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.

Friday, March 13, 2015


To be printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Truro City Saturday 14th March 2015. 

Maybe it was just the spring sunshine going to my head, but standing on the packed Dripping Pan terraces with Kingstonian fans in full voice, I couldn't help thinking that non league football was once again finding its feet; and the relentless crap that league supporters have to put up with for the privilege of supporting their team, was finally turning enough of them away and back to grassroots football.

Of course its not all roses; Lewes opponents Kingstonian groundshare with AFC Wimbledon and their management have said if Wimbledon get their own ground they will probably have to find a new home because Kingsmeadow is too big for them. Meanwhile FA boss Greg Duke, with his deep understanding of lower league finances, has said that he is looking at cutting FA Trophy and Vase money - the same week that the Premiership announced a 5 billion pound TV deal! Dyke’s wants £2 million per year switched from other parts of the FA budget to pay for 35 new coach educators to work in the grassroots and professional game. It's been approved by the FA board, but amateur blazers have unsurprisingly, yet to be convinced about the merits of such expenditure and the resulting 15 per cent cuts being imposed on every department to raise the cash. Do the winners of the FA Cup really need £1.8 million? Should teams be out of pocket in the early rounds of the Trophy and Vase?

Then there's that old B team chestnut rearing its head again. This time, the threats are for Premiership Under 21 teams to be put into the
Johnstone Paint Trophy. Not the most prestigious of cups, until you get to the final when every player and supporter wants to be at Wembley. Let the B teams in that and it will be the Trojan Horse the Premiership Masters of the Universe want so they can swamp the lower divisions with B-listers.

Of course clubs like Lewes, Dulwich and FC United of Manchester have worked hard to carve out a niche for themselves with the resulting surge in support. A recent trip to watch the Peacehaven & Telscombe v Lewes derby showed the flipside of non league. Peacehaven's rise up the divisions and spending on players they couldn't afford has finally caught up with them. A new chairman off-loaded 3 players which immediately cut the wage bill in half. He then initiated a Stand or Fall campaign to raise £15,000 to pay for the required 75 seats before the end of the season. Or as non league football blogger Ian Townsend pointed out 'Half a day’s pay – or possibly the price of an acceptable birthday cake – for Yaya Touré.' No seats and it will mean relegation. Piddinghoe Avenue still has the feel of a Sussex County League ground and not the Sports Arena it likes to call itself. Whereas you walk into noise when you go through the Lewes turnstiles, at Peacehaven you are strung out like pearls and the £10 entrance fee doesn't sit right. Despite it being a derby that mattered and a big crowd, there was no atmosphere and no noise until Peacehaven scored the winning goals. How do you hope to attract the disillusioned supporter with those facilities?

Of course they do things a bit different in Germany where Bayern Munich fans recently unfurled a banner proclaiming ‘No to the English model’ while their president, said “We do not think the fans are like cows to be milked. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.” So hears hoping the Premiership brand goes the way of Tesco. Too arrogant to see all the problems piling up. To dismissive of the fans protests. I doubt they will ever see the light, so let's encourage more people to jump ship and join the Non League Football Revolution (or Rebelution in our case).

Sunday, March 08, 2015


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Cambridge City Saturday 7th March 2015. We lost 4-0 in front of 315 people

How ironic that all those years spent praying for promotion everytime I saw the words AFC Hayes on the fixtures list, that I should spend so little time watching the Rebels in our first season back in the big time (Big Time of course being relative). It all started so well with a flurry of action down in the West Country but with the groundsharing at Beaconsfield testing my patience (I’ve been to so few home games my season ticket is working out as pricey as a seat at the Emirates), endless rail replacements which means five hour journeys become ten, kids, work and a co-op boozer that has popped up down the bottom of my street. Well, its been a season of 'wish you were here' and now with no prospect of relegation or promotion, a season spent watching more Sussex County than Southern Premier.

Still, I did fancy a bit of Chippenham Town, never having entered their turnstiles. Once I left the brave new world that is Reading station (how about this for a crazy idea, get a bar and a decent place to eat in the concourse you numpties) I arrived in Chippenham with plenty of time to catch up with The Real Ale Rebels (plus Kieran). They have the knack of finding old fashioned boozers that make you feel you have walked into someone's house by mistake. Leaving them to debate the finer points of ale, I got to the ground before the usual 1 minute to spare to catch up with all the aches and ailments of the ageing Rebel population and ponder the news that the council have given permission for our new ground (not that it means we can start building just yet).

I must say I was impressed with Chippenham. Loved the ground, cheap clubhouse, friendly fans from all ages including a Swede, with obligatory crazy Viking beard who travels over to games after a group of friends stumbled across the club – like you do when you live in Sweden. He bared his chest and waved his shirt above his head as Chippenham scored twice in a terrible game of football. I was wondering if the people by the Stadium Control Room would leap into action and cover up his modesty. But I had headed back to the bar before then.

This world of football is so far removed from the Premiership that it has more in common with horse dancing (or Equestrian Dressage as they like to call it to make it sound sensible). I cringed as I watched FA say they hoped the Premiership would hand a few more crumbs to the leagues below as the biggest TV deal ever was announced. Five Billion Quid over 3 years! The Premier League currently spends £168m on community programmes and facilities, just 3% of its income. So while the top of our national sport is awash with millions, grassroots football struggles with terrible pitches and terrible or non existent facilities. These very same clubs that play footballers millions, can't it seems, afford to pay its lowest paid staff the Living Wage (and its worth remembering that people on low wages are topped up with tax credits, so in effect taxpayers are subsidizing these big clubs).

So I couldn't help smiling, when their smugness turned to horror with FIFA announcing that the Qatar World Cup could be moved to the winter. We can't have our players getting too hot, not that we give a shit about the hundreds of workers killed building stadiums in the footballing hotbed (well it is a desert) that is Qatar. FIFA are so corrupt, even the Somali government waves its arms in despair and I wish countries would just tell them to stick their World Cup up their bloated, corrupt back sides.

Yet just like the Premiership, they get away with it because we go along with it. When there are protests, such as the Crystal Palace Ultras whose banners criticised the new TV deal, they are ignored by Match of the Day when these protests should become talking points.

Thankfully the chances of Slough Town joining this cauldron of crap anytime in my lifetime is pretty much zero. And that's the way I like it. Infact the more supporters are taken on a merry dance, the more Non League becomes attractive to people fed up with being taken for a footballing ride. And with the prospects of a new ground in Slough, these are the sorts of people we need to grab with both footballing gloves and turn them into Rebels.