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.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Printed in the FA Trophy 3rd Qualifying round game v Wingate and Finchley on Saturday 26th November 2006. We lost 4-2 in front of 353.
It hasn't been a good week for the English Football League (EFL) chief executive Shaun Harvey. Sounding like a Nazi diktat his 'Whole Game Solution' which promised to 'seize the initiative' finally bit the dust after months of controversy.
The 'Solution' would tackle fixture congestion by cutting the number of clubs in each league, create another league by taking eight clubs from the National League (Conference in old money), move the later rounds of the FA Cup to mid-week and – hey presto, we could have a winter break and the England team would become invincible.
Mixed up in all this was the emergence of the Checkatrade Trophy so that the Premier League academy teams youngsters could pit their wits against lower league opposition. Many saw this as the thin edge of the wedge for getting Premier League B teams in the lower divisions. However, its been an unmitigated disaster with mass boycotts and some clubs recording their lowest ever competitive crowds – while most of the top teams decided not to enter their academy sides! Last week 12 league teams were handed financial penalties for fielding weakened teams. Hang on, so top teams playing youngsters good – lower league teams giving their youngsters match experience bad. A tournament that was revamped to help develop youth, fines its owns clubs £62k for playing youth. Way to go Harvey!
After being given a £3,000 fine, Bristol Rovers boss Darrell Clarke fumed: "I've just been trying to get hold of the EFL on the phone to try and find out if they want to pick my team for Saturday. When somebody sat behind a desk with a nice warn cup of coffee can start telling me which first-team players I can and can't play then the game is gone. I wonder if the people who have thought up a ridiculous format that supporters up and down the country have boycotted will think about giving themselves a fine. That's a good question isn't it?”
However it was the plans to move the FA Cup to mid-week that scuppered the Whole Game Solution, with the EFL complaining that the FA’s unwillingness to consider moving FA Cup matches to midweek in rounds four and five to free up more weekends had made the plan unworkable. The fact that the FA recently announced a new six year overseas deal for the FA Cup that guarantees £800 million over that period and which the chief executive, Martin Glenn, said would be “transformative” to the organisation’s finances. As a condition of the deal it promised to keep FA Cup matches on weekends, but remains open to further negotiation over replays.

Tom Reed from Stand Fanzine put it so well why many lower league supporters cant stomach the 'Solution' They can’t stand your seemingly incessant brown-nosing of the Premier League. They don’t want Premier League B-teams in a Football League competition, given the problems that a dominant Premier League appears to be causing throughout football and are horrified you suggested it. They think your new EFL Trophy is bloody stupid with those B-teams, crackpot regionalisation, average opponents and baffling rules. They can’t accept a ‘Whole Game Solution’ which doesn’t involve large scale reform of the Premier League in line with what is expected of the Football League. They don’t want to hear any more about developing the England side when Premier League clubs can take the best Football League youth talent from poorer clubs for a capped fee under the Elite Player Performance Plan, hoard them and not play them.”
The Football League considering everything, is phenomenally successful. It’s top division, despite being a second tier division, is one of the top five or six watched in the whole of Europe. Of course the EFL need to do something about some of the Muppets who run these clubs head on– just ask Charlton, Blackpool, Leeds and Coventry supporters for some advice. But if the desire is to help out the England national team, then that will need root and branch reform of our coaching systems and tackling the staggering power the Premier League welds including stockpiling the best youngsters without them having a cat in hells chance of playing – but that's never going to happen. Instead they try and mess with the lower leagues. A decision that has come crashing down spectacularly around their heads.

Friday, November 18, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kings Langley Town on Saturday 19th November. We drew 2-2 in front of 513.

