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.

Friday, September 28, 2018


Printed in the National League South game v Hungerford Town on Saturday 29th September 2018 We won 2-0 in front of 722 - and are now fifth in the league!
A trip to Eastbourne in September is the easiest it is going to get for me to watch the Rebels this season, so imagine my joy on reading that it was National Rail Replacement Bus weekend, turning journeys of 30 minutes into hours of torture. But one rail company excelled itself, telling a frustrated passenger who'd had to stand for miles, that making fairs cheaper would only encourage more people to use the trains and so there would be even more overcrowding.
Seeing as my yacht was in the repair yard, me and my Brighton supporting mate Terry jumped on the speedy 12X to Eastbourne. It's just a shame I couldn't make the most of the beautiful scenery as the winding country roads kept my stomach churning and my head between my knees.
This of course had nothing to do with the week I had just had, celebrating how sport can break down barriers.
I'd been to a little shindig the night before at our community owned pub The Bevy where we were showing 'Believe That' a short film about a group of lads with downs syndrome competing in their first international ping-pong tournament. Supporting them was the inspiring Brighton Table Tennis Club who use the sport to train everyone from prisoners, refugees, people with disabilities and schools using table tennis to teach maths. The film was inspiring and one of the lads used to work for our charity now has a job in the pub in the kitchens. A great night but maybe one beer too many for this bendy old bus.
A few days earlier my eldest had been part of his Albion in the Community teams presentation evening again at The Bevy. Albion in the Community use the power of football to deliver everything from health checks, school work, skills and training. The boys and one girl cooked up a healthy buffet for all their parents making the message that if you want to excel in sport you have to look after yourself, practical and fun.
Eastbourne is rather greedy when it comes to football clubs representing the town – Borough, United Association, Town and Langley Wanderers. Borough are the new boys powering up the divisions and even spending a couple of seasons in the National League, while United are in crisis, bottom of the Southern Combination Premier. Town are the team with the most history against Slough, have a ground bang in town where football clubs should be and listed turnstiles ground-hoppers drawl over.
We jumped in a cab to meet Lynn, Phil the Flags and that other turnstile maestro Aidan (and I don't mean turnstile decks) at the Kingfisher Pub. With so many pubs to choose from they managed to picked the one The Sweeney would have shied away from. It could have given its old Slough name-sake a run for its money. As we reminisced about the Slough Kingfisher we wondered who in the right mind ever thought putting a pub under a shopping centre would be a pleasant place to drink, unless you were an alcoholic mole. Rumour has it that they sealed it up with lots of customers still drinking in there.
Quite a few Rebels had decided to spend the weekend at the seaside while others arrived by coach and the ever dependable Chris Ashley seemingly taking 38 different trains and a walk from Pevensay Bay to avoid the dreaded rail replacement. In the end about 150 Rebels watched in horror as we had a player sent off within 10 minutes. We then watched in delighted shock as we took a 3-0 lead! In the end it was 4-2 to the Rebels and a hatrick for impressive Peterborough loane Matty Stevens. Our managers said it was one of their best ever results and the Eastbourne twitter feed spent half its time complaining about our goalkeepers time wasting rather than the fact they'd been beaten by a team playing with 10 men for 80 minutes.
As we serenaded the players and managers we managed to persuaded Phil to spare us bendy bus hell and drop us near Brighton. When we eventually got back to The Bevy Terry said 'The football was amazing and I met some real characters. Reminded me of Brighton days in the lower leagues.' 
I know I sound like the repetitive drunk non-league bloke at the bar, but watching Premier League football doesn't come close to that personal touch you get following the Rebels - over land, sea and bendy bus.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Printed in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying round game v Sholing on Saturday 22nd September 2018 We drew 2-2 in front of 465. We won the replay 3-0

