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.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division games v Stratford Town and Farnborough December 2017 (two games, one programme) We drew 1-1 with Stratford in front of  598 and beat Farnborough 5-1 in front of 668

It was a return to the bad old days with knives and knuckle-dusters reportedly found by the police. The Brighton v Crystal Palace game had been hyped beyond parody but the pantomime villain ended by being Sussex Police. 'Oh no they didn't' cried Crystal Palace fanzine Five Year Plan and the cops had to admit that they had made the whole thing up. Yes some people broke in but did that justify kettling fans who had tickets for so long that they weren't allowed in? Yes, some people let off flares but to honest the atmosphere was much better than the game of football on display. It couldn't have been an easy game to police so why make things up? As a wizand old protestor i'm used to police doing this to suit their own agenda, but even the Brighton Chief Executive came out fuming saying the cops really hadn't helped things with such a cock and bull story.  
Anyone who follows German football shouldn't have been surprised when Cologne fans turned up en-mass for a Europa game against Arsenal. It had been 25 years since their last game in Europe and since then they have been relegated five times, nearly gone bankrupt and made a sponsorship deal with a non-existent company from Cyprus. So 20,000 Germans invaded London despite being allocated just 2,900 tickets. Many had bought Arsenal home tickets and wore their colours so they could get in. One Arsenal fan said 'Koln fans were brilliant. It's the kind of support most fans in this country can only dream of. The Premier League has become so sanitized and fans have become irrelevant to most clubs and treated with utmost disrespect.' In the end it was largely peaceful but the football authorities were furious – how dare fans create an atmosphere at the Premier Leagues top library, and duly fined the Germans for supporting their club.

Clapton is a small team in the Essex Senior League that has seen its crowds grow from an average of 25 to hundreds of new supporters, priced out and fed up of league football. They get behind their team, create an atmosphere and are more than welcome by most clubs in the league who usually struggle to get three figures through the turnstiles. But the Clapton Ultras are political and we all know that's a crime for any football supporter. The other week the Met Police banned all their supporters from attending a London Senior Cup game. And with a crowd of just 28 looked like home fans were banned as well! Then on the Saturday Southend Manor did the same. Why? The Ultras are unhappy with the man who runs Clapton and are themselves boycotting their teams home games. They went to Southend anyway, I mean who wants to miss a day out by the seaside, and cheered on through the fence. We moan about a lack of atmosphere but the authorities don't like fans that are noisy, political, organised and have the cheek to stand up for the rights – they just want them to sit down, shut up, be complaint, wealthy and put up with being charged a fortune for games that are moved at the drop of a TV hat.

I don't want to go back to the bad old days – my uncle stopped taking me to Fulham after crowd trouble with Spurs and Chelsea. Even big Slough games were quite hairy at times. There is still some head-bangers who like to go to football; often grandads by day with their bald heads and fat necks that turn into Neanderthal man on match-day, but treating all football supporters like they've committed a crime isn't the answer.

* Before twitter I used to hang around Clapham Junction station in the winter months waiting for the dreaded call – 'The game is off' and I scuttle back to Brighton looking for any match that had escaped the bad weather. No more with our 3G artificial super-pitch. The Boxing Day birthday knees-up game is safe; save for a Trump inspired nuclear war (which would burn the pitch) or more snow than the Alps. So spare a thought for Dudley Town who have had to call off games because badgers kept digging up the pitch looking for worms and insect larvae to keep them going through the harsh winter months.

* You wait an eternity for Slough to assemble a fantastic team, and well, if any of us really needed confirmation of just how competitive the Southern Premier League is, then check out the table for the 10 top rated teams in England. Hereford are 2nd, Slough 4th, Kettering 5th and Kings Lynn 9th. Piece of birthday cake getting out this league.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017


Printed in the Southern League Premier Division game v Bishop Stortford Saturday 9th December 2017 We lost 4-2 in front of 551 people.

As its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas let me tell you a story of an act of kindness that happened to British writer Bernard Hare that changed his life forever.

He was by his own accounts a bit of a low-life when he heard his mum was in hospital and not expected to survive the night. Living in London, he got to the railway station to find he'd missed the last train and could only get as far as Peterborough. He would have to nick a car, steal some money, anything to get home. "Tickets, please," he heard, but after he stamped it, the guard stood there looking at him. He'd been crying and looked terrible. "You okay? Is there anything I can do? Hare felt like thumping him 'What's it got to do with you, get lost and mind your own business." The guard ignored the fact that there was a good chance that he was going to get walloped and instead sat down opposite "If there's a problem, I'm here to help. That's what I'm paid for." So Hare told him his story "Look, my mum's in hospital, dying, she won't survive the night, I'm going to get home. It's tonight or never, I won't get another chance, I'm a bit upset, I'd be grateful if you'd leave me alone. " The guard finally left but 10 minutes later he was back and Hare was ready to punch him. "Listen, when we get to Peterborough, shoot straight over to Platform One as quick as you like. The Leeds train will be there." Hare looked at him dumbfounded. What do you mean? Is it late, or something?" "No, it isn't late. I've just radioed Peterborough. They're going to hold the train up for you. As soon as you get on, it goes. Everyone will be complaining about how late it is, but let's not worry about that on this occasion. You'll get home and that's the main thing. Good luck and God bless."

