Shrimp and Save

Two games in a week, and we even managed to win both of them…

Yeah, I know many refuse to accept the existence of the fLeasing.com Trophy, especially with the Prem/Championship thumbsuckers in there. But we won in it, against the Orient, and we get an extra £10k too.

It was a surprise to see us put out almost a full strength starting XI, but I guess they needed to build up the confidence playing with each other.

True, it got a little bit hairy at times, and Trott made a very good penalty save, but after beating Rochdale (just) that victory and clean sheet might just be more important than you think.

Your editor isn’t going to Southend tomorrow (for some reason, the nationals want something from Stevenage v Grimsby instead), but it’s one of those ones where it might end up defining our season.

They’re as shit as we are, one of their publications has described them as being in a state from top to bottom, and yet if we lose this it might set us back a fair bit.

We’ll have Forss with us, and it’s a testament to his attitude that he’s turned down a Finland u21 spot to play League One football this weekend. A certain other player should hang their head in shame, but chances are he won’t…

Still, things feel better than they have been for a little while. It’s hard not to think that GH is in charge – in more ways than one – and the players are responding to him.

Having Wordsworth back, and Sanders starting helps, needless to say. But I noted on Tuesday alone that there was a lot less aimless hoofing going on.

Others have pointed out that Hodges is already trying to put his own stamp on how we play, and that may not be co-incidental.

Especially as he’s still officially only temporarily in change.

At the time of writing this, we’re still waiting on the outcome of WallyGate II, although it turns out an extension from last Friday was granted (see 24th September entry).

For something we’re told is supposedly pin-money bets, and there’s “only” eight of them – why ask for more time to answer the FA?

We’ll see, though I doubt we’ll hear anything now until Monday at the earliest. Could be some fun and games, especially if Walter does end up leaving AFCW, but chances are the vast majority will move on pretty quickly…

Needless to say, we got a reminder this week of what really matters at AFCW right now. The Seedrs thing finally came to an end, and we almost made £2.5m out of it.

It still hasn’t officially closed as yet, they’re still chasing some pledges so it might go above that figure after all.

Which isn’t to be sniffed at, although despite what the club will be saying about raising such levels – one wonders if they’re privately just a little disappointed at the total.

£7m was never anywhere near realistic, not unless there was some proper chances to literally buy into the ownership. At this time, that’s still not an option**.

** – though I think this was the first testing of the waters towards a more formal avenue for proper external investment.

The more funding NPL becomes an issue and the more the club realises you can’t keep going for the rank-and-file wallets, the more likely this taboo suddenly becomes viable.

The club were no doubt pushing for £3m, and it’s clear the big hitters who they hoped would come on board didn’t do so after all.

Whether there’ll be another push with more tangible incentives (ie a bond scheme that pays a rate of interest) remains to be seen. AFCW might not be able to do that right now, because it’s already pushed very hard for donations.

Once the realities of actually running NPL becomes obvious, it will need to consider such schemes. Sure, we’ll make more money through increased capacity, hospitality etc, but they also come with running costs that will be higher.

Not to mention the growing assumption that we should be doing more than existing on a shoestring. Our biggest issue may not be finance, but expectation…

I don’t doubt there’s potential money out there, but we’ll need to start cultivating them more from now on.

Still, £2.5m is better than a kick in the dangly bits, and every little does help. It had pretty much got stuck on around £2.1m until the last few days.

I think there was a physical leaflet drop around the NPL area late last week, along the lines of “Hi, we’re your new neighbours. Can we have your money please?”. That will probably have got a few pledges, although it did seem a little late in the day to do it.

What really boosted the coffers was the club releasing this CGI animation

OK, I know you’ve stared at it the last five minutes, and you’ve forgotten you had this place open. I’m still here, you know.

Not that I blame anyone for watching it on repeat. It sends chills down your spine, and I don’t just mean seeing “Wimbledon 2 Sunderland 0” on the mock scoreboard.

Imagine sitting there at a night game, where everyone is “on it” – the atmosphere in the joint will be electric (think the WHU FA Cup game).

We’ve all seen the original NPL mockup, and there was always a fear that the Phase One illustration would make it look shit. It doesn’t, and I think it could be quite an intimidating little venue.

And in our favour.

The three temporary semi-permanent stands don’t look bad, as it goes. And I think they’ll end up looking better in real life, once we’re all sitting in them.

True, it will be a bit annoying that the concourse entrance will be at the front, so you’ll have to do a bit of standing up to see when people piss off to the bar twenty minutes before half time. But that’s a minor inconvenience, in the grand scheme of things.

The west stand speaks for itself, and as pointed out elsewhere this week, the new rebuild for Maritmo in Portugal is a good guide.

Imagine seeing NPL looking like that, albeit with blue seats. They’ll have to call the police to evict people who refuse to leave the venue.

And at least we’re getting to the stage where you can even look at the steel structures of the west stand, and know something is now happening.

I don’t think you’ll see the stadium properly looking like, well, a stadium until the new year. It’s still looking like the framework for a warehouse at the moment.

But when it does…