Baker and Underwood want to go 'to the next level' with Slough Town

The last weekend of May marked the 10th anniversary of Neil Baker and Jon Underwood's arrival as Slough Town's joint managers and, in light of that, Underwood has been taking a little trip down memory lane, reflecting on the many highs - and some lows - of their tenure.

It's been a decade to remember for Rebels' fans, one of continual progress that's brought the club two promotions via the play-offs, county cup success and a little FA Cup magic.

It's been a symbiotic relationship for Baker and Underwood and the club, one which has worked out well for both parties, and the pair retain the ambition of taking the Rebels to the next level, despite the limitations of being a part-time club with moderate finances.

The duo were appointed by former chairman Steve Easterbrook back on May 28, 2013, having already achieved success with Godalming Town, taking that club to third place in the Southern League Division 1 Central.

They brought several of those players with them to Slough and, initially playing home matches in Beaconsfield's Holloways Park before the club's new home at Arbour Park was built, they put the building blocks in place for two promotions.

The first of those, to the Southern League Premier Division, came in 2014, when Slough battled back from two goals down to defeat Kettering Town 3-2 in the play-off final.

Then, four seasons later, they did it again, beating King's Lynn Town 2-1 away from home to step up into the National League South.

Aside from their progress in the league, the club has also enjoyed two remarkable FA Cup runs, reaching the second-round proper in 2017 and 2018 before losing at home to League 1 outfits Rochdale and Gillingham respectively.

They've also lifted the Berks & Bucks Senior Cup after defeating Reading in the final in 2019.

“It’s quite unusual these days to do 10 years at one club,” said Underwood. “But Neil and I look back at the time with pride in what we’ve done.

“There has, of course, been some challenges – the COVID period was very difficult – but we’ve definitely had more highs and happy memories than lows and hard times.

“Slough Town has been good for us and hopefully supporters feel we’ve been good for the club too. I guess the challenge now is pushing the club to that next level again.

“Neil and I are both ambitious, we want to go up another level as managers and we’d love to do that with Slough. A lot of the talk currently is ‘how do we make that happen?’. The National League South is a tough division to get out of – there are a lot of well-financed and full-time clubs in the league.

“We would hope that come the end of the season there will be a match or a couple of events to celebrate our 10 years. But that’s something we haven’t really thought about or discussed yet. We’re focused on the new season.

“Naturally, we don’t want to stand still as a club, and we are very much looking to do things better and get the best squad together we can.”

Baker and Underwood are once again in the process of building a squad they believe can challenge for promotion. They've held onto a healthy core of last season's team - including goalkeeper Jonathan North who signed terms for the new season this week - while former player James Dobson has also been lured back to Arbour Park.

“He was a huge part of the success we had at the end of our time at step three and getting promoted to step two, and even the cup runs we had,” said Underwood. “He scored a lot of goals, he created a lot of goals as well, and that gave him the opportunity to move to Sutton (United) who were in the National League at the time.

“We don’t like losing players to rivals in our league, but they certainly have our blessing if they want to move up the football pyramid. We maintained a good relationship with him and once he became available, we felt it was only right that we brought him back.

“I feel like we’ve got the basis of a good side for next season. Where we are lacking a little bit is goals, whether that be creating or scoring. Hopefully Dobbo will help us with that.”

Underwood added: “With the retained players we’ve announced, we’ve got a strong core in terms of goalkeeper, defence, and midfield. It’s the top end of the pitch we need to recruit in. We are having lots of conversations in that department, and we are hopeful in the next couple of weeks there will be some further signings.”

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