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.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

LEFT IN THE TROPHY CABINET

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.

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