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.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division match v Chesham United on Monday 2nd January 2017. We lost 2-1 in front of 918.
I couldn't think of anything nice to say about the football-franchise abomination that is MK Dons so thought it was best to write nothing for the last programme.
When the FA allowed Wimbledon to relocate, they also famously claimed that if their supporters were to reject the Milton Keynes move and form their own club, it would not be “in the wider interests of football”. Thankfully they ignored that advise and AFC Wimbledon were born in 2002 starting life in the Combined Counties. 14 years later and BOOM – despite all the millions thrown at MK Dons for jumping the football pyramid queue they are now in a lower league position than AFC Wimbledon.
The FA are now such a spineless, befuddled joke that three of its former heads have even admitted its out of touch and unable to stand up to the Premier League.
The FA's three most recent chairman, Greg Dyke, David Bernstein and David Triesman, along with former FA directors David Davies and Alex Horne, wrote a stinging letter to Damian Collins, the Conservative chair of Culture, Media and Sports committee backing legislation to reform the FA. It said the FA as currently constituted, with a board dominated by Premier and Football League representatives, and a council of “well-meaning”, mostly elderly white men, cannot “counter the English Premier League juggernaut”.
In the letter they are highly critical of the dominance the Premier League’s 20 clubs have over the rest of football, arguing that even money that is now redistributed is conditional on compliance with the Premier League’s strategic aims.

“The reality is that the professional game stakeholders from the English Football League to the players, managers and referees are dominated by the English Premier League (EPL) due to their financial might and the way financial contributions are wielded at every turn to assert beneficial positions for the EPL,” the letter states. “The EFL’s strategy unduly influences the Championship clubs eager to access EPL financial advantages. This affects the League 1 and 2 clubs adversely, which in turn knocks on to the National League and right through the football pyramid.”

Summing up the financial imbalance they pointed to the “bizarre” fact that the FA is required to distribute 50% of the money available for football investment back into the professional game. “Under the bizarre funding formula of the FA not only does the FA not receive any of the EPL billions, it is compelled to contribute tens of millions to the EPL, money which could go to the grassroots of the game.”
“We can testify first-hand that the FA’s decision-making structures are arcane and convoluted leading to a lack of clarity about the role and purpose of these structures. The FA has neither the modernity of approach nor independence required to counter the EPL juggernaut or to modernise its own governance.”
MP Damian Collins has promised legislation to reform the FA but we've been hearing that threat for 20 years, so don't hold your breath. Meanwhile the Premier League has agreed a paltry £100m for grassroots football - just 3.6% from its £8.2 billion TV deals and you do wonder just what could be achieved in this country with proper re-distribution.
Infact all you have to do is look at what Slough Town have achieved in just a few months of being back in town in fantastic sporting facilities for all. We are not just flying in the Southern League, we are also flying in the community, offering a wide range of opportunities for everyone and bringing people together, ever more important in such a diverse town. With endless news stories of people being killed and maimed because of their colour or religion, I will hold onto that good news story as we enter 2017.
Happy New Year and see you on the other side (that is, if Slough games don't clash with work, train strikes, children's parties or Brighton home games).

Sunday, December 18, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Kettering Town on Saturday 17th December 2016. We won 3-2 in front of 588 to stay second in the league. 

The empty seats in the 'sell out' crowd and the flat atmosphere with people rushing in late said all you need to know about Friday night football. Aston Villa to be fair had turned up in their thousands, no doubt enjoying watching their team winning after season after season of treading water in the Premier League. A team that despite that failure are guaranteed millions in parachute payments giving them a seriously unfair financial advantage.

They came with a game plan, were proper strong and Brighton were lucky to get a draw. Not so lucky were those trying to get home on the train. At the last minute Southern Railway had told the club that because of a lack of staff they couldn't put on trains. So people waited for hours in the cold, some Villa fans missed connections and slept at Brighton station.

Southern often provide a worse service when there isn't a strike, because they don't have enough staff and rely on everyone doing overtime. When you continually threatening those very same staff its not surprising that they don't bend over backwards to help out. Clearly they should lose their franchise and the service should be taken back into public ownership; but despite a terrible track record, Govia were given the government contract to push thru 'reforms' and get into a punch-up with the unions.

