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, October 07, 2021

BIN-DALOO

Printed in the National League South game v Ebbsfleet United Saturday October 2021. We lost 3-1 in front of 757

I never thought I’d see the day when they would be rationing football but here we are with midweek lower league matches called off because of a lack of petrol. At the Albion game there wasn’t enough staff to serve the half time pies. Food is rotting in the fields cos there’s no one to pick it, and even if its ready to harvest there’s no drivers to collect and deliver. Gas prices are going through the roof and so is food. Now we are calling in the army to help. No doubt we will soon all be cycling to games and paying pounds, shillings and pence to get in.

Still, I was getting the train to Hungerford; no petrol shortage was going to stop me. Except there’s a shortage of train drivers meaning my next two trains were cancelled. As I waited in Gatwick I thought I’d treat myself to a fry-up – but of course its a covid ghost town with only an egg sandwich from Boots on offer. My oven-ready away day wasn’t quite going to plan.

Hungerford might be in the same county as Slough but it couldn’t be a more contrasting Berkshire if it tried. It’s bloody miles away for starters. Mark and Kieran Wonder-Wall found themselves in a teahouse cos the pubs weren’t open till 12 while the Brown Boys went antique shopping. The accent is more west country and the place is surrounded by forests.

The old timer in the Hungerford boozer didn’t believe we were short of drivers; maybe it will be a lack of beer in the pubs that will convince him. Or maybe he was still smarting from being in the Hungerford team that Slough thrashed 14-1 in the Amateur trophy in 1964.

With a population of just a few thousand Hungerford are seriously punching above their National League weight and yet always seem to be competitive and get one over on us. Their friendly hard working chairman greeted everyone at the gate where they had an impressive amount of deals to entice people in. I went for the £20 ticket which got me entry, a programme, a meal and a drink. This is the sort of marketing Slough were doing pre pandemic and I think if we want to find ways of attracting more fans to Arbour Park then £15 for our game against Whitehawk in the FA Cup was not the answer. Less than 400 of us turned up, and most wished we hadn’t. So i'm pleased we are using the international mini break to entice season ticket holders from other clubs. But we also need to entice people who don’t have a strong affiliation with anyone. Maybe a free can of petrol when you bring your family?

Away games bring out the best in fans whose long thirsty journeys loosen vocal chords, and the Rebel Rabble were in fine voice but needed something in the second half to take it to the next level. Unable to locate a brass band we turned to the trusty old wheelie bin to help us reach fever pitch.

Now Slough supporters love giving bins a good going over, which isn’t surprising really as the wheelie bin was a Slough invention. Yes, that’s right another claim to fame for the town that gave the world Mars Bars, Snooker, Zebra Crossings and Thunderbirds. OK it might not be as ground breaking as astronomer William Herschel, who set up a telescope in his Slough back garden and discovered Uranus. Still refuse collectors up and down the country owe Frank Rotherham Mouldings a beer. It was in their factory in 1968 where bins with wheels where used to transport waste from one corner of the factory to another. A visiting Health and Safety Inspector realised their potential and how they could stop the back injuries so many suffered from hoisting those heavy metal bins on their backs. It took until the late 1980’s to really catch on, when refuse collection lorries came into existence and could automatically pick up and empty them.

Deano reckons there’s a marketing gimmick to be had and I think he’s onto something. So what about Wheelie bin Rebels t-shirts or even wheelie rebel ear-rings. And how one Slough Town shrink wrapped for home games like some Dusty Bin mascot?

As a former drummer in a variety of terrible bands, I’ve got a history of hitting bongos, pots, pans and oil drums. Yes that’s right, one of our old bands specialised in bashing old oil drums with metal poles, making music that wasn’t to everyones taste. It earnt us our name ‘Urgh, Leave it Out’ when the landlord of the old Prince of Wales cupped his hands to his ears and told us to pack up and go mid gig. We used to pop down to Chalvey Tip for dole-days-out to collect old pieces of metal to jazz up our sound. Unfortunately we lost a lot of our kit when we took if to the Wapping picket line protesting against the print workers mass sacking by the Sun newspaper. We thought it would get everyone dancing, but the police were not amused. We got repeatedly charged by horses followed by batons and our instruments confiscated.