Another cup run beckons and its back to that old chestnut 'Will Slough ever reach the third round of the FA Cup?' The Rebels have the dubious accolade of having the most 2nd round appearances without ever reaching the 3rd round (seven times, since your asking). Rochdale under the lights might not be everyone's idea of romance but with the TV cameras, our new ground, a big crowd full of new faces and a wad of cash to boot; well it made me go all weak at the knees.
In the end the side playing five leagues above us were too strong. It was then Rochdales chance to turn on the charm in the 5th round scoring a last gasp equalizer against Spurs and a trip to Wembley.
Now we welcome Sholing and if I’m honest I would have preferred the game to be at their place. Infact I think the cup draw should be weighted so lower league teams play at home. I don't know much about Sholing except their manager has been their 19 years, racking up 1,000 games and winning 10 trophies – including the FA Vase in 2014. After four years in the Southern League Division One South and West, where they reached the play-offs in all of those campaigns, the club resigned for financial reasons and stepped back into the Wessex League Premier Division.
While Wessex League neighbours Lymington Town have a dream draw against Torquay United, Torquay fans aren't seeing it as romantic but further evidence of their fall from grace, and they are in a right mess. An absent chairman with a knack for bankrupting clubs and greyhound stadiums who is once again promising the earth. So could full time Torquay be embarrassed by a team who've never before been in the 2nd Qualifying round? With the appointment of Gary Johnson as their new manager that's got to be less likely but there's more chance of that happening playing at Lymingtons ground.
Over in Sussex, Uckfield are creating their own bit of history, having never won an FA Cup match before. Not so long ago there used to be two teams in Uckfield but a merger means its just now just one senior team. Building a football pitch on a former spring that apparently an old farmer used to bottle perhaps wasn’t the wisest of moves in our wet winters. Having a ground miles out of the town centre doesn’t help either and when I visited a few seasons back it was one man, his two kids and a squirrel. However, there has been some serious hard work behind the scenes and their 1-0 victory against Croydon Athletic was watched by 183 people. Their reward? A plum home tie against Dartford. Graham Sullivan is like so many non league volunteers, a man of many hats - committee member, kit man, programme editor and official matchday washer-uper. He told me “The FA Cup run this season is having a great effect on our club. At last the town of Uckfield is taking notice and realising it has a football club. The Mayor has come to the games, the Chamber of Commerce are taking an interest and the whole mood of the club is lifted because people suddenly care about us. Attendances have risen and then have stayed risen for the following league matches. From never winning an FA Cup match to suddenly hosting Dartford in the 2nd qualifying round has given the committee and management team a massive morale boost. The hard work has been worth it and we are moving in the right direction.”
Other note worthy results were Egham Town beating near neighbours Staines 1-0 and Sloughs near neighbours Burnham dispatching Bury Town 1-0. Not so long ago we couldn't beat Burnham for toffee but a series of relegations and they find themselves five leagues below us in the Hellenic League Division One East. They now face an away trip to Billericay. Expect a certain Billericay-Dickie to have another one of his toys-out-the-pram hissy fits if Burnham get anything out of that game. However, stars of the last round must go to the Sutton Coldfield Ultras. The one time I went to their place it was like a morgue and to be fair these Ultras are more hip replacement than hipster, but their version of Tequila during their victory against Rushall Olympic has set social media alight.
Of course. it's hard to dine out on a shoestring and fair play to the FA who've put their hands in their pockets and increased the prize money in each round – you even get some cash when you lose in the extra preliminary and preliminary rounds. That means Uckfield have already banked over £11,000.
One thing I would change is, along with an opt up clause for organ donations, an opt out clause for clubs entering the FA Cup. The authorities should always look to make the workload of voluntary football secretaries lighter and this simple measure would stop mistakes like Bracknell Town who left it too late to enter the cup and get all romantic on the terraces.
So here goes, take a deep breath, only 6 more improper wins till the 3rd round. 

* For more FA Cup Facts than you can shake a cup at, head over to the excellent and exhaustive FACup Factfile

Wednesday, September 05, 2018


Printed in the National League South game v Oxford City on Saturday 8th September 2018 We won 2-0 in front of 832 people.

It was my first Slough Town Conference away game since the Napoleonic Wars and if you could sum up what non league football is all about, then it was this. A few lost Rebels wandering aimlessly around Stanford Le Hope looking for a taxi were approached by a man – 'Hi, I'm the secretary of East Thurrock United do you want a lift to the game?' The man turned out to be Neil Speight, who also edits the Thurrock Independent and after dropping us off he had to rush off to take photos of a carnival for the paper! A man of many hats who just like so many lower league clubs have too few people working tirelessly behind the scenes doing too many jobs - but he still found time to help out away fans.
The only time I had been to East Thurrock, me and Gary Big Lens had arrived so early we startled a group who'd looked like they had been up all night playing cards. Eventually the clubhouse was packed - full of West Ham fans who stayed watching the Hammers rather than the game. This was at the end of the 2006-7 season, officially known as the Slough Town Season of Horror when we finished bottom of the league with just 18 points from 42 games! We lost 4-1 but at least we scored a goal no doubt serenading fans favourite Matt Miller with our 'He'll score again' song.
I tried to get my head round just where East Thurrock is. They play in Essex in the beautiful old village of Corringham (not to be confused with new Corringham) and the nearest train station is Stanford Le Hope. This isn't to be confused with Thurrock who used to be Purfleet who folded last season after their owner retired due to health grounds but couldn't find anyone to take over.
East Thurrock have only been around since 1969 and they only moved to the ground in 1984, which has got to have the most picturesque surroundings in the National League South. Being a village they struggle to get big crowds and quite a few of their supporters said they 'were punching above their weight' with crowds often below 300. I crossed through the church grounds to have a pint in The Bull where I couldn't resist the deep fried Camembert as you do when your a well heeled Slough fan. We chatted to two football lads including a West Ham supporter who'd had enough of the Olympic Stadium and was now a Southend season ticket with his son.
The pub, the ground, the local taxi company, in fact a lot of the place it seems are owned by one family; but that family have had an almighty falling out, straight out of an East Enders plot, resulting in a High Court battle including a punch up in the High Court bogs.
The clubs higgledy-piggledy Rookery Hill ground was taken over by the Bennett family when the members run club was in debt to Green King Brewery who were threatening to close it down and take possession. Several years ago Ben Bennett mooted a plan to sell Rookery Hill for housing development, and move them to Stanford-le-Hope – a move supported by the council. But Mr Bennett’s son Wayne, his nephew and a local businessman claimed that they are due a share of any profits from the sale of the land as they helped Bennett senior turn the club’s fortunes around. Bennett senior disagreed and said that the trio were just three among a large number of supporters, officials and local businessmen who were involved – many of whom have remained involved to this day. The judge agreed and in a 72 page document dismissed the trio's claims.
As is ever the case the Rebels travelled en masse to Essex, drunk some beer and made some noise. East Thurrock defended well and did us with a sucker punch at the death. 1-0 and their first win of the season.
In start contrast to this friendly attitude, Brighton this week decided to ban flasks to the game. They hid their reasons behind the usual health and safety and police advice flannel but what it really means for those, usually older supporters, is an almighty rush to the bar at half time if they want a hot drink in the winter months. The queues are long and many won't manage it in the 15 minute window.
It's those increasing petty rules that make me hate the higher levels of football while its acts of kindness from an opposition teams secretary that make me love non league football even more. It will take a monumental effort to keep East Thurrock in the league but I hope they manage it.