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Eats, Shroots and leaves

So, farewell Robin Shroot then. We hardly knew you.

While there’s always one pre-season transfer saga that draws itself out, the one involving Mr Shroot the NI international became less of a gripping drama and more of a case of waiting for the adverts to finish. After about three attempts to sign him failed, there was more chance of David Davis supporting the 42 day internment extention than him staying.

If truth be told, Shroot’s tenure at AFCW was pretty much a non-starter though. Yes, some had hyped him up because of a few decent performances in the reserves, but in the two years he was at AFCW, I can think of about 2 games in the whole of that time where he justified the hype – Horsham away and Ashford Town away last season. Well, to be more precise, 1.5 games as he was largely ineffective in the second half of that Horsham game, I seem to remember. The rest of the time, I was looking at him and thinking “well?”. This under two different managers.

And that was his problem. I don’t necessarily blame himself, but he was always expendable. And dare I say he was fast becoming disliked? The guy certainly has talent, but tellingly, when you mention(ed) Shroot to “ordinary” AFCW fans, some of the actual comments have been “he’s not as good as he think he is”, to “he’s a pain in the arse”, to “he’s a whinger”. Seriously, I’m not making these comments up, and I didn’t exactly prompt them either. Had Shroot stayed, would he been as welcome as other squad members?

TBH, the hype put upon him by his fan club has probably gone a fair way to hastening his departure. Blunt I know, but think about it : he was portrayed as this superkid who held the key to further riches and successes for AFCW. And, I’m afraid to say, he didn’t fulfill it. The reactions afterwards say everything, and even TB isn’t entirely sad to see him go. What we were told about him failed to materialise, and you can’t really blame the general AFCW fanbase for being non-plussed.

He was effectively a reserve team player who got through to the fringes of the first team of a RP/CS side and no further. Nothing wrong with that, but imagine if he’d crept slowly into the first team a la Chris Hussey, unheralded and almost unannounced. He’d probably be on a contract now, and quite a decent one. But RDS leaving last season hurt people. Fergie leaving after the playoffs hurt people. This doesn’t.

The other thing about Shroot is this. He’s obviously after first team football and ultimately league football. OK, he’s not the only ambitious kid about, but consider the following : when he went on loan last season, he didn’t go to a Conf side, or even a CS outfit, he ended up at a Ryman side. He also had a trial at Crewe and got nowhere with them – and remember, Crewe have seen exactly his sort before, virtually each and every day. Yes, he got into the NI squad, although at the time Sanch was the manager and you do wonder if a little favour was pulled here IYSWIM…

OK, I’m probably sounding like I’m ripping on Shroot, making him out to be some sort of failure. That’s not my intention, but ultimately the whole thing became a distraction. And yes, like most people I am disappointed at his tenure with us. To be fair, the kid is clearly talented, he could play league football, and the breaks may still come. But it’s obvious nobody is losing sleep over this, and I’ll say what I always say – look at Luis Cumbers and Ramone Rose last season, and look at Robin Shroot. And then ask yourself why two of those have played in the first team for league clubs at a younger age….

Bloody hell, I’m feeling blunt and harsh this morning. Guess it’s the close season kicking in, although at least we’ve got Euro 2008 to distract us. Unsurprisingly, things are a bit slow on the SW19 front, mainly because TB’s been on holiday and with the exception of Shroot, Chris Sullivan and Tom Davis on the transfer front, there hasn’t been a lot to get excited about.

The close season is that time of year when you even get excited about stand extensions and league AGMs. By all accounts, the Conference one at Blackpool last weekend went well, and its professionalism was noted by the club publicly. Wonder how we’ll report the Ryman AGM tomorrow, which apparently we have to go to? No, I don’t know why it’s compulsory to attend either. Apparently last year Theo Paphitis made a couple of digs at our expense over Darlogate, whilst presumably we had to sit there and take it. I can’t imagine Conf sides doing that to other members at their AGM – the Conf setup seems a lot more, well, classy.

Sure we can allow ourselves one more dig at Turdeyland – dealing with them and then dealing with the Conference is like dealing with a dodgy market stall then walking into Woolworths. No, it ain’t Harrods, but at least you feel you have a better chance of getting a refund.

Ah fuck it, let’s have another go at them for now. I read on the Other Site recently something interesting. Apologies for the unauthorised rebroadcasting, but on the eve of hopefully our last ever Ryman AGM…

” my wife works in a top fund managers … mixes with millionaires, celebrities and high powered business men …. But , she reckons the snootiest, most stuck up fuckers she’s ever met were the Ryman Committee men …”

Again, apologies if you were the one who wrote this, but I think it needs to be repeated 😉 By the time the weekend is over, we will finally be free of a nasty, spiteful, jobs-for-the-boys tinpot league. The comments above surprise me not. When you consider that many of our fans have worked at high levels of industry (Erik at PWC certainly), to have to deal with the blazers who are convinced they’re important really sticks in the throat. The impression I get from the Conf is that while it’s officious, it’s more businesslike. They seem to look after all member clubs, not just some.

They get national exposure from Setanta, and before that Sky Sports, so they have to be run well. They deal with ex-league clubs, so they have to be more professional in their outlook. Yes, they get it wrong (think of the Conf South playoff final venue fuckup), but they seem more ready to review their rules if they don’t work out. They seem to accept that it’s part of the job of running a league – not acting like it’s the end of the fucking world. As our OS said only last week, metaphorically and literally, we are in a different league now….

Of course, the Conference ain’t perfect. I’m not so convinced at them lifting the wage cap, although there are still going to be controls in place. Nuneaton and others should act as a warning to all. If any level needs more financial scrutiny, it’s this one. We all know that teams like H&W couldn’t match the spending power of Oxford, Torquay, Wrexham, Mansfield etc etc season in, season out. That’s why clubs like Weymouth and next season Lewes struggle – financial reality dawns very quickly, and there’s no way they’ll spend at current levels forever.

It does get farcical when two of your three relegated sides stay up because other clubs just don’t know how to spend money properly. At least we get nice trips to WSM and Dorchester as well now, though sadly we’ve lost Redditch. But really, when non-league clubs/fans give themselves the rather pompous “real football for real fans”, it does sound rather smug and nauseous. I don’t remember many League clubs collapsing financially and getting shunted down a few divisions below. Although I wish one certain outfit would…

Now, while we’re all for consolidation this season, does seem like Erik is hinting at maybe a playoff push. It certainly makes financial sense to be in the Conference, although I would prefer us to be ready for it and not damage ourselves. We are apparently going to be the fourth highest spenders this season, though it doesn’t feel like it. So while we may look romantically at a season of honest endeavour yet ultimate mid-table futility, methinks the club are being a little more ambitious than we think. Mind you, wouldn’t it be ironic if we did in the CS this season what we thought we’d do in the RP last season….?

Oh, and before I go – we’ve been made associate members of the FA. Whatever that means. Christ, we really are moving up in the world…..