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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Cippenham Town Tuesday 25th November 2014 We drew 2-2 in front of 238 people.

Despite being a Slough Town season ticket holder, sticking pins in my eyes is often more preferable than going to Beaconsfield. A pocket full of pins is usually all i've got left to spend after some of our far flung away trips and with other commitments eating up my Saturday mornings, it's meant that I have spending time sampling the delights of Sussex County League Football.

First up Shoreham were you can always expect a warm welcome from their forward thinking chairman who runs a proper community football club. Shoreham town centre has been transformed in recent years and now even has its very own micropub that makes a trip to watch the Musselmen even more attractive. Micropubs are basically stripped out boozers – no music, no fruit machines, often no bar with barrels of local real ale and cider for the discerning pallet and limited opening hours. Soon there will be 100 micropubs and they are a shot in the arm to the relentless pub closures happening across the country. Especially this one, the Old Star, being in the same place as The Star, a pub that closed 100 years ago!

Next stop Southwick, who to say they have fallen on hard times is an understatement. Changing their trading name, meant that the old club went into liquidation and they had to be relegated under FA rules. So this proper old school club that once spent time in the Isthmian League now play in Division 3 of the Sussex County.

Southwick play at Old Barn Way and the ground is starting to ape its name, which is a shame as the club were the first in the Sussex County to get floodlights back in 1968. It used to have a stand but this was lost to a fire in the late 1990s. A £100,000 grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Trust 10 years ago got the club new changing rooms and a directors lounge.

This was an FA Vase game against Lordswood, and Gods know where they are from. A healthy crowd, crushed into the small seated stand, out of the rain saw Southwick exit the competition. But what was pleasing to see in the programme was that all their players were sponsored and when we left (after supping a Southwick larger) the bar was heaving. The only way is up for the Wickers.

Now to the town of Uckfield, whose population of 15,000 were spoilt with two senior football clubs to chose from last season. Now after a merger AFC Uckfield Town were born and are riding high in Division Two. They are hoping their combined strength will lead to promotion as well as running teams for footballers at all levels while looking to support the development of youth team football in Uckfield.

We were greeted at their tidy little ground by a cheerful man on the gate handing out very impressive free programmes. He said they had a good crowd of 40 the other week when they beat Littlehampton Town in the Sussex County Cup while the other Tuesday just 4 people paid at the gate. The ladies at the bar were discussing how to spruce up their rather forlorn clubhouse and their main problem seems to be that they are so far out of town. The game against Midhurst and Easebourne was an abject example of not taking your chances. They should have been out of site at half time, instead they finished the match as the losing side.

You get the feeling that all these clubs are going in the right direction, and while its not the same as bellowing out my support to the Rebels, it is always a pleasure to sample the many Sussex footballing delights on my doorstep.


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Hitchin Town on Saturday 22nd November 2014. We won 2-1 in front of 273 people.

This is the story of a hedgehog, a few silly cows and a stubborn football club who are refusing to be rolled over by what we are always sold as progress.