Some football officials take umbrage to our bin banging. At Havant and Waterloogedville they seemed to take exemption to us making any noise at all until their chief-chief-chief-steward told the young ones to reign it in. But Peak Bin happened some years back when we were away to Winchester City. Not wanting to be outdone by some impressive young drumming lads from Winchester College I found an old blue chemical bin and some broken goalposts. It was going so musically swimmingly until a steward said it was a health and safety risk! Excuse me, but they had obviously not been watching the football we were being served up at the time which wasn’t good for any Slough fans mental health.

If the Rebels had served up a load of rubbish against Whitehawk, the Hungerford display was much more what we had come to expect. A killer goal in the last seconds of the game to make honours even was probably a bit harsh but Slough had put in a shift and as a supporter that is what you want to see. I was thankful to Matt Lench for having a full tank of petrol and giving me a lift back to Brighton. He was joining a stag do late and you realise what a time commitment it is for part time players at our level.

I then managed to get an invite to a Labour Party fringe event on the Old Steine gardens in the middle of town to finish off an eventful day. ‘The World Transformed’ said the banner at the entrance. Well this government has certaintly managed to transform it over the past few months. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

HAWK SMASH

Printed in the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying round v Whitehawk Saturday 18th September 2021. We lost 3-1 in front of 395

I can almost sneeze on Whitehawk Football Club from my bedroom window, which is just a picturesque walk from my house. When I stand at the top of Brighton Racecourse I can see the sea and the South Downs, and as I skip merrily through fields, their floodlights are nestled just below the chalk hawk that keeps an eye on the club. So you can imagine I was pretty miffed when the very season we got promoted to the National League South they got relegated. And now we get pulled out the FA Cup hat together its a not-so-picturesque four hour round trip train journey to Slough rather than 15 minutes up the road. 

If i'm honest the Hawks were never a National League Club. But it was part of the plan by the owners to change the name to Brighton City, move the club and get ready for an assault on the Football League. That didn't quite go to plan and they are now in the Isthmian South East rubbing shoulders with Ramsgate, Haywards Heath and East Grinstead Town. 

But the measure of a successful football club shouldn’t just be about piling up the leagues in some unsustainable dash for glory but becoming an integral part of your community. And this is were over the past few seasons Whitehawk have become Premier League material.

Despite the bright lights of Brighton, Whitehawk is in the relegation places when it comes to the multi index of deprivation. The problem with these figures is that they never give you a picture of what is happening on the ground.

Being one of the poorest estates in the country, it’s had more money and health initiatives thrown at it than a dodgy covid contract to a government ministers mate, but have they made a difference? Well meaning professionals with clipboards can never beat feet on the ground engaged locals. Three mates from the estate set up a Sunday league Whitehawk team which has now been embraced by the club. They set about restoring an old football pitch, persuading the motorbikes to go elsewhere, locals have helped clear the area and now clear up after their dogs. Some of the local kids even earn themselves some pocket money for retrieving balls from the brambles on matchdays. But even when the local youth club run free football sessions, some children don’t come along – one mum worrying that the first session might be free but how would she be able to afford it in the future if they started charging and he needed kit.

The club already had an inclusive feel thanks to their ultras who were already in fine voice before employing former Lewes FC community manager Kevin Miller who has worked not just on bringing in sponsorship but cementing those community links. 

Take Hawks in the Community as one example. A unique partnership with the Crew Club, the estates award winning and fiercely independent youth and community centre, Pleece an Co, VYD community interest company, The University of Brighton and Your League TV. All working together with the aim of creating fun football training sessions for young people and fitness programmes for adults focusing on diet, healthy lifestyles on budgets, education through sport and much more.

The partnership also includes a ‘Hawks Heroes’,  10-week project for men over 35 and living on the Whitehawk and Moulsecoomb estates, as well as focussing on programmes for men women and children all ages and levels of fitness.

The Hawks In the Community programme also works as a social movement in mental health and the Club has been working with the 2021 Ageing Well Festival, to help senior members of the community get together in a choir, that will sing during half-time at a home game in October.

There are plans for a new women's football team, disability and walking football, and more youth teams — the Crew Club Hawks - who play in Whitehawk FC colours and represent the club in leagues and tournaments in and around the region. The project includes a three year programme to develop boys and girls football on the Estate to create a pathway from Under 7’s through to Under 16’s.