Next up on the Friday was Leeds United. Then its Reading. Saturday football seems to be a distant memory for Albion fans, but when your £25 million in debt and £100,000 is on offer for each televised game, its too tempting. But its a funny old business that can piss off your most loyal customers for people who want to watch it on the tele.

The Villa train fiasco left the Albion hierarchy furious, but its not like it hasn't happened before and maybe some of the blame should go to the TV companies. On top of this Brighton get named as one of the most expensive clubs to watch and once again their chief executive said it was unfair as tickets include free travel but also this mythical match-day experience. Even my safe standing questionnaire came with the cravat - ok if you want it, who pays for it? But with such a flat atmosphere at the Villa game, can Brighton afford not to introduce it? That doesn't mean the club aren't well run they just have two feet tied behind their backs because of the Premier parachute payments.

What they can be really proud of it is their Albion in the Community (AITC) programme, which rightly wins awards for its work with the added bonus of hooking youngsters in for life.

AITC have 3 key objectives: to inspire and motivate young people and their families to be physically active and to lead healthy lifestyles; to provide opportunities for young people to play football whatever their ability or background; and to work with our local community, particularly those that are disadvantaged, to help raise aspirations and improve life chances.

My son and his mates has benefited from free coaching over the last few years and is now in one of their sponsored teams. The nominal fee of just £60 a season includes kit, lifts to training and games, trips out and the chance to meet the players. Listening to three 11 year olds talk about tactics or watching how they have sussed the offside rule you know this coaching is paying off.

You can use football to teach kids about everything from maths, English to healthy eating and they are always in my sons school. So its not surprising they have won a string of awards for their pioneering work such as encouraging more women and girls to play football. Their Premier League Kicks programme is now the second-largest in the country, providing free weekly football to more than 2,500 young people including my son and his friends. They working with 100 schools across Sussex, support people with disabilities and cancer, and have helped 550 young people to earn qualifications by working with their education and skills team. If that all sounds a bit po-faced it isn't and they really make a massive difference delivering 61 projects to more than 36,000 people over the last 12 months alone.

For this community work alone, Brighton deserve to reach the Premier League Promised Land – and maybe they should get their community arm to help run the trains as well.

Saturday, December 03, 2016


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Frome Town on Saturday 3rd December 2016. We lost 2-1 in front of 460.

As the manager of a small charity I spend a ridiculous amount of time looking for money to keep our services going. Services that provide an education for pupils struggling in the classroom and for people with disabilities who want to do some volunteering along with anyone else who wants to learn about gardening and be involved in their community. It's very rewarding but as the years have gone on very depressing as I stare at a computer screen trying to work out what an 'outcome' is on another poxy grant application form.

The age of austerity has a direct impact on what we do. Thanks to massive cuts to government grants, councils are stopping funding anything that isn't statutory – which means they have stopped funding nearly everything they don't have to do by law. So if you are disabled and need some help, tough. Find a non-existent job, fill in that confusing form yourself. The day centres are closed and support workers have gone - but people don't want to rot at home they want to contribute and we try and welcome everyone to come and get stuck in to some gardening, have a meal, feel part of society. The alternative, is rotting at home with deteriorating mental health.

School budgets are meant to be ring-fenced but they are not. We charge schools for our services and its not cheap and it will be increasingly difficult to fund our work even tho schools acknowledge that it really benefits individual pupils. Yes maths and English are important, but try telling that to a teenager whose just been taken into care. Schools have just become an exam factory - measured against other schools in some squered league table. No matter that at one end of town is a fee paying school that ditches pupils that aren't up to scratch and gets a 100% pass rate and lauded, whereas the primary school where I'm a governor has to deal with a myriad of problems and tries to accommodate all children believing that they all have a right to good education, even if that means they need very expensive one to one support at times. They run breakfast clubs and afterschool clubs that lose money but they feel are essential so pupils can have a chance to be coached by Albion in the community, do gymnastics, computer club – or just have the chance to talk to staff about what's bothering them. The school could charge more for these extras but then the pupils that need it the most wont be able to afford to come. They try and do as many enrichment activities as possible- you know, stuff like trips along with extra tution for reading, maths and writing. Their SATS results aren't great even if the teaching is, but that's not really the point and exam results are no way to measure what sort of education is on offer.

