It’s been close to 24 hours since our five-man (if you include the Cue returning) transfer sweep, and suddenly things are looking up a bit. Already, internet messageboards are speaking highly of signings like McDonnell and Ben Judge to name but two, and right now the talk is of the much needed arse-kicking exercise this squad has needed for a long time.
I’ve got to admit, I was pretty shocked and stunned myself when I read the OS and saw all these names listed upon there. It’s undoubtedly a gamble by TB – there’s been enough comment about the AFCW revolving door, how we should instead be looking to get back people like Mark DeBolla and Beckford instead. If it fails, expect more bloodletting in the summer. We all know we needed a settled side for the playoffs and we’re still shipping in new players. It’s the football equivalent of shock-and-awe, minus the physical damage.
And yet, cast your mind back to last Saturday. Remember how the mood was? For the first time, even some members of the Positive Posse were admitting to themselves that deja vu had come back to haunt us, that we would once again get dicked by somebody like Staines in the playoff semis, and the circle of failure continues for another season. Now?
Well, OK, enough glimpses of optimism. We haven’t actually played our next game yet. But we all knew that something had to be done, and it’s quite a shock that we’ve gone and done it. It’s been mentioned plenty of times before over the last day or so, but we really didn’t have much choice. If last Saturday was a one-off, then it’s a one-off. But was it a one-off when ETU done us over? Or indeed the Chelmsford game?
And come to think of it, before that as well? We beat Hendon 2-0 before then, but we were sailing very close to the wind after we went 2-0 up. Lest we forget that one big criticism this season has been us going 2-0 up then just sitting back and unable to kill the game off enough to relax. Seriously, just read SW19 reports from this season and you’ll see a pattern forming. Even when we beat Hastings 4-0 a few weeks ago they still hit the bar enough times to make it brown trouser time with better accuracy.
On the surface, bringing in almost half a team in one day is one helluva move to make, and can smell of panic. Dig deeper, and the only surprise is how TB hasn’t been able to do it sooner. Let’s face it, even if the rumours of Finn storming out at Carshalton are bollocks, things haven’t been well at AFCW for some time. True, we’re second, but we’d probably still be pushing the champions-elect even now had we been more of a collective unit.
So, what will this do to us? We’ll wait and see, but if this doesn’t ram a deservedly well-aimed foot up the arse of some of our players, nothing will. Perhaps electric shock treatment, although I doubt if the Ryman rules would let us do that somehow. We urgently needed a (metaphorical) spark of life from somewhere and maybe we’ve now got it. When TB was smashing a few tea trays about after the game on Saturday, I did wonder just where we would go from here. And I mean, a real doubt of our future direction. You know on occasions when things get so low that you just can’t see any way back?
Granted, that might be a melodramatic way of looking at it, but let’s face it – our squad has been locked in the dressing room far too many times this season (hell, far too many times over the last month), and if they’re out of a game from now on, who’s fault is that? It’s not as though they’ve never been given game time.
OK, I have to feel a bit sorry for Danny Webb if McDonnell takes his place, but his easier-to-score-than-miss opportunities at Carshalton probably curtailed his contract for next season. I’m certainly not saying the guy doesn’t try hard, christ if only every player had his work ethic. But I think we need to move on now. If TB had the choice of signing people like Webb, Hatton and one or two others right now, with what he’s learnt about the RP in 2007/08, would he have done so? The list of recent signings may suggest he probably wouldn’t.
This all said, the attitude things continues to come back. I don’t expect every player to like the manager, or to be his best mate, but we’re chasing second spot – a second spot which we should have nailed down comfortably by now but haven’t. If we play any playoff games away, it’s our own fault. Not only that, but with that second spot a very important shot at automatic promotion. You would expect at least the players to realise this and bust the proverbial bollock (and literal one if need be) to secure that even if they can’t stand who gives the team talk. Christ, the head coach of the 1980 US Olympic ice hockey team said one of his tactics was to make the players focus on one thing – hating him. The idea was that if they didn’t play for him they at least played for each other. It worked for them, certainly, and you can’t say it’s not working for us at the moment.
From reports, it seems as though McDonnell and Judge are what are known as “100% players”. In other words, they are prepared to lose a body limb in the process of winning. Now, if true that will gladden the ticker of many a pissed off Womble. How many times have we seen Jason Goodliffe try and gee up our players recently, only to see heads drop when we go 3-2 down? If he could find a brick wall, he’d be giving himself even more of a shiner with repeated headbutting. Now, he might have some other players on the pitch who may not only listen but may themselves gee others up. And it’s a bit better having two players giving encouragement than just the one…
The most important thing from now until 5pm on the 3rd May is to remain unbeaten. Do that and we’ve got promotion. You have to be cynical and brutally ruthless right now. It doesn’t matter where they come from, how long they’re here for, whether they’ll leave in the summer – what matters are four more league games and two playoff games. If we fail, we start again with a brand new approach when the close-season ends. If we succeed, we’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about.
Has our season been kickstarted into life again? Billericay will tell us that. But I for once can’t wait for training tonight….