Vice Chair and Head of Commercial & Marketing Kevin Miller said, “The Hawks In The Community programme is vital to keep the community engaged in sport, create new friendships around the region, and to work together to generate support for each other. Darren Snow at the Crew Club has been phenomenal in his drive and commitment to see a better Whitehawk community, and Whitehawk FC wants to match that commitment. Over the past 18 moths we have seen a surge in community support — everyone is once again looking out for each other — and I hope that going forward, our love for this community can only strengthen those ties, and we can see a new, more positive generation emerge."  

As for their support, their Ultra's make a din in the din. Their non stop singing and fun attitude reminds me of the Slough support with a twist. They manage to incorporate songs about Bognor, Eastbourne, while playing the Last Post for any injured players and jangling keys at key moments - along with banging drums, squeaky toys and bits of scaffolding. Never the best supported in the National South their one of the better and definitely one of the loudest at the level they now find themselves in. Along with their community activities, its their unique selling point ad rather than trying to compete with Brighton they can offer decent football with a beer on the terraces and great atmosphere for a tenner. 

And that in their 75th year is something worth shouting about. 

Thursday, September 09, 2021

HOLDING IT TOGETHER

Published in the National League South game v St.Albans City Saturday 11th September 2021  We lost 3-2 in front of 601

All Together Now – the extraordinary story of AFC Wimbledon’ by their former chief executive Erik Samuelson really is a tale that needed telling. From having their club relocated to Milton Keynes, to the first trials on Wimbledon Common to being promoted to the Football League in nine years. Now playing at a new stadium paid for by the fans, back in Wimbledon right next to their old Plough Lane Ground. It’s Fantasy Football stuff.

It’s also a story about how fans protested then organised, and the monumental effort that happened behind the scenes by volunteers who just do it for the love of their club and who no one really notices when things are going well.

Even when he was top dog Samuelson was still a carpark attendant before games, not dissimilar to our former hands-on chairman Steve Easterbrook who would rather serve behind the bar or clean the toilets than be seen in the directors room.

A lesser known but no less a remarkable story is covered by Stan Strickland in ‘Don’t Screw Up Hon.Sec’ whose early retirement gave him the opportunity to become secretary of Lancashire village club Burscough. As they built from the bottom up, they rose up the leagues, did up their ground, ran a very successful Youth team and then - despite a small budget and small fanbase - pulled off the biggest ever FA Trophy shock winning it in 2003. When he moved to Anglesley he transferred those secreterial skills to help his local club Glantraeth FC.

Both books are a real insight not just into football economics but the gigantean task it takes to make a lower league football club tick.

At Slough we are committee run and its our volunteers who keep the club going. One of those is Kay Lathey “I was an on and off supporter for many years. My first game was Bognor Regis v Slough Town FA Cup Replay at Nyetimber lane in 1986. Torrential rain and we won.”

Kay has been secretary for twelve years encouraged by her husband “We agreed that as the kids were small and I couldn’t guarantee to be able to make every game particularly in the evenings that the role would get split to have a Match Day Secretary, which Mark Hunter took on.”

Can I describe a typical week? I don’t think I can, because there is nothing typical about it. The role has grown so much over the years from just being the Club Secretary, to running the bar and catering, being Chair of the Juniors and having fingers in almost every piece of pie; working with the Council to support other hirers and run community provision etc - no two weeks are ever the same, especially since Covid hit. I somehow got landed with the role of Covid Officer too. I really must learn to run faster!”

If it was a straight forward week, with just a game or two, it would be a case of ensuring that Arbour Park was booked, stewards booked, food and drink ordered, beer lines cleaned, opposition and match officials have all the details and know that they need appropriate footwear for the pitch. Volunteers on standby, floats ready. Players all registered, any lists created (Covid requires a great many lists). We don't have straight forward weeks very often though.”

I asked Kay what one thing could the FA do to make admin easier for clubs. “The FA have done a huge amount of work on their IT systems recently. Improving the Player Portal within Whole Game will have made everyone's life much easier, but sadly that doesn't include the First Team. We have a new system which is being implemented at the minute to move us away from the paperwork exercise of registering players and posting hard copy to the FA and League. Am sure it will be a blessing once it's established and we all know what we are doing with it, but we aren't there yet.”

Finally, How much have you missed football and the fans during COVID restrictions? “Football without fans is just not the same. Ironically I saw more football last season than I have for several years, but it was soulless without the noise and hustle and bustle of a normal matchday. I think the players missed the supporters too and the atmosphere was just flat. Having people back in pre-season has been amazing and after a couple of quiet games, when we played Fulham it really felt like we were back!”

