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.

Friday, February 22, 2013


Printed in the Red Insure Cup Quarter Final game v Northwood Thursday 21st February 2013. We won 2-1 in front of just 61 people. A trip away to Frome Town on a Wednesday evening awaits.

What’s not to love about the League Cup. We’re not talking about the one where Swansea take on Bradford in a final which the sponsors are no doubt wondering how the top clubs have missed out and are thinking of ways of changing the rules so it never happens again.
I’m talking about the cup that really sets the Slough Town players and supporters pulses running. The Red Insure League Cup.
These pulses are quickened even more, when I found out that rather than the usual one off cup final game, this is a cup final that is played over two legs. Hello? Who dreamt up that one?
There are rules that you must play 7 out of your starting 11 from the last two games, which is bloody ridiculous. Surely if these games are to have any value, that at least give managers the chance to try out players who’ve been warming the bench or give youth team players a taste of adult football. Playing a team of youth players is hardly going to devalue a cup which already commands no respect from anyone. You must also produce a full programme as if programme editors don’t have enough work to do as it is.
Can someone also tell me why these games take precedent over League games? I don’t mind that gates are shared 50-50 but unlike the FA Cup or Trophy you get no prize money for winning a game. So in Sloughs case after they’ve paid Beaconsfield, the officials and the players, you’d be lucky to have money left for a cup of tea.
Well I’m sorry, unless Premiership clubs are forced to shell out to give every non league club the opportunity to install 3G pitches, then the League and County Cups are just an annoying distraction. No one likes them, no one cares. Worse they cost clubs money to be in. And for what? A two bloody leagued league cup final. Who thought that was a good idea? We all enjoyed our League Cup victory at Staines a few years back. But it was an anything can happen one off great night out. Not over two bloody legs.
So unfortunately grass is not the way forward. Pitches are a clubs biggest asset and they need to be used. We’ve seen so many games called off this is not to just massive financial cost but in Sloughs case could cost us the league title.
I’m all for tradition when it comes to say keeping local boozers open and supporting local shops but I’m also a realist that you have to change with the times. Pubs have got to be more than just pubs to attract punters; local shops have to work doubly hard just to keep up with the rat burgers being offered in the supermarket ready meals.
At the moment, it feels like we are being punished for a cup run that did matter. The FA Cup where lower league clubs do want to do well in.  
Our players are part time, we play 8 leagues below the premiership, the people who work hard behind the scenes to make sure the games are played are volunteers. The last thing you want to do is burn them out.
The play offs has also introduced a cup competition that does what the League cup doesn’t. It pulls in the punters, it makes you feel sick to the stomach and the prize is something Slough have been trying to win for the last three seasons unsuccessfully. I bloody hate the play offs as well but I understand why we need them! I just hope that all this cup glory doesn’t jeopardize promotion for another season. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Printed in the re-arranged Southern League Central Division One games v North Greenford United Tuesday 19th February 2013. We won 3-0 in front of 192 people.

