These articles are published in the Slough Town FC programme. The Rebels play in the Southern Premier - just seven leagues below the Premier League. I’ve been supporting Slough since the beginning of time despite now living in Brighton. After nearly 14 nomadic years we finally have a brand spanking new home in Slough.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

NO MUGS IN THE FA VASE

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.

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