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, February 15, 2017


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Merthyr Town Saturday 18th February 2017. We won 1-0 in front of 757.
I'll hold my hands up and say that I’ve got a soft spot for Merthyr Tydfil. Or maybe that should read a soft spot for Welsh cakes. One of my earliest memories is the smell of them wafting around my Welsh grannies house on the Wexham estate and I’ve loved them ever since.
My dads family arrived in Slough from the Valleys looking for work – and to escape disapproval with his mum pregnant and unmarried. My politics were fired up by the Miners Strike and I was part of a Slough delegation that spent a weekend in the Valleys listening to their stories. Two of my mates even moved back to the Valleys in the 1990's and we always seemed to be heading up the M4 to South Wales for a visit.
In 2006, a TV series ranked Merthyr Tydfil as the United Kingdom's third-worst place to live and after the miners strike South Wales definitely struggled with the closure of not just the pits but a way of life that had sewn the community together for generations.
So when I visited Merthyr on our last game of the 2015/16 season I must admit I was presently surprised. As we soaked up the towns history in the old Town Hall now the Redhouse arts centre I learnt of a town at the forefront of industrial revolution with iron then coal. About the 1831 Merthyr uprising where thousands of workers marching under a red flag which was later adopted internationally as the symbol of communists and socialists. For four days, magistrates and ironmasters were under siege in the Castle Hotel with the workers controlling the town. Described by one historian as “the most ferocious and bloody event in the history of industrialised Britain” the uprising was eventually crushed and led to the hanging of the first working class martyr Dic Penderyn. We of course had to have a pint in the pub named after him – and the football club are nicknamed the Martyrs.
The football club has also had a chequered past even appearing in the football league for 10 years. Now supporters owned, fans campaigned to get rid of their old chairman who at one point seemed to be offering to sell their Southern league place to another club! After they were liquidated, the fans began again as Merthyr Town in the Toolstation Western League Division One playing home games 20 miles away in Taffs Well. But it took them just three seasons to regain their Southern League status. A league they have won more than any other club in its history. Thanks to a £500,000 grant they installed a 3G pitch and are doing up their ground. Company secretary John Strand said: "The club sees this development as a springboard for the club to become a hub for football development in Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding areas." More matches on the pitch, more income, more people involved in the club. In 2015 they were named as the UEFA grassroots club of the year.
There's not much that keeps me out of the pub on an away day, but stumbling across a market stall packed to the rafters with Welsh cakes is definitely one of them.
Just seven years after being liquidated, the new Merthyr Town are fighting for promotion to the Conference South. And while we might be sick of the sight of each other in the FA Trophy, I will never get sick of the sight and smell of a good old Welsh cake.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Weymouth on Tuesday 7th February 2017. We won 3-0 in front of 612 people. 

It's been an FA Cup season to savour. I mean who didn't enjoy watching Manchester United's hard-fought 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic which really captured the magic that the FA and BBC never tire of telling us about, like some drunk bloke at the bar. That's 56 non stop appearances for those Red Devils since 2005 who need that extra exposure so they can flog a few more shirts in some far flung corner of the world to help pay the millions of debt the poisoned dwarfs of America saddled them with. To be fair, the new leader of the opposition Gary Lineker - who somehow has to stop his sides splitting every time some twitter intelligentsia reply 'shat on' to his tweets - pointed out that the BBC wanted to show the Lincoln v Brighton game after Lincoln had beaten an Ipswich side so poor it look as if their players had been run over by a tractor. English football fans would have enjoyed it but their probably ain't a lot of Lincoln fans in the Far East so the FA weren't interested. Of course they dressed it up, with some flannel that it wouldn't have been fair to football fans to move fixtures at short notice! Come again? That's what happens to Brighton everytime they go to kick a ball. 

The Lincoln, Sutton, Oxford United and Wolves victories showed that while it's fine for managers to see how good your fringe players are, these wholesale changes give those players just the sort of confidence boosting shot in the arm they need - losing to lower league opposition. Dress it up how you like, but we all know that for the bigger clubs the FA Cup is just an irritant. I'd have rather gorged out my eyes than watch Brighton play Franchise FC in the 3rd round, which considering how excited I get about the early rounds of the cup, that's saying something. And when I told my eldest that Brighton had been knocked out, he said he didn't care.

