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.

Monday, April 17, 2017

SQUEAKY BUMS, GROUND GRADING & MOMENTS THAT CHANGE EVERYTHING

To be printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Redditch Saturday 29th April 2017. Last game of the season. Or is it

It was one of those moments in football that change everything. Shoreham, top of the Southern Combination Premier League for the whole season, were drawing 1-1 in a dire game against Horsham YMCA. A rock hard bobbley pitch in a game littered with bookings and two sendings off – with one of those dismissed quickly getting himself a pint and a fag! A poor kick from the Shoreham keeper in injury time and Horsham's Schaaf pounces making it 2-1. The final whistle goes and the result means that Haywards Heath leapfrog the Musselmen to go top of the league with two games to go. Shoreham players slump to the ground and I spot the chairman looking despairingly out of the clubhouse window.
Shoreham Middle Road ground has been given a real blue and white spruce up over the past few seasons especially in the past few months with the Ground Grading Gestapo on their way. The chairman Stuart Slaney and the Shoreham committee have worked hard to turn the club around; not just with youth football teams meaning at least there are youngsters at games who have to fetch lost balls and get into the habit of live Saturday football but also hosting business networking events and its starting to pay off. A team that had grown more accustomed to the bottom half of the league had also been given a spring clean and this season have been flying. Crowds now average just over 100 – an impressive 30% increase on last season and today's bank holiday crowd was healthy enough for queues at the chip-bar and a real buzz about the place.
For ambitious clubs at Step Five of the football pyramid it's not just ground grading you're up against, its the fact that only one team gets promoted. So how about play-offs for a second promotion spot? This might be difficult because many teams don't want too or cant get promoted (unpainted fence panel, see below) but it would mean unless the pyramid was re-organised 4 teams rather than 3 being shown the trap door from the divisions above.
I'm always astonished that the ground graders complain about an unpainted fence post or some loose gravel but turn a blind eye to pitches. Yes the Football Foundation is fantastic at giving grants for clubs to do up their grounds, but shouldn't their be a similar pot for clubs to spend on their pitches?
Shoreham passed the ground grading but now might fail the promotion test in the last week of the season. Football can be an unforgiving bastard.
Last season Brighton didn't get automatic promotion by one goal and lost in the play-offs. This season they are heading to the Premier Promised Land. It didn't feel it at the time for Seagulls fans, but I reckon that extra season in the Championship has done them a massive favour. Is also worth remembering that just 20 years ago they lost their ground and nearly fell out of the football league altogether. 1-0 down to Hereford at half time, they equalised and stayed up on goal difference, consigning Hereford to the Conference.
Slough have been a bit hot and cold lately and could tumble out of the play-off places. I'll probably be hung, drawn and quartered for saying this but although I would love promotion to the Conference South (if nothing else there's a lot more teams near me including one a 10 minute bus ride away) it wouldn't be the end of the world to do another season in the Southern Premier. You would expect us to be challenging for promotion and winning lots of home games with our crowds continuing to rise as a result while the new stand is opened.
So the traditional Slough Town squeaky bum time of year, when I’ve got my eye on so many permutations my brain hurts. This might be the end of the season. Or it might not, but whatever happens today let's get behind the team, cos it's been a fantastic season.

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