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, September 11, 2017

BATTLE OF THE BERKS

Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Dunstable Town on Saturday, September 9th 2017. Slough won 8-1 in front of 786 people. 
 
Forty years supporting Slough and games start to merge into one. I'm sure i'd been to Berkhamsted before. I remembered a wayward shot knocking a Slough supporter clean off a concrete wall, but I can't remember the score or when it was. Lucky Slough is blessed with more than a few stattos to put the record straight.
It was 1991 and the 3rd qualifying round of the FA Cup with Slough in the Conference and Berkhampsted Town in the Isthmian Division 2. A crowd of over 400 saw Slough win 4-1 and go on to play Reading in 1st round where somehow, despite being 3-1 down on 90 minutes we came back to draw 3-3 deep into injury time at a rammed Wexham Park resulting in a very late night celebrating in the old Wheatsheaf Pub! Talking of concrete walls, part of ours collapsed that day as Reading fans celebrated a goal. We lost the replay at the old Reading Elm Park ground 2-1 in front over 6,000 fans.
Turns out i'd also been to Berkhampsted for the final game of the 2002-3 Ryman League Division one season. A certain Steve Bateman was managing Berko who won 3-1 – with Michael Gilkes netting the only goal for Slough. Steve Bateman then went on to manage Slough and is now back at a reformed Berkhampsted while Michael Gilkes was last week named as Readings new first team coach. It's a small footballing world.
Since then Berkhampsted Town reached the finals of the FA Vase before eventually going bust in 2009 under a mountain of debt. Supporters quickly set up a new club winning Division Two of the Spartan South Midlands League in their first season and Division One the following one with a record 107 points – the highest in the National League system that season. Now in the Spartan Premier they are once again managed by Steve Bateman who tweeted that only a fine old competition like the FA Cup could get him a home tie against the club he managed and played for.
The club are nicknamed The Comrades, after Berkhamsted Comrades which was the name of the football club formed in the town by servicemen returning from the First World War. So Comrades v Rebels - a battle of teams by the canal (Better than Battle of the Berks). Let's just say that the canal outside Berkhampsted's ground is a bit more picturesque than the Slough arm of the Grand Union. To be fair, Slough canal is a lot cleaner nowadays compared to a time when my nan said she stopped accompanying my grandad fishing when a headless dead dog floated past! In fact I see a future when Slough supporter and entrepreneur Kieron Wall invests in the old derelict site at the canel basin building waterside flats and a pub to welcome home and away fans arriving leisurely on canal boats to the Slough Town Canal Arms!
I love an away day in the early rounds in the cup. In fact I think it should be the rule that smaller clubs always get the home advantage. A record crowd for the reformed club, their decent little ground is smack bang in the centre of town where football clubs should be with ladders by stands to collect wayward balls and the train station end where there used to be that infamous concrete wall slowly becoming a nature reserve and looking like it would swallow up Slough fans.
The old adage of taking your chances was never so apt as Berko squandered three great chances to take the lead before Slough pounced on the 15th minute to score against the run of play. A second and the result was never really in doubt from then on. But Steve Bateman has built a good team who should be challenging for another promotion this season.
As for Slough, well FA Cup games come thick and fast in the first few rounds and on Saturday we welcome old Isthmian League rivals Dulwich Hamlet and 'the Rabble' to Arbour Park which should be a corker of a game.



0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home