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.

Saturday, October 27, 2018


Printed in the National League South game v Concord Rangers Saturday 3rd November 2018  We won 1-0 in front of 683.

There's nothing football fans like more than having a good old moan-up. Infact some only seem happy revelling in their miserableness. This isn't something you can pin on Whitehawk supporters, who at a recent game I went too, didn't stop singing despite being 1-0 down. A cacophony of noise from squeaky toys, wind instruments and drums overlaid with a whole range of catchy little numbers including a twist on the Hokey-Cokey - 'You put your Whitehawk in, your Whitehawk out.' In contrast the Kingstonian fans went gammon red and shouted obscenities. I knew who would be more fun to support. 
Suddenly Slough fans have discovered that endless groaning and moaning is boring. And the more of a laugh it is going to a game, guess what – the more people want to join in and come along again. The noise at the Eastbourne FA Cup game was unbelievable at times – and in the second half non stop with peoples tongues and limbs dropping off due to excessive singing and advertising hoard banging. I even borrowed some of my youngest boys toy instruments for a Whitehawk-esque squeakaphon. Any time we took a breather, Clubshop Sue would prod someone into action. At Welling we didn't stop despite being 2-1 down. Now all we have to do is start to sing at home.
I recently went to see Saltdean take on AFC Uckfield in the Southern Combination. The players arrived on the pitch to silence. There were no flags, no football tops or scarves just the whistling wind and rain coming off the South Downs. The weather meant spectators was huddled in the two stands where the intimacy of the crowd meant you could hear everyone's banter as well the constant moanfest officials have to put up with. Often from the very same players who were dishing up a poor game of football, as another wayward pass spun out of control while others showed an ability to grasp aero-dynamics; you know, the one where hoofing a ball into high winds isn't a great idea. At one point the exasperated lino told a player to shut up. In the end Saltdean salvaged a draw and we went home wet but having enjoyed a different type of football experience, especially as a tractor nearly run me over as I came out of the clubhouse – a first for me at a football match.
It's hard for clubs like Whitehawk and Saltdean when there are so many other football clubs in such a small area competing for players, spectators, exposure and advertising. So I always thought Non League Day was a great way for clubs to shout about themselves. Not so for one ground-hopper who went on a twitter rant saying that (Non League Day) 'does any good whatsoever' and 'reinforces a stereotype instead of challenging it.' With an air of conviction he continued 'After eight years of Non-League Day, average crowds across the rest of the season are no higher than they were in 2010. The FA should do much more to coordinate fixture lists and club locations and help new punters find their way in. The mess of different leagues and websites is bewildering if you don't know where to look. But something needs to happen all year round. Clubs, leagues and the FA all working together. Ongoing campaigns that aren't just hinged around one game. Trying to get a bumper gate tomorrow as a one off because everyone else is doing it will not have any long term benefit.'
I don't believe Non League Day does no good whatsoever and I do know that clubs like Dulwich used it as a springboard to massively increase crowds - which in turn has helped them return home. But it does need to be part of a marketing strategy – easier said than done when many clubs only have a few volunteers to do everything! I think clubs should see it as a one off FA Cup match where the extra money at least keeps the wolves from the door and lets people know you exist.
Our FA Cup game against Eastbourne netted us £25,000 alone – and the reward? A tough away game with no glamour to Sutton 'pie-gate' United. I've had some great times at Sutton, the most dramatic being in 1981 when Eric Young and Eggy James scored two late goals which won us the Isthmian League title. For some reason I found myself as a 15 year old squashed in the player tunnel celebrations and I wore my scarf at school the next day with pride and sore ribs. I also remember going to Gander Green Lane (I can't bring myself to call it the Knights Community Stadium) for our first game after we'd been demoted from the Conference for financial irregularities, a lack of seats or the fact that the mens toilets were next to the tea hut making the brews served there highly suspect. I was totally skint at the time and had to hitch to the game from Brighton and to my shame, crawl under a fence to get in for free. Somehow our make shift side managed a win and I celebrated by bunking the train home.
Doubtless we will travel en-masse to Sutton, make a hell of a lot of noise and – shout it from the rooftops – have some fun, but we could do with a few new songs. How about 'You put your Slough Town in, your Slough Town out...'