It was a wonder goal that would have been shown for many moons to come. Whitehawk's Javier Favarel struck the ball thirty yards out on the volley with it flying inside the near post to spark wild celebrations amongst the home support and putting his team in the hat for the Second Round of the FA Cup. However, as Favarel was making contact with the ball the ref blew his whistle for full time. The goal didn't count, leaving the Hawks players understandably angry, and their goalkeeper sent off for his part in the protests.
With a train strike and a worse service that usual on the cards I couldn't face the long trip to watch Slough and instead jumped on a 20 minute bus to Brighton's poorest estate to catch some FA Cup 1st round (proper) action.
Southern Rail take Orwell’s double speak to another level as they try to get rid of guards and spending money on silly things like safety training for staff. 'We will make trains safer by implementing driver only trains. If our drivers cant see any problems then none exist. And if you happen to in a wheelchair or elderly and need help, then please bugger off.' 'We will get rid of our poor services record but cancelling most of our timetable. Less trains, means we can't be late so often.' A recent report on driver only trains  said they 'may increase the likelihood of an event occurring or increase the severity of its consequences.' Meanwhile tests on drivers showed they didn't spot 9 in every 100 safety related incidents and that passenger behaviour might also change if they know there are no guards.
One bloke held up a sign supporting the RMT train union for the whole game – its concessionary if you are a GMB union member – which perfectly sums up the kind of support Whitehawk now attract. And that's what makes the club a proper paradox. Stuck out on a limb their ramshackle ground has been pieced together as they climbed up the leagues from the Sussex County to the Conference South. We're once you'd be lucky to get 50 through the gate, its now home of the Whitehawk Ultra's – many of whom are refuges from 'modern football.' Like a collection from 80's football culture, the Ultras create a right old racket throughout the game, don't swear and can be a bit right on but they do have a sense of humour and manage to turn every traditional football song on its head. 'The referee is a referee', 'Win when we're singing' with drums, squeaky toys and of course a bubble machine! But the club they have adopted is ironically on a modern football warpath. The owners want Conference football, are quick to sack any manager that doesn't deliver, want to change the name (Brighton City anyone?) and move the club out of Whitehawk. However, the fans are what make the club and with Brighton hoovering up so many supporters, and crowds rarely reaching 300 for league games you don't want to commit financial suicide by alienating the few that you have. But as the 700 strong crowd snaked around a country lane you can see the limitations of the Enclosed ground. Actually, forget the Enclosed Ground. This is the pain in the neck to get into ground
Stourbridge fans also played their part and had more flags than an England game. The Ultra's reaction to the goal being disallowed was remarkably restrained. I know Slough fans would have blown a gasket (let's face it blowing gaskets seem to be part of most football fans DNA). Former Premier League and FIFA referee Keith Hackett reckons the ref should have waited to blow the full time whistle and in the end, that decision proved pivotal as Whitehawk lost the replay 3-0 and the chance of a home tie with Northampton. The referee was certainly a referee on this occasion. 

If you want to read a more indepth report about the game 

Saturday, November 05, 2016


Printed in the Southern Premier League game v Hitchin Town on Saturday 5th November 2016. We lost 1-0 in front of 646.

Some might think I need my head read after giving away my tickets to last Saturdays Brighton game so I could watch Slough play Bognor Regis Town in the FA Trophy 1st Qualifying round. Especially as Brighton played out of their skin demolishing promotion rivals Norwich City 5-0. But Slough were also playing out of their skin seeing off Ryman Premier League high-flyers and last years Trophy semi-finalists 4-1. Some of the football Slough played was the best I’ve seen in years and with most of our strikers out injured, the icing on the cake was 18 year old Fulham loane Elijah Adebayo. His second volleyed goal was sensational and he became the first Slough player to score a hat-trick on his debut in 30 years – not bad for his senior football debut.

It says a lot about our new status and our managers that we me managed to get Elijah from Fulham if only for a month. If you follow Neil Baker on twitter, it seems no game is too far flung or obscure for him to watch. So I asked Neil if we would have got Elijah if we were still homeless?

Neil “
Not 100% sure we would have got him if we were still at Beaconsfield, obviously helpful that we are playing in a nice stadium on a perfect pitch. In terms of how we got him, I rang my friend there last week who is quite influential in getting the loan lads out to see what they might have as a forward option, and said he would need to speak to Peter Grant the Under23s manager and ex Norwich manager. They then came back that Monday night after beating Newcastle to say that he was available and they had spoken to Elijah who was really keen to come (which is one of the driving factors) after that between our secretary Kay Lathey, myself and their secretary we got it tied up.

“In terms of games, I tend to get out as much as I can, there will be certain weeks where I am out most nights, and others not so much. It works quite nicely as with Jon having a young family it is a lot harder for him to get out as much as me, but it still enables us to both keep an eye on people, and after each game we will talk in length about the teams that have seen. Sometimes we will get out to separate games so that we can watch more football between us.”

While Slough have a spanking new home, last season the good folk of Hitchin got behind their football club to save Top Field; one of those magical non league grounds that make ground-hoppers go all weak at the knees – especially after you've visited a few local boozers on the way from the train station.

However, the Canaries problem is that they rent the land from the Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust who decided a supermarket would be more preferable than a football club. What Hitchin then cleverly set about doing was showing that this was more than just about a football ground but about the wider community and the economic effects of shoving another supermarket on a greenfield site.

This culminated in a packed public meeting where the chair of the Commoners Trust received so much grief she resigned. Then a march through town was attended by nearly 1,500 which long treasurer Roy Izzard told me was 'one of the proudest days of my life.' With free entry after the march, Hitchin had their highest attendance for over 20 years with 1,606 people and of course a Roy of the Rovers last minute winner against league leaders Poole Town. The protests boosted the standing of the club along with a new 25 year lease but they are also looking at a possible move to a site less than a mile away. A feasibility study is being done on that and Top Field but as Roy pointed out 'Whatever happens, the fans will decide what we do.'
As for Slough I was one of the last to leave with the lights still on, I couldn't help marvel at what's happening to our club after struggling for so many seasons and thank our lucky stars that we now have the stability from which to build again.