As hard as it is sometimes - would I change it? No. This football club is about so much more than football. It is a community in its own right and that is clear everytime we need people to come together. The Homeless Lunch, charity activities, personal crisis, through Covid, The football family is always there.”


* Slough are always looking people to help with volunteering especially on matchdays. If interested email adrian.gomm@sloughtownfc.net


Friday, August 27, 2021

RAISING A GLASS ON THE TERRACE

To be printed in the National League South programme v Chippenham Town Saturday 28th August 2021 

That moment captured by our official photography Philip Benton


Tom Derry smashed the ball into the net for his first competitive goal for the Rebels. Boom! Arms, beer and probably a bit too much saliva went flying everywhere. A photo of pure joy that captured the day we had been waiting so long for. 

You couldn’t put a price on that moment.

My pre-pre-pre-match build up had started maybe a little too early the night before, well the afternoon before in the Slough Town pub of choice the Wheatsheaf. Mind you the way things are going it will be the only pub in the village with the Rising Sun and the award winning Rose and Crown shut since my last trip home. How is it possible to just close a pub down? I hope the Rose and Crown, the oldest pub on the High Street and a listed building is just being refurbed. I know people will point to the forever changing demo-graph of the town, but have you been to The Three Tuns? It used to be one of those tumble weed pubs - now its rammed to the rafters with Asians having a drink with a bar menu to drool over. That’s why I ask Slough fans who can afford it, support your local before Wetherspoon is the only boozer in town.

Saturday morning and the big day. Breakfast at my mums, a bus, some Indian food with a family laughing at the steam coming out of my ears ‘You should have had yoghurt with that.’ I also shouldn’t have drunk for 8 hours yesterday but you live and learn. Then back just in time for the Wheatsheaf to open their doors at midday with a cup of tea. I might have peaked too early. As the place filled up with Slough fans it was off on in a taxi with the driver having a traditional moan about traffic. Despite the dual carriageways that intersect Slough it’s still bumper to bumper. Maybe, just maybe there’s too many cars.

Then finally, into the theatre of dreams with DJ Aidan and Phil the Flags mixing it up on the turnstiles with their traditional warm welcome! More beer, catching up with absent friends and then a minute silence for those Rebels who have sadly passed away in the last 17 months

The National League South is even stronger this season, COVID not seeming to dampen the enthusiasm for clubs to splash the cash but still managing to get 3 games in the northern section called off.

As it was I was disappointed with the crowd and the Chelmsford away support but not with the noise. Who would have thought that pitch side drinking would have such health benefits; loosening the vocal chords while stopping COVID congestion at the bar and lowering half time stress levels.

Fast forward a week and I’m back in Brighton in our local community pub The Bevy - closed for five years before we reopened it - for the relaunch of Friday Friends seniors. For some this is the first time they have been out socially since the first lockdown. 



So the campaign starts here to get more clubs in pubs. Food, beer, bingo and endless cups of tea. A win-win for the community and your business. Beats sitting at home. 

Beats your pub being quiet. And more fun than having it in some dusty church hall. But while pubs need to continually reinvent themselves, they also need much greater protection along with other community spaces so property vultures can't buy them up, run them down, then declare they are unviable. Let's see how many become unviable if any profit made from selling a community space has to go back into that community.

We need to stop measuring everything in pounds, shillings and pence. What about the social value of a business? Shouldn’t that count for something? So let’s measure business rates on social good. The more a pub does for its community, the more discount they get. This will encourage all pubs to use their spaces to make good things happen. 

So how about running a lunch club for older people. People with learning disabilities are often desperate to work but are never given a chance, so why not team up with a local college and see if they can gain valuable work experience in the kitchen or behind the bar. Look at the quiet times and see how you can fill them by holding community events and offering rooms for people to meet for free. Anything is possible from garden competitions, art and knitting groups, dementia cafes etc. Display the local schools artwork and run cooking lessons when the kitchen is closed. The more diverse the events, the more diverse the people coming through the doors. There's plenty of community pubs to go and have a look at and nick their best ideas - and drag those councillors and their officers with you. 

Not so long ago Slough Town Football Club was 'unviable'. A homeless financial basket case with one local councillor helpfully suggesting we merge with Windsor. So should the Rebels have been consigned to the history books?

