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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016



Printed in the Southern League Premier Division programme v Chippenham Town on Saturday 2nd April 2016. We won 1-0 in front of 255 people.

Lets be honest. Most of us cant see beyond next weekends football match, forget big occasions and are more concerned that we cant find our car-keys than climate change. We complain about games being postponed but don’t like the idea of artificial pitches. We don't like pubs closing but buy cheap beer from supermarkets. Politicians are even worse. They know they have a very limited time to change their world – and they will only really try and change it if looks like its a vote winner. We have an education system that is obsessed with measuring everything and heading the same way of the housing free-for-all. In short not many of us really do much future planning and many football clubs don't seem to do any planning at all.

So take a bow Sweden, for their
Minister of the Future. Not some Dr.Who Time Lord Sketch but headed by Kristina Persson. But the idea is a simple one: for Sweden to remain competitive tomorrow, it might, unfortunately, have to take unpopular steps today—and since politics and politicians, given elections and interests, tend to focus on the short-term, a watchdog for the long-term was needed. It's easier said than done. Can you think of a politician willing to risk re-election for a better future they cannot benefit from? Thought not.

Ms Persson explains: “'The ministry is organized in three strategic groups. The first is concerned with the future of work, the second with the green transition and competitiveness, while the third one is what we call "global cooperation." Each strategic group brings together people with different backgrounds. Some come from the business community, others from civil society, trade unions, and academia. This variety is of the uttermost importance as the questions we are trying to address are complex, and finding solutions needs the cooperation of all of society’s stakeholders.
Let’s take into consideration the "future of work". There is no point trying to resist technological change and the expected automation of a great number of jobs in the coming years. Such an attitude would be short sighted. So the real question is not how we can try to delay the process but how can we best prepare? And again, how can we guarantee that Sweden’s unemployment rate remains low and the level of social welfare the same as today? You see, these are not easy questions and if we want to find answers, we better start working now.
We live in a world that is transforming at an unprecedented speed, a world that is constantly challenging and disrupting the old ways we are used to do things. Given the context, I believe that if politics wants to remain relevant and be useful to citizens, it needs to change its approach. It needs to experiment with new ways and new solutions. This is what we are doing at the ministry and it's quite ground breaking. A lot of colleagues from other countries have expressed interest in my work and I hope a similar institution will soon be developed in other parts of the world.”

So what the hell as this got to do with football - an immediate win-at-all costs results business. Mr.Big comes along and waves his wad and we don't care if its all built on sand. What can possibly go wrong. Brentford might be working out victory from a mathematical viewpoint but what about those clubs that are working hard behind the scenes for the long-term benefit of their team. That might be investing in infrastructure, 3G pitches, marketing strategies, scouting systems, academies, renovating the clubhouse, It might be adopting a model that has loads of different income streams so you are not just reliant on football.

The Minister of Future certainly has bigger fish to fry but we can learn from them because it is those clubs that plan properly for the future that will flourish while others will be footnotes in the football history books. So look beyond another defeat and see victory in the future!


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Hungerford Town on Monday 28th March 2016. We lost 2-0 in front of 319 people. 

Last weekend Haywards Heath Football Club won promotion to the Southern Combination League Premier Division after winning an incredible 24 league games in a row. After a 24 years absence from Sussex footballs top flight an official from the Sussex FA tweeted that they were sleeping giants. While there's no doubt that Haywards Heath have been underachieving for many seasons, could they really be described as a sleeping giant? A small commuter town in mid Sussex town with a population of 23,000? Surely one to file under football hyperbole.

I've often heard of Slough being referred to as sleeping giants. Our many seasons in the south west and central Southern divisions playing village teams (and often losing to them) where we would outnumber the home support – yes, we were definitely a big fish in quite a small teacup. But when you look at clubs in our league like Kettering and Weymouth, who I think would both fit in the football league, are we really a sleeping giant or more a drunk bloke that's sobered up after years of being on the lash and is finally turning his life around.

