Close season is over

And so is SW19’s exile from doing nothing for almost two months.

Farewell, close season. It was all too brief. Almost an eon without having to concentrate on AFCW, no ruined weekends because of the horseshit on the field. Life as it could be.

All breaks must come to an end though, and in the middle of this garden-killing heatwave, it’s weird that our first PSF is coming this very Saturday.

Training is already under way, and while it’s not yet radical change across the board – things already look a little different.

As we all know by now, Lyle Taylor is wearing Charlton colours next season. His departure was always expected, though some will be surprised – and disappointed – at going to another L1 club.

If truth be told, and your editor watches more Championship games than most reading this, he wasn’t good enough to be playing in the second tier. Maybe a third choice striker at Brentford or Reading, but no more than that.

Still, Charlton is a good move for him. He’ll get a decent wedge, he doesn’t need to move outside London, and let’s be honest – it’s a forward move for him.

I doubt anyone won’t wish him well, except when we play the Addicks, because he’s done so much for us since he played his first ever game for us at Basingstoke, after (literally) arriving that day. Arguably we’re in L1 because of him.

Best striker of recent times? Definitely. Though somebody will no doubt say “Only striker…”.

He will be difficult to replace. As will Darius Charles be, in truth. Yes, I know about the “injury prone” aspect, although by that line of logic we’d be dumping Appiah and Nightingale too.

The squad last season was full of bland robots, so losing one of the few beacons of character doesn’t help either. We played better when he was around than not, and like strikers – somebody with a presence isn’t always easy to replace.

How many players have left now? I’ve honestly lost count. But departing squad members isn’t the issue so much as who you replace them with,

We could, and should get more before Reading, but we’ve re-signed Meades and we’ve even added three new players.

Pinnock is very old news now, and it seems that he’ll be doing the long throws and shit. Not literally, one presumes.

We have finally got a big bastard up front, one James Hanson from t’Blades. He used to work in the Co-Op and had a habit of scoring against us (a la Shane Small-King). Apparently the kind of player who Cody McDonald thrives off.

Watch him take the corners and throw ins now.

Those wanting George Long back will have to sing Tom King’s name instead. I don’t recall him playing for Millwall, but his name always seemed to be on the sub’s bench.

Plus, it seems that he has a long kick. As long as when he does boot it, it still remains on the field when it lands – something not always the case with previous goalkeepers…

So assuming we add more players in the next few days, we look like we can at least field some sort of team on Saturday. I just hope they don’t forget it’s now a 12pm kickoff.

OK, it’s a bit of a gamble on Ingerlund being in the WC by Saturday, and 12pm is a bit too early. Why not 1pm? Or even 6pm, which will be enough time to get the players drunk?

That said, £15 to stand – or £20 to sit – is a pisstake. Even a tenner for concessions is a bit much for a PSF against a Championship side we’ve faced before.

And a few people will sack it off because of that. Better to make it £10/£5 and get people attending, because they’ll then be more likely to spend money on a couple of drinks and the club gets the money back that way.

PSFs are a tough enough sell as it is, which is why we’re doing that beer festival for QPR. And as watching the first five minutes of any friendly proves – they’re not really for spectators.

They’re there to get fitness levels up, work on tactics etc etc, and as a result pricing should reflect that.

The club isn’t so hard up – or it shouldn’t be – that it has to charge an extra fiver for a game that the majority will lose interest in about three minutes before after kickoff.

Your editor knows at least three people who now can’t be bothered to go because it’s more than they want to pay for a PSF. One will have sat down, so £20 + £15 + £15 = £50 that the club won’t get.

Better to make £20 off three people than £0…

First moan of 2018/19? Maybe, though it’s a perfectly valid one. I’ll probably go to the Reading and most other PSFs, but I wouldn’t blame anyone who doesn’t.

We’ll also be wearing the new kit, which got launched yesterday at Centre Court (the shopping centre). Was well attended, apparently, which bodes well for when NPL opens and we can properly get a foothold in SW19 again.

As for the shirt….. OK, I’m hardly the target audience, and I don’t want to come all over Gok Wan here, but it’s a bit, well, meh.

I don’t hate it, and I’d much rather have a plain shirt than one designed by a five year old having a tartrazine-induced fit.

But it looks a bit non-descript, as though the designer forgot to finish it off and submitted a working draft instead.

