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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

MORE PHONE MASTS THAN FANS

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Stratford Town on Tuesday 16th August 2016. We drew 0-0 in front of 336

Two games of football in two days; both promotion challenges, but the contrast couldn't have been more stark.
On Friday night I watched Brighton demolish Fulham in their swanky stadium in front of over 28,500. Taking my sons ten year old mate set me back £22.50.
On Saturday I was entertained by Southwick who might have blown their chance of back to back promotions after a 2-2 draw against Midhurst and Easebourne in front of just 16 people.
Just a few miles and nine levels seperate Southwick and Brighton and while the Albion are chasing the Premiership Promised Land, Southwick are hoping they can reclaim a place in the top division of the Southern Combination Premier Division (Sussex County in old money) after a long absence.
To say Southwick have fallen on some hard times is an understatement. At one point they also fell on hard drugs, with a former chairman sent down for a long stretch. Changing their trading name, meant liquidation and then relegation under FA rules. So this proper old school club that once spent time in the Isthmian Premier League were in Division 3 of the Sussex County.
They play at Old Barn Way and the ground unfortunately apes its name and is need of a good spring clean. They were the first club in the Sussex County to get floodlights back in 1968 and it used to have a stand but this was burnt down. A £100,000 grant from the Football Stadia Improvement Fund a few years back got the club new changing rooms, a directors lounge and rather bizarrely a press box (which is now in a right sorry state).
Funded by the Premier League the Football Stadia Trust dishes out capital grants to clubs from the Football League down to the lower levels of the National League System to improve safety and to enable them to satisfy FA’s over the top ground grading requirements. Last season that budget was just £6 million.
At Southwick if you are so inclined, you can combine your ground hopping with a bit of train-spotting, spoilt by a carbuncle of a bridge. The architects of such monstrosities should have to live opposite so it spoils their view every time they look out the window.
Last season they won promotion back to Division Two. A few of us set off to the promotion party game only to find out they did it without kicking a ball because the other team couldn't field a team! This season a late charge has seen them get close to the a very different Premier Division than the one Brighton are hoping to join.
Kick off was delayed while a sub run across the pitch with a coffee, kids played on a bog of a pitch before the game and there was no programme cos the printer had broken.
Just 16 punters paying £4 to get in wont even cover the refs and linos expenses so they've got nearly as many phone masts on their floodlights as fans and luckily they have a clubhouse open every day where many ignored the game for a beer, putting valuable coppers into the coffers.
As for Midhurst, they had a complete new team from the week before so despite being third from bottom put in a proper shift, making for an entertaining game. I thought it was to avoid relegation but one of their officials said that this was unlikely as teams in Division 3 grounds weren't up to scratch – well apart from AFC Varndeanians who play at Withdean stadium.
The gulf might be immense but the Southwicks of this world are the bedrock of the game and I don’t want to bang on about Jamie Vardy but it was only six seasons ago he was playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels. And it wasn’t so long ago that Brighton nearly fell through the Football League door.
While the Premiership sloshing around in so much cash they could let everyone in free next season, grassroots football is suffering a thousand council cuts. Would it be too much to ask to hand out a bit more to the Football Stadia Trust so clubs can improve their grounds and youngsters don't have to play on mud baths with no proper facilities.
And now that there seems to be a TV rule that Brighton aren't allowed to play games on a Saturday at 3pm its worth checking out some lower league football with a pint in hand and see how the other half live.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading that.

As an Albion season-ticket holder and ex Southwick player it resonated with me completely. You won't be surprised to hear the old stand was 'accidentally' burned down, as was the clubhouse... twice.

Shame really about the decline of the club who, along with Peacehaven and Burgess Hill, are probably the most successful in Sussex county league history. But as you say it probably says more about the disparity between the top and bottom ends of our game than anything else.

6:48 pm

 
Anonymous Luke said...

Good read, as usual. As someone that alternates BHAFC & Whitehawk matches I think I'll try and fit in a trip to Southwick & Mile Oak next season to check them out and lend a bit of support.

9:10 am

 
Anonymous Flying Dutchman said...

enjoyable read but if 100k was actually spent on the ground I'm Johhny Rep

9:22 pm

 

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