Are Leicester City a sleeping giant? Not according to Charlie Stillitano, a US sports Executive who recently held talks with 'top' Premier League clubs about the pre-season International Champions Cup. Stillitano met with the chiefs from Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool to discuss this closed tournament, where he admitted a 'restructuring of the Champions League' was also discussed.
He recently told US satellite radio station SiriusXM : “What would Manchester United argue: did we create soccer or did Leicester create [it]? Let’s call it the money pot created by soccer and the fandom around the world. Who has had more of an integral role, Manchester United or Leicester? It’s a wonderful, wonderful story – but you could see it from Manchester United’s point of view, too...I guess they don’t have a birthright to be in it every year but it’s the age-old argument: US sports franchises versus what they have in Europe.
"There are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful elements to relegation and promotion and there are good arguments for a closed system. This is going to sound arrogant and it’s the furthest thing from it … but suddenly when you see the teams we have this summer in the International Champions Cup you are going to shake your head and say, ‘Isn’t that the Champions League?’ 
Of course the European Super League idea has been around for as long as 'When Saturday Comes' which just celebrated its 30th birthday and is really worth a read if you like your football coverage a bit more down to earth than the usual over-hyped nonsense. In its editorial it said 'The one thing uniting the various oligarchs, potentates and venture capitalists who have bought into English club football over the past decade is that none is remotely interested in sporting principles. If the shake up we've seen at the top level of the Premier League this season was to become a regular occurrence, with former Champions League habitués continuing to fall well short of the top four, then some owners might come to see the appeal of a self-selecting new league free of the upstart over-achievers who don't even have merchandising outlets in Tokyo and New York.'

Forget that Leicester (who aren't exactly short of a bob or two) have brought some much needed unpredictability to the Premier League. To the money-men these upstarts have upset the apple-cart and threaten their long-term investments. Ignore the back pages of the tabloids, this is Football for the Financial Times. Where the best-branded teams in the world shouldn't have to sully themselves with those who haven't worked out that flogging more tops in China is a much better way of deciding who gets to play in the Champions League

* Since i wrote this Leicester have been invited to play in the International Champions Cup

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division match v Weymouth on Saturday 19th March 2016 We drew 0-0 in front of 320.

Me and my big mouth. 'You should support your local team' I droned on and on to my eldest as he flirted with Arsenal and Barcelona. 'You've got no chance of me taking you' as I made him a Slough Town mascot or took him to the Dripping Pan and Eastbourne Town. For once he actually listened and now I've got a £900 bill for two Brighton and Hove Albion season tickets – the price increasing because my eldest is now 10! With my last Slough season ticket costing me £120 that price has not only made my eyes water but means we will now be eating porridge for breakfast, lunch and tea for the next couple of months.

Football clubs know they can get away with charging so much because football fans stick up for their clubs more than they do their spouses. And then ten thousand Liverpool fans walked out of a game on the 77 minute in protest about increased ticket prices and their team imploded and the owners changed their tune. A few weeks later, after a long-running Football Supporters Federation Twenty's Plenty campaign, the Premiership kindly agreed to put a £30 cap on away fans ticket prices. This was of course helped by a TV deal that is so lucrative they could let away fans in for free. They also acknowledged that without away fans the atmosphere that helps them sell the TV rights is diminished (until they find a way of canned cheering).

Last Sunday Charlton fans held a death march for their club and halted the game with a bouncy ball protest – ironically being on TV helped publicise what is being done to the club by its owners. Forget the fact that Sky had broken league rules by giving Middlesbrough and Charlton fans just 17 days notice that the game was being moved to a Sunday. Writing in Teesside’s Evening Gazette journalist Anthony Vickers described Sky as rolling “a hand-grenade” into the carefully prepared plans of thousands and outlined how fixtures changes leave fans feeling powerless. “That needs addressing urgently. By government intervention if necessary. No other product or service is delivered in such an arbitrary fashion and with no redress. It is a scandal,” writes Vickers.

Leeds have been so incensed with their fixture run around that they threatened to lock the cameras out while FC United of Manchester, set up by Man United fans fed up amongst other things of being dicked around by TV companies, where threatened by the FA when they initially refused to have their FA Cup game moved to a Monday.

Brighton's chief executive argues that the TV money comes in handy and reaches a new TV audience – which is fine, if you disregard all the thousands of fans who turn up week in, week out.
It's like Tescos punishing their regular customers while pandering to the ones that cant be arsed to come to their stores. Eventually the regulars are going to tell you to stuff it up your turnstiles.