Or maybe: change the management, players and run it a bit better. Start winning games, more people come and watch and hey presto, look they are viable again. 

Just like a successful football club is much more than just 90 minutes on the pitch, a successful pub has to be about much more than just sinking a few pints, not that there's anything wrong with that. 

So isn't it about time Slough had a community owned pub? Or at least a micropub?

Yes we need houses but not at the expense of places where people can meet. Change the bloody record and change the model if its not working, not reach for the close-it-down nuclear option. The Bevy hasn’t got all the answers but we reckon we have a blueprint of how pubs can change and survive into the future.

Because you know what, after so long in lockdown and with a mental health and isolation epidemic, just like your local football club, they are needed more than ever.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

FLASH FLOODS, THE FA CUP AND OIL WELLS



To be printed in the first league game of the National League South season v Chelmsford City Saturday 14th August 2021


Arriving by steam train after sleeping by a ditch in the rain would have been a memorable way to celebrate 150 years of the FA Cup. With East Grinstead only a few miles away from our campsite I was planning to get on the Bluebell Railway but with tickets at £25 and coming dressed as a Glastonbury mud-cake and messing up their lovingly restored trains made me change transport plans. I scrubbed off some muck, wiped my feet at the turnstiles mat and entered their smartly wasp-coloured stadium to see East Grinstead Town take on Alfold in the FA Cup extra preliminary round. Just 13 victories and a Wembley final would be theirs.

This was the same week when Manchester City bought Jack Grealish for £100 million, adding more muscle to the footballing equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters.

You couldn’t be much further in footballing terms than East Grinstead and Manchester City but the fact that they both play in the same competition is something; the chances of meeting, well I wouldn’t bet my house on it – but it’s the same rules, the same ball, but that’s where the similarity ends.

What really rankles is the fact that Slough get fined for refusing to fulfil fixtures during a pandemic, while Man City walk away with slapped wrists despite wanting to destroy the football pyramid and breaking fair play rules. It’s how the rich and powerful always operate, and you have to be rich and powerful to own a top end football club. Owning an oil well or two means you wont go bust, although climate change might cause chaos to the fixture list. I presume owning a football club probably wont be worth as much when most of the world is either burning or under water, so it might be worth switching to water polo.

This was only the second time Alfold had entered the FA Cup. Their rise up the leagues has been impressive and they now play in the Southern Combination Premier, which has about as much claim to being Premier as a Premier Inn. East Grinstead have struggled in their six seasons in the Isthmian League but the have an impressive ground, lovely pitch and decent support including a few who got behind them during the game. Mind you singing ‘Who the fucking hell are you’ to the smattering of Alfold fans was hopefully more than a little ironic. Despite a new manager, they just couldn’t gel, hardly had a shot on goal and ended up in a sort of giant killing 2-1 defeat. £1,125 in the pot for the winners, £375 to the losers (money cut to from previous years thanks to the pandemic).

What I love about any level of football is the passion of fans. 147 plus all the volunteers, players and friends is a decent crowd. The fact that lower league crowds are growing is in part to people being disillusioned with what’s happening at top level football, which isn’t really much of a competitive sport when those who spend the most nearly always win.


But its not just about making football predictable, it creates a transfer race to the top, with clubs that try to keep up ending up as financial basket cases. Mind you, Barcelona’s mismanagement is off the scale. A staggering One Billion pounds in debt; no wonder they bet on a Super League as their get-out of-debt card. They are still talking about starting the Super League with just 3 clubs signed up which would make the Scottish Premiership look competitive.

Barcelona’s wage bill accounts for 110% of their expenditure while Premier League wages were £3.25 million in 2019/20 – an increase of 3,118% since the the Premier League was formed nearly 30 years ago.

Accrington's financially savvy chairman Andy Holt nailed it again “The hardest thing when running a football club… is accepting you can’t just have who you want, accepting the massive disadvantage against others blowing their brains in. Unless you have an oil well that is. Some owners are so wealthy they will never run out of cash. They only need to pay lip service to the rules.” I wonder who he means.