Hare suddenly realised what a total git he'd been and chased the guard down the train. He caught him up and grabbed his arm. "I wish I had some way to thank you, I appreciate what you've done." The guard replied "Not a problem. If you feel the need to thank me, the next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out. That will pay me back amply. Tell them to pay you back the same way and soon the world will be a better place."

Hare was at his mother's side when she died in the early hours of the morning. Even now, he can't think of her without remembering the Good Conductor on that late-night train to Peterborough – more than that the Good Conductor changed him from a selfish, potentially violent hedonist into a decent human being, but it took time. "I've paid him back a thousand times since then," he tells the young people he works with, "and I'll keep on doing so till the day I die. You don't owe me nothing. Nothing at all. And if you think you do, I'd give you the same advice the Good Conductor gave me. Pass it down the line."

It's a lovely story worthy of 'Its A Wonderful Life' but what the hell has this got to do with football? Well, two things. First, if you're not sure how non league football clubs tick then I suggest you volunteer one day for a couple of hours before the game. It must have taken a monumental effort to put the Rochdale match on. The majority of work done by volunteers, some of whom had taken the day off work to be at the ground from 9am to help and wouldn't have left till midnight (and some who came back the following night after work to move the segregation fencing) They are proper Slough fans, many who would have missed one of the biggest games in our history to help. Good Samaritans who make this club tick.

Secondly, i think the above story should be required reading by all stewards. Look I run a charity working with kids and adults with learning disabilities, I help run a community pub, I'm a governor at two schools – these organisations could hide all day behind rules and regulations so they never have to give a helping hand to anyone who needs it but we don't cos otherwise what's the point in us being there. So don't make someone with a walking stick climb a massive flight of stairs when you could easily escort them a few yards to meet their sister who incidentally had spent the whole game flogging merchandise to raise money for the club. Don't threaten supporters that its time to go for simply chatting to people after the game. Or as happened recently let someone in a wheelchair get soaked cos you couldn't use a bit of common sense and let them in a fenced off covered area. People aren't criminals for coming to football and maybe if we are all treated with a bit of decency it might stop some situations getting out of hand.

That train guard didn't hide behind its-more-than-my-jobs-worth mentality, he did the right thing. And the more of us that do, well maybe the world wouldn't seem such a hostile place.

Yes i'm being idealistic, but my pub and charity wouldn't exist without idealism (and a lot of bloody hard work) and this football club which was on its knees not so very long ago, wouldn't either. 

It really is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Sunday, December 03, 2017


Printed in the FA Cup 2nd Round game v Rochdale Monday 4th December 2017. We lost 4-0 in front of a sell out 1,950 crowd.

Just when I thought this season couldn't get more surreal up pops up double hat-trick boy Matt Lench and joint manager John Underwood on the box at Arbour Park. Even my kids are transfixed. Slough. Town. On. The. Tele. I was half expecting Kieran and clubshop Sue to be rummaging around in the ball-bag.

To think back to the first 15 minutes of our cup-run - away to more-trees-than-fans Berkhamsted; when our former managers club really should have been two goals up which might have put a spanner in the works to this cup run (and Berkhamsted still haven't lost a league game this season). Since then we've beaten Dulwich, Poole, Folkestone and Gainsborough and it was the manner of that last victory that really was something special. Our joint managers said the Gainsborough game was their best day ever in seven years of management and who are we to disagree. Chatting to older supporters, we have got one of the best squads ever. We are flying in the league and scoring more goals than anyone else in the football pyramid apart from Manchester City - whose reserve keepers boots probably cost more than all our squad combined.

And so to Rochdale. I've always had a soft spot for Dale when between them Workington and Southport they fought over who could finish bottom of Division Four safe in the knowledge that it was a pretty closed shop and you wouldn't get voted out of the league. It's fair to say that anyone who supports Rochdale is not a glory-hunter. In fact A Fans Suffering Index had them top as the most long suffering fans!

They have only been promoted three times – in 1969, 2010 and 2014 - playing 36 consecutive seasons in the Football Leagues bottom division from 1974 to 2010, the longest time any team has been in the bottom division of the League.

Of course we all know the longest suffering fans are Arsenal ones, or maybe that's the most insufferable.

My missus Uncle Steve happens to be a Dale fan and i've twice sat in the Spotland home end when we visited Manchester to cure my football withdrawl symptons. I even went to see them in the play off finals at Wembley where they lost to Stockport County, who were splashing the cash at the time - a plan that went spectacular wrong with Stockport now playing in the Conference North.

Surrounded by wealthy neighbours Rochdale are impressively punching above their weight establishing themselves as a League One side. As Steve told me “We are local family club which does a lot for the community and where you are valued as a spectator. Our chairman and directors are supporters who have stood on the terraces and our manager is a genius. He mends broken players and then we sell them on. We nearly got to the play offs last season with the smallest budget in the league but have struggled a bit this season after selling our best three. We recently bought the ground and have plans to develop it and put on events to help with finances but getting in the third round will be massive for us.”

I'm not sure i will really be able to enjoy the game, there's too much riding on it. If getting a ground back in Slough has transformed the club from Basket-case to Brazil of the Southern League, imagine what the finances and exposure of the FA Cup 3rd Round would do? Yes i know there's no magic of the cup for Premier League teams, but for both teams the 3rd Round would be paved with gold. However, defeat to Rochdale would mean the Rebels would hold the unenviable record of the most 2nd round exits without ever making the 3rd round. So no pressure then boys. 
Let's go and make history.