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.

Thursday, February 04, 2021


'Pandemics are not new to the human species - they're just new to us.' 

So says Nicholas Christakis in 'Apollo's Arrow.'  It's not often you can read a book with a historical and real time perspective. Christakis is a physican and professor who has spent years researching how ideas, behaviours and germs spread, and this book covers in detail 'the profound and enduring impact of coronavirus on the way we live.'

What drew me to the book, is to try and understand what happens after a pandemic, which can shake us to their core but speed up change that might have otherwise taken a generation. As he says 'plagues reshape societies.'

The Black Death of the 14th Century saw the end of the feudal system and helped ignite the Renaissance, especially in politics and philosophy. After the Spanish Flu we had the Roaring Twenties 'The 1918 pandemic stimulated developments in microbiology and public health...tremendous advances in physics, space science and engineering.'

Not to mention a Joie de Vivre - people wanted to party!

When my nan watched the East End burn during the Blitz she thought it was the end of the world. And it was the end of her old world as society transformed. The City of London streets where everyone knew everyone would be bombed out of existence and people scattered, ending up in new towns like Slough.

Covid-19 has detonated a similar social upheaval bomb .

At the beginning of the first lock down I said how football needed to grab this chance to change. Of course with its entrenched greed that was never going to happen and instead we had Project Big Picture written to favour, unsurprisingly, the Big Six clubs. A deal so bad even the government told them to stop taking the piss. However, a very quiet transfer deadline day shows how even those at the top are being more cautious. But League 1 and 2 players are still not being tested regularly, while the National League response has been a masterclass in Dads Army dithering.

Instead of leadership it's been left to clubs to decide whether to carry on despite no cash or testing. Not so very long we were a homeless financial basket-case, so our strong message about refusing loans was welcome. "We have no intention of jeopardising the long-term future of the club just to try and finish one season. Our players and managers have worked hard to get us to Step 2 and we would hate for that to have been in vain. Having a club for you all to come back to, whenever that may be, is far more important to us."

We all get wedded to old ideas especially if it benefits us. 'Denial is a very primitive and fundamental human defense. And lying about it has been seen from time immemorial' Christakis says. Despite rising temperatures and relentless extreme weather events across the globe, many can't or don't want to see how to act to tackle climate change. Like covid deniers taking their last breath to the disease, I imagine some people will be up to their necks in water or watching their houses burn before screaming why something hadn't been done sooner.

But we have also seen the best in humanity as Christakis points out 'We're going to beat this virus, precisely by working together, precisely by sharing information, precisely by recognizing we all have a shared interest in what happens to all of us….We are not the first people alive to face this ancient threat, but we are the first generation ever to face it at a time when we can manufacture a specific countermeasure like a vaccine in real time. So it's a miracle, truly unprecedented, that we accomplished this.'

When covid was coming over the horizon it was hard to comprehend as we batttened down the hatches and everything that was fun ground to a halt. There's not going to a rapid return to normal but if 'The Rebels' seize the moment when it arrives, Slough Town can be part of a new Roaring Twenties.

Just like Arbour Park being repurposed from football ground to testing centre, our community pub going from serving pints to meals on wheels to the most vulnerable: if we are willing to change, to grab new opportunities and adapt to a new world then the club will flourish. Play our match day welcome card right, and people will be flocking not just for the football but to enjoy each others company, with a right old knees-up on packed terraces. Maybe we need to get a piano.

'Life will return to normal. Plagues always end. And like plagues, hope is an enduring part of the human condition.'

To get a flavour of the book listen to this podcast

Monday, January 18, 2021


Printed in the National League South game v Ebbsfleet United 19th January 2021. We lost 2-0

Will anyone have the balls to put this season out of its misery? A season that has had more games cancelled by covid than a wet weekend in Waterloogedville. 

Slough made the first move by asking for a pause. This could now be a stampede by clubs after being offered loans rather than grants to keep the season going. "We have in the last few weeks ramped up our protocols to the verge of obsessiveness, but we are feeling increasingly uncomfortable in asking our players to take what can only be seen as unnecessary risks. We appreciate the commercial issues and the impact of disruption on the higher leagues. We will fulfil our fixtures but we will do so under duress. We are simply asking The National League to consider the bigger picture with regard to the risk of life and acknowledge that right now, the health and safety of the players and their families is more important than football. This is not a revolutionary proposal - it would merely bring the National League in line with the rest of the country."

