical.
Their manager Johnson Hippolyte has assembled a good, strong young team punching above their weight in the Conference South. Not that I can ever forgive him for managing that made up football club Yeading who beat us in the FA Cup then drew Newcastle United in the third round.
So onto Sunday and to make matters even worse, we had displeased the footballing Gods. While Saturday was beautiful autumn day, Sunday was cold, wet and windy. Not only that but it was one of those poxy super hyped Sunday football specials on the TV encouraging people to sit in the comfort of their local pub (if they still have a traditional pub to go to anymore) rather than support their local non league club.
We at least ate a traditional Sunday roast to restore some balance to this crazy mixed up world.
Now by some quirk of fate, I’d seen Eastbourne Town in a previous round where they put paid to Chessingtons FA Cup world of adventure. When the draw was made all I could rather selfishly think of that wouldn’t it be better if it was in Eastbourne. As we stood freezing on the terraces most people agreed.
Trying to play a defensive game didn’t suit the visitors and in the end it was an easy ride for Slough who are enjoying the FA Cup so far this season. 5-1 on the day, meant 13 goals in three FA Cup games and £9,250 in the bank. When your tenants, this is the sort of money that can make a big difference to a season.
Now my FA Cup adventures this season has had a seaside theme.
Shoreham, Eastbourne, Bognor even Whitehawk is just a mile from the sea.
So it seems only right that Slough will play Margate away in the next round. As those fine traditionalists Chas and Dave (sort of) sung ‘You can keep the Costa Brava and all that palava, we’re gonna watch the Rebels in Margate.’