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 08, 2023


To be printed in the National League South game v Aveley on Saturday 9th September 2023

A book about a couple of goalkeepers who competed for the no 1 jersey at Brighton and Hove Albion fifty years ago wouldn't usually be on my reading bucket list. So many football books are one dimensional but Spencer Vignes manages to weave social history into the stories he tells, bringing to life not just the people he's writing about but the era they grew up in.

One of those goalkeepers is Eric Gill, who maintains a place in the Brighton history books for not missing a game for five years, making 247 consecutive appearances for the club between 1953 and 1958. This was some feat especially as Eric points out : ‘in the 1950s the footballers were heavier. The goalmouths were muddier. The challenges from centre forwards were heftier. You try fielding cannonballs with your bare hands or string gloves while standing ankle deep in muck waiting to be assaulted.’

The other goalkeeper is Dave Hollins. Signed from non-league Merrow based just outside of Guildford in 1965, Hollins arrived at the Albion as a teenage apprentice. He cleaned the boots of first team players and swept the terraces of the Goldstone. But to become Albion number one in the not-too-distant future he would have to displace Gill who was in the middle of his history-making run. Hollins eventually got his chance at the age of 20 when Gill was taken ill before an away game at Coventry City in March 1958.

They recall how they dodged Hitler's bombs before pitting their wits against some of sport's most iconic names: a list that includes Stanley Matthews, Pele and George Best not to mention their shared nemesis, Brian Clough - who Hollins once took out with a punch after having had enough of his shithousery!

What is refreshing is that this isn’t a rose tinted view of the past but highlights how players were virtually slaves to their clubs, had little say when they were transferred, had to hope National Service didn’t injury them for life. Goalkeepers would get battered on the pitch, there was no player welfare and not much medical help beyond a bucket and sponge.

There’s plenty to complain about in the modern game and hark back to the good old days; and while the top clubs are busy trying to eliminate all competition it used to be nigh on impossible to get promoted to what was then Division Two with just one promotion space apiece from Division Three North and South. Finally after missing out a number of times, the Brighton manager wrote in the programme ‘that tonight is the night for the Albion Roar.’ 57 years after after being formed in a local pub, Brighton had been promoted for the first time ever with Eric in goal, while Dave as the reserve goalkeeper looked on.

However, promotion to Division One was a piece of cake compared to the closed shop of the football league. Dave ended his career at Guildford City and you wonder what might have it been for clubs like them who were continually applying unsuccessfully until they slid down the leagues, went bust, lost their ground and are now reformed at a soulless athletics stadium playing in front of less than 100 people a week.

I think football, like most things in this world, has progressed and got better,’ says Eric. ‘I reckon the teams of today could beat the teams of yesterday. The way footballers are looked after, the way they eat, the way they train, it's all improved. They are no longer slaves like we were. They no longer play ankle deep in mud and puddles but get to stroke the ball around so it gets to go exactly where they want it to go. The goalkeepers get more protection.’

However Dave talks about how football is slow to change when needed - like crowd safety and dementia in footballers ‘Football is quick to move when there’s a European Super League to discuss or sponsorship deals to be struck or any kind of money to be made,’ he says. ‘When it comes to more serious matters, such as the well-being of the fans, its almost nowhere to be seen…You had all these events and more year after year and nothing was done. Until, that is, after Hillsborough, when stadiums became all-seater. Ever since then it has become more and more expensive to go and watch football. Something that was done in the name of safety became, to all intents and purposes, a money-making exercise. The ordinary bloke in the street cant afford to go anymore. What was a working class sport has become a middle class sport. The modern game has lost its human touch.’

And don't get them started on VAR…’Football is all about movement. If you're stopping that movement on a regular basis to try to establish something so borderline that it’s still dividing opinion after umpteen replays, then football stops being football as we know it. It’s certainty not entertainment.’

