In the dim and distant past, when we were plain old WFC, it always seemed that whenever I went away something always happened. When we were relegated, I was trying to find out what was going on from Toronto. When a credible merger with QPR was unleashed on an unsuspecting world, I was reading with jaw on floor on an internet terminal at Denver airport. In fact, if I was to give you a list of dates in the last eleven years when I’ve been out of the country, you could probably find some sort of happening.
Which is why I have a massive sense of deja vu again when I reflect on AFCW happenings this past fortnight. First things first. DA’s departure wasn’t exactly unexpected after the playoff final. The concensus right now seems to be that under him, we put 2 and 2 together and ended up with 3.85. Nearly, but not quite there.
Now, I know things have moved forward a helluva lot since then, but it’s worth putting it all into perspective. Two weeks ago, we were pretty much down and wondering where to go from here a little bit. The club’s advert for a new manager was pretty swift and in many ways a statement of intent. Remember this bit?
“Have a clear vision of how they can deliver success on and off the pitch for the club”
Bold emphasis is mine. I wonder if the club made their mind up as to whom they wanted even before they advertised. My hunch is that they wanted TB first and foremost, but had a second individual in mind just in case there was a last minute hitch. Read the job advert now and it does give the impression that the description was written after the appointment was made.
Right man in the right place at the right time? The fact it came together so quickly, and with an almost 100% approval rating from the opinion formers (and drivel formers as well, and we have plenty of them….) could make you believe in fate.
So, enough of all that, what about our new manager? Well, people are certainly sitting up and taking notice. I’m reading stories that lapsed ST holders (and a new one or two) are about to write cheques out to the club again this season. I’ve actually interviewed TB and he’s got that slight roughness that will go down well with a few Wombles. His record speaks for itself, and getting in Stuart Cash is the other TB (one Mr Burton) to OGEM. Hopefully, Mr Brown won’t go all funny and demand that AFCW should move to County Mayo, then ordering SC to look at training methods in the Oberligas of Europe.
Needless to say, such an appointment is bringing out the pre-season optimism even before pre-season really gets going. How many Wombles will now be predicting certain automatic promotion? Too many for my liking. Don’t forget that next season will still be a damn tough league. There’s still Chelmsford, Rickay and Margate to contend with again, not to mention the rather, ahem, widely discussed views on AFC Hornchurch and their funding.
If anything, next season will be harder than the season just gone, because all of a sudden the expectation has risen threefold. And let’s face it, it’s not like we’re patient at the best of times. But it’s interesting to look at TB’s approach. He’s full time, he’s going to introduce more sophisticated methods of training and seems very keen to keep much of last year’s squad together. It’s a very different approach to DA’s, although it’s quite unfair to compare the two. DA was part-time and was never going to be a full time manager anyway.
Make no mistake, this is a massive appointment, probably the biggest one AFCW has ever made. This isn’t an appointment to get us up into the Conf South and a few years consolidating against Sutton United. This is an appointment that is meant to get us into the Conference full stop and to keep us there. TB and SC’s remit is to repeat with us what they did with Aldershot.
In fact, I’m having a job coming to terms with how big this appointment is. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t think we’d go down a full-time manager route at this stage. Are we going to get a couple of full time players as well? If the comment on the OS about extended training is anything to go by, quite possibly. What it does prove is that AFCW is no longer prepared to play second fiddle to the moneybags sides like Chelmsford. It was always hard to swallow teams like them and Braintree and Fi$her putting that dough in with combined crowds worse than ours.
Has AFCW realised that there’s potential to fulfill? I’m sure if you read reports from the last two years, you’ll notice how often I hint at things not feeling right, of a malaise. I think the Appeal last season showed us what we have as an entity. And just as importantly, what we were throwing away through drifting. In short, the club has woken up from a slumber. I reckon that we knew we couldn’t get by just being a Fans Club, and would have to start spending money (and wisely as well). The signing of Richard Jolly for a little bit of dough was telling enough.
So, be buoyant but be cautious as well. We haven’t even had any pre-seasons yet, and the time to initially judge TB will not be now, nor even in six weeks time, but by November when we’ve had our first round of the Ramsgutters, and the Ashford Towns. Nothing is guaranteed in this game, certainly not success. We’ll see who stays and who doesn’t. personally, I think RDS might go but people like Andy Little, Frankie, Fergie, Jolly, RB and one or two others will stay. And people like Goddard and Shroot will be involved more, as there’ll be more emphasis on the bridge between the reserves and the first team.
OK, it sucks being in the RP again, but I wouldn’t trade in our mid-to-long term future with anyone either in our division or even up to the lower reaches of the Conf. If we really did get about sixty applicants for the post then that says everything about the viability of AFCW. Yes, it’s annoying that H&R and Bromley are above us, and I’m sure we’ll be reminded of that on occasions. They’ll fall and burn out soon enough, those sorts of clubs always do. At the end of the day, there is precious little to respect at this level, and never forget the small minded attitudes shown to us last season.
Finally, I’m off on my travels again late June. Expect Dean Holdsworth, REMBE and Marcus Gayle to all sign when I’m gone…