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.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

NO MORE CHAMPION HILL STREET BLUES

Printed in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying round game v Dulwich Hamlet Saturday 16th September 2017 We won 3-2 in front of 712 people.

I once asked, 'What’s not to like about Dulwich Hamlet?' But it seems these days plenty if you listen to some who've got their noses out of joint about the hundreds of hipsters who have descended on the club, twiddling their moustaches, singing songs and generally making a right old Rabble.

I love their name. Is there any other senior football team called Hamlet? And what about the kit. Does anyone else dare to play in pink and blue? As a Slough Town youngster I remember going to their massive crumbling old Champion Hill ground where crowds of 200 rattled round in a stadium built for thousands. Opened in 1931 it staged numerous Amateur Internationals and matches like the Amateur Cup Final between Kingstonian and Stockton in 1932-33 that attracted a record crowd of 20,744. Eventually, in 1991, it was totally demolished as part of Sainsbury‘s redevelopment and the club moved opposite to a new home.

The new ground lacks the charm of the old one and the last time Slough played them in the league, there was more Slough than Dulwich. Since then both clubs have seen a real spike in support, although Slough fans are more hip-replacement than hipster.

A few years back the future looked bleak for so many London clubs as wall to wall Premier League coverage hoovered up supporters while property vultures hoovered up grounds; but there's been a real renaissance with Wealdstone, Enfield, Clapton and Dulwich attracting supporters who enjoy the more personal experience you get from non league.

Duncan Hart chair of the Dulwich Supporters Trust explained how its not just about hipsters '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'' (so far this season it's 1,327). In 2016 they became the Football Foundations Community Club of the Year.

The last time I visited on New Years Day the massive crowd was so multicultural I was half-expecting the English Defence League to be outside complaining about all those bloody foreigners watching our football teams.

The club were also the team of my old mate Mad Pride Pete Shaughnessy who committed suicide 15 years ago. Pete was attacked with an iron bar when working as a bus conductor that left him with bouts of severe depression. But when Pete was feeling well he was a force to be reckoned with setting up Mad Pride. Like he said 'If people were proud to be black or gay, then why not be proud to be mad?' They held their first demo outside Bedlam, which was celebrating 750 years. Pete felt that the history of Bedlam didn't have much to celebrate and threw himself into campaigning. “Initially, I entered the non-league scene because I needed to pursue a hobby away from campaigning and find a way of chilling out. I was seeing a ‘shrink’ one day when she turned round and said to me, ‘You do realise before there were drugs, people used to be depressed for up to two years.’ “That’s funny”, I replied. “I’ve taken all the drugs that can be thrown at me with all the side effects and I’m still depressed over two years later, but then again, I do support Crystal Palace!!” ‘Change your team,’ cracked the shrink.

He bumped into old friend and life long Hamlet fan Mishi who persuaded Pete to follow the Hamlet. After one game he was hooked “Non-league football is ethical: you’re supporting a local community and you can have fun while you’re at it. When I’d just started going out with my present partner, I talked her into going to a totally, meaningless friendly, Moseley versus Dulwich. After a night with the “Rabble”, we ended up stranded in Hampton Court, no train or night bus. After a bit of bartering, I managed to get us the honeymoon suite at Hampton Court Palace. She was totally in awe. “This is what you get when you follow Dulwich Hamlet.”




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