Dave had all the attributes to become a football coach mentoring many professionals when playing at clubs but also in his spare time including one of Sloughs former goal keepers Trevor Porter. Trevor used to deliver papers to Dave parents and one day his dad went round and asked if their son could give him a few tips. ‘That turned into us meeting every Sunday at 10am for practice sessions. Trevor said : ‘I couldn't believe it - I was one of the few goal keepers at the time, even among professionals, who had a coach. That lasted from when I was 13 through to when I signed apprenticeship forms at Fulham as a 15 year old, right the way until I tuned pro at Brentford at 17. Dave had a huge influence on me and still does to this day. And Ive got to tell you this, he never took a penny off me or my dad for all the time he gave. Just think about that - a top class Welsh international goalkeeper giving me the time of day. I’ve got so much in my life to thank him for.’

Their unique friendship started as a rivalry. Seventy years later they remain the best of friends, having lived long, eventful lives bookended by the horrors of World War Two and the Covid-19 pandemic.

This really is a gem of a football book.

Eric and Dave’ by Spencer Vignes Pitch Publishing 2022

Monday, September 04, 2023


Printed in the National League South game v Tonbridge Angels. We lost 5-2 in front of 637.

"There was a small but happy band of supporters in the Slough stand on Saturday. Fired with the spirit of the New Year and with determination to brighten the lot of their fellow man, they indulged in a little harmony of the common order. They had evidently heard of what had been

done at another football ground, so choose an appropriate day to set what seemed to them no doubt a laudable example. They gave a pleasant selection of tunes grave and gay. Sometimes singing but more frequently whistling due probably to an insecure knowledge of the words and beating time with their feet. Their choice of songs varied with the progress of the game.

When Slough were faring ill, they sang something soulful and dreary and when things went well they broke into a sort of rhapsody. It was an inspiring afternoon.

Slough supporters on their own ground are a quiet, peaceful race and it was good to hear some sustained vocal effort. There is no truth in the statement that the secretary is going to conduct the singing at future matches.”

Alan Smith managed to find this gem from the Slough Express printed January 7th 1927 for a Spartan League game featuring Slough Reserves v Walthamstow Avenue Reserves. Alan is quite literally a walking Slough Town

computer. Ask him any question about the club and he will fire back the answer. Which is ironic as I don’t think he owns a computer. He certainly hasn’t got an email address which is slightly frustrating when I want to ask him something as the programme deadline looms. I once saw him coming out of Slough library, papers in hand where he was no doubt researching the Rebels. If there’s ever a Slough quiz about the club get him on your team!

I like the idea of different songs to reflect what's happening on the pitch. The problem with so many big teams is that all their chants have become the same generic pap, with the odd tweak of a name. It’s like a crap pub covers band.

Surely it’s better to mix it up - so take a bow whoever came up with ‘Just sold my car, to buy Temi Eweka’. Songs should reflect a club's history, you know like ‘Zebra crossing, Thunderbirds, MarsBars and Bins, Biggest Trading Estate, David Brent, These are all Slough Things.’ Torquay felt we were a bit too proud about how big our Trading Estate is while Spreadsheet Stu waved a tape measure in the air angrily. At Oxford we could taunt them with - ‘We’ve got MarsBars, you’ve got Dreaming Spires’ and at Bath we can do the same with Spas. 

We asked the Torquay fans if they’d looked up Uranus as they forgot the lower League protocol of swapping ends, although some said they wished they had after we started up our Jazz ensemble. And it's a toss up who wins The Office v Fawlty Towers, although the latter sums up their previous season. They did come en masse, but the ones I spoke to lived in London or Windsor and apart from two Burberry clad doughnuts were a good bunch even if they feel aggrieved playing at the same league as part timers like us. Nothing but promotion will do and their manager was getting told to go in the first half. It seemed only polite to join in. But it was good to see praise for our club. One commented on their cheery forum; ‘Nice set they have in Slough - very welcoming and friendly. Nice bar and food areas - all fully accessible to away fans. This is the first time I have seen a live band in the bar pre-match with souvlaki being served - unless I’d stumbled into a wedding in a function room!’

We haven’t reached anywhere near the level of noise at home so far this season, not helped by Slough Council removing all the wheelie bins from the ground, no doubt to sell them on eBay as vintage Slough Town instruments to help pay off their eye watering debt. So I bought a blue one and a big club badge to stick on it. Just need an artist now to tart it up and a bungee cord to stop people actually using it as a bin. We can take it to away games so we have our own rather than get into rows with over zealous stewards but I'm sure some will still object. Havant no doubt being one of them. I’m surprised they don’t ask us to take off our arms when we go in. Still it’s good to see their welcoming attitude managing to now sour their relationship with their own fans. Remember - ‘You’re just a small team near Portsmouth.’