Strong words but is it any surprise when elite players now have to be tested weekly except the National League, where many players are part-time and have other work commitments. Why put their families at risk? How many times can they ask their employees for time off if they have to self isolate?

And for what? Does anyone really enjoy football without fans?

Of course, when you put out a statement like that all the social media worms crawl out. I’ve been busy muting the moaners that clog up my twitter timeline. Much better than blocking as they scream into the dark.

Yes, Slough Town are near the bottom of the league but that might also have something to do with only playing 11 games, the majority of which seem to have been against Dartford.

Which is why it was good to get the win against Braintree but the message from joint manager Jon Underwood after the game remained the same: “We shouldn’t be doing this, it’s not safe. I want us to keep winning and going up the table because when you are in the bottom three you’re not allowed to talk about player safety. Things are going to come to a head soon – testing, funding – and we as clubs are being left in the dark.”

Slough the town is now second in the cornona league tables. I would much rather drop points than see anyone needlessly drop dead or end up with the long covid I’ve seen in former fit-as-a-fiddle friends.

I understand why football restarted. Infections were low and we all needed to distract ourselves, but times have changed.

Add into this mix is the National League who have not covered themselves in glory throughout the pandemic.

Hunkering down, refusing to say how they come to decisions that affect all their clubs; they spend more time complaining about people complaining about their decisions than addressing their valid points. It’s a PR disaster masterclass. Look, we don’t want to know what size socks you wear, but it would make things a whole lot clearer with a bit of honesty, transparency and humility. We know the pandemic goal posts keep moving, just put your hands up and say how difficult it is. 

While pandemics aren't new to humanity, they are new to us. It's turned everything upside down but the survival of Slough Town is the name of the game not the 2020/21 season. For so long we were a financial basket-case, why threaten all that hard work now by taking on loans? 

I can’t wait to see everyone again on the terraces, in the pubs and on the trains for a pre match get together. Unfortunately football still hasn’t had a jab of sensibility shoved up its leather football but I can wait to gorge myself when the time and conditions are right.

Maybe that won’t be too long thanks to the wonder of science, international co-operation, ingenuity and working at the speed of light to discover a vaccine or two. 

But the news that the only funding available will be in loans rather than grants, is surely the final nail to end the season. 

Maybe the National League just need to look to Fred Astaire for some inspiration....and call the whole thing off.

Sunday, December 27, 2020


Printed in the National League South game v Braintree on Saturday 16th January 2021. We won 3-2 

I'm sure Shoreham Football Club have a cloning machine. On what could be their last game for a very long time, the Musselmen were at home to Oakwood. Everywhere I went (except thankfully the toilets) joint chairman Stuart Slaney's head popped up. On the tannoy, behind the bar, fixing the broken griddle in the kitchen that was cooking my veggie burger - which no doubt he'd prepared earlier in the day. While a decent crowd of 183 drunk the bar dry – even Stuarts wine he'd saved for himself – there was no swanning around in the boardroom to enjoy the spoils, just hours upon hours of work.

It was always a relentless job but a labour of love for officials and volunteers up and down the country. But the pandemic has added increasingly to that burden.

Scott Young is the chairman of Chalvey Sports who has grown more and more exasperated about the situation.

Nicknamed the Stabmonks, the club are older than Slough but had to up sticks from Chalvey Rec and move to Arbour Park to pass ground grading rules and gain promotion. Scott was born in Chalvey and so is a Stabmonk through and through. Playing, managing, volunteering and now chair of the club, while his brother is the manager.

But where did the name Stab Monk come from? Some time in the mid 1850's an Italian organ grinder from Windsor came to Chalvey Grove to earn a few pennies. A crowd of children started teasing the monkey, who bit one of them. The boys dad, after a session at the Cape of Good Hope Pub, then stabbed the monkey to death. When the organ-grinder lamented his loss, a collection was made, the man compensated, the corpse given a funeral and the remaining money spent on a wake! The following year it was agreed to repeat the wake; a Chalvey plasterer made a monkey cast and there was a mock funeral during which a man fell or was pushed into the Chalvey Brook. The soaking victim was then elected Mayor of Chalvey for the following year. The custom grew, with a funeral and wake every Whit-Monday and the election of a Mayor who of course first had to be pushed into the brook.

