Little chickens

At least we only have one more game left.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect anyone to do some scribing for the Bradford game. So you can thank Reigate Womble for the following…

On a very enjoyable weekend visiting a friend from university in Saltaire, there was a minor distraction between 15.00 and 17.00 on Saturday afternoon. Other than that, Saltaire is a beautiful place, and there beer is good too.

I was hardly expecting miracles on Saturday, but to continue our goalless April run and still looking like we won’t bag a goal until next August, I didn’t think we would be that bad!

It was a nice day in Yorkshire, sun was shining, the venue impressive, and you just hoped if it would be the Wimbledon of old that could churn out one last impressive away performance before we finally put this season to bed.

It was merely a hope. Scrambles in our box within the first minute or so were a sign of things to come, and we never got going… ever.

An uneventful first 25-30 minutes was interrupted with a Bradford penalty, and whilst many of our fans would feel hard done by, it only brought forward the inevitable.

Meades did try and tackle from behind, whilst he did get the ball, the player also went down and from the referee’s angle he thought it was a penalty. Macca got close, but it wasn’t enough. 1-0 Bantams.

The rest of the half-played out, with a late challenge from a Bradford player on Meades saw his withdrawal and only a yellow for the tackle. Again, Wimbledon fans feeling even more incensed.

Just as we were expecting to hear the halftime whistle, down our left-hand side, a Bradford player brought down Barcham whilst still on the floor, the ball ran loose and Mark Marshall (Bradford’s MOTM- I don’t know how) mishit his cross and I still can’t work how it ended up in the net… somehow past Macca at the near post.

That was that, 2-0 at half time, no way really back for Wimbledon and plenty of abuse aimed at the ref.

As a side note, whilst the ref wasn’t great on Saturday and chants were ringing out at half-time “We always get s*** refs”, he wasn’t to blame for our abject performance and in all honesty, I don’t think the refs have had significant bearings on results for us this season.

The second half saw the introduction of Poleon, with Charles withdrawn. Poleon had about one run down the wing which one a corner, and other than that, was about as effective as Tom Soares, who I noticed about as much on Saturday as when he’s playing!

I do wonder if Poleon will still be here next year. I’ve been very unimpressed since the turn of the year and NA’s post-match comments were scathing and should rattle a few complacent players seeing out the season.

The inevitable third without reply went in, again at Macca’s near post and although it was a free run in at goal, it did seem soft.

The full-time whistle went and again, we went home without a hint of anything positive to take away.

It was comforting to read NA’s post-match comments. He has been very defensive of his players since Christmas and quashed any rumours after Peterborough that they were in holiday mode. It seemed yesterday, all that defence came to an end.

To quote:

“I have a big job in the summer. I have a bit of clearing out to do, but I have to take responsibility. This is my squad that I’ve put together and today has shown that we are far short of the best teams in League One.”

That’s a sign he’s not happy, and Saturday may have been the final straw for his defence of his players. We never looked like scoring bar an occasional run down the wing with no end product. We haven’t won since home against Rochdale, and that was against 10 men!

What next for NA?

I’m semi-optimistic reading his post-match comments. They show he is aware of how poor we have generally been since Christmas and maybe he has been defending his players to prevent any crisis, whilst in the background planning for the summer and the need to rebuild.

The issue is, does the squad require major surgery? Comments on SW19 the other week mentioned limited rebuilding needed. Maybe this was the sign we need more.

If NA were to cull severely I could see any one of the players on the list below go as they haven’t performed at a high enough level, if at all featured, since January:

Poleon, Whelpdale, Francomb, Bulman, Barnett, Oakley, Fitzpatrick, Kelly, Robertson – some could even stretch that to include Meades and Soares.

I don’t think NA would be that severe in his cull, but looking at the above list, he signed quite a few of them last summer… and how many of them are on two year deals?

This summer’s recruitment needs to be spot on. My big question mark is what we do with the GK situation. Shea is a good League 2 keeper at most. He’s been ok this year, but is still prone to mistakes.

He will be on more money than Macca and Macca could do a back-up keeper role from what I’ve seen in the last three games.

Anyway, time to enjoy one more pint of Saltaire blonde before heading back home. How we could do with a win next Saturday, even if it means nothing positionally, just to know what it feels like again!