And so i go begging for the school from businesses and look for grants so children are able to enjoy many of the activities that wealthier ones take for granted. On top of this, Brighton Council has just announced it is stopping funding nearly all youth services and preventative work which might save pennies now, but will store up problems for the future.

I help run a community pub and if I could have bottled the community spirit last Friday at the seniors club first birthday party I could sell it for a fortune. 30 older people come every week - many picked up from the houses because of mobility problems - to the pub to enjoy lunch and bingo and escaping their four walls. We pride ourselves on being much more than just a pub and know how essential places like the Bevy are especially as older people face an epidemic of loneliness. But guess what, these places up and down the country including struggling pubs are closing.

It's no way to run a country, a country which is one of the richest in the world. There's no money for the essentials although the government can find £7.6 million to pay for repairs at one of Europe's largest stately private homes, Wentworth Woodhouse or let the fee paying school with the 100% pass-rate record keep its charitable status. Maybe they should have to crowdfund and get people to support them direct rather than from the taxpayer.

So if you've started thinking of a New Years resolution then why not volunteer or make a monthly standing order to a small charity. It will make a massive difference and maybe you will save someone from banging their head against a computer screen wondering how they are going to pay the ever rising bills.

Your support might not change the world, but it will change somebodies world.


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Banbury United on Tuesday 29th November 2016. We won 2-0 in front of 463 to go second.

You've no doubt seen him rattling a bucket or trying to flog you a golden goal ticket. Always fundraising for the club and local charities,  Dan Brench has Slough Town in his blood - it was a Rebels match where his mum and dad had their first date. A 6-1 victory against Windsor in the Berks and Bucks Cup February 1972 – and what could be more romantic than that?

A former teacher Dan now works at the Royal Marsden Hospital in the Radiotherapy Physics Department and has been a Beaver Scout Leader for 13 years. Supporting Slough since the 2004-5 season, he started volunteering a few years later

Dan "I have been a matchday volunteer at the Club since 2008 when i started selling 50-50/Golden Goal tickets at Beaconsfield.  Since then I started getting involved in other activities on and away from matchdays.  In 2014 I joined the board of the Supporters Trust and since then have run the Trust's website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. I have also helped to organised many promotion events in the town centre, schools and other locations around Slough in the run up to the homecoming.  I am also on the Club Twitter team doing updates on some matches."

“On home matchdays I turn up early to help set up the ground ahead of the match.  This means moving the small goals off the pitch, setting up the bar by moving the tables, chairs and fencing around, putting up signs and so on.  Then I assist generally around the turnstiles or doing any other jobs that need to be done.  After the matches I help to put all the stuff away.  It generally means being at Arbour Park for around 8 hours on Saturdays and 4 hours on Tuesdays but it's well worth it to see the bigger crowds at the new ground.

“I believe that the Trust now has a new role to play alongside the Club after all the work that went into promoting the homecoming.  After 5 straight years of growth, we're looking to expand the Trust to allow it to benefit the community as the Club grows into its new home."

8 hours on Saturdays! Without volunteers like Dan our club, just like thousands of others up and down the country wouldn't tick. All the unseen background work that takes place to make sure the game goes ahead. It's a serious operation and one that is done on the whole by unpaid volunteers, who would get it in the neck if something went wrong and get little thanks if it all goes right!

So I would say to all supporters – join the Trust, sign up to the 500 club, sponsor a game, encourage your kids to become mascots, hassle your company to take out some advertising, put up posters and get behind the team even when things aren't going well on the pitch.

We can all tell the club to do this and do that, but in the end it's up to all of us to do what we can to help out. It's what football at this level is all about.

* If you think there's someone you think should be given a bit of limelight for the work they do for the club then drop us a line.