And that, as they say, is that.
I suppose there was something fitting in the way 2016/17 ended with Boon 0 Mills 0. Probably because it summed up the last seven months or so – a lot of endeavour, some moments of quality, others of outright shite, and ending with a mixture of relief, and a sense that maybe we should have done better.
Oh, and still no bloody goals either.
First things first – who’s idea was it to finish this season at 12pm on a Sunday? Not that I understand why it’s finished a week earlier than the Championship or League Two either.
Second things second, I’ve no idea of the match odds beforehand, but I bet (ho ho) any clued up bookie would have prevented any money being put on a 0-0. This might have been one of those times where a pre-agreed result should have been opted for.
Actually, that’s a bit unfair. As far as goal-less games go (and let’s face it – we’re the world experts on 0-0 ties this season), this wasn’t too bad as it goes. We had chances, at least one cleared off the line, and we did have a bit of a go.
Whether it was a final swansong, or the footballing equivalent of a bunch of flowers and an apology to everyone for being so wank post-Franchise, it did leave everyone with a sort-of smile on their collective faces.
But when the crowd were singing “we’ll score again, don’t know where, don’t know when” with no degree of irony, it brought home to you what the big problem has been this season.
There’s plenty to examine about 2016/17, and SW19 will do that later this week or next. Probably after the expected cull, which may well be more brutal than we otherwise might have guessed.
For now, today’s game against Oldham. There really wasn’t much to play for, but I guess after NA’s bawling of the players post-Bradford, they needed to show something a bit more than usual.
Whether some of the starting XI will be out on their ear remains to be seen. Those ITK types would have been looking at the post match lap of honour (see above) and doing their amateur body language analysis.
Did player X clap a little bit harder because he knew he’s off? Player Y was laughing and joking a lot with his team-mates, so surely he’ll be here next season? And why was player Z right behind everyone else…?
I’ll leave you to guess who X, Y and Z were (Y is Tom Elliott, Z was Taylor, for the record), but it’s going to be a nervous few days for those wearing our shirt for the last time. That is, if they don’t know already.
I’m sure there’ll be rumour and counter rumour about certain players at the POTY shindig after today’s game. I believe as soon as you read this very sentence we’ll have plenty of names and “off the record” discussions on social media and beyond.
Personally, I find such events tedious as fuck, especially alkoholfrei, so I decided to make my excuses and left**, but the marquee was full when I left so a good time was doubtlessly had by everyone else.
** – as in, actually left the venue rather than the NOTW euphemism. Which was when their reporter got offered cocaine/hookers, and always used that exact phrase to pretend he never indulged…
A further thought on that later, but we’ve finished 15th. And I’m sure we would have snapped our arm, leg, and reproductive organ off to get that even a month into the season…
Plus points: We didn’t lose. Clean sheet. Bit more fight. Youngsters looked a bit more promising. Satisfactory end to the season.
Minus points: No, of course we didn’t sodding score again. You should be used to that by now.
The referee’s a…: Gave them some free kicks they maybe shouldn’t have got, but to be fair I didn’t notice him.
Them: Not sure if they were ever going to properly trouble us, though came close to finding the net themselves once or twice.
Their #14 was a big fucker, and their goalie seemed to like chatting to our supporters (in a nice way) when one of theirs was lying flat on his back. Other than that, about as good/bothered as we were.
Oldham are the sort of club (note, not team) who always seem to be “there” in League One. And yes, I know they were in the top flight along with WFC for a time in the 90s, not to mention how cold that terrace at Boundary Park was.
They seemed to enjoy themselves off the field, and a good turnout considering the shit schedule. Annoyingly, they had a drum. There was a banner with “Detroit Latics” – there’s a joke there but I’m not going to make it – and there were quite a few in womens clothing.
And some others came down in fancy dress too.
Oh, and they all deserve a big kiss for singing “Who the fuck are MK Dons?” afterwards…
Point to ponder: Did NA make his upcoming cull decision even before Franchise? Or more accurately, did he use that post-14 March slump to reconfirm what he was thinking before then?