As for Slough, we should have been out of sight in the first half but for some fine goalkeeping. We had 16 shots with 9 on target to Torquays 4. They converted 2 of them and went home with all three points with their goalkeeper getting man of the match.

Onto Bank Holiday Monday and even more bizarre than a man sleeping regularly in a tree opposite the Wheatsheaf, was paying just under a tenner to watch Chippenham v Slough live on TV while in Crete. That game didn’t help me to relax tho as we were snuffed out by a professional Chippenham who defended well and know how to win games.

But I’ve got complete faith in what Scott Davies and his team are doing. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. We are going to hand out some pastings as well as more geographical and historical abuse soon enough.

Pull out that Trumpet Nick for some tub thumping ‘One Slough Beyond.’

Meanwhile I need to find Alan and see who won that game against Walthamstow Avenue Reserves nearly 100 years ago. He probably even has a record of what songs they were singing.

Saturday, August 26, 2023


Printed in the National League South v Torquay United Saturday 26th August 2023  We lost 2-1 in front of 1127

With the cost of everything going up and my bloody kids expensive Albion addiction, my trip to Weston Super Mare was scuppered. So I reached down the back of the sofa, sold some of my children's belongings on e-bay and scrapped enough pennies together to go and watch Newhaven in the FA Cup preliminary round.

Earlier in the week figures were published saying Brighton and Hove Albion contributed a staggering £595 million to the local economy last season – while qualification for Europe will add £80 million to this seasons total. The money includes £327 of direct income, £26 million spent by visitors, £20 million in goods and services in the city by club employees and a further £222 million of brands and media value to the local economy, which massively increases the cities profile around the world. Pretty handy for a seaside tourist town. While those figures are eye watering, all football clubs will bring in income; be that from visitors, being major employees – and also the different community activities they carry out.

In many ways Newhaven Football Club has mirrored the fortunes of the small town, which is very much on the up while retaining it's quirkiness. Helped (or hindered!) by the fact that families are leaving Brighton in droves as renting and buying a home becomes impossible making nearby seaside options much more attractive than before. The club have always been pretty well supported - infact the best supported in their league with an average of 264 per game. The imposing stand that was derelict for so long is now open, they've got a 3G pitch thanks to the use of some government regeneration cash and there seems to be improvement works going on continousily. There's always loads of children wearing Newhaven kits. They've got a good social media presence and their decent programme also showed their smart thinking and cost cutting, doubling up for the previous Tuesdays league game as well as this cup one.

I'm really not sure why Newhaven are still in the Southern Combination – well apart from the fact that its bloody hard to get out of Step 5. They have the infrastructure and certainly the crowds to be in the level above, if not further.

I arrived a little earlier and wanting to do my bit for the local economy sniffed out a backstreet boozer, where they had Stella coming out the Kronenbourg tap and the main topic of conversation was a locals moulting dog. Watch out Reg, you could be given a ban or a stretch of hoovering unless you comb your dog before you next visit the pub.

Todays opponents were Spelthorne Sports of the Combined Counties Premier. One guy watching his 16 year old play for Sports said he wished they could match what Newhaven had in terms of crowds and infrastructure. With an average crowd last season of just 47 – probably not helped by 10 other senior clubs just under four miles from them - I wondered if they had picked up many supporters from Staines Towns untimely demise. I know the renamed Staines & Lammas (Middlesex) had hoped to become the town club of choice but maybe that whole sorry saga of the Swans being snuffed out of existence had soured their supporters from watching football ever again.

It was a pretty even first half – 'Spelly' the better attacking team with more chances than a cautious Newhaven and they deservedly took the lead. But blimey, in the second half the Dockers steamrollered the team from Surrey, scoring 6 without reply to win 7-1. Afterwards the man of match with four goals Ian Robinson was interviewed by a very young lad who asked what the manager said at half time – his reply being that it wasn't repeatable!