That brook is next to Montem Mound (a Scheduled Ancient Monument no less) and one of the places that could have been home to Queen Anne's Well. Water from this, described as Chalvey Spa, was taken to Windsor Castle for royalty to drink. I spent many an hour trying to find it, maybe thinking it could be more profitable than Peckham spring water.

The Stabmonks play in Step 6 of the footballing pryamid in the Hellenic Divison One East – about as far away to the Premier League as the sun is to the earth. Yet bound by the same rules and regulations while running on an entirely voluntary basis.

Chalvey play at Arbour Park and while Slough couldn't have fans being elite and all that, Chalvey could and were smart on social media, attracting bigger crowds desperate to watch some football.

I spoke to Scott to find out his thoughts about the current Tier 4 situation but first asked about the clubs relationship with Slough. 

Scott: "We have a great relationship with Slough Town, Kay Lathey (general secretary) is a massive help and I don't know where we would be without her help. It's always great for us when Slough tweet their support for our home matches. We get improved gates and its massively appreciated. It's also great to have the Slough Town Supporters Trust help Kay on match days with the hot food and bar and this makes it easier for us to encourage more people to come and watch us play. We played a friendly v Slough Town 18 months ago which was a dream for us and shows how far we have come in a relatively short space of time."

You've been very vocal about all the extra covid related work that has added to your role. What could the FA do to make this easier? 

Scott: "I think the FA could do a lot more to help other than just shift everything onto club volunteers, who are buckling under constant pressure with something new everyday. I believe that the FA should be producing the endless risk assessments and make changes to reflect the different levels of football from Step 1 down to Step 7 and lower.

"Making clubs play but behind closed doors is a joke. How can clubs at different levels survive without income? Look at the inconsistencies at Arbour Park this season. Slough, no fans, Chalvey allowed fans; then the tier changes and its no fans at all. Then allowing some clubs to start playing whilst others can't is a joke too. Leagues should only be starting when all the clubs in that league are ready and able to play with fans."  

Do you think this season will start up again?

Scott: It can't be a good thing to keep stopping and starting. It takes a lot of time to change risk assessments and all other Covid related things when you've got a full time job. Especially when you visit some opponents and they have nothing in place at all! And whilst you've got a small number of clubs doing nothing then the risk of infection increases match by match. So many people are up in arms when it's stopped, but look at the large number of games being cancelled due to COVID issues. There are more and more every week! I can't understand why the FA leaves the decisions to play or not down to the leagues themselves. They should lead and dictate what's happening and for me, they do nothing other than produce 'guidance notes' which just ramble on whilst putting pressure on an exhausted number of volunteers."  

Do you worry about the future of lower league football? 

Scott: "I think football needs to ask itself some tough questions. Financially, this pandemic puts many clubs at risk. We don't generate an income other than people through the gate which helps us pay for match day officials, kit wash, programmes and after match hospitality; without gate money it's not sustainable. Sponsorship next season will be difficult to come by. Companies need every penny to survive and may not have funds to support football clubs. This will see clubs having to drop levels or even fold and I believe that the FA have brought this financial headache to clubs even before the pandemic. Chalvey Sports lost a number of sponsors at the end of last season and we were very lucky to be able to continue at this level."

Once again we have to baton down the hatches and wait until a vaccine is rolled out. Let's hope when we come out the other side, people like Stuart and Scott get the support they need; not just from the footballing authorities but from people wanting to watch football in the flesh rather than on a TV screen. As Stuart says: "I just hope we don't lose any clubs and we can all get back to playing again soon."

Thursday, December 24, 2020


Printed in the National League South game v Braintree on Saturday 16th January 2021. We won 3-2 

More tiers than a wedding cake, winter weather and every conceivable Netflix series consumed, now is the perfect time to head online to your local bookshop and expand your mind. Well that’s what I always tell myself before raiding the football section.

Mind Games’ by Neville Southall is part autobiography, part mini manifesto, part self help book on how to improve the game and society in general. The former England and Wales goalkeeper now works for a special needs school while using his social media platform to highlight issues including handing his twitter account over to various groups.

