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.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

FROM DESPAIR TO DELIGHT

Printed in the programme v Dartford FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round Saturday 1st October 2016. 
After nine wins on the bounce we lost 3-2 in front of 733.

Its autumn and you can almost smell the first round proper of the FA Cup. Just two more wins and well, who knows. But today there's just the small matter of Dartford, a club who are celebrating a decade of playing back in their home town.
Slough are not only on a fantastic run, but also recently seem to be pitted against teams that have either gone bust, lost their ground or both – Leamington, Cambridge City, Hayes and Yeading and Dartford who just like us, spent 14 years homeless before moving into the impressive Princes Park.
10 years ago they were playing in the Ryman North but since their homecoming have powered up the pyramid with their green roof and recycling systems, even spending three seasons in the Conference before being relegated to the Conference South in 2015.
I only visited their old Watling Street ground once as a 15 year old. I remember a fine old non league stadium packed to the rafters for a tasty FA Trophy game which we unfortunately lost 4-1.
10 years ago I also turned to them in my programme notes for some inspiration amongst the bleak situation our club found ourselves in. Our old ground Wexham Park was becoming a wildflower meadow and Slough Council had voted against even talking to us. Thankfully times and councillors change, some even went to visit Princes Park with our chairman to see how they did it. And here we are pinching ourselves that we are back in Slough and as of Monday night, adding a thick dollop of 'we are top of the league' icing to the cake.
In the wake of the Bradford City fire and Hillsborough disaster, Dartford, like so many clubs, needed to either relocate or upgrade their facilities. Their board went for the latter option. Large sums of money were spent on planning and design fees, crippling them with interest charges.
At the same time Maidstone United needed to move to realise their dreams of playing in the Football League. Unfortunately this dream bankrupted Maidstone and the ground improvements, which Maidstone had paid for, were sold to Dartford at a cost of around £500,000, which made their debts unmanageable. Watling Street was sold to pay off creditors and Dartford withdrew from the Southern League four games into the 1992–93 season.
As is so often the case, it was the supporters and their 400 strong association who came to the rescue and made sure they had a club to support.
10 years ago I asked Councillor Jeremy Kite, Conservative leader of Dartford Council why they had invested in the club and his words didn't disapoint. 10 years later and we are welcoming him to Arbour Park! He told meTen years ago, Slough Town supporters wrote rather wistfully about the difference between our two clubs. Dartford was about to move into a new multi-million pound stadium provided by the Council and in those heady days it wasn’t a case of wondering WHETHER we could play a part in the wider community, but sifting through the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of ways we now could. I don’t remember how the views of the Slough Town faithful reached me but I do remember thinking it was sad that any town or club couldn’t experience the fun and excitement we were enjoying. I wrote a small word or two of encouragement suggesting that things wouldn’t always be bleak and hoping things would change for you. I said then, what I still believe now, that Councils can achieve a lot of their wider objectives - pride in place, healthy living, reliability, education, character - if they put trust in their delivery into the hands of sport. Councils don't need to build social and community infrastructure one pencil and paper clip at a time, it’s already there in people running sports clubs.
“Well, what did I tell you? Good things happen if you wait long enough and having been been pleased to offer a small bit of encouragement to keep alive your (then improbable) hopes for a new ground, here I am a decade later actually visiting it for the FA Cup!!! As Dartford supporters know, some things just take a little time, that’s all.”

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