So eight goals, the obligatory big-ferry-in-the-background pic, my football fix and the very welcome news that Slough had won handsomely away. I'll drink to that, or I would have if I had any money.

Meanwhile Newhaven were in the FA Cup 1st Qualifying round for the first time in 61 years. Yes, they have only played in the competition nine times during that period, but still. Maybe it's a cup run that will help fill those coffers, attract more fans, boost the local economy and finally get them promoted.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023


(* only one of these is a Slough thing)

Printed in the National League South game v Worthing Tuesday 15th August 2023  We lost 4-1 in front of 727

And so it begins. Up and down the country, the worlds oldest cup competition kicks into gear at tidy grounds, in front of small crowds; so far removed from the glitz of the Premier League they might as well be in a different universe.

The Pirates of Bexhill United Football Club have to share with the cricket, so early in the season rely on the goodwill of their neighbours to play home games. Hailsham Town had kindly cancelled their previous days friendly to give their pitch a chance to rest from the rain and it was looking in good nick for the visit of North Greenford United in the FA Cup extra preliminary round.

It was deja vu with the same fixture last season with the vice chairman in the quirky programme pleading to the FA to ‘shake those balls up!’ Mind you with the Premier League getting hold of the Cup TV rights, unshaken balls might be the least of the competitions problems.

This was North Greenford of the Combined Counties Premier Division North first competitive game of the season while Bexhill would have had two under their belt if they hadn’t already had a game called off because of the weather!

I’ve never been to Bexhill's ground but it’s on my radar, with everyone waxing lyrical at their mock Tudor grandstand. There must be a rush to sit in it on matchdays as they have teamed up with Online Ticket Seller, ‘to take advantage of getting your seats early and avoid the rush at the turnstiles.’

I have been to North Greenford's Berkeley Fields, nestled on the edge of a wooded hill behind 1930’s suburbia. They were briefly Sloughs opponents in the Southern League and after wandering through the capitals urban sprawl that would give our Trading Estate a run for its money in the beauty stakes, we found the Black Horse Pub. I really wasn’t expecting to be sitting by a big bay window in an old coaching inn overlooking the Grand Union Canal before a Slough game in Middlesex. It was an amazing location for a pub. But it is of course, now boarded up.

I’ve also been to Hailsham Towns Beaconsfield ground before to watch them play Shoreham. They finished bottom of the league last season and are now in the Southern Combination Division Two – not high enough up the pyramid to enter the FA Cup.

Hailsham is a small market town, famously known for its rope that was used to hang people around the world. I came the Polegate end last time and ended up wandering through industrial estates to reach the ground. Now there’s a new bus route from Brighton to Hailsham, through quaint villages and roads like Harebeating Lane. This was more like it, with a massive church and cricket ground greeting me but as a sign of the times food banks rather than banks. I managed to sniff out a back street boozer the Railway Tavern, all meat raffle, open fire and clutter. The railway stations long since gone, replaced with The Cuckoo Trail part of the National Cycle Network.

You have to walk past Hailsham’s cricket ground to get to the Beaconsfield, which despite some terrible tagging at the entrance is neat and tidy and was filling up nicely. Although the eventual crowd of 105 is very low for Bexhill who averaged 178 last season.

The new Bexhill manager told supporters to expect a new style of football, playing from the back and on the floor but it was the long balls through the middle that was cutting their opponents defence apart – and then there was a spectacular lob from the half way line to catch the Greenford keeper out and into the net. The game was played on the whole in a good spirit and the Pirates deserved their 3-1 victory avenging last seasons cup defeat.

Bexhill have never been past the 2nd qualifying round (and the last time they did that was nearly 50 years ago) and up next for the Pirates is a very tricky away game to Ramsgate; a club who are running a masterclass on how engaging their community massively increases attendances. Maybe they will commender a ship and set sale to Thanet in the hope of bagging more Cup treasure.

Meanwhile the Premier League will no doubt be plotting a raid on the cup, getting rid of replays and playing games midweek. They really are a bunch of old romantics. Or cut throat pirates. Take your pick.

Friday, August 11, 2023


Printed in the National League South game V Dover Athletic 12th August 2023. First home game of the season. We lost 2-1 in front of 778.

