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, January 25, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Bedworth United on Saturday 6th February 2016. We lost 2-1 in front of 247 people.

It definitely wasn't on my fiftieth birthday wish list, but I had been badgering my eldest to support his local team from the year dot and made him a Slough Town mascot for the first eight years of his life. So I really only had myself to blame when he said he no longer supported Arsenal but Brighton and Hove Albion. But was it my wise words or the fantastic work Albion in the Community do that they rightfully win so many awards for and who coach him twice a week?
Who knows, but every dad wants their offspring to share in their love of football, and not the frothing at the TV I-support-a-club-i-will-never-visit kind of 'support.' So what to do but bite the bullet and buy one of those frowned upon by real fans half-season tickets. Thankfully you don't have to wear a half-a-season wrist band so regulars can point you out and I hope I wont become a Slough Town outcast made to stand under the Shed guttering when its raining.
So on New Years Day I found myself in the Seagulls clubshop. It's four times bigger than the Beaconsfield clubhouse with ten staff manning the tills; no tin roof here to bang on, no old heater to keep Sue warm and I doubt there are any spiders or the need for sandbags for when the terraces flood. Two small pies, coffee, water, a bag of sweets and a Brighton scarf and I was waving goodbye to another £25 but at least I could walk home for free.
I don't like the fanzone, the twirling soggy scarves that hit me in the face as they are whirled in the air after they have been dragged in the rain and I WANT TO FUCKING STAND UP AND MOVE AROUND! Football league supporters also seem to have lost their ability to come up with original, witty songs and instead now sing from a very limited repertoire. Saying that, it can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand to attention when you hear thousands singing Sussex-by-the-Sea but I do change the lyrics to Slough-by-the-Canal. Of course someone with a big head always manages to sit in front of my son – this time the big-heads arrived late for kick off and late after half time, talked about loft conversions for the whole game and of course left early. Really, at £25 a pop, why bother?
What is interesting is that when I think the game has been great, others are complaining about the football being served but maybe that isn't surprising when I often watch games that are nine levels below.
As for the forum, North Stand Chat is very lively but no different from others across the country, in that it is populated by too many people with unreasonable expectations and angry too-soon-after-the-final-whistle comments. Brighton went from being the only league club unbeaten to a club record for not scoring a goal (not helped by nearly a full team of injuries). And a few people called for the managers head! Obviously saw-dust is only thing in there's. I’m all for supporters having a voice, but why do so many have to be clueless morons?
In a crowd of 300 at Slough, I will know at least half the people. In 26,000 I bumped into just 3 familiar faces. I can guarantee if I wear my Slough scarf on the train, someone will approach me and ask me about the Rebels and when we are getting our new ground. That's not going to happen when thousands support the same team.
Ironically, one of the things I hate about modern football is fixtures being moved around by TV, is actually playing to my advantage. With Brighton doing well, their games are being dicked about giving me the wiggle room to go and support non league football and even, heaven forbid, the odd Slough Town game.
That's not to say, i'm not off my seat and cheering when Brighton score a goal, or muttering under my breath about a refs decision or a misplaced pass. And it wont be long before my eldest will be asking to leave his old dad and join his mates in the North Stand leaving me to crawl back under my Slough Town saddo non league rock. 

Friday, January 22, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Hitchin Town on Saturday 23rd 2016. We won 1-0 in front of 314 people. 

While the January monsoons were once again wiping out non league fixtures, Lancing FC from the Southern Combination Football League (or Sussex County in old money) tweeted that baring an apocalypse their top of the table clash with Arundel would go ahead. Lancing share their ground with Sussex FA and have bitten the bullet and installed a 3G pitch.
So sure of getting the game ahead they had offered free tickets to a local youth side who they hope will merge with them. So while other clubs were forking in vain, the Lancing groundsmen were hoovering and sweeping! By kick-off there were 118 paying punters and over 300 packed into the impressive facilities along one side of the ground. The game was fast and furious in the first half and by the time of the deluge in the second half came, the pitch didn't turn into a mud-bath. In the end they won 4-1 and went top of the league.
The only hiccup of the day was my complaint to the caterers that the coffee they had served me was salty. No, you idiot, you had just put milk in someones bovril.
Another Sussex club Worthing seem to waking from a long sleep since a young chairman took over and appointed an even younger manager. They installed 3G in the summer and are second in the Ryman South attracting gates between 500 to a 1,000 - so big infact that they have to work with the local council on a travel plan.
Of course Maidstone are leading the artificial way and are knocking on the Conference doors with crowds averaging over two thousand. Its worth Slough fans remembering that its just a couple of seasons back when a homeless Maidstone were averaging 300 a game.
Now Bracknell Town want to get on the 3G wagon, selling part of the decrepited Largess Lane ground for £1 million for housing so they can pay for it and carry out ground improvements. The all weather pitch will enable them to share with Ranleigh school in the week along with classrooms for sports studies courses for teenagers, a creche for students at nearby Bracknell and Wokingham college and a sports hall for the disabled. All that stands in the way is planning permission, but things certaintly look a bit brighter for the Hellenic League club with nearly 300 attending the Christmas holiday day derby with Ascot Town. So hats off to Bracknell for trying to diversify with as many income streams as possible – and you never know it might even bring in a few extra fans.
Of course I will miss the mud-baths that even up the teams in the early rounds of the FA Cup but it really is a lower league no brainer, I've heard complaints from other teams about an unfair advantage but as technology gets better, pitches get cheaper and the football authorities really get behind it, a trip to watch a game on the grass will become a novelty. And of course when we move to our Slough Town Theatre of Dreams we will be playing on the artificial stuff because as our chairman says “it is not only the way forward for clubs it is the way forward for communities as the pitch can be better utilised as opposed to just the couple of times a week you can play on a grass pitch. Also with an artificial pitch there is less chance that a game will be called off. It has taken the FA a long time, however artificial pitches are now accepted in the FA Cup, in the Conference League and it won’t be long before the professional leagues accept them.”
Barring of course, an apocalypse.