What’s not to like about Dulwich Hamlet. Their fantastic name for starters. Is there any other senior football team called Hamlet? And what about the kit. Does anyone else dare to play in pink and blue?
As a Slough Town youngster I remember going to their massive crumbling old ground where crowds of 200 rattled round in a stadium built for thousands.
Their new place certainly lacks the charm of the old one but it’s smack bang where football clubs should be, in the middle of a community.
And so it came to pass that on New Years Day after a quick trip to the Sea Life Centre it was all aboard the London Bridge Express to Champion Hill. My mate had just moved to the parish of Southwark and what better way to whet their local non league whistle than Dulwich v arch rivals Tooting and Mitcham United on New Years Day.
On the train a dad asked his son if he was excited about today’s game. His black and white scarf wasn’t Fulhams – no it was Tooting’s. As I looked for the nearest boozer, people were wearing Dulwich scarfs. There was a queue to get in. This was like a proper football match! Except there was no police and few stewards, you didn’t need to buy a ticket in advance, rival fans mingled in the bar and more importantly you could take beer onto the terraces. The fingers of gentrification have reached the nearest pub succumbing to that cold and uncomfortable look, all rocket leaf and focassia bread, but the old Dulwich rabble are mixing well with their newer richer supporters and being top of the league crowds are on the up.
In the packed stand Dulwich’s outstanding Erhun Oztumer is cheered by friends and families waving Turkish flags. The crowd is so multicultural I’m half-expecting the English Defence League to be outside complaining about all those bloody foreigners watching our football teams. As for the football – what a cracker of a first half. The game ends two apiece when seems about right.
In the bar afterwards we reckon my mates boy Leo should mark his first ever game with a signed programme. I spot legendary Dulwich fan Mishi who points out their manager who happily signs the programme. Mishi is one of the old school Dulwich Rabble whose on the management committee now. One of those supporters which every club needs to function; whose made the tea, collected the balls, flogged the raffle tickets, been the secretary. He also produced the fanzine ‘Champion Hill Street Blues’ and was also was behind the publication ‘Tooting and Mitcham’s greatest moments in 100 years’ which was full of blank pages!  He’s part of the crew behind the 12th man a fan-led scheme to raise money for the playing budget. But today is a greater way to raise money for the club. By getting punters through the gates and in the bar. On the way out I chat to some Arsenal fans who are first time visitors and mightly impressed. While Manchester City hand Arsenal back a third of their outrageously priced 62 tickets, a crowd of 642 get to see a game for a tenner, free if your under 12.
Last word has to go to my old mate ‘Mad PridePete Shaugnhessy who died 10 years ago. Mishi persuaded Pete to follow the Hamlet when he bumped into him at a local library. After one game he was hooked “Non-league football is ethical: you’re supporting a local community and you can have fun while you’re at it. When I’d just started going out with my present partner, I talked her into going to a totally, meaningless friendly, Moseley versus Dulwich. After a night with the “Rabble”, we ended up stranded in Hampton Court, no train or night bus. After a bit of bartering, I managed to get us the honeymoon suite at Hampton Court Palace. She was totally in awe. “This is what you get when you follow Dulwich Hamlet.”

Monday, February 18, 2013


Printed in the Southern League Division One Central game v Chalfont St.Peter Saturday 16th February 2013. We lost 1-0 in front of 258 people.

As thousands of Brighton and Arsenal fans traded songs at Brighton station, a few of us quietly slipped away for an altogether different footballing experience. Never mind the FA Cup 4th round glamour tie everyone was talking about, we were heading for Southwick for a Sussex County League Two game v Seaford Town.  It didn’t seem quite right to shout ‘Come on you Wickers’ in case people thought we were DIY superstore enthusiasts.
Over the past decades Southwick have fallen not just on hard times and at one point hard drugs. Founded in 1882, they were original members of the Sussex County League which they have won four times. In the eighties they had a spell in the Ryman League reaching Division One before the money ran out and they ended up back in the County. They even got to the 1st Round proper of the FA Cup in 1974/5 before losing 5-0 to AFC Bournemouth. The ground used to have a stand but this was lost to a fire in the late 1990s.
The last time I went to Southwick wasn’t a particularly pleasant affair. One of those moments when you walk into a bar, the piano stops and the whole place grunts and stares. The chairman at the time ended up getting 14 years in prison after being found with £120,000 of cocaine on him.
Fast forward five years and we are greeted by a cheerful turnstile operator encouraging us to ‘buy a raffle ticket, save the club’. How could we resist.
The bar has been given a make over thanks to a £100,000 grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Trust and is open seven days a week. Selling beers is probably more likely to save the club than a couple of raffle tickets, but it all helps. And the atmosphere was a whole lot better than the last time.
The pitch was muddy and rutted but at least the game was on after another Saturday wild weather wipe out. As we settled in the higgidly-piggidly stand, the ladies of Seaford also took their seats. Over the next 45 minutes they gently chided the rather plump old lino. The ref came over and told them to give him a break and the lino then asked if they were on day release! At half time we were told he nearly didn’t go back on and had never had so much abuse.
Now I’m all for giving officials a break. I’m bored of reading football forums and moaning managers blaming refs for this and that mistake, when they are only human and footballers make as many if not more mistakes in a game. But really this was very good natured. When we heard he didn’t want to come back on we were rather perplexed and wondered about the sheltered life he’d lived.
Back to the game, with Southwick a bit thin on the ground cos so many had grabbed tickets for the visit of Arsenal. Seaford took advantage and ended up 2-0 winners while people kept everyone up to date with how the Albion were doing.
I know I don’t have to tell Slough supporters about the joys of non league football but I think most of the AMEX crowd would probably think I need my head read for preferring Southwick to watching the Arsenal. But I like the friendly atmosphere, the knowledge that if you strike up a conversation with a stranger they won’t think your mad.
Southwick are the second worse supported club in Division Two with crowds averaging just 30 (which is a 30% increase on last season) so as a punter you are important to the club. And for just four quid entrance, I’ll definetly be back to Old Barn Way to cheer on the Wickers and maybe next time buy that lucky winning raffle ticket. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013