Maybe this was one of those times to have about three potential designs for a shirt and put it to a supporters vote before last season ended. The design-the-kit thing is long gone, and to be honest it produced some pretty awful shirts.

Plenty will buy it, of course, although the £48 will put some waverers off. People are more discerning these days, and the era when people would automatically pay a premium to “help the club” is dying off.

Back to signings. Although we don’t need to get anyone in until we face Fleetwood in just over a month from now, this is the sooner-rather-than-later stage of things.

The transfer window closes on the 9th August, which gives us very little leeway these days. And because we’ve done previous ones so badly, the pressure is on not to mess it up.

The first big fuck-up of 2017/18 came when we clearly needed a Hanson/Piggot-esque player in the middle of August 2017, but we signed Forrester and that was it. And we were left floundering through that poor recruitment until January.

Your editor remains firmly convinced that had we got in Piggot or similar by the time last September came, we would have been in a better place generally. But then, it may have just papered over the real cracks.

We learnt a lot last season, to put it mildly, and everything we do for the next ten months will partly be because of that.

Things were left to build up over the years, with promotions, NPL and general attempts to consolidate sweeping it all under the carpet. 2017/18 was when it finally bit us on our flabby arses.

I don’t consider the apparent change to a more direct style next season an accident. We were forced to go pragmatic in April, and it meant that we ended up unbeaten since Good Friday.

Even then, we were still too slow and lacking in identity. Although that yet again proves just how ordinary much if not most of L1 is.

NA is probably on his last few chances, as I don’t think he would survive another season like the last one. His general demeanour in 17/18 said a lot, and the red hot poker is never far away from his arse.

I’m not bothering going to MTM this week, the KM bars in this weather will be too much, but I expect he’ll strike a conciliatory tone with the odd mea culpa thrown in too.

We also appear to be paying transfer fees more often again. We did for Pinnock, by the sound of it. TB used to do it, he paid money for Main and for some reason Harrison as well. But then, I think he was more willing to accept that part of management.

This different approach can be a big risk – there are a lot of wage thieves in this division, as many opposition players should have shown us by now. Hell, you could probably think of a couple in AFCW shirts too.

Which is why you have to get your recruitment right – and at the end of last season NA let it slip that he was having to choose between boosting our scouting and getting a squad member over the line.

We might have been able to get away with that in L2, and the momentum from promotion in 2016 pushed that under the rug as well. But like so much at AFCW, it doesn’t work anymore.

Last season was painful, and the club became a little bit more unpleasant to support, which is one reason why we’re still trying to sell season tickets.

That would have been unthinkable a year ago.

They may still get snapped up, but it became apparent that too much decision making is left in the hands of too few individuals, which makes proper scrutiny a lot harder.

Such control freakery is fine (to a point) when it works, but can be very damaging when not. Remember 80%Gate? That wouldn’t have happened if the club’s culture was more listening and less lecturing.

Whether NPL took collective eyes off the ball, or whether too many got too big for their boots, you’ll never find out. But in 2018/19, we have to refocus as a club again.

It was always going to happen eventually, but intellectual exhaustion finally crept into AFCW. Too much of it looked stale, and left a feeling we were stumbling to get over the line.

The renewal throughout the whole organisation made a start with Joe Palmer coming in, which might be more profound than first thought.

For the first time since 2002, two important aspects of the club’s day-to-day operation (financial and marketing) will be handled by “outsiders” and reporting directly to an “outsider” in our COO.

That would have been almost unthinkable as well a mere twelve months ago, as it was almost mandatory to have that in-house.

But we should prepare ourselves for some more things previously considered “unthinkable” in the next twelve months, whatever they turn out to to be. Overhauls do that.

That said, I don’t expect massively radical change, if only because revamping what has been done since even 2002 will be hard to do. It will need to be chipped away over a long period of time.

But we’ve seen some well known faces, one or two who have been there since the very beginning, now stepping down and having a well-earned break. They have to replaced, or the way we do things has to be altered to cover it if they’re not.

While the main aim this upcoming season is to make sure we’re a L1 club at NPL, there’s plenty of prep work away from the pitch to do.

Interesting times ahead, maybe. But then, becoming an adult is never easy.

Finally, I’ve only started glancing at the fixtures, and haven’t even bothered putting them up on my wall planner yet. I can’t find out when we’re playing Franchise though. Anyone got any idea…?