Back to Earth

No, that’s not a reference to the moon landing of 50 years ago.

It’s fair to say losing to Plymouth in La Manga yesterday has turned into a siren sounding for many fans this weekend.

Sure, you can say that Brentford/Brizzle City/AFCB finished as expected, and playing continental teams is never easy to gauge (we lost 3-0 to Monza in 2013, after all). But the Pilgrims was a game we should have expected something more in.

That we’ve lost 2-0 in it has suddenly made people think “hang on”…

A few things, however. And the most important of the lot is this – it is pre-season and results really, genuinely don’t matter.

Don’t believe me? Grimsby beat Doncaster 1-0 yesterday, Coventry drew 1-1 at Telford, Blackpool lost 2-1 at Altrincham, and Southend only drew at Dagenham.

I doubt if any of our fellow L1 sides will find their position in next season’s table greatly compromised because of those outcomes.

And Plymouth themselves lost 3-1 at Torquay before they flew out to Spain. You can imagine the meltdown from some of our supporters if we’d lost to a team in the Conference**.

** – Don’t worry, because we play H&R at the Beaverdome this upcoming Saturday. So when we lose that one, then you’ll see the blind panic set in.

There’s been times in the last couple of years where the whole team look like it suffered from Derek Duncan Syndrome, once the actual games started.

It doesn’t stop people worrying about our lack of firepower, or indeed why we’ve conceded so many goals.

Yet a cursory glance at both our OS and the Plymouth one suggests we did have a fair amount of attacking play, but we just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.

Plus ca change, as they say in Spain, but at least we’re creating them to begin with. Which hasn’t always been the case.

What has become clear is that our best striking duo right now is Piggy and Folivi. They certainly looked potent when they came on against Bournemouth.

And while we can joke that we will be scoring all our goals from the penalty spot next season, we got them to begin with because we earned them.

Roscrow hasn’t impressed people in pre-season though, and if AFCW was a Scooby Doo episode, Appiah would be Scrappy.

At the back though, we don’t look so good without Will Nightingale. And I have noticed our goals conceded have mostly been when he’s not on the field.

But as the players and coaches finally put their passports away, and start counting the Avios miles from the last couple of weeks, one senses playtime is now over.

That’s why I think yesterday in Spain was yet another split-squad – I don’t doubt we’re working on passages of play, or whatever they’re called, but there’s obviously some work on the physical side still needed.

We had many issues last season, but one of the under-reported ones was too many times we had good periods during games but we couldn’t sustain them.

Did we muck up fitness back then too?

There’s been enough team bonding now, to the point everyone can recognise each other by the type of farts they do, and at what time.

Though two of our players will clearly be buying some rainbow turbans within the next week…

That’s why the hard work is likely to start right now. The new season starts in a fortnight, after all. Focus should now be on tactics, and the best starting XI against Rotherham.

And perhaps we’ll now know where else we need to strengthen.

It’s not ideal needing to sign players at such a late stage, but that doesn’t just apply to AFCW. You watch how many other clubs will be parading their latest acquisitions, with shirt and cheesy grins.

Which is quite sensible, if you take the view that a new player should be at least semi-up to speed with their own fitness.

This is where having the 1000-player-database comes in handy too. A couple of people have been using it as a punchbag in the last couple of weeks – “1000 players and we still can’t sign anyone” – but we now should know what else we need and start scouting accordingly.

We may well need a replacement for Piggy, and we should be keeping tabs on suchlike.

There was a triallist in La Manga, widely believed to be Anthony Grant – an individual who, erm, won’t be on many Christmas card lists at Shrewsbury…

I doubt if he wasn’t on various radars, like when we signed LO’N soon after Sibbick left.

This does of course assume Walter has been given enough funds to do that. If he has, and he’s been sitting on them until now – all well and good.

There’s been too much haphazard recruitment in the last couple of years, and I’d rather be patient and get it right. We’ve still got until the beginning of September to make signings, don’t forget.

However, there’s more than a few Chinese whispers that he hasn’t. And if that’s correct, we could be in trouble.

To be honest, I think we’ll be OK if the spine of the team we have at the moment holds up. As mentioned above, Piggy and Folivi are our most important strike force, while Will at the back does make a difference.

But strength in depth is an issue, and we’ll have grief if that spine gets broken.

Walter himself has been commenting very publicly about “overspending last season” (a penny for what he really thinks), which may hint he’s got his hands tied to an extent.

Promoting youth is what we should be doing anyway, regardless of how flush we’re feeling, but you do still need experience.

We’re not going to get wholesale changes now, and I don’t believe we need them. But one or two additions (one up front, certainly) will make life easier next season.

But then, we’re also still learning a harsh lesson that if you’re left a mess, don’t be surprised if it takes you much longer to finally clear it up.

Finally, I note there’s some advertising campaigns in the real world for the Seedrs thing. Wimbledon station, Tooting, and apparently places like Earlsfield too (for now).

It looks quite professional. But then, Seedrs are doing the marketing, which explains why there’s a proper campaign to begin with.

As said when the whole thing started, it’s not going to be aimed at the ordinary punter anyway but to “outsiders”. Sure, we talk about a few moneyed types who can be persuaded to take advantage of a few incentives.

But imagine who will walk past that phone booth in Tooting High Street (?) or spots the advert in front of them when they put their Oyster card on the reader?

Most will ignore it, but some won’t. That’s the whole point of advertising to begin with.

As a quick aside – will there be ads at Wimbledon Park station? Only it will be amusing to see the reaction of the snobbish anti-NPL NIMBYs, when they feel demeaned enough taking public transport to begin with…

As for the hashtag, which has ruffled one or two feathers – could “#notmostclubs” be snappier? Perhaps, but I do understand the sentiment behind it.

It does get the point across that AFCW isn’t like most clubs – insert snarky comment here – and clearly is meant to appeal to those who are a bit jaded about the commercial side of modern football.

It’s also better than rehashing the “#bringthedonshome” tag, because that no longer serves a purpose. We are coming home, and the whole Back To Plough Lane thing is now in a different stage altogether.

Will we get the whole £7m from crowdfunding? I don’t think we will, and we’ll be very lucky to get half that. But at least trying to get money from non-AFCW fans is no longer taboo.

And if the ad campaign works, why not get Seedrs to help out with other aspects of the club?

Imagine a billboard with a picture of a permanently crocked AFCW player, and a slogan that says “Help the Dons replace him”…