And you can now breathe a sigh of relief.
No more ruined weekends for a good while. No more angst over yet another display of negative tactics, crap forward lines and constantly going behind.
You can have your Saturday evenings back now. Not to mention your bank balance.
It’s around this time of year that the traditional (?) end-of-season tune favoured by SW19 gets aired. Its lyrics are self-explanatory, and you can thank/blame your editor’s love for Musikladen…
Though I’m not sure what away trip next season will refer to the “you and your mother are out on a date” lyric.
The fact your editor was fiddling (and will continue to fiddle) with themes for this site rather than talk about the t’Stanley game tells you all you need to know.
(For the record, I’m still looking for a free WordPress theme that doesn’t require constant updating, is simple for you to read and me to work with, works on smartphones, looks nice – which I don’t think this current one does – and allows me a bit of flexibility. And yes, that is a request…)
Seriously, I was in the Watford press room on Saturday, checked the score, saw it was 2-0 to them and just rolled my eyes and got back to work.
And that’s how this season has ended. The brutal truth is, this close season couldn’t have come any quicker – and it’s why I think we might have hit lucky with the three points getting deducted when they were.
That incident mentally killed us, which is why I don’t think we should put too much emphasis on the last two fixtures. Yes, they’ve both been horrible results, and we haven’t exactly gone out on a high.
But if anything, it might force us to go further in what we need to do in the summer than maybe what we were going to do.
Off the field we all know about, and one wonders if that might have been the fuck-up too far. I hope it was. But on-field matters may have come to a head as well.
NA was reportedly as animated and angry on the touchline as he’s ever been, and you have to think he finally lost patience with his side.
His post match comments were some of the strongest I’ve read, and I guess he’s been bottling all that up.
When you get comments like:
“We work incredibly hard on giving the players statistics to start games better, but it’s a weak mentality.
“Today was one of the few times this season that in the first 50 minutes we were dishonest. I felt my trust in the players was massively let down.
Then you know that things have come to a head.
Accusing your players of being “weak” and “dishonest” are pretty serious accusations to level, and a lot more damning than simply blaming them of not following your instructions.
But then, the players haven’t got a leg to stand on. How many times did we go behind this season just ended? Around 70% of games, wasn’t it? That’s not all down to NA.
And as for dishonesty…… I can only hope some of that was aimed at Sammy Moore, who before the game once again gobbed off about “doing it for the fans” then doing anything but.
The player cull starts on Wednesday, apparently, and given that the end of season dinner was yesterday (at least, I think it was), it’s obvious the knives are getting sharpened already.
I expect there was a list drawn up even before the infamous day the office was closed. It won’t just be how they perform on the field, but if they’re seen as disruptive or distracted too.
One thing that was evident was that while they were the best group of players we’ve ever had in the AFCW era, they were a lousy team.
It just didn’t seem to click at all. Yes, a lot of that was down to NA managing from a coaching manual rather than what League Two actually requires, but again – it’s not just down to him.
I just don’t think manager and squad were on the same page at all. Even when we did change our tactics it still didn’t seem right.
And that may simply be classic signs that a large minority of this squad has simply reached the end of the road with AFCW. Certainly those from the TB era have.
As far as I can guess, they are all out of contract. I think Sammy Moore might have an option, but TBH I hope it doesn’t get taken up. He’s not irreplaceable and I think we can do better.
And his replacement won’t mouth off about owing the fans and flogging his Herbalife shit.
So that will be Seb Brown, Midson, Luke Moore (maybe), Sammy Moore (maybe), and Antwi from that era, and that’s off the top of my head.
A back-up keeper won’t be a problem to replace, the two Moores and Antwi likewise, and if we can properly replace Midson then we’ll quickly forget him.
As said earlier, I expect NA’s mind has been made up enough to move more players on than he would have planned.
A quick run-down of the team list on Saturday, and we can guesstimate who’ll be wearing Admiral-branded kit next season. Assuming no other club/the glue factory offers us money:
Ross Worner – stay.
Barry Fuller – stay.
Peter Sweeney – unsure. Bit injury prone and we are short in the LB position.
Alan Bennett – stay. Third choice CB but still useful.
George Francomb – stay.
Sammy Moore – unsure. Won’t be upset to see him go.
Jack Midson – 99% gone
Will Antwi – 99% gone
Aaron Morris – can’t remember if he’s ours or not. Unsure either way.
Tom Richards – see Aaron Morris.
Kwesi Appiah – likely back at Palace and to be seen at an L1 club near you next campaign.
Danny Hylton – one of only two praised by NA on Saturday. Wouldn’t be a bad third choice striker, actually, if we don’t have to pay too much for him. Sure Steve Evans will happily sell him to us.
Darren Jones – other one praised by NA on Saturday. Out of contract, but worth a go at getting him.
Chris Arthur – stay.
Luke Moore – 99% gone, especially if it’s true that Margate are going to offer him a four-figure weekly wage.
Harry Pell – stay.
Jake Nicholson – unsure.
Seb Brown – gone.
Obviously there’s also Frampton (stay), KSL (probably stay), Sheringham (gone or put on a season-long loan), Strutton (see Sheringham), Weston (see Strutton) and doubtless one or two others that have slipped my mind.
So that’s a fair amount on the “out” list, if NA is still pissed off enough to wield the axe*
* – metaphorically, although perhaps literally given his current mood.
I won’t be sorry about any that do leave, and I don’t think we should pay much heed to those who complain that we’re getting rid of a load of players again.
If a set of players don’t perform, and they won’t under a new boss either, then there’s no point keeping them on. Even when we did have a good spell, we still weren’t entirely convincing.
In the 2012/13 campaign, our boss made much of the fact that the squad was a unit, that it stayed behind in training etc. There didn’t seem much of that this time round, and Benno hinted that there were little geography-based factions in one of his pieces for the local paper that I annoyingly can’t find right now.
So if it’s like that, then it’s better to remove as much as you can, then just get a new set of players who may bond together better as a team.
I don’t think NA quite knew what he wanted at the end of last season, beyond sorting out the back line (which HAS been done, last two games notwithstanding). That’s something that looks robust enough, and now the same needs to be done in midfield and upfront.
He’s got a lot of thinking to do, and just as importantly a lot of acting upon. He played at the charity game yesterday, and those there said how much more relaxed he seemed to be. Guess he’s as glad as anyone that the season is now over, and he can have a fresh start to it.
AFCW still needs a lot of rebuilding, and every so often we get reminded of that in stark terms. It’s quite sickening to read the final league table and see that our position in 2012/13 was exactly the same as in 2013/14.
And even worse that there’s no asterix beside it which there should have been. On-field, we finished 16th – not ideal but a lot more accurate as to what we were.
We were definitely better this time around, but too much mental weakness held us back. At least we can now do something about it.
Finally, we now know that we’ll be going to Carlisle and Tranmere next season. And we just have to wait to see who goes up from the playoffs – both the L2 and Conference ones.
I’m hoping that the Heed do it against Cambridge, although I doubt if our fans will complain if the Us go up again.
Just one thing : if Cambridge get promoted, and they play Oxford, will the BBC cover their game? After all, many of their employees are Oxbridge educated, and if they can show the utterly pointless Boat Race…