I don’t usually bother with friendlies but with the rain saving me hours watering our vegetable gardens and my little ‘un on summer camp, how could I resist the charms of Charlton U21s?

Everyone is waxing lyrical about the changes that have happened at the club. New owners that have brought a new energy, while harnessing the hard work from the volunteers that were already at the club. A winning formula if you ask me, rather than a wrecking ball of we-know-best clear-the-decks that some clubs in our league have done.

I decided to pop into the Wheatsheaf beforehand - which proudly displays the clubs colours - just to make sure it hadn't been closed down. I never thought the real ale Rose and Crown would shut and certainly not the forward thinking busy desi Asian run pub the Three Tuns. Now its the turn of the Herschel, whose landlord is retiring after rows with owners over rent. So will the last publican standing in Slough, please turn out the lights. And what do you think Wetherspoons will do to prices when they have totally captured the market?

Luckily the visit to Arbour Park didn’t disappoint. The fast paced attacking football Scott Davies has gone for is going to be a crowd pleaser, the street food vans, the season ticket deals - and then the programme. Which has always had good content but has had a make over which will make it award winning. There’s now a programme WhatsApp group so we can bounce ideas around and it's these small attention to details that gets the best out of everyone. I left Arbour Park with a big smile on my face and a stomach full of halloumi burger.

So saying I was excited about our first game of the season was an understatement. And then the train companies decided because of an overtime ban they would close every station in Sussex.

As you can imagine Pride is quite a big thing in Brighton. At the last one, as I travelled along the coast line to Havant and Moanystewardsville, every station was packed with people covered in glitter and glam (unlike at Havant, where everyone had Pompey tops on). By the time I returned, Brighton looked like Glastonbury had landed on it.

So no trains for Brighton Pride was a big thing with the council and MPs going apoplectic with rage. Even on strike days there’s a limited service so why the management nuclear option when the unions said they could work round it? But this dispute isn’t just about pay but the way public services are delivered in this country. The fact that the train companies want to close every ticket office or rely on workers doing overtime to function; want to get rid of wifi, no longer do food on most trains, im amazed there are still toilets on board or even chairs as they strip out everything while continuing to put up prices. The attention to detail is just another cost that they don’t want. Infact running a train service seems too much to ask of them. Well apart from a float at pride to show how inclusive they are, which they decided was best to cancel along with all their trains.

But Pride, Storm Atoni and no trains wasn’t going to stop this intrepid traveller. My monthly work bus pass would swing into action, and hurtle me to Tunbridge Wells train station. I managed to find the worst cafe in England and at a quick half pint pit stop in Tonbridge, I found the worst smelling pub toilets. The whole population of Tunbridge seem to want to get on this train as I read Top tips from the towns lifestyle magazine - get rid of cancer by moving to a vineyard and drinking thyme tea. Simples (which could also describe the author of this new age guff).

Maidstone has a bewildering number of train stations and I managed to pick the wrong one and read my map upside down. But a walk along the river Medway and the dual carriageway that cuts through the town found me finally at the Flower Pot to meet Bill and Ben otherwise known as Martin and Alan and Spreadsheet Stu. They had sniffed out a great little boozer near the ground but another in nearby Hope Street was bordered up, sold by the brewery and destined to become flats. Sadly too many Slough had gone straight to Wetherspoons when this little pub would have massively benefited from their custom.

I know I sound like the drunk bloke at the bar, but pubs have a special part in our DNA, but just like everything in this country, they are being asset stripped and closed down just like all the ticket offices. The Tories like to wrap themselves up in the British flag while flogging off everything. It’s a perverse sort of patriotism.

Like Slough, Maidstone spent many years homeless, and this was my first visit to the Gallagher Stadium. Smack bang in the middle of town it didn’t disappoint. While everyone concentrated last season on the National League Wrexham and Notts Country stories, Maidstone's wasn’t such a fairytale, finishing bottom of the pile.

Kent sides always seem well supported and there were nearly 2,000 in the ground. As we assembled behind the goal, for once the hoards of Slough would be out-sung as we rattled through our greatest hits album with some new crowd pleasers (we haven’t learnt Nick the Trumpets Station Jim song yet).