I’ll admit that I only read NA’s post match comments this morning, and yes – they’re pretty scathing of the squad. Somehow, a tether’s end got reached over the weekend…

Not that I blame our manager for bawling out players who – let’s be blunt – have absolutely shit the fucking bed after the Franchise game. You can tell how things have fallen when you read the result and you’re not surprised one bit.

It’s odd that we’ve gone from a squad that would likely stay up again quite comfortably next season to suddenly needing to get torn apart and starting again.

Which makes you wonder what all this is really about. Yes, it’s been awful since 14/3/17. Yes, we’re finding out we need to sort out the Tom Elliott situation, and bring in a good replacement if need be.

Yes, we’ve switched off and played like we were already getting pissed in Las Vegas for the last month. And yes, as STTA said a week or two back, we are paying in part for such a truncated close season in 2016.

But something has gone wrong, and quite badly at that.

It could simply be a case of a collection of players that has got to this stage, safety in L1, and needs to be broken up now. It does happen quite a bit with squads that need changing, that all of a sudden, they nosedive.

There’s a similarity in some ways to our first season in the Conference, when we were finding out the hard way that being part time was killing us. Going professional was the best thing we did back then, even if it required some immediate changes of plan.

Remember TB’s “live with mum” approach to going pro? That lasted about three weeks IIRC.

What the 2017/18 equivalent of that is remains to be seen. However, it’s clear that this is going to be a busy close season yet again, and it’s not going to be a pretty one for those wanting stability.

But if our current problems aren’t the squad, then what is it? NA himself? Before I go on, he’ll be here next season and has earned the right to be – though of course, no manager is ever entirely safe at any side.

Including ours.

And our current manager is under pressure a bit, which may explain his weekend comments. He’ll be expected to at least match finishing in 15th next season, which isn’t that unreasonable a target for us in truth.

He’ll possibly (if not probably) have to deal with replacing Elliott, and he’s getting brickbats over signing Barnett and Whelpdale recently. Two poor signings, and by the sound of it not cheap ones either.

It’s true that any club can damage itself by just one bad close-season of recruitment. That’s especially applicable to us this next three months, and just looking at Reigate’s “out” list above, a lot of those are players we signed last summer.

Except in the case of Tom Soares, who we signed in January and had been tracking for a good while, apparently.

Tyrone Barnett and Chris Whelpdale are the butt of many jokes. Robertson handled against whoever it was and he’s never been seen since. Soares hasn’t inspired too many, though he needs a proper pre-season with us, and the less said about Ryan Clarke the better.

When you look at it in those terms, we had a very bad transfer record last summer that we managed to get away with. Only Parrett is off the cull list for most people, and perhaps Kelly is the other one many would keep.

The rest honestly wouldn’t be missed, and if we find that certain players are sticking to their contracts and won’t be budged, we’ll be lumbered with some pretty expensive mistakes.

And if there’s one thing our board does not like, it’s drains on our resources. Especially as NPL is going to take ever increasing priority. Perhaps they might be reading NA’s “we’ve not got much money” comment with interest…?

Finally, it probably escaped your notice but Kingstonian played their last game at KM this weekend. And I can sense the collective shrugging of shoulders through my LCD screen already.

I was going to sit down and write a separate article on them, why it’s come to this stage etc etc. Hell, I even thought of a snappy headline – “The Ks Catalogue”. Then I realised that if I was going to do that, I’d lose interest half way through.

And that is a good metaphor for the relationship between AFC Wimbledon and Kingstonian. They’re gone, and I don’t think they’re going to be particularly missed.

It never worked out, did it? Especially considering it should have been a slam dunk of an arrangement, even down to AFCW fans popping to KM to watch the other team there on occasions.

I did the latter thing once. Just once. So did quite a few others, and that tells its own story. A Ks game was a lot different to watching AFCW at the same venue, even back in 2004. Our games were full of life and vitality, theirs were, well, typical non-league really.

There wasn’t much reason to return for a second time, put it that way.

Not that it ever seemed a particularly “warm” relationship, even from the off. Cast your mind back to 2002 and the embryonic stages of what we call AFC Wimbledon. We all remember the Slutton game back then.