From the people who produce ‘Groundtastic’ magazine ‘The Cemetery End’ lays bare the grounds and stands that have been lost over the past 25 years including our own Wexham Park. It’s now out of print but if you go weak at the knees at turnstiles and dugouts it’s well worth subscribing to their top notch, well researched and illustrated magazine.

From Stocksbridge Park Steels to winning the Premier League is quite the story and Jamie Vardy’s ‘From Nowhere’ is an enjoyable easy to read rags to riches tale about someone who loves playing football – and scoring goals.

Harry Pearson ‘The Farther Corner’ is a sentimental return to north east football. No matter where you watch your football Pearson catches the hope and despair as well as the replacement bus to Dunston UTS more often than he would like. ‘You getting off here?’ the man in the scarf asked. The other man shrugged, sighed and said ‘I was hoping not to. But aye, come on, let’s go and take our punishment like men.’ There’s Benfield Ultras who numbered just two, meaning they couldn’t hold up their banner and bang the drum at the same time. Or Newcastle fans contemplating another medicore season ‘Football used to be an escape from grim economic reality, now it is grim economic reality.’ Anyone who follows football in the lower reaches of the pryamid will love this book.

Pearson is a regular contributor to the monthly ‘When Saturday Comes’ football magazine which is well worth getting a years subscription for a different perspective on football. 

Bloody Southerners’ by Spencer Vignes recalls the story when Brian Clough and Peter Taylor rocked up at Brighton and Hove Albion - a bit like Jose Mourinho in the wake of his Chelsea successes joining Southend. It's a brilliant evocative book that captures not just a pivotal time in the Albions history but also the towns. Although Clough could hardly bring himself to turn up for training, him and Taylor woke a club from slumber with a chairman who splashed the cash and eventually got the club to the top of the tree and a Wembley FA Cup final. They put the town on the map along with Abba appearing at the Dome as it hosted The Eurovision Song Contest winning with 'Waterloo.' But Clough had little time for the place. In his autobiography he wrote 'People go to Brighton for various reasons. For a holiday, for a day trip, for a place to retire, for a Tory Party Conference. Or for a dirty weekend. With all due respect to the club and its fans, you don't go there for the football. Brighton is not a big-time club and is never likely to be.'

And finally, a book about the first superstar football coach, Béla Guttmann. Guttmann was Jewish and the book weaves in the story of the relentless persecution of Jews across Europe laying bare a hideous and harrowing chapter of the twentieth century. He narrowly escapes death countless times but his father, sister and wider family were not so lucky, murdered by the Nazis in their death camps. In 1961, as coach of Benfica, he lifted the European Cup - a feat he repeated the following year. ‘From genocide to football glory, Guttmann performed the single greatest comeback in football history.'  

Rather than lining the pockets of tax dodging Amazon, support independent bookshops. You can find out where your nearest one is here.  

Sunday, December 13, 2020


Printed in the FA Trophy 2nd Round V Dartford Tuesday 15th December 2020  After a 2-2 draw, we lost on penalties.

This dogs dinner of a season was perfectly summed up by Slough pulling Dartford out of the hat, this time for the FA Trophy. If you count our play off defeat, the team sitting top of the National League South have been our opponents for 4 of the 14 competitive games we have played since September.

Not that any of us have been on the terraces to see a ball kicked. Still, searching for silver linings, when we are ever allowed back in, there’s a wealth of songs to be had; about Slough being part of the elite, that Boris Haystack loves Slough and for miles and miles we were the only place to have the honour of being in Tier 3. No fans, No future as the Sex Pistols would have sung if they were football fans.

With a poor run of results our joint managers took to the radio to remind us what decent blokes they are. There was a distinct lack of this decency from Havant and Waterlooville who became only the second club in six and half years to refuse to let Ade broadcast Rebels Radio to the Slough Town massive.

I know clubs are struggling financially but so are supporters and their plan to make us pay for the stream spectacularly back-fired with Rebels refusing to cough up and watch ball. I get fans like to stay loyal but any Rebel questioning this behaviour was quickly accused by Waterloogedville fans of flooding their pitch for that abandoned game last season; like that fifty quid Deano slipped the ref at half time really made a difference to his decision to call it off when we were 2-0 down. You’ve got fans, we weren’t allowed any, Dan Roberts couldn’t travel cos of a negative covid test and we had to ask a former player who hasn’t kicked a ball for months and a lad from Binfield to sit on the bench . At least give us Ade to cheer up another groundhog evening. Ironically, me and many other Rebels would have bought the streaming service if they had allowed our radio but instead decided to go without as a sign of solidarity.