We put on an impressive display but a tame penalty and a sending off undid us against the full time side. I hate losing but I really liked what I saw from a revamped, full throttle Rebels.

When clubs like Torquay and Yeovil get relegated, you know you have to be on your game. Attention to detail this season for every club will be crucial – something which we are getting at Slough Town in bucketfuls and which bodes well for the season. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 01, 2023


Printed in the final friendly of the season v Charlton Athletic U21s Tuesday 1st August 2023  We lost 4-3 in front of 470

Even the most pessimistic of football fans are usually looking forward to the beginning of the season and what might happen.

As for Slough Town supporters. Well, we ended the season on a high - safe from relegation, crowds up, new owners, a spring in our step. The last home game was just brilliant behind the goal, and the amount of youngsters and noticeably girls elbowing us old gits out the way is growing. Clubshop Sue said her friend could hear us on the Wexham Road and it sounded like a carnival - which is what football should be. One person posted. 'It was a great day out. I hadn't been to a game in a very long time and after that great experience I have no idea why I don't go more often. Fans were loud, entertainment was great and the match was pretty good.'

So while i've been sleeping more soundly over the future of Slough Town, our community pub in Brighton has been causing me more headaches, and not just from overindulging.

Years ago, the Bevendean Pub was closed by the police, and the Moulsecoomb estate like so many across the country became a pub free zone. But a group of pig headed, wouldn't-listen-to-reason residents got together and re-opened it as a community pub. That makes it sound easy, but it was anything but, taking five years of campaigning and fundraising and no doubt a lot of praying from Father John, our local charismatic vicar who backed the plan from the start.

Fast forward nine years and the Bevy has become much more than just a pub.

Everyone needs places where they can meet and pubs and football clubs provide just that. All pubs do social good, but the Bevy is turbo charged. You name it, we host it. 

Seniors clubs, job club, afterschool clubs where everyone who comes along gets free activities and free food. Disability discos, plants sales and parkrun. Health drop-in clinics, University talks, the list goes on.

We rely massively on our regulars to keep the garden looking stunning, grow fruit and veg, turn the rocket composter, fix the lights or a broken door; jump behind the bar to help out when we are busy. Exactly what a community pub should be. When i left there the other night, a bus driver was spending his time off repainting the whole of the inside of the pub for free.

In an ideal world, the money from the bar would fund all our community activities. We’ve never quite managed to do this consistently, mainly cos the surrounding area isn’t anywhere near as wealthy as the bright lights of Brighton – and we do stuff like pay staff the Brighton Living Wage, cos it’s the right thing to do.

We are a pub and a community centre. Our community activities are what we are about and what makes us different but with everyone having a lot less cash in their pocket and costs rising all the time this model isn’t working as well as it has previously.

And pubs are continuing to close across the country - even Wetherspoons are shutting down branches.

So what would you do if your football club was faced with closure? Shrug your shoulders and go and support someone else? Or get together with others to fight for its future? With that football fighting spirit in mind, we rolled the dice. Was honest with everyone about our financial predicament, publishing our accounts and asking for help.

The resulting support was overwhelming.

Seventy people crammed into the Bevy for a public meeting - while others have been sending in ideas and ways to make money. It's been hard keeping up with it all, but i'm start-of-the-new-season-optimistic we will get there in the end.

The reality is that we need to start measuring things on social good - not just solely on profits. And how much do our activities save the NHS? Not just helping tackle loneliness and helping with peoples mental health and making sure they are ok. One of our regulars came in the other night. He's not been well and the landlady rustled up some food leftover from the seniors club so he had a hot meal and promised in the morning to pick up his medication for him. How do you put a price on that? 

And just look at were being profit driven only has bought us. Take Thames Water. Imagine being allowed to pay shareholders while 25% of your product literally goes down the drain, you spew sewage everywhere and look set to go bankrupt. Or the rail companies who constantly put up train tickets while services continue to deteriorate, refuse to pay staff more, want to close most of the ticket offices – yet still find money to hand out to shareholders. If’s that’s not being rewarded for failure then I don’t know what is.