The Whole Game Solution wanted to scrap replays which would denied Lincoln and Sutton their 3rd round victories and Plymouth their pay day with 17,000 packing out Home Park against Liverpool's not-quite-good-enoughs. These are the games that bring in new fans as well as a welcome cash boost. 

Football really needs to tell the top teams that it isn't all about them. That there is a thriving, underground  of lower leagues that sometimes pop up on our TV screens but is there every week for those might like to see an actual ball kicked in real life for a sum of money that wont leave your children starving at the dinner table. 
So here's my short manifesto to help improve the FA Cup
* More money to teams winning in the earlier improper qualifying rounds - do the winners really need £1.8 million?
* The team from the lower division always gets to play at home. I'm sure Arsenal players are going to love going to play at Sutton (where incidentally I nearly got crushed to death by former kit-man Jelly when we all piled into the players tunnel after Slough won the Isthmian League at Gander Green Lane in 1981)
* TV money to be evenly spread just not on those picked to be televised (I know, I know this might bankrupt Manchester United).
* More non league clubs to get to play in the first round
* With more places now up for grabs than actual countries in the world, the winners of the FA Cup to be allowed to enter the World Cup

So good luck to Sutton who are proper non league, unlike Lincoln who are one of those clubs who are just waiting to scramble back to the Football League once they've sorted out that faulty component that dumped them into the lower reaches (usually financial mismanagement). Sutton are part time, their manager gets paid nothing (ok, he's financially secure enough to do that, but its not often that very rich people do things for nought) and he doesn't want them to be in the League. Lack of ambition or a sensible bit of realism?
I wouldn't want Slough to be in the Football League either – too many rules and regulations, and its bad enough trying to find your mates at Arbour Park already, now our crowds have more than doubled since the move back into town. But I do want us to be in the Conference South – and get in the 3rd round of the FA Cup just once in my lifetime. Actually add that the manifesto list. Automatic Bye to the 3rd round proper of the FA Cup every season to Slough Town.

Thursday, February 02, 2017


Published in the Southern League Premier Division game v Dunstable Town Saturday 4th February 2017.We won 1-0 in front of 503 punters.

John Porter is Slough Town's General Manager. I caught up with him in Kev's physio room to find out about his role.

How did you get involved at Slough? 
John: I am close friends with Bakes and Unders and followed them during their first joint management post at Godalming. When the managers were announced at Slough, I began to follow the Rebels and attend games, acting mostly as the managers driver – though I didn’t have to wear a hat, just a Slough Town FC tracksuit! In February 2014 I began commentating on Rebels Radio (which Bakes kindly volunteered me for) and started completing pre and post-match interviews with the managers. I am really happy to have the opportunity to talk about something I love and have a good laugh at the same time.

Can you let us know more about your role now?

John: I began working with our chairman Steve Easterbrook during the summer as Bakes (again!!!) volunteered my services to help out. This was initially focused on the homecoming Hayes and Yeading match and using my organisational, planning and people skills to try and achieve what at some points seemed like the impossible! Through this process I saw the club and its volunteers (the heartbeat) in a very different light. I built some great relationships during that intense and stressful period and it really stood out was the selfless dedication of volunteers to put themselves out there for the club they care so much about.

One highlight was the amazing ticket sales and I still can’t thank the team of volunteers for the hours and efforts they put in to advertising and promoting the event, managing the orders, planning the allocations and seating, getting the tickets and actually sending/handing them out! Looking back I still can’t see how we did it all in such a short time and with so little sleep. There are many other highlights and people to thank I only hope they all realise how grateful the club are for their support and effort - boy they delivered! It’s an amazing success and one we should be very proud of.

The move from Beaconsfield to Slough has been much more than a physical move; the club is changing at a rate and pace not seen for a number of years. This is great for Slough and the team and results on the pitch have matched this. During the initial period Steve and I began working closely together and it became clear to us that the club needed to be restructured to support the new adventure at Arbour Park as match day at Arbour Park is so much more intensive than it was at Beaconsfield.

I became General Manager of Slough Town and my work is split into two core elements, operational and strategic.