Although we weren’t guaranteed safety until a couple of games afterwards, we kind of knew we would be all right even around Xmas, so I guess that’s why only Tom Soares came in January.
It was always interesting that we didn’t add a couple more, even as reserve, so I guess they were being set up to fail (or succeed) for the rest of the season on their own, without reinforcements.
Which does beg another question – does NA feel that this squad needs breaking up?
Somebody made an interesting comment to your editor afterwards, and it was that last season (2015/16) the squad was “as one”, so to speak, whereas this season the same group of players haven’t hit the spot so much.
True, we let Akinfenwa and a couple of others go, and we were a step higher this time around. But we’ve been quite poor for too much of this season just ended, including between 14/3 and today.
And I wonder if Ardley’s thinking about who to let go (and who he will bring in, or at least attempt to) has been influenced by the four months without an away goal, or the final six games without any sort of effort going into the net.
You know, today’s game spread out across the whole month of April. Including Easter.
If he knows that he’ll need to change the style, maybe become a bit more physical, perhaps a bit more adaptable – all within budgetary constraints, before anyone pipes up with that – then getting rid of more players is what you have to do.
If he’s seen that the players simply haven’t stepped up to the plate on too many occasions, then that too might affect his thinking. We’ve had good patches this season, but not enough of them – and we can’t rely on repeating that same trick next year.
Building a new squad over a close season isn’t anything new in the AFCW era, one could argue that’s how we got from the CCL to L1 in about fourteen years. It’s more difficult nowadays, though not impossible, and I don’t think we’ve ever done any of it at the wrong time.
And I include the next three months in that…
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Good Young Ones reference by Mikey T at half time. What was the Hawkwind tune, by the way? 2) The photographer taking snapshots of the Chemflow End clientele in the second half. Look, I know it’s full of hoodlums, ne’er do wells and Operation Yewtree suspects, but he was taking a lot of pictures. 3) Kick off time. Mentioned it earlier, but making your editor get up two hours earlier on a designated workday never puts me in a good mood.
Anything else? Yeah, we finished 15th. And that is a genuine success.
I’m going to save specific thoughts about this season for later this week/next week, but something became quite apparent this campaign – I like League One.
It’s been mentioned on here a few times, but it was great to go to places like Charlton, Bolton, Sheffield United and others I’ve forgotten already. And yes, going up to today’s opponents in November was like old WFC times in the 1990s.
But this division didn’t chew us up and spit us out back into the fourth tier, like many (most?) predicted. Indeed, it stroked us on the thigh a little bit, made a passing little wink to us, and invited us back for another crack at it.
Once we found our feet, we did all right after all.
True, goals were a major issue, but it did suggest that L1 is still quite forgiving if you’re impotent. Even today, Oldham’s forward line wasn’t much better than our lot, and that’s been true for a lot of clubs this season.
But why does your editor like this particular division? I suppose it’s because in some cases we’ve punched above our weight against teams who shouldn’t really be down here. One being Sheffield United, and the other secured the other automatic promotion spot this afternoon.
And having been brought up with WFC in the 1980s, that’s how I (and I expect many reading this now) started out. We’re “back” in a way that we haven’t been since 2002.
This time next week, we’ll be planning trips to either Ewood Park or the City Ground next season. Or even St Andrews. You think ten years ago – or even five – even considering playing Blackburn, Forest or Brum in anything beyond a glamour friendly?
Let alone in the league?
That’s what L1 is – a strange mixture of fallen giants, recovering giants going upwards again, mouthy upstarts and clubs that have been there since it was Division Three (North/South). With football that is a bit less brusque than certain divisions below us.
And this season, we belonged in it.
With a decent bit of transfer dealing this summer, who knows what next season will bring? One thing is clear though, we still won’t get through to the second round of the League Cup…
So, was it worth it? Suppose so.
In a nutshell: Roll on August.