But how many of you remember we played Ks at KM three weeks later? In front of 4500? I’m not making that up by the way, and I don’t think I even bothered doing a report for that fixture. But draw your own conclusions as to why nobody remembers it.

I suppose it was always a marriage of convenience and not much more. We needed a decent ground at short notice, Ks were vulnerable after losing KM to Khosla in 2001 (IIRC), and it seemed to fit in.

But there was always a bit of suspicion, especially from those in red and white. Were we taking over and taking their potential support away? Perhaps, but the clientele at a “typical” non-league is a lot different to watching AFCW – those who chose not to watch Ks weren’t likely to go to them, even if we never existed.

Something a lot of non-league clubs that level still find it difficult to put their head around, to this day.

They felt we should have been grateful that KM was available. OK, fine – except we were genuinely looking at Imperial Fields even in the first AFCW season. Who knows how history would have changed if that happened after all?

We would have found somewhere to play eventually. I don’t think they liked us saying that we were giving them a damn good deal, when we finally took over the KM tenancy.

Trust me, we could have been a lot more arsey with them, and there were other potential suitors who wouldn’t have thought twice about kicking them out in 2004…

From our point of view, I think we just got fed up with being constantly blamed by some of their fans. Not all of them, and some do seem to get what’s what, but they seemed to take it as a personal affront when we asked them “what have YOU done to save yourselves?”.

The biggest bugbear from us to them is exactly that. They had fifteen years or so to sort themselves out, to raise money (either through their own efforts, or tying up with local businesses etc) to buy at least some stake in KM, and they didn’t even save enough for a pot to piss in.

Even if they couldn’t buy it outright from us, at least save up enough to go to Chelski (or whoever) and make a business arrangement to remain there with them.

But it’s easier to blame us, I suppose. Hell, I’ve even seen some of them blame their directors for paying us just to look after the pitch post-game.

AFCW fans do like clubs to be self-sufficient, to make good use of any windfall. That’s why there’s an affection with Merstham, or Walton Casuals, or Hartley Witney. Ks don’t fall into that category, if anything it’s totally the opposite.

And that’s why nobody on the blue/yellow side at KM will shed too many tears at their departure.

They’re on their own now, and one suspects their problems are just starting. A cursory glance at their forum (you can find it yourself) suggests there’s a lot of factionalism, some of it pretty poisonous, but they will no longer be our problem.

Will they still exist in ten years time? Who knows? Though I suspect many reading this will answer “who cares?” – while I don’t wish to see any club bar the obvious go to the wall, I feel pretty unsympathetic to them now.

Probably because of these stickers left behind at KM after Saturday. If that’s how some of their “brains” think, then I wouldn’t blame any Ks director for just settling their debts then doing a runner.

Still, if they want to goad us with that, we’ll just put them in with their fellow whingers the doggers and stockies. Perhaps they could all meet up every Saturday, and spend all their time blaming us for their buses being late?

On second thoughts, doing something like that would require a bit of effort and planning. And we all know how bad they are at that…

16 thoughts to “Little chickens”

  1. And I thought it was going to be a quite off season ….

    I must admit in my laid back accept the world type of way I had almost forgotten Ks still played at KM.

    So no wont miss them and so want someone someday to write the whole Ks-AFCW story from the 90’s to the present day with references!

    Your true vocation at last Rob!

  2. All well and good chucking out half the squad (including Jon Meades – really?) but then what do we do? Where is the money coming from for better players bearing in mind the majority of those we’re dumping are youngsters on low wages and we may need to pay off a couple of contracts?

    Those mistakes last Summer may be more costly than anyone yet realises. Barnett wasn’t playing for Shrewsbury so he couldn’t have been scouted properly. 2 grand a week on a 2-year contract for a player you haven’t seen in action was – at best – very risky.

    It has also been suggested Whelpdale was recommended by Parrott and Charles, did we sign him on that basis, again without properly scouting him or understanding his injury risk?

    What’s for sure is between the 2 of them that’s somewhere in the region of £350 – 400k we’ve wasted. A rather awkward backdrop for getting the buckets out or inviting Mike Richardson to dinner.

    Neal is in a bit of a hole because all the noises suggest there is very little (if any) new money to spend and Bulman is the only decent earner we’re ditching for free. The question is will the board mortgage a bit more of our future elsewhere and dig him out. And if they don’t will Neal see that as the club’s ambitions no longer matching his own.

