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, December 24, 2012


Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Burnham on Boxing Day 2012. We won 2-0 in front of 312 people.

As I sat in the rain next to strangers, one of whom continually commented on Man United’s score, all I could think was that I’d much rather be watching football elsewhere. With a free ticket from the local vicar I don’t want to sound an ungrateful git and I’m well aware of Brighton’s fantastic achievements and their brilliant community programmes. But top level football doesn’t do it for me.
In the same week that the Football Supporters Federation received support from over 15 league clubs for their safe standing campaign, the noisy North Stand supporters were given letters telling them to sit down or face a year ban. It was £4.50 for a burger if you could handle the queues and even longer ones in the rain for the train and bus home.
Sure the football was a lot better, the 26,000 crowd a lot noisy and the stadium a hell of a lot swanker than what I’m used to, but really give me non league football any day.
But non league clubs and the blazers that run the leagues need a bit more imagination to try and jimmy those that would rather sit passive in front of their Sky TV hyped football screen to their grounds. 
So here’s my ten point manifesto for breathing life back into lower league football.
1. Firstly, with climate change kicking in and all the wild, unpredictable weather it brings, the FA need to roll out a funding programme for 3G pitches. The pitch is a clubs greatest asset and it needs to be used as much as possible, not just once or twice a week. This will also help avoid the crippling postponements we are seeing on a far more frequent bases.
2. Play as many games on a Tuesday earlier in the season.
3. Free entry for under 16’s.
4. Encourage all clubs and make it mandatory for leagues to embrace twitter. It’s such an easy way to get information out to hundreds of people.
5. Unless someone can persuade me otherwise scrap the League Cup and Berks and Bucks Cup. No one likes them, no one cares.
6. Cut as much of the secretarial duties as possible rather than drowning volunteers in paperwork.
7. Regionalize on a much greater level and introduce a third Conference feeder league.
Introduce two automatic promotions places for all levels (as a Slough fan I would say that!) as well keeping the play offs.
8. When teams finish in a relegation place then bloody well relegate them rather than give them a reprieve. Surely it’s better to promote those who have been successful than save a team that hasn’t.
9. Sort out the FA Trophy so it’s as respected as the FA Vase. At the moment top Conference clubs treat it with the same disdain that Premiership clubs do the FA Cup. And while we are on the FA Cup cut the money for the clubs that win in the latter rounds and give it to clubs in the qualifying rounds. Do the winners really need £1.8 million? How much more use would that cash be for clubs competing in the first few rounds?
10. And finally, chop off the head of any chairman who promises football league in so many seasons and point them to the financial car crash that is the Conference littered with clubs whose ex-chairman have uttered those stupid words.
Oh and make sure every club embraces and shouts from the rooftops about Non League Day. It’s such a brilliant, simple idea that raises the profile of non league football and gets those all important punters through the turnstiles.

* For more ideas read The Ball Is Round excellent ‘Blueprintfor Non League Football’ 

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Printed in the Southern League Central Division match v North Greenford United Saturday 15th December 2012. The game was postponed at 3pm thanks to a waterlogged pitch. And so the fixture congestion continues.

I’m seriously running out of excuses for missing yet another Slough Town game – flu, overslept, someone spiked my drink with alcohol, no sleep thanks to a baby, too busy with work blah, blah, blah But I never thought I would be using the line ‘I can’t make the  Royston match cos I’m speaking with the local vicar in the church about raising funds for a community pub.’
The irony that I’ve missed so much more football and drinking in pubs because I’ve been busy with people on my estate trying to open a co-operative pub isn’t lost on me. Although my liver says thanks and my wallet is positively bulging.
The day of the Royston game was one of those surreal media frenzy days starting at 7am when I did a breakfast interview with Radio Sussex and continued until we became the main feature on BBC South East news. We featured in every tabloid because what one could resist a ‘Vicar prays for pub’ story.  Now I’m not a religious man but our local vicar is someone I admire, who works tirelessly for our community and is a good laugh!
He’s now becoming famous for saying every place needs a good church and a pub. And our estate, along with the one next door, has been without one since May 2010 when the police closed down The Bevendean for fighting and drugs.
Now estates losing their local isn’t news, 18 pubs a week are closing. But locals getting together on a housing estate to re-open a pub definitely is news.
So last October me and the local vicar and a few others came up with a cunning plan and decided to hold a public meeting and see what if. What if the 18,000 people of Moulsecoomb and Bevendean clubbed together and tried to re-open the old boozer as the first co-operative pub on a housing estate in the UK. But it has to be so much more than just a pub to survive commercially. It will be a café, have a meeting room, a community kitchen, an edible pub garden, a space where other organisations like Brighton and Hoves Albion in the community get involved. The response we have had has been amazing, all three main political parties (and that includes the Greens in Brighton who run the council) support us as do a wide range of people and organisations.
It’s been a lot of bloody hard work, and we’ve been buried in legal documents, business plans, architects drawings, prospectus and long discussions on burning topics of the day, like where to put the disabled bog. We’ve done all this with hardly any money relying on volunteers to put in the hard slog and companies to do stuff for free.
And just like how small community football clubs can bring people together, we aim the Bevendean as somewhere we people can come along and meet their neighbours.
So you might be thinking this is just a blatant sales pitch, what’s it got to do with Slough Town. Well, think of it as one long excuse why I haven’t been too as many games this season as I would like too. What we are trying to do is the same as the supporters run football clubs, the local co-operative shops and other pubs (all but one in posh places), bookshops, farms and solar energy co-ops that are springing up all over the country brought, run and owned by the community.
As for the sales pitch. Well, it doesn’t matter where you live - anyone can be a member, and who hasn’t dreamed of owning your own pub? Well, now’s your chance!
To find out more