As we like to shout from the rooftops the Bevy is the only community owned pub on an estate in the UK. It was a miracle we ever opened – and 9 years later despite millions pumped into the community pub sector we are still the only one. That has to change.

Which brings me back to football.

Enjoy the season, help out when you can, get behind the team - especially when things aren't going so well on the pitch. Oh and when you go to away games, seek out the small independent pubs rather than Wetherspoons. They need our support more than ever. 

If you want to know more about the Bevy go here  or watch this short film

Saturday, April 29, 2023


Printed in the National League South game v Braintree Town Saturday 29th April 2023. The last game of the season. We drew 1-1 in front of 1,163

Hundreds of us stood outside a packed crematorium listening to the speeches when the vicar read out a poem. ‘The Dash’ by Linda Ellis tells us not to focus on the birth and death date – but the dash in between which marks out your life.

The vicar confessed he didn’t usually read it, but it seemed very appropriate for the person we were saying our goodbyes too, because Ian Dean certainly filled out that dash inbetween.

I got to know Ian when we was coaching my eldest. He said he wanted to set up a football team with children from the local estates and Wellesley FC was born. Going from 5 a sides to 11 a side on full sized pitches took some getting used to for the youngsters but they went from losing 15-1 in their first game to winning the league 3 seasons later.

A miracle? Not really – hard work, top coaching and fun was a game changer for so many. With home matches at Brightons Lancing training ground and the Albion in the Community minibus taking them to training and matches, meant that there were no barriers to playing.

Ian and the other coaches never gave up on anyone, providing boots, extra sessions and an arm round a shoulder when it was needed. I loved watching on a Sunday morning seeing the team grow and compete – and finally win the league against our nemesis Crawley Down! Memories I will cherish forever.

I was thinking of this poem walking around Weymouth, a lovely seaside town that I first visited one sunny weekend in 2014 with my family and my Slough family, in the knowledge that this wasn't an FA Cup jolly but a bread and butter Southern Premier league game. Slough had finally arrived back in the Big Time (well, relatively speaking) and were playing Weymouth for the first time ever. Where locals knew that they had a football team and knew where the ground was. As Weymouth beach quickly filled with kiss-me-quick Slough Town hats everyone seemed to be nodding their heads in disbelief after season after season of play-off defeats. Did we finally get promoted or had Tom the Herschel landlord given us one to many free shots?

Fast forward nine years and here we were again with Slough’s league status more of less secured, but with Weymouth's stay in the division hanging by a thread. This season has been a hell or a ride and not a very comfortable one at times, but the Slough support hasn’t wavered or criticised but actually increased in intensity and certainly in surrealness.

If the Prime Minister is serious about wanting to improve everyone's maths skills – short of actually properly funding education - then get them a football spreadsheet from a team facing the drop and let them work out all the permutations. If you’re in a relegation battle, believe me, you will need all those numerical skills and a bucketful of headache pills.

This season was probably the first one ever that I’d visited every ground in our league before a ball was kicked. So hoping for a few new grounds, attention turns to whose coming up and whose coming down. We’ve replaced Ebbsfleet with Maidstone and it’s some way out west trips to Weston-super-Mud and Torquay, while Yeovil are back as opponents. They were in the Championship in 2013 so its a hell of a fall from grace. I’ve never been back since that FA Cup second round defeat all those years ago and never really forgiven them for the way their fans behaved (grown men spitting at 15 years old etc.). Hungerford are gone and you do worry about them, with their charasmatic chairman also leaving. Chesham or Bracknell in the play offs please rather than Truro ‘bloody miles away’ City.

Coming from a town that is the butt of so many friendly-bomb jokes I don’t like to criticise other places, but I won’t miss visiting Concord Rangers. I was there on a cold Tuesday in March, when our away support seemed to make up half the paltry crowd. How there are two senior football clubs on the Island is beyond me. I arrived an hour before the game and there were 2 other people in the clubhouse. No Stewards, flags, songs….. just don’t let Canvey Island replace them! I would prefer Enfield Town, massive opponents years back, lost their ground and became the first supporters owned football club in England. It would be good to see them do well.

It’s welcome back to Bishops Stortford whose programme notes years back coined the phrase ‘misery of Slough fans’. While we are now a lot more cheerful behind the goal, they might well be shoved in the Conference North again. With play off games to come we wont know all our opponents for a couple of weeks.