So far this season Brighton have had 10 games moved because of TV. Imagine if you had bought tickets for a gig, you'd organise work and travel and then the promoters change the date and time. You would rightly be banging on the ticket office door demanding a refund. Not if you are a football fan. Richard Robinson is a Leeds United fan based in Luton while his son studies at university in Newcastle. Both are season ticket holders at Elland Road. “I am increasingly appalled by the way paying football fans are treated by TV companies. My son, aged 20, is at university in Newcastle and had already booked his train ticket for the Saturday. When the match was changed the ticket was obviously invalid,” says Richard. He contacted the Football League for a refund – “patronising beyond belief” – and Sky. The broadcaster offered merchandise in lieu of a train ticket refund. And it wasn’t even Leeds United gear. “Why would my adult son want a teddy bear of Paul Merson or Matt Le Tissier?” asks Richard. A question to which there is literally no answer.

My answer has always been for fans to tell their clubs to stick it and go and support a local non league team. Then my eldest becomes a Brighton fan and i'm caught with Monday night tickets on a school night that I cant give away, egg on my face, a Slough Town top gathering dust and porridge for tea. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Dunstable Town on Saturday 5th March 2016. We won 1-0 in front of 226

As the ever hopeful Uckfield Town twitter account so rightly pointed out, 'Forget the Old Firm, Manchester and North London derbies. This is the one that matters. The A272 derby away at St Francis Rangers FC.'
And what a derby we had lined up. St. Francis Rangers rock bottom of not only the Southern Combination but probably the worst team in the footballing pyramid. Played 26, lost 26 scored 3 whilst conceding 179!
Just before the season started, their manager and the whole team walked. Since then they've nearly had as many players as goals shipped, with over 100 registered. And they are still getting hammered every week. Ironically as their bad results have continued, their plight has resulted in greater publicity. So when they sacked their third manager of the season, an article by top Sussex non league football journalist Ian Townsend was picked up by Joe Monks, Head of Academy Recruitment at Barnet Football Club. He contacted the club offering to bring his players down to play for Rangers, supported by his coaching staff with Barnet paying wages and expenses.

Now I have never had to drive through a hospital car-park before to get to a game of football but St. Francis Rangers ground is behind Princes Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath. The ground is overlooked by the former Sussex County Lunatic Asylum, now converted into flats – handing one of the former tenants St. Francis Hospital the nickname ‘The Mental Hospital.’

St. Francis Rangers FC themselves was formed in 2002, following the amalgamation of St Francis Hospital and Ansty Rangers. The latter had earlier been formed as a result of a merger between Lindfield Rangers and Ansty FC in 1996. The merger was very much a marriage of convenience: St. Francis were about to be relegated; whilst Ansty Rangers were struggling to achieve the required ground grading because their changing rooms were too far from the pitch. It's a fabulous setting, but playing at the back of the hospital isn't great for crowds unless you could convince doctors to prescribe a bit of non league football medicine to patients. Despite being the highest the club had ever played they average just 36 people – the worst in the league.

There used to be two teams in Uckfield but another marriage of convenience means it is just AFC Uckfield Town that represents the towns senior football – that's when they get to ever play a game. Building a football pitch on a former spring that apparently an old farmer used to bottle, perhaps wasn’t the wisest of moves. Having a ground miles out of Uckfield town centre doesn’t help matters either. Despite promotion last season they average just 53 paying punters.

So the battle lines were drawn and with talk of improving performances could this be the day St Francis picked up a point? Er, no. We had only just got out the car and they were 1-0 down and thanks to some poor goal-keeping it was 4-0 by half time.
Its a big step up from Academy football but for Barnet it makes perfect sense. As the game went on, they started playing some football. They get a penalty to make it 4-1 and that's how it finished. Bobbly pitch on a freezing February, some of them must wonder what they've done to deserve this! 
Its easy to throw in the towel in seasons like this but their chairman, secretary, match secretary, kitman and part time groundsman John Goss and his small team of volunteers deserves credit for carrying on. Being so bad has meant crowds have improved as people like me wonder just what is going on. But just like lower league clubs up and down the country they need more people to get involved. Maybe that person could be you?

For a more indepth article on St.Francis head to the fantastic David Bauckham blog