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.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Printed in the Southern Premier League game v Hungerford Town  Saturday January 1st 2015. We lost 2-1 in front of 310 people.

On yet another Saturday where I couldn't face the bubbling cauldron of passion that is Holloways Park, I decided to take my son to football and drag his friend along to watch his first ever live game. And where better than the Dripping Pan, home of Lewes FC. It's free to get in for Under 16's and was free for kids on the buses thanks to Small Business Saturday (as opposed to Pay No Tax Big Corporation Day the rest of the year). Although not the Premiership that so many youngsters are drugged with, Lewes does have beer, terraces, singing and swearing – all the ingredients for a perfect Saturday afternoons entertainment. It was also freezing, no goals and quite frankly the worst game of football i've seen all season, so the perfect introduction to what watching football is often like.

It also had a (free) fanzine being dished out - 'Knickers to 'em' formerly '10 Worthing Bombers' – both references to their friends along the coast – and what a great read, Now I do love a fanzine, having been co-author of 'Rebel without a Clue' during our first few seasons in the Conference. We even managed to get banned when he printed an unflattering article about our local Tory MP and even got in the national press cos we were so rude about him. Fast forward 30 years and i'm reading the intro to Knickers which is having a pop at the Lewes board. Bloody hell. This is a 100% community owned football club, with over 500 in attendance at a Ryman League bottom of the table clash with Tonbridge Angels. A club who refuses to bankrupt itself, where you can drink on the terraces, is free for kids and has the best football posters ever and food to die for. The editors might have a point about the extreme gentrification of the club, but surely the football club simply mirrors just how middle-class Lewes has become.

Having a pop isn't a bad thing, its good to keep those who make the decisions on their toes, but I always think criticism should be backed up with people mucking in. After setting up my own charity and helping re-open a co-op pub I know the endless hoops, paperwork and meetings that take place behind the scenes to make things happen. Easy to criticise, a lot harder to get stuck in. So if you're going to make a New Years resolution, how about that you will get more involved in your community?

Then I read 'With Disappointment Comes Football Wisdom' which perfectly summed up the growing up you do as a football fan. “Season after season as you stand on a terrace wondering why you bother, it is because it is shaping your life...Tomorrow can't come quick enough and with modern media demanding we live our lives at breakneck speed 24/7, there remains minimal time for thought and conjecture. Or is it just people of my era are older, wizened and frankly battle hardened through life's onslaught of sporting disappointments?”

The bit on football forums was also spot on “All you see is a forum members name but you don't need a photo to guess their age. A defeat means so and so out, a win and he is the best thing since sliced bread. You are under 25...Management is a long term art and strategy (but) young people have no patience.”

I remember at one point I had to stop watching Slough, cos when they lost it ruined my whole weekend and sent me into cat-kicking fury. Which didn't impress my vegetarian friends or the cat.

As for the kids, half an hour to go and they wanted to go home and play Minecraft, or at least watch some plonker on a computer, talk about how to play Minecraft. No way as they were bribed with another chocolate bar, your staying here to watch some blokes running round on a pitch trying to score a goal and give us some Christmas cheer. And with the final whistle, as we made our way up the windy Lewes streets in the dark, all smelling of Christmas, It felt good to be passing on a time-honoured football tradition to the younger generation.

* For copies of 'Knickers to 'em' email 
* To find them on twitter @knickerstoem

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Dorchester Town Saturday 20th December 2014. We won 2-1 in front of 254 people.

