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.

Friday, January 20, 2017

THE BOTTOM CORNER

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division match v Chippenham Town on Saturday 21st January 2017. We lost 1-0 in front of 753 people.

The Bottom Corner is one of these feel good books about lower league football that manages to get under the skin of what is a very broad church. From Tranmere Rovers first season in non league to Bishop Sutton who notch up sixteen months and 48 matches without a win and are rewarded with their first victory with some squash and a chocolate Swiss roll! From United Glasgow, a team made up of refugees to the chairman of the Hackney and Leyton League, glancing over the windswept expanse of pitches on Hackney Marshes, despairing of the FA’s attitude to the lower level game: ‘They don’t know what it is! Grassroots football is park football. They think it’s the Conference!’.

He interviews players who should or have been playing at a higher level including a certain Barry Hayles, who as Slough unfortunately found out in the New Year has still got it at 44. There's a great chapter on football scouts trying to unearth another non league nugget. Infact Nige Tassell gets to grips with what its all about without the clichés - and even tries to understand groundhoppers and their eccentricities.

There's vegan only, eco-club Forest Green Rovers whose chairman made his millions from wind power and is now investing millions in a new state of the art ground telling the author 'there's no point preaching to the converted.' He finds out about FC United's incredible rise up the pyramid from protest group to owning their own community stadium in just ten years. Sticking two fingers up at the top level of football, their supporters chant to the tune of the Inspiral Carpets hit, ‘This is how it feels to be FC/ This is how it feels to be home/ This is how it feels when you don’t sell your arse to a gnome’.

The future is looking bright for some clubs and he gets beyond the hipster perception of Dulwich Hamlet incredible spike in support. Duncan Hart chair of the supporters trust explains 'We've put a lot of work in to make this club a better place where everyone feels welcome...We have a ground that can hold three thousand so all the time you haven't got three thousand, you might as well give out free tickets. People will come and they'll spend money on food, on drink, on merchandise. Maybe a third will come again occasionally. Maybe ten per cent will come back regularly. And maybe five per cent will become season ticket-holders. There's proof in the pudding. We've gone from crowds of three hundred a few years so to averaging just over a thousand last season'' (this season it's 1,208)

Of course, as Slough Town fans know only too painfully, lower league football isn't always a bed of roses – there are plenty of  plonkers who take over the clubs, promise the earth but can't deliver. When it all comes crashing down its the supporters who pick up the pieces and there's a chapter on Hereford fans rallying round to start their club again, ending with promotion in their first season with crowds averaging crowds of 2,836 in the ninth tier of the football pyramid – higher than six Football League two sides! They also reached Wembley, packing it out before eventually losing in the FA Vase final.

He finishes with the story of Worthing United and how they dealt with two of their players being killed at the Shoreham air disaster on their way to a home game. The whole football family rallies – including Brighton and Hove throwing a professional shoulder round a club trying to comes to terms with their loss while having to deal with the worlds media. And there's a great piece about the record breaking five day continuous Heart United football match to raise funds.

The Bottom Corner  by Nige Tassell (published by Yellow Jersey Press)

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