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Tuesday 25th October 2016 ko 19.45

Southern League Premier Division

SLOUGH TOWN 2 (Moone 24 Hollis 89)

DORCHESTER TOWN 1 (Walker 11)

Att 589

Entry £10

Programme £2

When Slough Town left Wexham Park after a rent dispute in 2003 few would have bet on two things coming to pass. The first would be 13 years later the Rebels would return to Slough less than a mile from the old ground, and the second that Wexham Park would still be standing, and still recognisable as a football ground. Under the circumstances it seemed entirely sensible to pay the old ground a visit before the new…

The only problem was a rather over officious security guard, who told me that I couldn’t take pictures due to it being “Private Property.” Now I’m fairly certain that the ownership of a patch of land has little or nothing to do with my ability to take a picture, so here’s the one shot I did take, and for a better look do visit Mishi Morath’s site for his visit six years ago.

Slough moved into Wexham Park in 1973 after their original home the Dolphin Stadium was sold for development- it’s now a Sainsbury’s just to the east of the railway station. The rent dispute in 2003 saw Slough exiled first at Windsor & Eton’s (now Windsor FC) Stag Meadow, and from summer 2007 at Beaconsfield FC’s Holloways Park.

It was far from ideal for a club that had graced the Conference/National League Premier, and fortunately Slough Council had the foresight to see a way of squaring the circle of bringing Slough Town home, and providing a community asset.

The Rebels moved into Arbour Park in August 2016. It’s council owned, and it clearly set up as a community facility with Slough Town as the anchor tenant. The pitch is top-notch 3G and there is shared use with St Joseph’s Catholic High School, and the site includes buildings to provide a base for Lynch Hill Enterprise Academy.

With the ground being closer to the town centre than Wexham Park, parking is an issue. The car park at the ground is permit only and the club provide excellent advice as to car parks within walking distance of the ground although I’m bound to say there seemed to be plenty of street parking too. I did however have an ulterior motive for parking at the railway station- I wanted to meet a 122-year-old dog.

Station Jim sits in a glass case on platform 5 at Slough station. The story goes that he was discovered as an abandoned pup in 1894 on the lines and adopted by station staff. He was fitted with a satchel and taught to bark when someone put a penny in his purse. He collected for Great Western Railway Widows and Orphans Fund so successfully that when he died in 1896 he was stuffed and placed in a glass case, and since there’s a collecting box he still collects for charity today!

From there it’s about a 15 minute walk north to Arbour Park, and the first thing you’ll notice is that the stadium isn’t finished, to the point that once in the park I turned right towards the turnstiles and did wonder whether unwittingly I’d avoided paying! I hadn’t, and its the main stand only that isn’t finished. I can understand though why some hoppers are leaving this one until Phase 2 is complete!

With the ground already up to Southern League standards, it was entirely logical to get the facility open and earning money to help with the costs of getting the next phase completed; that’s scheduled to be at some point before the end of the season. It all seems in contrast to the problems that have bedeviled Fry Club, and there’s plenty of room for expansion should Slough reach the National League, or even higher!

And if this game was anything to go by that expansion may well be needed soon. It wasn’t that they swept Dorchester aside, they won after all with a late goal, but any serious football watcher knows that good sides find a way to win.

This has been the the season for the non-league return, with the likes of Fisher and Hadley both returning home too I’d like to think they, and Slough can give hope to other clubs exiled in long-term groundshares.

 

 

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