As a club operating from (a partially built) Arbour Park the work put into getting the match day ready is at a different level to Holloways Park. It is not uncommon to have volunteers arriving at the ground shortly after 10am and not leaving until 7pm.
The operational side focuses on the ability for Slough Town to be able to communicate and deliver matches well for supporters, sponsors, players, officials, council and volunteers. Deliverables cover a broad spectrum of areas from social media/marketing through to putting out “no parking” cones on Stoke Road ahead of the match.
I am very lucky to have a great committee team around me, all with designated areas of responsibility, who work tirelessly to delivery matches whatever challenges come our way.
The challenges continue to come thick and fast, yet at every committee meeting I am proud and energised when people say “no problem, I’ll do that” or “have you spoken to” and we cross that one out and move onto the next.

The strategic element pretty much does what it says on the tin!
There is a dedicated steering group who look at strategic topics and decide on approach that the club will take. This is essential for the club to plan for the future - what do we want both on and off the pitch and how do we go about getting there? What does a good non-league football club look like? What do they do (that we don’t)? What can we do to move our club forward or make it unique? How can we engage with new fans and the community? How should we conduct ourselves and how do we want to be seen?
What are our footballing ambitions and what does it need to meet them? Is it realistic? Is it sustainable? Where do we want the club to be in 18 months? 3 years? 5 years?
We are in a very exciting period for the club right now and under the direction of the Chairman have made great strides. We cannot rest on our laurels and there is plenty of hard work to complete.

How many hours a week do you do you dedicate to Slough Town?

John: I probably spend minimum 2 hours a day working on club topics (don’t tell my boss), be that in the form of planning upcoming matches, communicating with the committee team or meeting people and preparing or debriefing from matches. 6 hours is normally dedicated on the evening of a midweek match, whilst at the weekend 9 hours is probably the figure.
Therefore if we have 1 home fixture per week the number will be approx. 18/20hrs per week.
Interviewing the managers, meeting with Steve, calling up the committee members and attending other matches to watch our opposition - its no wonder I'm single! (no comments please)

Who sorts out all the different activities during the games? There's always a collection, at Christmas a school choir, today we have one of our supporters promoting Frame Football with his son; it seems people want to be part of Slough Town now we are back in town

John: A lot of the community work comes from the committees ideas. For example we've been working closely with the head of St.Josephs Ciran Stapleton, a really nice guy who has turned the school around. The school have been using Arbour Park facilities while their sports facilities are being upgraded and our academy players are taught their. When we came up with idea for bit of a Christmas fair at the Kettering game, we got their choir in, gave away some mulled wine and mince pies, got some pizza in and beers to say thanks to our volunteers. We've had lots of collections such as poppy, collecting toys for children spending Christmas in hospital; one that was very special for the players and management side which was for Guy Hollis mum who sadly passed away with cancer. We are a community club and its not all just about what's happening on the pitch.

Are the club still looking for volunteers?

John; Absolutely. If they contact Kay Lathey or come up to people on match day. If people can give a couple of hours every match day it would be appreciated. This morning Lionel was out there early in the freezing cold brushing the pitch to get it ready.

Where do you see the club in the next few years?

John: On the pitch, settled in the Conference South, with regular home gates of 700-1000 fans and engagement with the Slough community.
It is important that we grow and develop in a positive and sustainable manner. We need to make sure that we get the next period of 12-24 months right to ensure that Slough Town has the foundations in place to have stable growth and support the club to succeed both on and off the pitch.
It will be great to be in a home with the ability and facilities to be operating in a professional way and putting on a great experience for fans new and old!

And finally, has our chairman ever been in the directors room? Last time I was here he was filling up the drinks cabinet and i've seen him directing traffic and moving litter bins.

John: Yeah he does occasionally! He likes to get involved. He's a very agitated spectator, he cant stand still. I think what has impressed the council is seeing all these volunteers, who don't get paid anything, giving up their own time and putting in the effort to get the games on.

Thanks John, and I think it's always worth remembering, especially after a defeat, how much work volunteers put in to make sure we watch a game of football. And that now they are back in the town they represent, Slough Town are becoming much more than just a football club.