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.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


Printed in the Southern League Central Division game v Dunstable on Saturday 22nd February 2014. We won 4-0 in front of 262 people.

You would think that our football mad nation with apparently the best league ever, that grassroots football facilities would be the envy of the world. Where muddy fields, dog poo and dilapidated changing rooms would be a thing of the past. But we all know that's not the case and that the football world perfectly mirrors our unequal society.

Last year the Premier League income was a staggering 2.4 billion – of which they gave a paltry £12 million to the Football Foundation, or 0.5% of their riches. Having initially bowed to government pressure to give 5%, the league now insists that commitment was for one broadcasting rights deal only and, despite securing a
record £5.5 billion for 2013-16, has cut its funding to the Football Foundation.

So one MP launched a petition to ask for 7.5% of the Premierships income be given to grassroots campaign rather than wasting more TV money on increasing players wages. But less than a week to go it has astonishingly only got just over 30, 000 signatures. It would have attracted more with the backing of the 50
county FAs but not one replied when contacted about the campaign.

This week the government launched 'Moving More, Living More' initiative to build on the Olympic legacy, but as sports journalist David Conn told me "it should have been issued in 1997 and incredibly the document suggests they are just thinking how to increase activity. It's too little, too late. "

Despite all fine government words about getting more people involved in sport, 100,000 people have walked away from grassroots football since April 2012 and it is now behind swimming, athletics and cycling in the participation rates. Mick Baikie, national clubs services manager at the Football Association complained "one of the biggest challenges we face is facilities. We've got qualified coaches but we haven't got the facilities for them to coach and play. The big problem now is the public sector cuts – 80% of games are played on local authority sites that have been heavily subsidised in the past but we are starting to see an impact with the cuts. One council recently raised their fees from £400 per pitch, per season to £1,600. That's happening all over the country."

Lord Harris, Chairman of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Committee has expressed his disappointment at the lack of movement by Government. "Our report endorsed the consensus that the 2012 Games were an outstanding success. The Government’s response certainly talks the right talk, particularly on sport in
school age children, but at a time when the UK faces an obesity epidemic, costing £20 billion a year, encouraging more physically active lives is of critical importance, and I think more investment than the Government are planning will be essential in the long term."

As one football coach pointed out "We don't look at the bigger picture in this country. If kids can play football regularly that will help in some way towards the obesity crisis and the strain that puts on the NHS. And it's not just about the football but about making friends, instilling discipline and helping the community."

While Cameron tells us 'money is no object' when it comes to the floods, wouldn't it make sense to tell the Premiership that not properly investing in our national game just isn't an option anymore.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Printed in the Southern League Central Divison One match v Aylesbury United Saturday 15th February 2014. We won 5-3 in front of 272 people. 
I'm not sure I will ever lose that buzz of an away game. As I sit on the early morning Slough Town Express wondering what beery delights Nigel has lined up for us, as I hurtle towards hamlets and towns that would otherwise pass me by. Saturday in your colours is also the only time you can go up to complete strangers and start to chat about football without them ringing the police.
Now I always love a trip to Marlow. We were lucky the Marlow Donkey was running as the Thames lapped the tracks and flooded the riverbank houses. With climate change this wild weather is a sign of things to come and while the flooded fields looked strangely beautiful and peaceful, for the people affected it must be devastating.
After supping in one of those gastro pubs that aren't really pubs, the Real Ale CAMRA Rebels sniffed out the squat ugly building across the road that houses The Marlow British Legion club. Now I’m not too fussed about real ales and I’ve never been into a British Legion club but what a warm welcome we received as they signed us in, chatted about football and recommended ales. If this place don't tick all the boxes of what a community pub should be I don't know what does. Chatting to the management committee you also realised that they had the vision to make sure the place could adapt, with their beer festival and other events keeping the punters coming, to make sure it survives the relentless closure of our community spaces (and have you noticed that its always the village pub where residents meet and organise when floods and disasters strike – what happens when there isn't one?).
Next up was Shoreham. Thanks to another Rebels wash out I decided to make the trip to one of my favourite Sussex clubs. It seemed the right thing to do, as a group of fans from Hertha Berlin in Germany were coming to watch their game against Rye United. When they found out Shoreham played in the same colours and were formed in the same year as Hertha they decided to adopt them as their second club.
Shoreham certainty rolled out the blue carpet to their new found friends with a great atmosphere – although probably a little different to what the 10 German lads are used to with their 77,000 capacity stadium. They got invited into the board room and later officials joined them in a pub in Shoreham to watch the Hertha game and sink a few more beers. How could I resist a night learning about German football and chatting to Stuart Slaney Shoreham's young chairman whose passion for youth football has seen him take over the club. As he pointed out “They wanted to see a bit of UK football and fortunately instead of a Premiership or Championship team, they chose a grassroots club. One of our players got sent-off in the 90th minute and the Hertha supporters thought it was because they were shouting him encouragement to go into tackles, so they paid for his fine. They were shouting for Shoreham and it was one of the best atmospheres we have had in quite a while. We are hoping to return the favour nearer the end of the season and maybe try and get a friendly with their supporters club."
Just like the people behind Marlow British Legion, the chairman of Shoreham is savy enough to spot opportunities that come his way to make sure that the Musselmen continue to flourish. The German visit was splashed all over the local papers and Non League Paper, where he lamented "It's a shame that these supporters travelled 750 miles, but we can't get local supporters to come 500 yards to see us."
Now I’m all for keeping and respecting tradition but also realise that in a rapidly changing world of climate and lifestyle football clubs and pubs must learn to adapt if they are not only to survive but flourish. 