Sunday, January 03, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kettering Town on Saturday 9th January 2016. This game was postponed and eventually played on Tuesday 1st March 2016. We lost 3-1 in front of 294

This is a story about social media, never ending rain and a football chairman with his finger on the pulse – or at least the keyboard of his phone.
While the incessant rain in the north had led to homes and football grounds going under water, the South had escaped the worse of the deluges. So when the call came through that the Hungerford game was off, it was time to start searching for local games using the world of twitter as my friend. Now twitter can be time-consuming, self indulgent, distracting nonsense and I often find myself about to post something before deleting it knowing that no-one apart from my immediate family really care about the funny face they had pulled when I waved an organic carrot at them (there's an UglyFruitandVeg twitter account that covers that). But for political protests and football clubs it is a godsend and something that I put in my Non League Manifesto as something leagues should demand as essential. Forget penalising clubs for that extra turnstile that no one will ever squeeze through or that 250 seater stand that will remain empty for most of season, what the FA should be doing is finding ways to improve pitches so more games can be played on them and a crash course on twitter. In Slough, you have Robert Stevens who keeps you up to date with Berkshire sport while in Sussex we have some great non league feeds like Sussex Football and top football blogger Ian Townsend who champions Sussex teams.

Lewes proudly announced there wasn't a problem with their pitch, but just as I was heading for the bus to the Dripping Pan, the game was called off. Thousands in lost revenue and unsold food and beer for a community owned club bottom of the league is hard to swallow; and while angry tweets complained it was called off too late I think we should cut the club some slack. Lewes cant even win at home let alone predict future weather patterns.

Throughout the morning, the Shoreham chairman, Stuart Slaney had kept up incessant chat – as games were called off, he tweeted to the clubs encouraging them to come to Middle Road. It was like that voice at the back of your head telling you to ignore the Dry January nonsense and buy that pint at the bar.

Non League is a small family and Stuart knew that there are no massive rivalries at this level and fans wanting to fill the long festive period with another game, they could be tempted if he just kept chipping away. So when I made my way across the quagmire of the park that surrounds the ground half hour into the game, I became the 149th person through the gate. The best crowd of the season for a club that averages around 60, with supporters from Eastbourne Town, Whitehawk and Lewes in the crowd and no doubt others. 13 hours spent on the pitch by the groundsman last week had really paid off. By the end of the game the pitch looked like my allotment, but with no home game meaning no income for two weeks, it was financially important to get the game on.

It was also a game where you could also guarantee goals, although Shoreham hadn’t gloated about just how bad their opponents were on twitter. St.Francis Rangers are rooted to the bottom of the Southern Combination League premier division with no points from 22 games, just two goals scored and 151 conceded - officially the worst team in England. At the beginning of the season their manager had left taking all their players. With relegation a dead cert, it would be too easy to throw in the towel but with a thriving youth set-up St.Francis, just like Shoreham, is more than just about the first team. In the end it finished 8-0 and with every goal, Mr.Chairman asking everyone if he had the score right before tweeting. It would have been worse if it hadn’t been for the Rangers keeper who looked like an abominable mud monster at the end

Shoreham is now managed and populated by the team that played for East Grinstead who won promotion to the Ryman League a few seasons back, something that Shoreham aspire too. But rather than just throw money at promotion, the trick is to find the formula that lures Albion fans occasionally to populate the terraces and get more locals going to games. Which as any non league official will tell you is bloody hard work. Building your club through youth teams means at least there are youngsters at Shoreham who have to fetch lost balls and get into the habit of live Saturday football. And as they spend most of their teenage years glued to their phones, they will no doubt be getting a gentle electronic reminder from the Shoreham chairman to get along and support their team.