The week before the cup, I took a trip to Storrington for the opening campaign in the Southern Combination Division One to cheer on Shoreham. After re-organisation Shoreham didn’t qualify for this seasons FA Cup, but there must be a way to give some Step six clubs a go. Ironically last season they got hammered by Alfold who were debuting in the FA Cup. On the bus we were treated to torrential downpours and flash flooding and the nearby Hassocks game was called off (their FA Cup game was also off due to a waterlogged pitch. At the beginning of August).
Storrington is a picturesque Sussex village where only a lairy goose and puddle splashing cars gave me any bother. So I was a little surprised to see three police in attendance. Apparently its because the club and its surrounds keep getting vandalised; cos what you really want to do is smash up the few community facilities a place has. A crowd of 76 saw Shoreham's Musselmen dominate and come out comfortable 4-0 winners.

Shoreham are on a mission to be carbon neutral and managed to get a grant from the Football Foundation to change their floodlights to much more energy efficient LED. Yet they still needed planning permission to quite literally change a lightbulb which of course cost time and money.

I get why people shake their heads in disbelief at the state of football, but scratch beneath the surface and up and down the country teams like East Grinstead, Storrington, Alfold and Shoreham are the glue that helps bind communities together. This is the football we should be out celebrating and supporting.







Monday, August 09, 2021

LIVING LIFE IN THE SLOUGH LANE

To be printed in the friendly against Arsenal XI Tuesday 10th August 2021

Well it’s only been 18 months since I last saw Slough kick a ball – unless you count that play off defeat we all watched in the Wheatsheaf or sat Billy-no-mates style in my darkened office with a drink.
I mean, I really got so near. The first friendly of the season, catch up with people over a few beers as a warm up to the England game. A proper football Saturday like I hadn’t had for such a long time. But in a taxi outside the Badshot Lea ground the covid call came. ‘The test is positive. You better come home.’
This wasn’t quite the ‘Coming Home’ song I was hoping to hear later in the pub, but the crap covid delta-mix version that was ripping through schools.
As the dawn of isolation began to cloud my mind, any worries of just how ill my eldest was, was quickly dismissed when he appeared in a mask laughing and coughing that I couldn't go to the pub to watch England. Anyone want to adopt a 15 year old?
Next up was a planned trip home against Hayes, but the plague put paid too that fixture so I planted some climbing French beans instead.
During all this chaos a new listening National League decided to throw the rule book at us and a number of other clubs who refused to play on when covid was through the roof; there was no vaccine, no testing for our part-time players and no cash for us to play on. But for having the audacity to say no more, we've been fined for not playing games that would later be null and voided by the same organisation dishing out the fines! Hello. Rules are rules are rules are rules right? Well what about League Rule 8.39 which allows clubs not to fulfil a fixture if they have 'just cause.'? You'd have thought a global pandemic and the resulting financial problems for clubs was exactly that.
Amidst all this, one highlight has been watching the development of a very successful U23 squad. I can see many of them getting some ping-tastic opportunities this season they might not normally have had. Let's hope none of them get any ideas to introduce infected blankets to force the issue. 
So my prediction for this season is to expect the unexpected, but as Slough fans we’ve had plenty of ups and downs over the years, football roller-coasters we can take in our stride.
So let’s raise a glass to those supporters who unfortunately wont see the new season, raise our voices on the terraces, start to enjoy life a little again while meeting up with our football family; because you never know what’s round the corner.
Fasten your seat belts everyone and get ready to enjoy another season of Living Life in the Slough Lane. 

Saturday, July 03, 2021

AWAY AT BADSHOT LEA

Printed in the friendly away to Badshot Lea July 3rd 2021. We won 5-2


Supported the club for how long?

My first match was age 11 with my dad watching Slough take on Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup Final - so that's over 40 years watching the Rebels. I moved to Brighton over 25 years ago and fell out of love with the game, but one Saturday seeing football fans on their way to a match I got the urge again and it just had to be Slough Town. 

Why Slough Town?

It's where I was born

How many games per season to you go to on average?

Not too many last season! Not as many as I would like over past couple of years but I reckon at least 20. Thanks to my eldest I’ve also got a Brighton season ticket so have to juggle watching two teams as well as supporting local lower league clubs when I can’t get to either. He’s getting old enough to want to go with his mates rather than me so I can revert back to watching the Rebels full time. 

Best time supporting the club?

Its up there with the best now but when I was growing up we were a very successful Isthmian League side. Travelling round the country in my early twenties watching us in the Conference was always an experience!

Worst time supporting the club?

15 years ago when we were facing relegation to County league football. We were homeless, rudderless and going bust playing village clubs who regular beat us while blowing raspberries in our faces. Still, as our support dwindled to a few hundred, over half still travelling to away games, we still managed a laugh – it’s just the day was so often spoilt by the 90 minutes on the pitch. But it’s made these times so much sweeter.