Saturday, February 08, 2014


Printed in the Southern League Central Division One game v Aylesbury Tuesday 4th February 2014. We won 2-0 in front of 226 people.

It was either the FA Vase or a trip to Slough to watch us play AFC Hayes. No bloody contest. AFC Hayes must rub their hands with glee when they see the fixtures. The only place where even their man on the tannoy makes remarks that we've got no ground. I know we can bring it on ourselves with our Big Time Charlie attitude and the look-at-the-size-of-your-crowd remarks but AFC Hayes have got 'winding up Slough' down to a fine art. Thing is, I would do the same if I was in their boots.

So after scouring the fixtures, a few non league merry men plumped for East Preston v Rye United, an all Sussex County League third round tie. East Preston play just outside Angmering and are currently top of Division One whereas Rye are from a pretty fishing town near Hastings.

The FA Vase really is a great competition. Unlike the FA Cup and the FA Trophy all the clubs that enter take it seriously and want to win. The Cambridge United boss called for the Trophy to be midweek with no replays while Luton played their youth team and still beat Staines!

Getting a cup of tea in a proper mug is the give away. The club are either very environmentally friendly or else their crowds rarely reach double figures. I'd like to think it was the former and that they get that throwing loads of plastic cups away five minutes after they've been used is totally insane thing to do but I it seems we've a long way to go before most football clubs cut out such waste.

East Preston were only formed in 1966 and have made impressive progress. Rye had bought a fair few fans, many more than we often see at our level, even a few youngsters had been dragged along by their fathers swelling the gate to 107. It never ceases to amaze me that clubs at such low levels attract any fans, but what is being served up is so different from the Super Sky-Premiership Package or Albion Amex Experience that it might as well be called Horse Dressage. For starters, you realise that everyone knows each other, they say hello and sip their tea from mugs which they return to the counter.

I know I whittle on about community a lot, but here it is on a December day, in all its raw glory. And its the authorities, be they local government or governing bodies, that should realise just how important it is and bend over backwards to support it.

Instead the iron fist of the FA comes down like a tonne of bricks on misdemeanors. This time its Spalding United thrown out of the competition because they played a suspended player for 5 minutes. Problem was the player was suspended under a different name so how the bloody hell were they meant to know! A competition they felt they could go on and win. A competition that is often a springboard for greater things and a way of showcasing that the local town or village has a football team.

I hate being a neutral so after too many theatrics from East Preston players and the thought of a trip to Rye in the next round, I got behind The Quarterboys. But in the end it was an injury time winner from a defender that put East Preston in the last 32 of the Vase for the first time.

There's been complaints about the Vase being dominated by Northern League clubs whose teams often decide not to take promotion because of travelling costs. But apart from needing to dish out more cash to clubs if they win a round, its the Trophy that the FA need to take a good look at. 

The FA Vase is still a warming cup of tea from a proper mug on a winters day.

Saturday, February 01, 2014


This article should have been printed in the league match v Egham Town but the game was postponed thanks to the rain. Thought I should post it now in light of the EDL marching in Slough.

I am writing to you to ask what is happening with Slough Town Football Clubs plans for the old Arbour Park school site.

It might seem a bit odd that a Brighton resident for nearly 25 years is writing to you about Slough Town; but I have been supporting the football club for so long, am still a season ticket holder and travel to most games and can't see that stopping anytime soon.

Two weeks ago there was a big party thrown for one of our most loyal supporters who is very ill. The Herschel Arms was packed to the rafters with fans, players, ex players and managers. The next day he lead the teams out on the pitch. Later his dad tweeted 'Best thing that ever happened to Dave is Slough Town. His family thank you all. He is so lucky to have such friends.'

That sentiment sums up exactly what is fantastic about this club but also why I think Slough Town is more than just a football club; more than 22 men kicking a ball around on a Saturday in front of a few hundred fans.

But I not writing to you just to sing the clubs praises, but to highlight the current impasse the club finds itself in. We have a fantastic chairman who has worked incredibly hard with the council and a housing association to deliver a new sports facilities and homes at Arbour Vale. It will not just be a place for Slough Town to call home but have modern sports facilities for the whole town; multi-use games area, athletics track, facilities for the dance academy and of course delivering much needed housing. This is on top of the clubs football academy for youngsters at Farnham Park.

Our chairman has spent nearly seven years working with the council, had political support from all main parties and in 2012 it was already to be approved. However for the past couple of years nothing seems to have happened and the club seem to be being used as a political football with no one grasping the nettle and making a decision on the Arbour Vale re-development.

If this is frustrating for us fans, I can't imagine how depressing it is for a successful businessman whose used to getting things done quickly.

Now it seems a freeschool has thrown a spanner in the works. I won't bore you with my thoughts on religious free schools. All I will say is that growing up in Slough, my Grammar school was like the United Nations and a working class one at that. I fear that by parceling up children by their parents faith we are storing up problems for the future. With the fascist English Defence League marching in Slough this Saturday we can see how some people will try and exploit these differences.

This is why a football ground in Slough at Arbour Park is even more important. If nothing else it will be one of the few places in Slough that can bind the diverse communities of Slough together. Football is fantastic in breaking down barriers – just look at Bradford City last season when they reached the League Cup final. The football club and the facilities it offers could be a jewel for the town, without burdening the taxpayer with extra cost. But the current impasse does no-one any favours.

Please could you look into this as a matter or urgency to find out just what is happening.