Four years ago a few of us had this crazy idea to re-open our local pub.
Fast forward, enough meetings to go round the world twice, endless fund-raising, form filling, hoop jumping and general blood, sweet and beers and finally The Bevendean Community Pub opened its doors to the public last weekend.
We have transformed an empty shell into a multifunctional bar, café, community room, edible pub garden and soon to be community kitchen fulfilling our vision that if it was too succeed then the Bevy would have to be more than just a boozer.
Every time I see a boarded up pub or one converted into another poxy supermarket my heart sinks. Where are people meant to meet, to celebrate, to chew over the days events, if there are no community spaces left? Well for once, we have put a line in the sand and stuck two fingers up to those that said we couldn't do it.
The Bevendean is the first co-op pub on a housing estate, bucking the trend of nearly 30 pubs a week closing. But as we have been banging on for the past few years, it will be so much more than just a pub. We raised nearly £50,000 by selling community shares along with loans and a massive grant because the funders could see that we are a trail-blazer. The first of its kind with supporting letters from everyone from the Brownies, to Albion in the community, NHS and residents groups saying how they would use the Bevy.
Although just a couple of miles from the town centre, living in Moulsecoomb sometimes feels more like living in Slough rather than Brighton. Its nearly a fiver to get a bus into town and there's no pubs, cafés or anywhere to get an organic aubergine. Not that I like aubergines. I also believe we can make green issues relevant for the working class estates that surround the bright lights of Brighton. Rather than beating people with an eco-stick, if we can produce our own electricity and knock a few pence off a pint or coffee then it becomes relevant. If we can grow and buy as much of local food as possible, we can offer decent meals to people at affordable prices then it becomes relevant. Cos its worth remembering that the Moulsecoomb and Bevendean estates are in the bottom 5% of deprivation in the whole country.
We will be composting our own waste, asking for the repair café to fix things, swap veg seeds and support our local micro-breweries. We will create jobs, training and opportunities for people, paying the living wage while offering work experience to pupils from the local schools.
But most importantly we will have somewhere to meet that is owned and run by the local community. So rather than meeting in dusty halls, we hope we will see a renaissance in local community groups as people not only have something pleasant to meet but a chance to find out what's going on and how to get involved. We hope it will tackle the fear of crime with young people serving up meals to older residents, so when they see them in the street they say hello. Somewhere that will not only generate income onto our estate but make it more resilient, a better place to be. And with the promise of public spending going back to 1930's levels, the Bevy profits, rather than lining the pockets of distant shareholders, can be invested back into our community supporting all the different groups that make a big difference.
The Bevy shows what a group of determined, bloody-minded residents can do when they set their minds to it. So the next time Slough play a game near Sussex by the Sea I expect you all to pop into the pub for a pre match bevy. That's got to be something worth celebrating. 
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Saturday, December 06, 2014


To be printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Dunstable Town Saturday 6th December 2014

Anyone with a grasp of football, would understand why it should be part of the geography curriculum. Much of my youth was spent pouring over leagues giving me an encyclopedic knowledge of just where every village, town and city was. Now my eldest is using his football sticker collection to find out about different countries.
If only a well travelled Ex had supported her local team Shepton Mallet. Instead she didn't know her Bristols from her Barnsley’s and once asked if Slough was by the sea. Er, not unless you count the Grand Union Canal. Now I like nothing better than winding my missus up on car journeys, by pointing out, been there, done that, cos at one point I’ve watched the Rebels play at over 150 different grounds. I know that isn't a touch on what John Tebbit could come up with, but it's seen me reach the far flung corners of our country. From Gateshead to Truro to Ramsgate with a bit of Wroxham and Boston thrown in to make a perfect geographical triangle.

I can get all romantic over a bit of Stockton and Norton Ancients and felt depressed when Blackpool Mechanics changed their name to boring old AFC Blackpool after merging with Squires Gate Youth. Everyone loves a bit of Accrington Stanley, not just cos of the milk advert, but because of their name. Sheffield Wednesday trumps Sheffield United and Sheffield any day of the week. You wonder why Sheffield, who invented the game, didn't pick a better name, seeing as they were the first and could have been called something like Sheffield the First Albion, which would certainty have put a marker in the sand.

Scottish and Welsh footballing names are always going to win in the beautiful words contest, although I thank the pagan Gods I don't support Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogochFC. If i struggle with remembering Give us an S, L, O when I’ve had a few beers, imagine trying to get that one on the go. Their name translates as "St Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of St Tysilio of the red cave" which kinda beats Slough meaning an area of soft wet land – or bog.

It's a pity that these reformed clubs, they didn't use a bit more imagination that sticking AFC before their name, although FC United of Manchester when shortened to FCUM is a two finger salute to modern football. Blyth Spartans give themselves an edge just by their name and have FA Cup romance written all over them, before they'd even thought about reaching the 5th round proper. Romulus aren't from another planet and Walton Casuals aren’t a punk band from the seventies managed by Jimmy Pursey or an English Defence League splinter group but a team from Surrey playing in the Ryman League Division One South. And try saying Harrow Borough quickly after a few pints (and try finding the bloody ground for that matter).

