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, August 31, 2014


I hadn't managed to watch any games in the first round of my favourite cup competition and I was getting twitchy, so rushing back from holiday I spotted the perfect fix. Fighting through the Albion hoards on their way to the Amex, my bus passed through Lewes to the biggest village green ever. Ringmer FC play in the Sussex County League Division One and were pitched against Merstham from a level above in the Ryman South. Last time I saw Ringmer play it was Non League Day and my Seagull following mate Terry nearly joined the jumble sale queue by mistake, not realising that you don't really have queues at this level.

Last time I saw Merstham, their chairman was outside the gates shaking hands with all the AFC Wimbledon fans as their usual crowd of 25 became a record breaking 1,587. There also seemed to be a desire to break the world record for most cheese rolls ever made at a non league football match. That was 12 years ago and since then Merstham have improved their ground, won promotion and average 150 a game. Dons fans still come down to visit and their under 21 development squad will now be playing at Moat Side.

Quite a few Moatsiders had made the short trek to Caburn Pavilion, where the Blues haven't made the best start to the season. Hammered 8-1 on Bank Holiday they could only muster 10 players in the torrential rain; this on the back of a 6-0 opening home defeat to Littlehampton. But they had managed to knock out Corinthian in the extra preliminary pocketing £750. The men on the gate said that they are lucky to get 40 people and that it was hard to compete against Lewes while Brighton's swanky new stadium has sucked fans and players away from them and other Sussex non league clubs.

Turners Brewery have sponsored them for the past two seasons and the players looked very smart in their new blue kits. Turners is the local microbrewery set up in 2010 named after the Turner family who have farmed in Ringmer for generations. They are diversifying their farm with a shop, butchers, smokery and real ales. The beer is brewed in a converted farm building using hay bales for insulation and will soon have a green roof and 200 solar panels. It seemed rude not to sink one of their lovely £2.50 ales to get me in the mood.

Diversity is the name of the game for any lower league club and Ringmer are lucky to have a massive clubhouse, which is open every night with rooms available for hire. The clubhouse was one of the best and as for the tea bar - it didn't just sell chips, but toasted sandwiches and nachos. Nachos at a football ground, now your talking.

The crowd of 69 were treated to a proper attacking cup frenzy, but as expected Merstham were the much better side and scored in the 17 minute. But while it stayed 1-0 Ringmer always had a chance, especially in the second half when they were shooting downhill. While the gentile fans of Ringmer complained about a Merstham player swearing, on the other side of the pitch the Ringmer management were shouting encouragement and going apoplectic at the poor old Lino, who was getting it in the ear for breathing. Eventually Merstham got their second in the 72 minute and added two more to set up a home tie with Chipstead in the next round.

Merstham have the feel of a club going places, helped by that all important diversity and a bar open every night of the week. While Ringmer I suspect will be happy to stay in the top Sussex County League and hope to prize some of those Albion fans to the occasional game. With local real ales and nachos on offer, they'd be fools not too. 



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