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Boobs in the wood, part 1

It’s a good job I slept on Culver City 0 Elstree 1 last night. What I wrote originally would have probably landed me in court. Suffice to say, I honestly can’t remember what I wrote when we lost 2-0 to Sheff Wednesday in the dying days of our Premiership years, but this must have been be the equivalent low point on the pitch that I can remember since the formation of AFCW.

No, we aren’t likely to go down, and results did work in our new ultimate aim for second place. But something has changed at AFCW in a matter of a fortnight, and I don’t like it one bit. See, in the past, we always could drop one or two games then show ourselves back up again. Sure, we’ve had chronic injuries, but we’ve always got out of trouble. Right now, we’ve lost that ability to do even that, and now I’m scared for Saturday. Torquay must be rubbing their hands with glee.

I was angry on Saturday, and I’m angry now. But this is an anger with more than a hint of resignation. I felt like we were playing in the Slurrey Senior Cup at times, although the makeshift back four and new goalie didn’t exactly help matters. I can cope with conceding a goal if that’s the case (if anything I thought we were generally better at the back than we have been for some time – go figure) but what I’m getting pissed off with is the total inability to show our ability. I would write about teams coming back etc etc, but quite simply I’m bored to the back teeth of writing it.

To quote Fannie Mae, I’m sick of tired of being sick and tired.

So, what has a good night’s sleep done to me? Firstly, there were rumours abound last night that Mark DeBolla went on a massive strop last night after getting subbed at half time, even to the point of fucking off home. This morning, I find out he was in the players lounge after the game. So did he fuck off home after having a massive barney, only to change his mind and return after all? Or is the story in itself bollocks?

If it’s the former, I think tempers probably just blew up at that particular moment. Already I sense a general calmness this morning that there hasn’t been for a couple of weeks now. It’s not exactly unusual for that to happen in a team, especially one that is underachieving and in a bad run of form.

If it’s the latter, and somebody is spreading bollocks stories, I would hope that said individual is getting the shit kicked out of them right now. We’re in a tricky, fraught situation as it is without the odd individual with an agenda piping up. The trouble at AFCW is that things get magnified and made far much of than is healthy, and even if somebody just misinterprets somebody’s actions, all hell breaks loose.

Of course, him walking out could be a true story, and if that’s the case he should fuck off right now. Allegedly walking out like that is a cunt’s trick. No matter whether you think the manager is harshly treating you, you are expected to maintain a degree of professionalism, and not storm off like a stroppy teenager. Having seen Scott Curley at first hand last season going into one about DA, that sort of behaviour really does not impress me at all. It’s divisive, it does nothing for team morale and it was no co-incidence then that we’d played better after Curley left.

If we have rogue, divisive elements in the squad, get rid. Playing for AFCW should be an honour, not a paycheque – with the possible exception of FCUM, where else outside the Conference will you get a setup like ours? People like Jason Goodliffe “get it”. People like Marcus Gayle “get it” (and if he doesn’t he’s an idiot). Do the others?

Second things second. Very few people are calling for TB’s head, which thankfully is a sign that our fans are still pretty intelligent. But if he has fallen short on one thing, he’s found out that too many of his players – including the ex-Conference ones – go hiding when the going doesn’t suit them. OK, maybe “go hiding” is a too strong an expression, though on recent performances it isn’t. Seriously, this was back to the Borehamwood game at the beginning of the season – it was just bad.

Yes, we have injuries. Yes, the referee was again proving that he wasn’t up to the job. But christ, that Fannie Mae quote keeps coming back to me – if I’m scrabbling around for an answer, christ knows what our management are doing.

But we have to at least ask the questions, even if we don’t want to hear the answers. Here’s one – it’s obvious that despite a new manager, new squad etc etc we are still committing the same mistakes. Why? What’s the constant factor? Could it be down to, you know, us….?

Yes, us. The fanbase. And I’m going to include the top brass of AFCW in this – we are a Fans Club (TM) after all. Everyone else is getting looked at, so I don’t see why we should get off the hook. Don’t you think we – the fans and club – are putting way too much undue pressure on AFCW to get promoted? Yes, we all want to be out of this poxy division as soon as, but our approach is starting to prove counter-productive. If the club is giving our manager just two seasons to get us up otherwise he’ll lose his (full time) job, how is that going to help?