Thumbs up to Chalfont Wasps, Glossop North End, Prescot Cables and Oxhey Jets but it's the Northern League that not only dominates the FA Vase but dominates best named footballing clubs. Jarrow Roofing Boldon Community Association, Bedlington Terriers, West Allotment Celtic, Billingham Synthonia, Seaham Red Star, Esh Winning and the aforementioned Norton and Stockton Ancients make all us wordsmiths go weak at the knees. It's only spoilt by one of those ego trip chairman clubs, Celtic Nation which leaves a bad taste in the mouth like the once proposed merger of Ramsgate and Margate to make Thanet United. Gravesend and Northfleet becoming Ebbsfleet was also a historical football club name massacre.

So if you are thinking of starting a new club, why not pour over the Non League Paper for a bit of inspiration. Just think of how the innocuously named Harrogate Railway Athletic lured us all into a false sense of security. Maybe we need to soften up Slough to do the same. Mind you, its taken so bloody long to get a ground, we are fast turning into Slough Town Wanderers.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Published in the Southern League Premier Division game v Cirencester Town. Tuesday 2nd December 2014. We lost 2-1 in front of 273.

A recent letter in my local Brighton paper said all you need to know about football fans. Here was a Brighton supporter complaining that rather than spending money on a spanking new football academy, Albion should have instead splashed all that cash on players to get to the Premiership Promised Land. He also cited Southampton as an example of a club who waited till they got to Premiership Nirvana before they spent money on these sort of facilities. Yes, Southampton who seem to be supplying all the top clubs with their best players, while remaining a top club themselves. What a waste of cash their Academy has been.

The Premiership/success at all costs is why I haven't changed my opinion that most football fans are idiots. Of course football makes you irrational with many of us exhibiting a blind brand loyalty that any other business would kill for. Football clubs use it as an excuse to exploit, although any Wigan supporting Chinese Jews are probably finding it difficult to cheer their team on at the moment.

On a recent rail replacement trip to Cambridge, one Arsenal fan who travels up from Eastbourne for matches, went into full brand loyalty mode, telling me that Arsenal weren't as expensive to watch as most people think, but he couldn't afford to watch his local non league club Eastbourne Borough anymore. That's because he was spending £200 on the Arsenal Match Day Experience.

Brighton was recently picked out as the most expensive team to watch in the Championship. This is hardly surprising as Brighton is a bloody expensive place to live. Their Chief Executive argued that the report was flawed because it didn't take into account the 'Match Day Experience'. So what exactly is that, apart from, er, watching the match? The last time I went to the AMEX I sat on my tod, next to people more interested in the Man United score eating overpriced pies and queuing ages to have a pee. With 10 minutes to go the stand I was in was nearly empty – and Brighton weren't losing. I might expect this type of experience at a cinema but I had to pinch myself to remember I was at a football match.

While Albion were one of the Championship clubs to try and stick to the financial fair play rules, they reluctantly voted to massively increase the money clubs can overspend so it no longer can really be called fair play just more of the free-for-all-winner-takes-all model football fans seem to have swallowed whole. But at least the Albion are trying not to build their house on sand. A peek over to the South Coast at Portsmouth should remind fans what happens when you do that, only rescued from the jaws of oblivion, by their fans.

So while Labour has promised more supporters on the boards should they reach the promised land of No 10, the Premiership have reacted to the crazy idea that fans having a greater say with apoplectic fury. What's wrong with Russian criminals, tax exiles and deluded Malaysians who think that red is a much better colour than blue (I'm sure no teams that play in blue have won the Premiership recently, so he might have a point). To be fair, the Con-Lib Alliance wrote in their coalition agreement that they would “encourage co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters” which they have sort of done, by letting clubs go to the wall ready for fans to clear up the mess and run themselves.

As for me, I will stick to the Match Day Experience offered by non league football. Sure, there might be more atmosphere at Slough Cemetery than Holloways Park. Yes there might be less than 100 at most of the Sussex County League games I get too. And yes, the fans at Lewes might make me feel a little uncomfortable by being just too darn polite, but they are places where I feel most at home, can watch a decent game of football, and not be broke for the rest of the week just because I’ve watched 90 minutes of football.