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.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

NIL POINTS

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 

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