Arbour Park and Slough Town FC logo

Arbour Park, Slough

Slough Town FC vs. Eastleigh FC

"Every thing must have a beginning," writes Mary Shelley in her novel Frankenstein. But as this beginning was back in 1994 we're going to begin somewhere in the middle instead. 25 years later and attending my 475th game of football seems the most logical place to start this blog.

Outside Arbour Park, Slough
Outside Arbour Park, confirming the name of the facility in case you didn't believe me.

With a new season on the horizon, my first game as someone who decided to start writing about all the games I go to when I'm bored, took me back to the site of my milestone 400th game as a paying customer (this figure is dubious, given that my dad paid for many of my earlier games and I've been to a few free ones too. But you get the jist). It also allows me to begin in Berkshire, which is even more helpful given the title of this blog, and at a ground with facilities I hold so near and dear to my heart, a 3G pitch.

The very mention of 'artificial pitch' to the most stereotypical of football fans causes them to recoil in a way that can only be replicated when Quint scratches the blackboard in Jaws. They remember the days of cheesegrater like surfaces leaving skin hanging off their knees whenever you attempted as much as a kneel, the pitch at Loftus Road, and yes, even the threat of cancer, as all the evidence they need to come up with the informed conclusion that "they're a load of shite".

Main stand at Arbour Park, Slough
View of the main stand, and pristine playing surface. No waterlogged pitches here.

Yet, having seen numerous games on 3G pitches over the last few years, the benefits are most noticeable at non league level (obviously, since the EFL treats them like the second coming of Satan). Games aren't called off at the slightest hint of inclement weather, surfaces aren't ruined by wear and tear, clubs can benefit from using the surface at all times, and the standard of football improves once you don't have to try and navigate a terrain with all the flatness of a mountain range.

I've been a season ticket holder at Maidenhead for the last few years, and have seen many a game where the ball takes on a life of its own, bobbling uncontrollably under foot once winter hits as if it were controlled by Dennis the Menace, and games are often reduced to head tennis and long punts up and down the field. It gets boring. Teams who call a 3G pitch their home have, at least in my experience, been able to play at a much quicker tempo, as well as keeping the ball glued to the green stuff, and not the centre back's head.

A closer photo of Arbour Park's main stand
A closer look at the main stand. There's a spacious bar area at the top, complete with terraces.

Arbour Park is a modern facility, which you'd hope for since it opened in 2016. I'd been three times previously, having attended the first game at the new stadium when they hadn't got around to completing the spectator facilities, the 2017 infamous Berks & Bucks Cup final that took place long after the season finished, and a 2018 Berks & Bucks Cup semi final between Slough and the MK Dons under-23 side.

Travelling to the ground can be an adventure. In previous attempts I'd gone via the train station, or parking in the town centre. But as this was a preseason game and offered free parking, I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to park outside the ground.

View from the main stand at Arbour Park
View from atop the main stand, looking across at the smaller seated stand.

The side streets leading to Arbour Park offer fans of claustrophobia and those incapable of judging their car's width, something to sink their teeth into. Weaving round tightly parked cars in streets too narrow for even a pedestrian is the norm, but it's easy enough to find.

There's never a bad seat in the house at Arbour Park. Views are great wherever you stand or sit. And spending the first half right next to a bunch of hardcore Eastleigh fans allowed me to at least find out who some of the mystery trialists were.

View of one of the standing areas at Arbour Park
View of one of the sheltered standing areas behind the goal.

I did get stumped by the steward's question of "are you a fan?" at the entrance of the car park. Why I felt the need to say "no" (to be fair, it is the truth as I'm not a fan of Slough or Eastleigh) I don't know. Maybe had I brought my boots (I don't own any) I could have joined the other names of 'Trialist' on both team sheets.

Having spent last year suffocating in an unprecedented streak of not seeing a 0-0 for over year (until Wantage Town and Brackley Town Saints put paid to that streak), I was wondering if this game would end the new streak I'd been putting together. I needn't have worried. Both sides decided they couldn't be bothered to treat this as a training exercise and I was treated to an exciting seven goal game which swung back and forward, without the tension of the game being at all relevant to worry about.

Useless information about Arbour Park

Address: Stoke Road, Slough, Berkshire, SL2 5AY
Capacity: 2,000
Pitch Type: Artificial
Ticket Price: £6
Programme: £1, 8 pages

Slough Town FC 2019/20 season programme