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Bristol Manor Farm on a Tuesday night; there can't be many who could resist the urge to jump on a train for four and half hours to see the mighty Rebels take on the 'Farmy Army'. When I finally arrived at the Promised Land (better known as Sea Mills train station) I could see their Creek ground tantalizing close; all I had to do was walk across the train line or wade in the estuary to reach it. Problem was the stench from the estuary would give the old Slough sewage works pong a run in the stinking contest so I decided to take the more circular route.
Foraging might be all the rage now but 30 years ago I was part of the free food revolution, getting up at stupid o clock to pick field mushrooms on the Langley roundabout, tipped off by my nan that a mushroom lorry had dropped its cargo years back. Plucking ink caps in Upton Court Park in the morning dew. I nearly poisoned my hosts with water hemlock, realising at the last minute it wasn't watercress and my hands forever tingled from picking nettles. Nettles are a wonder crop and if they came from the Amazon rainforest they would be gobbled down in pills and potions by people who like to gobble down pills and potions. I still use them on my kids spag bol – just don't tell them. We turned hops into undrinkable beer (we still managed to drink it) and scrumped apples to turn into suicider (totally undrinkable but as you can probably guess we managed). Yep living in Slough was like an episode of The Good Life and to top it all off in late summer we headed to the sewage farm to harvest tomatoes whose pips go straight through the human gut and grow lush in treated slurry. Many a meal I whipped up for friends, only telling them after they'd finished where the tomatoes had come from. The sewage farm also grew enormous puffball mushrooms. We baked one once; one of the most disgusting things i've ever popped in my mouth, and that's saying something.
Slough hadn't travelled to Bristol to play a game of football since the 1895 when we played Bristol South End who were later to become Bristol City. We lost that FA Cup game 5—1 and the journey was deemed so far that our players came up by coach the night before. As for the Farm, they had only formed in 1960 and this was the furthest they had ever been in the FA Cup. It wasn't till the 2016/17 season they finally secured promotion to the Southern League amassing 102 points, and scoring over 100 goals on the way to being crowned as Western League Champions.
This game was being billed as the biggest in their history. My mate Ian also had some history with the Farm recalling how he got up to all sorts with his mates thanks to the combination of railway bridge, allotments, river tow-path endless mud at low tide and so on. “We had dens where we hid fags and sweets and kissed girls. But Manor Farm, had a bar and they used to leave crates of empty coke and Corona bottles outside. We'd nick as much as we could carry and get 3p back on the coke bottles and 5p back on big Corona bottles. A fortune was amassed to pay for our high-rolling lifestyle. The money meant we could afford to experiment with any kind of tobacco product we liked the look of! Good old Manor Farm, many a raid was made across the railway bridge over the muddy river Trym inlet they now call the Creek - happy days. Until secondary school ruined everything!”
The game had certainty caught the imagination with the TV cameras in tow, children on the pitch waving flags and the one man Farmy-Army beating his drum. They had pegged us back to 2-2 draw on Saturday, and one half of our managers Neil Baker had blown such a gasket at the performance he was to ill to travel to Bristol. Their bars were packed and over 500 crammed into their ground, the majority hoping to see a cup upset on their dipping and sloping pitch. However, Slough burst any romantic bubble early on and apart from a good shout for a penalty and a goal line clearance Slough dominated and run out 4-0 winners, setting up an away day trip to Eastbourne.
A swift pint in the clubhouse, then it was back down the M4 to Slough to crash at my mums and get up at stupid o clock to get back to Brighton for work. Just one win away from the first round proper, let's hope Slough Town come up smelling of roses again. 


Friday, October 05, 2018


Published in the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying round v Bristol Manor Farm on Saturday 6th October 2018 We drew 2-2 in front of 481

A lack of pre-match homework and struggling to even pronounce Sholing I didn't really have a clue where I was going, except I could get there by train but would have to leave by 10 or be stranded on the platform.
I sort of knew it was near Southampton but didn't figure that a Southampton suburb could feel so different especially when the city is a proper carbuncle, flattened during the Second World War for the crime of building Spitfires. The post-war makeover isn't one that is going to win any beauty contests, but a few miles out and Sholing has a rural feel. The small train station has no ticket office, no shops and most worryingly for me no taxi rank as I drew a blank on peoples faces as to the existence of a football club (no thank you I don't want to go to St.Mary's) The kind lady in the corner shop drew pity on me and gave me a cab number and I arrived at the ground just as the walking wounded from the Slough Town supporters coach were hobbling across the road. 

Everyone loves a new ground, and as we have never played here before, plenty of Rebels had made the journey including Mark Elford giving his staff a lift home from work via the game whether they liked it or not! Being a former works team the ground boosts the obligatory pigeon club and a clubhouse with no beer on tap where tall supporters have to bend their heads just to get served. Only a fiver to get in, these are the sorts of places Slough were visiting not so long ago as we rattled round the lower leagues but Sholings facilities have also been seriously holding the club back. They also share the ground with a cricket club so this was only their third home game of the season, with a bumper crowd of 327 seeing who would reach the next round of the FA Cup.

Infact they would be playing at a higher level if it wasn't for ground grading and financial problems which had seen them demoted from the league above. However they've just been given a massive shot in the arm with Budweiser donating £100,000 towards improving facilities. Add to this planning permission for a new clubhouse and changing room and soon the ground will start to match the football on the pitch. 
While I can't criticise one-off funding and the money The Football Foundation put into tranforming grounds, for a sport swimming in cash, the grassroots facilities in this country are a disgrace. Three Sundays on the trot i've been to Creepy-Crawley at stupid o' clock to watch my eldest play football. The towns parks are impressive but there really is no excuse for the pitches and facilities. Dog shit, puddles in goal mouths, grass too long, pitches too short, different sized goalposts, no changing rooms. And guess what? Poor pitches produce poor football. Just how are we meant to develop youngsters when they have to play in those conditions? 
To be fair to Sholing, they wouldn't have looked out of place in last seasons Southern Premier and you'd expect them to win the Wessex Premier. A penalty for the Rebels early in the game was brilliantly saved by their keeper and despite Slough dominance we couldn't find a way through while having a few scares at the other end. Their lively fans in their small stand pumped out the songs to a drum throughout responding to our Rebel chants with 'Your just a chocolate bar' which was a lot more Topic-al than they realised. 
Now there are a lot of things that wind me up about the Premier League but Top of the Pops is people leaving early. And I mean stupidly early and sometimes at pivotal moments of the game. Would you leave a film before the end? Football is full of twists and turns so to pay a lot of money and head for the exits at 75 minutes is bonkers. The other week people were leaving as Brighton were about to take a penalty! So imagine my dilemma when extra time was staring me in the face. I had to make the quick decision whether to stay that extra half hour and sleep beside the platform. Years ago I would have unrolled my sleeping bag, found a nettle patch and bedded down. But times move on, and I didn't fancy hanging out with worms. 
As I started to leave the ground, my phone rang. 1-0 Lee Togwell. In the taxi 2-0 James Dobson. Waiting for my train 3-0 Josh Jackman. Three hours plus spent on the train and not a goal to show for it. That will teach me to leave before the last ball is kicked. Next time I will chance a nettle rash.