But this has become more than a tale of a football club near the bottom of the footballing pyramid losing a ground they have called home not long after they formed in 1865 and being shoved on the outskirts of town like an unwanted guest. It is a tale that has managed to galvanise local people and hit the national press thanks to a hedgehog coming on the pitch and delaying the game - even giving the lino a lesson in how not to pick up sharp objects.
Hitchin Town' Top Field is one of those magical non league grounds that make ground-hoppers go all weak at the knees – especially after you've visited a few local boozers on the way from the train station. It's surrounded by greenery and it's still called Top Field and not The Really Fast Pick and Click Stadium of Speed or some other such nonsense. However, the Canaries problem is that they rent the land from the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust. This is a charity 'for the benefit of the community through the provision of facilities for cricket, football or other sports or for other general purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town of Hitchin'. Unfortunately somewhere along the way, the Common Cows seem to have misinterpreted this as 'sticking our snouts in the trough to feather our own nests whilst helping destroy what people love about living in Hitchin.'
What the football club have been clever at doing is showing that this is more than just about a football ground but about the wider community and the economic effects of shoving another supermarket on a greenfield site. On its own, the football club could never seriously mount a campaign against these juggernauts who spout endless corporate social responsibility guff, but at the end of the day is there to stuff cash into shareholders pockets.
So the Canaries organised a packed public meeting where the chair of the Commoners Trust received so much grief she resigned.
Now they are pulling out all the stops to encourage people to March on Saturday December 6 ahead of their game against Poole Town – which they have made free to get in. The march will launch 'The Save HTFC Fighting Fund' and the Hitchin manager is encouraging all their players and youth teams to go along in a show of solidarity.
Club secretary Roy Izzard said This isn’t just about the football club, it’s about saving Hitchin as a town. We need everyone to support this cause. This is a very really threat to the fabric of the town because even if people think Tesco will pull out, there will be other supermarkets queuing up to take over. We want the march to be a rallying cry to help save the town of Hitchin as well as Hitchin Town. Even if you’ve never been to Top Field before, if you care about the town we would urge you to come along to both the march and the game because apathy is a real threat.”
As for the hedgehog, as Mr.Izzard pointed out; “If he can help us to defeat the supermarket it would be amazing. He can join our committee any time."
You never know, you might see a cheeky little hedgehog sporting a fetching yellow and green top marching with the good people of Hitchin - that's if they can offer him enough slugs.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Printed in the Slough Town v Merthyr Town  FA Trophy 2nd Qualifying Round Saturday 16th November 2014. We drew 1-1 in front of 300 people.

The FA Trophy is a funny old competition. It doesn't get the pulses racing like the FA Cup although it is more glamours than the Berks and Bucks or the League Cup. Not that that is anything to blow your trumpet about. Having a cup of cold sick thrown over you would be preferable than the Berks and Bucks, where Reading enter their Under Nines and whose early rounds should be played as part of pre-season.

As for the Trophy, last season Luton played their youth team and still beat Staines while the Cambridge United boss complained that the competition should be midweek with no replays and that really he couldn't be arsed. Then, like the annoying kid in the class who does no work but still comes first, they go and win the bloody thing.

Now teams can agree to extra time and penalties rather than a replay. How long before the Not-Really-Non-League Clubs of the competition can just bung some football team low life a couple of grand for a walk-over and a signed shirt for their clubhouse (that's if they've got their own).

So how do we revitalise it? I liked the suggestion to give the winners of the Vase and Trophy a bye to the 3rd round of the FA Cup, but i'd happily compromise with a bye to the First Round Proper (unlike the improper 6 rounds that have happened before). More money in the pot for each round would also help.

Then this happens. Slough go and win against probably the biggest team it could have played in terms of money being thrown at them. I couldn't make it to Margate and didn't expect a result. But beating a club that's threatening to sack the manager if he doesn't get them promoted, makes victory and the manner of that victory so much sweeter. So does does the £2,700 in the bank and singing 'Your just a small town near Ramsgate.' (well I was singing it to my phone as the results came through on twitter; i'm sure they heard).

So now onto round two and its deja-vu and a warm welcome to near neighbours (well just a short trip up the M4) Merthyr. As much as I respect my Welsh roots and don my coalmans cap to Merthyr i'm not sure I will be here. A trip to Beaconsfield is a bit like visiting an old aunt. You know you should, but the place smells of a bit stale and the atmosphere turns you into a zombie-like sleep. Then you have to get the train home half-cut.

But I can sing the praises of a club that was on its knees. Now supporters run, Martyrs to the Cause campaigned to get rid of their old chairman who at one point seemed to be offering to sell their Southern league place to another club! After they were liquidated, the fans began again as Merthyr Town in the Toolstation Western League Division One playing home games 20 miles away in Taffs Well. But it took them just three seasons to regain their Southern League status. A league they have won more than any other club in its history. Thanks to a £500,000 grant they have installed a 3G pitch and did up their ground. Last season they lost in the play-offs. Company secretary John Strand said: "The club sees this development as a springboard to become a hub for football development in Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding areas." More matches on the pitch, more income, more people involved in the club. I know I sound like the pub bore with my support for artificial pitches, but they just make so much economic sense. And its not like it doesn't piss down in the Valleys on a regular basis.

So a win today and the Conference North and South appear like Mr.Ben. I might get off my arse then and take a bite out of the Trophy pie.