Gas leak

No quips about it being less than a Good Friday.

So, another draw in a game where we needed a win. And somehow, you get the growing feeling that we will be in League Two next season.

The stats still show us a point off safety with three games remaining, even if one of them is the one fixture that you don’t want when you’re scrapping for our lives.

And Luton on Tuesday won’t be a walk in the park either.

We’ve never been much cop over the Easter period, have we? At least, I can only ever remember the crap games from this time of year (yesterday, Fleetwood last year, THAT Barnet game, and even Oxford away in 1987).

OK, that’s not entirely true – we beat Barf City in the Conference South days on Good Friday (a contest that was nervy, and then some), and of course Palace 4-0 in the Selhurst rain.

But to 2019 we go, and this morning I’m left with the sense that we’ve blown too many chances to escape.

Don’t get me wrong – that we’re still in with a good chance of survival by Easter is no minor miracle. And Bradford being the first one relegated from L1 this season is a very small victory in itself.

But we can’t escape the following – we’ve gone ahead in the last three home games and failed to capitalise in all of them.

I can give a pass over Gillingham, and Brizzle Rovers are no slouches away from home, but even so yesterday and t’Stanley were our own fault.

We needed a second goal both times, and simply failed to get it. Because we’re not good enough to do that, we’re relying on winning games 1-0 which is costing us.

Needless to say, it started off so well, but then we faded badly and it wasn’t a surprise to hear Rovers equalised. In the words of an SW19 reader there yesterday, everyone went demented when we took the lead.

And that might be our biggest problem of the lot.

By many if not all accounts, we were dreadful in the second half until they scored. Then we realised that we, you know, actually had to win the game (Walter’s post match comment of not getting paid for winning at half time probably dilutes what he really thinks right now).

That we didn’t puts us in a very vulnerable position, if the results go against us on Easter Monday (which I think they will – we’ve been very lucky with them recently).

We could legitmately find ourselves four points off safety, with a trip to Kenilworth Road to come, and it will be our own fault if it is.

But then, should we really have expected anything else?

In the last SW19 update, your editor looked at the ages of a lot of the squad and realised how young they are. Almost frighteningly.

I won’t blame them if we go down – hell, without them we’d be planning our trip to Valley Parade next season already – but we have been badly let down by “senior” players elsewhere.

We are effectively relying on Piggy to get enough goals to win us games. Nobody else is coming close, although Folivi is trying hard.

Hanson is at least fit, and it would be deliciously ironic if he scored the winner at Bradford to keep us up. But if he goes in the summer we won’t miss him.

Which is more than can be said for Appiah. He played a part in the stiffs last week but was nowhere to be seen yesterday. That we need goals but he’s effectively in Wally’s woodshed says it all.

Then again, Bradford is likely on the telly, so he’ll decide to be fit and raring to go for that one.

As for Jake Jervis…

You’ve known all this about our strike force since the early part of this season, so apologies for the broken record. But it’s telling many are focusing on the midfield as well since yesterday too.

Hartigan blows hot and cold, but again – he’s a youngster and that’s always going to happen.

Why aren’t the more experienced pros taking charge? Because we’re now (re)discovering what will ultimately kill us this season – there’s not enough guts in this team.

If we had a Darius-type figure, or a Dean Parrett, or the L1 equivalent of Robbo, we would have seen at least one of these games out with a victory.

But we don’t. Nobody seems to lead when we need it most, and that’s why we’ll be in L2 next campaign.

Do you believe that this lot will play well for long enough to get the mandatory three points against Wycombe? I don’t. Nor do I believe that if we need to win at Bradford we’ll actually do it.

Unless we’re trying for survival by drawing all our remaining games and hope enough teams around us slip up…

We’ll see. Whether we possibly stay up or (now increasingly likely) go down, at least a lot of this squad won’t be here by the time 2019/20 starts. Change is coming, and it can’t come soon enough.

But then, we’re in a period of transformation as a club.

The latest example of that, and probably the most unsurprising news of the last week behind us not winning yesterday – Joe Palmer is our new CEO.

It wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret that he would take up the role eventually, that was pretty obvious when he took the COO position. Nobody else was being earmarked, certainly.

A few thoughts about his appointment. At least I now know what he looks like, which has been half the battle since his arrival.

Whether he chose to keep a lower profile, or whether that was forced upon him (IYSWIM), it doesn’t matter now. He’s in charge, and it’s the sign of an ever-changing organisation.

He does acknowledge that in his interview (though I haven’t seen the whole video interview yet), and those who have dealt with him previously seem positive about him.

Apparently, that was also the case with those who went to last week’s DT meeting. Talk is cheap, obviously, but one senses this is the off-field fresh start we so badly need.

His appointment isn’t so much a jump in generation but a giant leap. How old is he – mid 40s or something?

Plus, as superficial as this will sound, he’s somebody who looks like he belongs in football administration in 2019.

One thing your editor notices going to various other grounds in the country, and seeing the side most fans don’t get to see, is how much younger those involved in decision making appear.

I was at QPR yesterday, where Lee Hoos was doing an informal Q&A at their fan zone thingy beforehand. Palmer is, I guess, of a same age and stature as he is, and in that sense we already look more “modern”.

I don’t have any questions about his experience – he was at Shaktar and Sheffield Wednesday, which is far more than just about anyone else at AFCW. Combined.

Nor do I have any concerns right now about whether he “gets” AFCW. To be blunt, I don’t care if he does or not – I’d rather he was competent at his job instead.

And it’s a job that will need different skills.

The biggest one in the short term is dealing with a club that is possibly – if not probably – going to be in L2 next season. That will have a psychological effect that will surprise a lot of people, and we need to be ready for that.

The dynamic between him and W&G will be one to watch, it would be best for the club if it’s more businesslike and less “personal”. Our decision makers have previously been a bit too closely involved with our managers, after all.

Whether we do go down, or indeed stay up, the club needs to modernise. Which is another big task, because a change in culture is often the hardest hurdle to overcome.

Palmer came in with a baptism of fire over 80%Gate, a decision that one could argue fast-forwarded his elevation to CEO. I don’t doubt he learned a lot from that episode.

He will also have to learn to ignore the inevitable – and likely constant – comparisons with our ex-CEO. There will be plenty of “Erik would have done it this way”, or “He’s making decisions Erik wouldn’t have”, and not in a flattering way either.

A quick reminder that Erik Samuelson is retired. Get over it.

Providing Palmer doesn’t completely balls things up then most will. Some quicker than others. We’ve had a new manager since about November/December, and very few now question that appointment.

There are other things he needs to put his stamp on. He needs to change the culture (that word again) from a reactionary club into a more pro-active one.

This became very, very obvious with our last manager, but too often we’ve only done things when we’ve absolutely had to. And even then only with a massive amount of reluctance.

If Palmer can move us more into an outfit that anticipates change before it happens, and deals with it by nipping it in the bud before it starts festering, more power to him.

Our new CEO is undeniably under scrutiny now, probably more than as he’s considered an “outsider”. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, indeed I’d rather that than having things overlooked because he’s a fan.

That’s what professional football clubs do, and despite what some may think at times – that’s exactly what we are.

One wonders what his real thoughts were when he was COO, and some of the things that were going on? Maybe we’re about to find out…

Oh, and there’s NPL too.

It sounds like the initial build is going to be like Dean Court the Vitality, which will please your editor immensely.

I used to do a fair few games there when AFCB were in the Championship, and it’s a tight, compact venue where you almost literally feel on top of the players.

It’s smart, too, and the views always seemed decent. And even the fourth stand in my link above with the posts in the way isn’t that bad.

Providing the roof isn’t shit (which I think could dampen enthusiasm), I think it would be the right type of design for us. Small enough to be managable, but big enough to not feel like KM.

Oh, and apparently there are plans for a club-owned pub that will be open on non-matchdays too. A good idea if it’s approved, as all bar the Corner Pin have gone from round there in the last two decades.

That said, it may cause issues. Will the main split in the supporter ranks be down to those who think it should be the Sportsman, and those who think it should be the Batsford Arms…?