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.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

TROPHY TRIBULATIONS

Printed in the FA Trophy 1st Qualifying round game v Bognor Regis Town on Saturday 29th October 2016. We won 4-1 in front of 543.

It's fair to say that the FA Trophy doesn't get the pulses racing like the FA Cup although it is more glamorous than the Berks and Bucks or League Cup. Not that that is anything to blow your trumpet about. Having a cup of cold sick thrown over you would be preferable than the Berks and Bucks, where Reading enter their under nines and whose early rounds should be played as part of pre-season. A couple of years back in the Trophy Luton played their youth team and still beat Staines while the Cambridge United boss complained that the competition should be midweek with no replays and that really he couldn't be arsed. Then, like the annoying kid in the class who does no work but still comes first, they go and win the bloody thing. I agree with the suggestion to give the winners of the Vase and Trophy a bye to the 3rd round of the FA Cup, although i'd happily compromise with a bye to the First Round Proper (unlike the improper 6 rounds that have happened before). Much more money in the pot for each round would also help.
Yet ask today's opponents about what they think of the Trophy and you might get a different answer as they got to the semi finals last season before losing to Grimsby. I spoke to their programme editor and former kit man Rob Garforth whose been supporting Bognor since 1981.
Q: The Trophy is often seen as a very poor relation to the FA Cup and FA Vase, but reaching last years semi final, did Bognor supporters warm to it a bit more? 
Rob: “They certainly warmed to it more as the tournament progressed. Other than a last 32 appearance 20 years earlier, it had been one early Trophy exit after another for the Rocks, prior to last season, so there had been general apathy towards the tournament. When asking a work colleague if they were going to last season's First Qualifying Round tie, the response was: 'No, I don't do the FA Trophy.' Fair to say that the fan in question will have changed their tune in the later rounds.”
Q: Did the trophy run ultimately cost you promotion or did it help with that winning mentality and attracting new supporters?
Rob: “It played a large part in missing out on promotion, it has to be said. After the semi-final defeat, we then played eight matches in 15 days. Most were won, apart from Thursday, Saturday and Monday trips to Enfield Town, Dulwich Hamlet and Kingstonian respectively. One thing that I think gets overlooked is that the run in the Sussex Senior Cup - reaching the semi-finals - was also a factor. The Kingstonian match was moved a number of times throughout the season as a result. These days, again there is a degree of apathy towards that competition from supporters, but since 2011, the final has been played at the Amex Stadium, Brighton. This is a great occasion for players and management when they reach the final so one can fully understand why the club wants to do well in that cup, even if a lot of fans don't tend to see it that way as much. The Trophy run did of course however, attract some new supporters - two of which live right by the ground and had never set foot in the place, having lived there for a number of years!”

Q: How many Trophy games did you play last season and how much did you make?
Rob: “Including a replay and the two legged semi-final, it was ten games in all. I'm not sure of the total prize money won but I believe it was somewhere around £40-50k. The run produced many memorable moments, which is something you can't put a price on.”

Q: What can be done to improve the Trophy?
Rob: “A good question, but not an easy one to answer in my opinion. Particularly with the former Football League club's now plying their trade in the Conference, whose fans are not bothered with it in general. Such was the case with last season's semi-final opponents Grimsby. There were more supporters at Nyewood Lane than at Blundell Park, over the two legs. Torquay fans didn't appear too upset after we knocked them out in the quarter final. Even the lure of a Wembley appearance doesn't seem to appeal to some larger club's supporters, whilst the teams in the lower leagues feel that success in the tournament is highly unlikely.”

Q: What are Bognor's goals for this season?
Rob: “Simply to go one better than last year and get promoted. Things did not look to promising during the summer, with a number of last season's key players moving on and it looked as if it could be a re-building job. But after a slow start, things have picked up and we find ourselves in third place, with one point separating the top four at present. With a bit of luck we'll be returning to Arbour Park next season in the National League South.”

Cheers Rob, at least after today at least one of us wont have to worry about the Trophy getting in the way of a promotion challenge!




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