Printed in the Southern League Central Division One game v AFC Hayes Saturday 9th February 2013. We won 2-1 in front of 200 people.

The message from the government was clear. Oi, Football Association. Sort it out or we’re send the boys round. Just like we have done with the bankers, corporate tax dodgers and media barons. Er, sort of. The FA however will be celebrating their 150th anniversary by putting their fingers in their collective ears and shouting we can’t hear you.
And with Financial Fair Play rules just around the corner, something’s got to budge. However with one FA grandee reacting to the committees report by bleating “We have been running our business for 150 years, which is a lot longer than they will be in power” I’m not holding my breath. 
The one year ultimatum comes after a new report from the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee which outlined concerns about financial management, the balance of power between the Premier League and the Football Association and the impact of risk-taking by owners (read as ‘promise the earth, go on insane spending spree you can’t afford, then bugger off claiming your owned billions, putting the club at risk of administration.’) The chair of the committee MP John Whittingdale said "We have been clear that we want the football authorities to carry out the reforms they promised by the start of the 2013-14 season - most notably around improved governance and diverse representation at the FA, the development of a licensing system and greater financial transparency. If football does not deliver then we will look at bringing forward legislation."

Labour’s shadow minister for Sport in an ‘after-the-horse-has bolted’ statement of the year said There is a worrying trend as financial interests take hold that the game is becoming remote from the communities from which the clubs originated.” But he did make a good point that "The involvement of fans is essential for the future vitality of the game.” Just look at Swansea City where the Swan Trust own 20% of the Premier League Club ‘and 100% believe in football clubs being owned by fans for fans!’
Supporters Direct agreed with the recommendations with the many of the issues central to their mission. Their Chief Executive David Lampitt said “The positive role that supporters can play is no better demonstrated than by looking at the success of Swansea City, FC United of Manchester or the Bundesliga in Germany. Fans are not the cause of the game’s problems, but they can be, they must be, part of the solution. Supporters Direct will continue to push for these reforms working alongside our partner organisations, the football authorities and the Government.”
Supporters Direct promotes clubs being owned democratically but ironically they (and the Football Supporters Federation) are currently funded by the Premier League! The Premier Leagues Chief Richard Scudamore complained that asking for this funding is like asking "20 owners to fund an organisation whose avowed intent in some cases is to remove the owners of the clubs that funded them in the first place".
Of course the FA, Premier League and Football League don’t agree with the committees report or what must change. In a statement they said "Significant headway has already been made on many of these proposed reforms, not least on sustainability and transparency.”
Well hello, cloud cuckoo land. How sustainable is the 72 clubs in the Football League carrying a collective debt of £1 billion!
The report also got the approval of Sports minister Hugh Robertson MP who once described football as “the worst governed sport in Britain.” 

But asking those in power to give it away, always ends up with a two finger salute.

What fans need to do is grow some back-bone just like the supporters of Manchester City who handed back a third of their away ticket allocation at Arsenal recently telling them to stick their 62 quid tickets up their Emirates. Fans need to stop acting like lemmings and start boycotting games if you feel you are being ripped off; let’s see how the football authorities like empty stadiums.