Premier League fans did the same, for once flexing their muscles earlier in the season. Already forking out for season tickets, Sky, BT, Amazon and Poundshop TV, the powers that be decided to ask them to pay £15 on top of all that to watch their team. That was the straw that broke the camels back and Instead people donated to their local food banks, raising thousands while the broadcasters eventually backed down.

Still, at least this new tier system is keeping us on our toes. My understanding, is that you are only allowed to drink in a pub if you have a scotch egg stuck up your bum, hop on two legs and sing the hokey-cokey backwards.

Going for a beer now requires the expense of a substantial meal whether you want one or not. So far I’ve had to fork out £15 for an inedible burger and £3 for some chicken wings despite being vegetarian for the past 40 years. Many pubs haven’t bothered opening their doors, and just like football clubs, you’ve got to fear for their future with another 2,500 calling last orders for good this year.

With Hampton the latest Slough fixture to fall foul of covid, will the season really end and what if we get a wet winter which has been known in Britain.

So I’m back to snatching games when I can. Freezing on the Saltdean terraces, who are now top of their league thanks to an eye-watering wage bill. This was the FA Vase second round and they eventually lost to Deal Town on penalties. Deal being in Kent weren’t allowed to bring any fans because they are Tier 3 while Saltdean could sell takeaway coffee but not takeaway beer. Someones got a good chance of winning the Vase just by not conceding to covid.

Still, there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel. Isn’t it amazing what can be achieved, when the best brains get together and work to find a solution to a crisis. Just imagine if we did that to make sure everyone had clean water or the trains run on time. Mind you, covid is just a peep show of what we’ve all got lined up unless we do something about climate change.

But as our managers pointed out, its about getting through this season, and making sure there’s a Slough Town to support when this covid fog eventually lifts.

Happy Christmas and see you all next year – hopefully.

Monday, November 16, 2020


Printed in the National League South game v Hungerford Town Tuesday 17th November 2020  We lost 3-1 

It was the night before Lockdown Eve - the crap sequel where everything that was fun, was grinding to a halt again. There was only one thing to do. Binge-watch live football before the turnstile gates were shut. And at least I could still watch elite teams like Slough on stream.

Monday night and I’m having a quick pint in the Sportsman, a pub overlooking the Withdean Stadium and home to AFC Varndeanians. The pub was originally the clubhouse of the Sussex County Lawn Tennis Association which boasted a centre-court modelled on the one at Wimbledon. It’s also been a zoo, a mortuary during the War and a boxing venue; but is most famous for being the home of Brighton and Hove Albion.

Dubbed the Theatre of Trees, it was known as the worst ground in the English Football League where away fans were so far from the pitch they were 'in a different postcode.' I heard tales of a time when the mist descended and supporters had to listen to the radio to find out what was happening. Where one Brighton supporter, so scarred by the experience, told me he wouldn’t come along tonight even if it was free. But after ground-sharing in Gillingham the place was a life-line for a club in free-fall.

It’s once again an athletics stadium and most of the old Albion chairs have gone to places like Newhaven and Whitehawk leaving just a bank of them running alongside the pub end where you can watch the game. And for Varndeanians, whose origins are from a local school, playing here means they could once again join the County League and senior football.

Tonight was a Sussex Senior Cup tie second round tie, and the ultimate prize of the final was stepping out at Brightons slightly more salubrious surroundings a few miles across the City. While the home side were flying high in Southern Combination Division One their opponents Langney Wanderers – who play at Eastbourne Borough – were near the bottom of the Southern Combination Premier. The home side got off to a flying start but slowly the visitors got back in the game and it became a real slug-fest finishing goalless and onto penalties which the Wanderers deservedly won 4-3.

I decided the following night to become part of the Shoreham Ultras and head to Eastbourne, seeing as that’s where most of the football clubs in Sussex seem to come from. This time my destination was Eastbourne Town, the oldest club in the county and a team Slough used to play regularly in the old Athenian League. This was also a Sussex Senior Cup tie and Shoreham were in the league below taking on arguably one of strongest teams in the league above. There’d been a mix up and the beer was served by a side door rather than the clubhouses which had been deep cleaned ready for the nursery the next day.