To me, everyone (fans and club) is taking the same approach between 2002-05 and applying it in 2008. Back then, we really did need to get out of the CCL and R1 quickly. We need to get up from the Ryman without hanging about as well, but unfortunately our expectation is causing our own downfall. If the AFCW job becomes unmanagable (a la Newk and England) then we really will be stuck in this division for the next decade. TB leaves, another manager comes in, gets the usual lot of money to spend and told he’ll be out of a job if we’re not in the Conference South two seasons later. The vicious cycle goes on and by the time we figure that out it might be too late.

Yeah, I’m speaking out of turn, everyone works hard at AFCW etc etc etc. I’m not trying to rub anyone up the wrong way (not deliberately anyway) but answer me this. When TB mentions that there’s far less pressure on AFCW in the FAT, don’t you think he’s trying to tell us something? Is it any coincidence that we can dispatch Chelmsford 4-0 quite comfortably in the FAT yet nervously lose to them in the next contest? I bet we all know that we’ll play ten times better against Torquay than we have since even before Folkestone. Yes, our own cup final I grant you, but we’re not expected to win, let alone by 3-0 by half time. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

From what I’ve seen of other RP sides, we are as good as them. Even last night, a non-pressurised AFCW would probably have won. But forget their cup final mentality, though it certainly still exists – even with that factor we should rise above it. But we can’t. And we still can’t, three years from the first time we set foot in the RP. People sometimes ask why can teams like Histon get into the Conf and we can’t. Because they’re not expected to? Because they don’t think their club will collapse if it doesn’t? Chelmsford seem to do OK, and to be honest they’re what we’d be like without that extra pressure.

Yes, there will always be a degree of pressure at AFCW. But last night I felt something more than that. I felt a team that is close to breaking point because it’s got itself too strung up on promotion. That might explain DeBolla’s alleged actions, and certainly why TB kept them in the dressing room post 1045pm. And now I’m starting to feel a club that has got itself caught in a vicious cycle. No, I don’t want to stay in the poxy RP any longer, but I’ve said in public that I think it could take an extra three years for us to go up. That sounds a depressingly awful long time, but after the way we’ve gone from being top of the world to relegation form you have to admit I’m not too far out am I?

And perhaps we’d be best taking that attitude? That might be better long-term than panicking that crowds will drop if we’re still in the RP in 2010. Is that what it’s about really? Is AFCW really going to collapse down the plughole if crowds go down to 1500 (which they won’t IMO)? If so, we are totally fucked. But this club is certainly strong enough than probably any other club in non-league (bar the recent ex-League clubs in the Conf) to withstand the bad times. Other clubs, including some Conference, would love even 1500 coming through the gate.

Again, it’s the old 2002-05 mentality rearing its head again. We still have to learn that this league is too high a standard to proclaim we can get out of there in two seasons. TB himself had to re-learn the Ryman ropes and currently he’s getting knocked back. Give him a proper chance and he’ll do all right. But it’s no good planning for 2010 in the Conference if we’re hampering 2008 in the Ryman Premier in the process.

What’s the answer? I don’t think there is one, not an easy one anyway. We have to balance the reasonable expectation with the unreasonable, and now I think we’ve crossed that line. Remember that Aldershot were in the equivalent of the Ryman Prem for a good five seasons, and we’ve only had three years here. We have become the over-expectant parent, putting immensive pressure on our undoubtedly gifted kid, always thinking there’s something wrong when they’re not performing to the highest possible standard each and every time.

Maybe give TB an extra year on his contract and say we’re in it for the long haul? Wouldn’t hurt, and we’re the first set of fans to take the piss out of Prem clubs for demanding the earth too soon. Perhaps we ought to take our own advice when it comes to AFCW? While I have no doubt we will outgrow this league, our own worst enemy right now is ourselves.

As for right now, I dunno. I have to admit, I was ready to tear up my Torquay ticket after I got into SW19 Towers. Why should I be putting my money into the players’ fund when they only turn it on when they want to? In the end, I haven’t, and like a mug I’ll probably be there on Saturday. And yes, I’ll say now how utterly fucked off I am with the last four games, but will large it up big time if we do somehow win.

But for the team? Alleged strops or not aside, looks like TB will again have to bring in a new set of players. It’s telling that he’s been looking at Olly Schultz, the Ramsgutter centre back. Not so much that specific player but the fact he’s looking at players who do actually know what it’s like to play in this division. TB could have gone for Grazioli but he went for Main instead. Maybe he’s starting to figure just what gets you by in the Ryman League, 2008?

And if he doesn’t, do you have any better ideas?