The Womble Eunuch

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.

10 thoughts on “The Womble Eunuch

  1. Transition is what I hear!
    We did Ok in League 1 this year – not brilliant, but so what! we’re still here, preparing for our 2nd season – And lets not forget we are now moving towards a new Stadium! does that mean that Mr Ardley has been told by Eric not to spend too much in case we need that extra paint of blue on the new Stadium !!!!!!
    And we have an Academy that has produced Mr Sweeney – now Stoke, Mr Agei – now Burnley, Mr Goalkeeper – now Hull. The word is they all want a piece of us !
    I hope we are getting some muns for Mr Olusanya’s trial at Chelsea…………..
    So lets trust in youth plus a bit of senior defensive knowledge and see where we go ???
    so if they are that good lets play them. Sibbuck, Kalumbayi,

  2. Thank fcuk it’s finally over. Disappointed for JS but not altogether surprised, I hear he has a club lined up so good luck to him. Lots of dodgy rumours doing the rounds about about a mass cull but other than Jimmy I’ll stick with the list I put in the Swindon report – Bully, Robertson, Beere, Oakley, Gallagher and Fitz released. Barnett and Whelpdale to be moved on/paid off (whatever it takes).

  3. In a week of discussion elsewhere about freezing Dons matches, nice to see a mention of the Boundary Park away terrace of the late 80’s early 90’s for us oldies 🙂 Definitely gets my vote as the coldest away league terrace with Horley Town away getting the non league award. Overall a good and enjoyable first season in League 1 but with the late slump and talk of a major cull, genuinely no idea what to expect next season. Still time for a break…roll on August.

  4. My first ever game was a 0-0 draw at home to Oldham in 1985 in (old) div 2. Didn’t stop me coming back 🙂

  5. The photographer taking pics was commissioned by German footie magazine 11Freunde. They are running a feature in next months issue “15 Years of AFC Wimbledon”…
    Enjoyed this season, few more away games ticked off the list, mid table obscurity was the plan and that’s what we got. Dickie Guy’s speak afterwards, was special. That’s AFC Wimbledon! Here’s to next season and a few new faces and another season of optimism.
    Keep up the good work Rob. COYDONS!

  6. Frankly, the squad looked completely out of it’s depth for the first few weeks, so to go on the run they did between late September and early December was quite astonishing. Ultimately, it’s that run that has kept the Dons at Tier 3 for next season. I think that good spell in autumn heightened expectations amongst supporters to unrealistic levels – we still have a mid-table League 2 squad with a handful of League 1 players. If you look at the results against the division’s top teams a play off challenge was never realistic – most beat us convincingly.

    Nevertheless, the scoring record towards the end of the season has been unacceptable by any measure – the team looked lost without Elliott as a focal point and I do worry about how we’ll perform next season if he leaves as many expect. The lack of goals in the last 8 games and the defeat to Sutton are the season’s two biggest disappointments. The biggest positives are playing genuinely big clubs again at big grounds (loved the win at Charlton)…and, of course, that evening in March.

    Another promotion pre Plough Lane would be far too soon – so a couple of seasons consolidating in League 1 is the order of the day. The club is still on an upward trajectory overall that is unbroken since 2002 – and it would be damaging if that was reversed by a relegation just as the club takes its most important step yet.

  7. Hi all,

    The season is over. The club managed to secure another season in League One. It’s time for the summer rebuilding. There will be indeed some expected departures and I guess that the manager has made his mind on whom to retain and release the players. I hope that there will be no much causalties in the area of the academy graduates though I expect that there will be a few in his culling list.

    As the editor has previously mentioned that there are rumour mills on other club’s interesr in securing the services of both Jake Reeve and Lyle Taylor, I hope that the club manage to starve off the interest by rejecting the offers. However, if the offers are too good to reject and either or both of these players indicate their intention to leave the club, I think that it will be the club’s best interest to sell them and secure as much transfer coffers as possible. The coffers can then channelled to acquire the suitable replacements. I believe that the manager will have a shortlist of such replacements in his mind.

    I will like to compliment the club’s decision in not going for the loan route this season. I feel that there is an excellent decision made by the club management. It will be great if such approach is continued to be adopted in the subsequent seasons. I personally feel that the team has benefitted from such approach and most of the players would have gained valuable experience from this decision.

    Last but not least, I hope that the manager will continue to increase his belief in the academy graduates by giving them the deserved first team places to those who have earned their due. Nightgale has earned his right. Tom Beere is another one deserved player. I can see him in the mould of the manager in his younger days and he will put in his best effort for the team whenever he is given first team opportunity. The same also applies to Oakley, Fitzpatrick, Owen, Kelly, Egan, Kaja and other academy graduates who are recently promoted to the first team football. The future will be brighter for the club if we manage to recruit four or five experienced free agents in the summer. I strongly believe that the team will finish better than the 15th place if we recruit well coupled with continued belief in the existing academy graduates as well as tge existing experienced first team players.

    Ben

  8. Hi All

    I tend to concur with most of Ben’s comments above.

    It really is a case of Mission Accomplished for NA and his team who after a shaky start pretty much secured safety with ease and of course we had that magical evening in March.

    I can’t help but feel that next season with be a real tough one. Hopefully we can come back rejuvenated, because I don’t think we as supporters understand just how knackered the players are. I also hope we can get some real improvement out of Egan, Nightingale and Sibbick next year.

    NA needs to get this close season right. If he does we’ll be OK, if he signs some duds then we are in trouble.

    I think we’ll see a significant refresh without wholesale changes and tbh I think we need it. JS leaving was always 50/50, he did well to get us out of a spot this year with the Clarke debacle so one can only assume NA and Bayzo have someone lined they view as superior and I do feel McDonnell has shown he is now an adequate back up and we also have young Bursik if we can keep him.

    We’ll soon know about the other outs but I reckon we’ll see Robertson, Bulman, Fitzpatrick, Gallagher, Beere, Whelpdale, Elliot and Barnett leaving for various reasons. I’d say we’ll look for a CB (young but with senior team experience and who can slot in next to Will long term potentially) a couple of quality midfielders and a couple of strikers. I feel that next year NA may not be able to be as cautious as this year with youth and I reckon we could see Sibbick, Egan and maybe even Hartigan and Kalamabyi getting some chances which may not be a bad thing.

    Money is tight so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a player leave for a fee. Reeves and LTB are the ones with obvious value but even a Sibbick if we could get £200,000 for him (similar to Sweeney) then that could fund some higher quality signings.

  9. Released list will be published shortly. The initial list will contain all the obvious departures (Shea, Bully, Robertson, Beere, Gallagher, Fitz, Oakley) but more will follow when their departures have been negotiated in “xyz leaves the club” style. I’ll let you fill in the blanks but this is very good news.

    Carrying certain players who are not up to it or simply taking the piss is not good for morale. We need a return to the chemistry of the 2015/16 squad and this is the first step.

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