And finally, can I say a massive thank you to everyone behind the Slough Town scenes who put so much work into the club, so much of it unseen. You are the dashes and without you’re work, our club wouldn’t be thriving. And thank you to the Ian Deans of this world, we need more people like Ian, who showed what a massive difference just one person can make. See you all next season.


I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own --
the cars...the house...the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what's true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more,
and love the people in our lives
like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
with your life's actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?

Saturday, April 15, 2023


Printed in the National League South game v Farnborough Town Saturday 15th April 2023  We won 2-0 in front of 933. 

Easter is a time to not just gorge yourself on chocolate shaped eggs but football. The Good Friday miracle of Slough scoring six meant I could enjoy the weekend a whole lot more, and after watching my little ‘un play football I jumped on the train then bus to the most far flung Sussex footballing outpost – Selsey. Now I could finally sing ‘I drive up to Muswell Hill, I’ve even been to Selsey Bill.’ Total Madness.

Buses are just £2 a trip at the moment but as we huttled through the countryside I pondered why the bus had no more than a dozen passengers. Chichester is a very well to do place; not that you would know it from its run down bus station, as dirty water dripped on my head (even more worrying was where it had come from, as it was a sunny day) and no realtime bus info – this is hardly the facilities to get people out of their cars.

We headed through Selsey 'Bungalow' Bill and past the beach before I hopped off at their tidy high street with small independent shops and pubs and a football club just where it should be. No, not next to a big co-op supermarket but bang in the middle of town.

Who hasn’t shouted Hi Di Ho as their entered their Seal Bay Stadium past the old Pontins gates – part of the old holiday camp which was flattened in the Great Storm in 1987 and is now a massive housing estate. Jutting out to sea, Selsey is on the frontline of floods and rising sea levels while its landmass slowly sinks. Selsey was once virtually an island. Even now, there is only one main route into the town – the road from Chichester. It was on Selsey island that Christianity was introduced to Sussex around AD 680 when St  Wilfrid was driven ashore during a storm and subsequently founded a monastery and cathedral there. Both have long disappeared beneath the sea due to coastal erosion.

I paid a fiver but there was an online programme only and I reckon they missed a trick today with a bumper crowd of 381. Which is very impressive for a town of just 11,000 and for a game ten leagues below the Premier. Selsey are the Southern Combination Division One’s best supported club averaging 180. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many families or mascots at a match. Being out in the sticks, it’s not as if you can go and support another club easily but with their programme plea for more volunteers and coaches to support all their teams, they are obviously a popular and proper community club.

It was Selsey who had inflicted Shorehams first defeat of the season at the end of February – a run that made the Musselmen the last team in the football pyramid to lose. They’ve sat top of the league for most of the season and a win today would more of less guarentee them promotion. As for Selsey they are hoping to be in the play offs and back to the Southern Combination Premier. The highest they have ever played.

The ground had everything – well apart from a stature of a seal. Plenty of space for kids to kick footballs, hitting each other with sticks and poking in mudpiles. There were Narnia type houses whose back garden gates lead into the ground with tortoiseshell butterflies enjoying the nettle patches. But the pitch. Blimey, it was in perfect nick which is just as well cos the youngsters made use of it at half time and after the game.

It was a very decent, if goaless first half and it ended all square at 1-1. So champagne on ice till Monday where Shoreham were hosting near neighbours Mile Oak – which is literally a bus stop in Brighton.

Bank Holiday Monday and I couldn’t get to Taunton, so like some glory hunter I headed to Middle Road to see Shoreham hopefully win the league. There was only one problem with this plan. As the rain lashed down, the players training outside the ground got the shout. The ref had called the game off. To say Shoreham would be disapointed is an understatement. The chance of winning the league in front of a big bank holiday crowd scuppered by the good old British bank holiday weather.

I know people love a grass pitch, but we do need to invest at this level to give all clubs who want it 3G. Instead, too many will be struggling up and down the country to fit games in before the play-offs start. The climate times are a changing and just like everything else in our society, lower league football needs to change and adapt with it, if it has a chance of continuing to thrive.