    1. Wonder if NA over-reacted after Saturday’s game, to make him say all that?

      It’s odd that we’ve gone from being OK for next season to suddenly implying half our squad needs impaling.

  3. Parrett will leave I think as NA sees him as a luxury player and he doesn’t track back so can’t play him in a 2 with reeves so i wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave in the summer

  4. “HAFSOG” and “Little Chickens” indeed! At a recent match, a couple of Fans who, along with myself, witnessed yet another blank scoreline asked if we ever scored any goals in the first half of any game. Whilst they meant these remarks as tongue in cheek, it did seem a worthwhile exercise to see how often this has happened this season. “We never take the game to the opponent irrespective of their position in the league” was another remark, so here are some stats that I don’t think messrs. Nil Ardley and Nil Cox will want to see.
    In 22 home league games this season, we had 12 “Nils” in the first half, 5 “Nils” at full time and no less than 8 “Nils” in the second half of these matches. Our “Away” record is pretty much a disgrace with (out of 23 league games) we have 16 “Nils” in the first half, 12 “Nils” at full time and no less than 15 “Nils” in the second half of these matches. I know that football has become known as a “game of two halves” but this is ridiculous. This surely proves my point once and for all that NA is a reactive manager rather than a proactive one.
    When you consider that we still managed to stay up despite the above stats, we can see that a lot of the time we were served up a lot of rubbish and, hence, a lot of dissatisfied people on WUP and on here said as much.
    The percentage of the “Nils” to the matches played is quite astounding and has to be a wake up call for next season where the end of this one echoed that of the final full season with TB at the helm. I put the bulk of the problems down to tinkering by NA, especially after we lost Fuller to injury. This was NA’s opportunity to mess around with 352 or similar “formations”, despite the fact that our best runs followed a flat back four set up. Admittedly, the “Fuller situation” did not cause an immediate problem but the lack of a direct replacement for him and a settled left-footed left back (we got rid of one of them at the end of last season) gave NA the “impetus” to continue with these odd formations that (let’s face it) do not work. We need somebody to point out to NA that his negative tactics produce the sort of stats I have shown here or we’ll definitely be relegation cannon fodder next time out.

    1. You need to come to Meet the Manager next season and put that evidence in front of him.

      If you are unwilling to do that I am sure you could find a substitute but you saying it having researched it will give it more gravitas.

      I am aiming to go this coming year as I could not last and I too have some ‘interesting’ questions to fire at him; all I hope will bring a positive outcome or a very well reasoned argument against why the way things are might likely stay the way things are.

      Perception sometimes is the truth.

  5. This positively screams Ardley’s lost the dressing room. To go from ‘proud of my boys’ to ‘we are well sh*t’ in just a few weeks is odd to say the least.

    Maybe they’re fed up of his cwazy formations? Or playing people out of position? Or negative football? Or taking the fun out of it?

    Whatever it is, they gave up giving a f*ck weeks ago and Ardley appears to have lost the plot.

    If a manager can’t motivate a player, that’s the player’s problem. If a manager can’t motivate a whole team of players, that’s the manager’s problem….

  6. Well. Bit surprised at most of the comments, some with venom!
    Weeks ago we beat the scum. Since when, we all know that it’s been
    Holiday time. Put in a few youngsters but basically cruise through.
    Sure we haven’t scored this month, so what? For much of the season we
    Have been in the positive for goals for/against so we couldn’t have been
    That bad – yet some previous post suggested ditching half the team.
    Think you want and see mate, word is Elliott’s off. Reeves might go to
    Bolton, LTb is fancied by QPR… let’s not panic yet Mr Mannering

  7. It’s a strange one. Couple of matches ago I was pretty relaxed about things, it’s been a good first season in League 1, and I would have been with you Mike M. However, NA is usually so measured in his comments that to ‘lose it’ like he did post Bradford makes me wonder if Sir Mason has called it right. Is Neal just trying to fire them up for one last effort this weekend or has there been a collective ‘downing of tools’ which is much more than just easing up a bit post Franchise? Interesting to see what is served up Sunday – more of the same may confirm more than a few challenges for the management team over the summer. We’ll see.