The Eastbourne Ultras were on a sponsored silence but the old Eastbourne Borough fans had some great tales to tell of living in Brighton, of people remortgaging their homes so Eastbourne Borough (who were originally Langney Sports) could build their clubhouse. Maybe that’s why I missed the Shoreham sending off with the Musselmen eventually losing 5-1.

The last night before Covid Eve I just had to spend at the Bevy, our community pub that during lock-down has delivered over 6,000 meals on wheels. As the last bell sounded it felt like a subdued Christmas Eve as we bid everyone farewell with a mournful ‘See you in a month – maybe.’ Mind you, my old mate Jonathan wanted one last dance. At 88 and 3 major operations this year, he was entitled to it - before we once again hunkered down in our covid secure bunkers, unless of course, we had to go to work or school.

Friday, November 06, 2020


Published in the National League South game v Maidstone United Saturday 7th November 2020. Lucky we are elite and can keep on playing!  We lost 3-2

Amidst all the covid chaos there is still one certainty when it comes to football – when the shit hits the fan, supporters will always be there to pick up the pieces.

To warm the cockles I watched the BBC documentary ‘Bury: Bringing Football Home’ about a group of supporters who got together and formed Bury AFC after the demise of their old club.

It’s the usual tale of the useless FA doing nothing, while a serial assist stripper bought the club for a pound. Within a year they had been expelled from the Football League. Now he’s all dressed up but with nowhere to go; owning the ground, but with no team and no league to play in. Meanwhile supporters rallied round to form a phoenix club, sort funding, a ground, deal with splits in support and a pandemic for good measure. As their new chairman said ‘one minute you’re on the terraces commenting on how you would run the football club, to actually running one!’ So its minor miracle they started this season in the North West Counties League playing at Radcliffe with ever growing support.

Macclesfield Town had been teetering on the brink for a few years until they were relegated from the Football League after a points deduction, wound up at the High Court, then expelled from the National League. Things looked even bleaker a couple of weeks later when their Moss Rose ground was put up for sale on Rightmove. But then a miracle happened. A local businessman, bought the club including the leasehold and all its assets. Former player and occasional caretaker-manager Danny Whitaker, who signed for Town again as a player the day before they folded, is their new manager, while Robbie Savage is on the new club’s board and Head of Football Operations. Hopefully next season they will be joining Bury AFC in the North West Counties. 

London is littered with clubs losing their grounds to property vultures and the oldest senior football ground in the City the Old Spotted Dog, dilapidated with miniscule crowds and an owner who didn’t care, looked certain to be added to the list. Then a few years back, fans from various league clubs, fed up of being ripped off and mucked around, starting turning up to support Clapton. Crowds soared but the new fans were not happy how Clapton were being run and eventually set up a breakaway club. They have now gained ownership of the ground and are slowly knocking the place back into shape ready to return.

MK Doughnuts have always been the football plague ship, a franchised club stealing a place in the league that was never there's. So when the football authorities told Wimbledon fans that a new club was ‘not in the wider interests of football’ the Wombles dug deep.  Starting at the bottom of the pyramid it took six promotions but now they are in the same league as their nemesis. Even more astonishing is that thirty years after having to leave Plough Lane they are back in Wimbledon, a few feet from their old ground. Graham Stacey from the Dons Trust said "It hasn't been an easy thing, building a stadium, let alone in Wimbledon which isn't a cheap area. We could have stayed in Kingston or wherever after we were pretty much sentenced to death by the FA, but we were always about representing Wimbledon and being Wimbledon's football club."  

At one point the Trust considered selling shares to private investors, but a hugely successful bond set up by fans raised over £5 million since January, ensuring that the club’s supporter-led structure has remained intact. Stacey added: “I can’t wait to see my dad’s face when he gets to walk in for the first time; he’s been a fan for 50 years and he hasn’t seen us truly play at home for 30 of those. There are thousands of people like him. Sometimes you have to wait for the best things in life but 30 years is quite an ask.” 

In such dark times we need these people-powered football fairytales to keep our spirits up.