Favourite player of all time and why?

Darron Wilkinson embodied everything you want in a player. He wasn’t the most skillful but he gave everything, cared about the club, and took over as manager when no one else would touch us with a barge-pole. I remember turning up at Chelmsford when he told us another 5 players had left and that Rebel supporters might have to pull on their boots. 

Favourite game attended involving Slough Town?

That's a really hard one. Scoring two injury time goals against Reading in the FA Cup to make it 3-3 and earn a replay was pretty insane, but I'd say in recent times our play-off victory over Kettering. It was May 2014 and we were stuck in an endless play-off loop and looking like we were heading for another defeat. 2-0 down at half time and you couldn't see where a goal was coming from (mainly because it was so packed it was hard to see anything). Then we go and score 3 and finally win promotion. As for the scenes back at the Herschel Arms later with players, officials and supporters celebrating together. Let's just say many of us didn't make it to work the next day.

How frustrating have the past couple of seasons been Covid Wise?

I think we all have more of an appreciation of the things we enjoy, hanging out with friends and having a laugh are essential for our well being. Football is the perfect pick-me-up tonic.

I understand Slough Town were fined £8,000 for not fulfilling their fixtures last season - what were your thoughts on that?

Don’t think you could print them. At one point Slough had the second highest covid rate in the country, the money National League sides were promised never came, there was no testing for our part time players so I totally backed the clubs decision to stop playing. For the league to then pull out the rule book during a pandemic is pathetic and petty; what is fining us really going to achieve ?

Today’s game against Badshot Lea is possibly the first game Slough fans have the opportunity of seeing you play in some while? Do you know anything about us?

Nothing if im honest. It’s the sort of fixture I love Slough to get in the early rounds of the FACup. Not having seen the club play 16 months will probably mean I will spend more time chatting to everyone than watching the game. I reckon there will be a fair few of us here today. Make sure the bar is well stocked.

Your under 23 Academy side appear to have had a really successful first season – this must be a massive positive for the club to bring through players isn’t it?

Where we are now is thanks to our former chairman Steve Easterbrook who steadied the ship without splashing the cash and whose determination finally saw us move back home to Slough five seasons back. Its fantastic to see Steve’s legacy being built on with our under 23 side. We don’t have any big backers, the council own our ground, so its essential we nuture our own players.

What news has there been this pre-season? Any signings?

Our joint managers never make wholesale changes, but a few highly rated players have joined, and a couple of favourites have come back - one for the third time - which says a lot about the atmosphere our joint managers have created where people want to play for the club.

What are your realistic aspirations for this year? Is the club good enough to challenge?

Never underestimate our joint managers who are miracle workers. Being committee run we aren’t exactly awash with cash, but they sign players who will run through a brick wall for the club. I reckon we will be at least hovering around the play offs but I would really like us to reach the 3rd round of the FA Cup for the first time ever. We currently hold the world record of the team who has lost the most times in the second round. Be nice to stick that record in the bin.

Which clubs in your division do you think will be there or thereabouts this season?

Unfortunately those with the most cash. Dorking Wanderers who really get on my wick and seem to have more money than sense. Havant and Waterloogedville, Dartford, Maidstone.

What’s your local derby?

No one in our league

Favourite away ground in the league campaign?

Dartford gave us stadium envy – its so impressive and shows what can be done when a local council fully backs a club. Dulwich is like going to a carnival rather than a football match and you just feel cultured when you go to Bath (less so on the train on the way home). But we travel well, are really noisy and every away game is an adventure.

So what’s the positives about supporting The Rebels?

Like one big family. Not the sort you’d invite round for Christmas dinner but people you’re happy to meet up with, have a beer and a sing-song on the terraces.

And the negatives?!

Every bloody game is miles away for me (well apart from Eastbourne. Mind you last time I went there, I had to get the supporters coach back to Slough for a mates stag do)

Sell me a trip to Arbour Park, what’s the ground like, facilities etc?

It’s a new-ish ground with a fantastic stand where you can enjoy a pint and watch the football. The terraces are a bit to shallow for my liking but we have cover behind both goals. And If you love curries then I can recommend Slough.



Thursday, February 04, 2021

ROARING REBEL TWENTIES


'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