    1. I still like STTA comment in I think the last report stating that our players probably are on the beach inasmuch they didn’t have much of a break last year; a tad unprofessional I would think but then if you think how you run out of steam sometimes in your life perhaps it is understandable.

      I also get the feeling the MK game collectively on and off the pitch drained us as a club. Despite our best intentions it was a circus all round and with the forerunner of the Charlton match as well perhaps we as a club have just run out of steam as well.

      Not to say that we have to accept things as they are but change will be needed and be inevitable; it always is if you wish to move forward.

      Some interesting discussions going on about who to keep and who not too; looks to me like maybe only half a dozen people are absolutely safe from the chop otherwise everyone else is up for review. And that is the way it should be. I am only worried slightly by NAs recent comments that he might throw the ‘baby out with the bath water.’

  8. I think NA and his team have done a great job this season. To comfortably finish 15th is more than most us could have expected … if we had our sensible heads on! It’s a shame the season has petered out the way it has and I cannot wait for it to finish now and start looking forward to next season. If NA lambasted the players every time they put in a bad performance, he could lose the dressing room as there has been plenty of matches that have warranted it but I think his post-match comments on Sat was just a build-up of the ‘holiday mode’ or whatever you want to call it performances over the last month. Hopefully it will fire the players up and we can finish on a high Sunday.
    NA’s transfer history has been pretty good, if you consider where it has taken us, with the exception of Ryan Clarke which still baffles me even now. I trust NA to do what he has to do with the squad and let’s hope everyone is behind him next season to try and push on. Until we are at NPL we really don’t want to be thinking about the Championship, a few more years consolidating in L1 is probably what we need.
    P.s. love reading the match reports on this site, keep up the good work and thank you to all involved.

  9. Jam – I think not having much of a break also excuses/mitigates Neal’s worst transfer window by a mile. Whelpdale crocked, Barnett useless, Poleon not a team player. I also wonder how well Parrett trains because he’s spending a lot of time on the bench. Clarke we know about and Robertson also seems to be on his way. If you add all that up last Summer’s business was a complete disaster.

    Having listened to it again I think there was also a clue to this in Neal’s post-Bradford rant when he said ‘the squad is not good enough’. Our first XI is pretty solid, talent and attitude wise but when we’ve used the squad we’ve look out our depth. This has happened for periods during the season and this disappointing spell recently.

    1. Yes, fair point to not enough depth in the squad given long term absences and certain player’s ability NOT to perform at times.

      Whelpdale when he was occasionally on the pitch at KM when I saw him certainly seemed to be able to head a ball well…. but that seemed about it. Shame. High hopes when signed.

      Certainly the youth do not seem to instil Ardley with confidence to come on but if what is out there is not doing it and you are losing what have you to lose? Egan’s lack of use has been perplexing at times if he is the best of the rest.

      Poleon has always been a better Azeez to me and though disappointing I would keep for another year.

      Parrett too – I think he brings a lot to the game for us and I think his latter attitude might be down to on quite a few occasions playing well and then not in the team next week. Must be frustrating to a young player. Another year and a partnership/friendship with Reeves and the role of going forward to attack could bring out a very good player in him.

      Otherwise there are a lot of different players out there in the team and the squad who could be looking over their shoulders and suddenly realising they are in a ‘relegation battle’ of their own!

  10. I feel that our season overall has been a success. Ivor talked about it on twitter as a two year project finishing. iI think everyone is knackered! Neal Ardley has never let us down and I dont expect that will happen next season. I think there has been a bit of an over reaction to recent form, which Neal Ardley joined in with on Saturday! In terms of transfer budegt if we did sell Lyle to QPR then we would get a good amount for him, that I would hope we could put into the transfer budget. Id be sad to see Lyle go, but Id never heard of him before he came to us. So I would expect a Neal and the managment team to find a new striker that we will all love next year!

  11. Let’s not overreact, it’s a long old season (following a short pre-season) and I really don’t find it surprising that the players have switched off. It really is human nature. It’s obviously frustrating, but knee-jerkism won’t get us anywhere.

    Ardley going public with his comments is the only surprise here, but he will have already formed opinions of his players long before Saturday you’d think. Elliot and Reeves leaving would be a big loss, but if they bring in the money needed to get cover for them and maybe one or two other positions, then so be it. Crucial summer for NA, this.

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