Hard to think that we’re only now two days away from the unofficial start of the season. That kind of self-convincing that the first pre-season game is proof that the campaign is under way already. Watching half-fit players going at 50%. Telling yourself “this season’s going to be great” when somebody puts two passes together. The occasional memory jolt that it was only four years ago that we played at Mayfield Road in a competitive fixture. Seeing people who you haven’t seen for ages, and if it wasn’t for football you would have absolutely no reason to know any of them.
And not forgetting the fun unique to PSFs, where you get to play Spot The New Player. The one who sort of looks like a squad member from last season but is slightly too tall, or has a different stronger foot, or that degree quicker. Although in our case, that isn’t quite so unique…..
Actually, it’s really hard to comprehend that this will be the first “proper” first team game since that warm, tense day in the very early stages of May. About 2.5 months or so ago, wasn’t it? Last night, for the first time since I bought it, I watched the playoff-semi and final DVD. To be more accurate, this was the first time I’ve seen it where it wasn’t on Nuts TV. Even so, watching it now with a cool, almost detatched perspective on it, a couple of things jumped out at me. Firstly, I don’t think we were as bad as we thought in those games. In both of them, I really think we deserved it because we had the better chances.
Secondly, how much are we going to miss Marcus Gayle this season? In fact, will we ever get that type of player for us again? There can’t be too many of the WFC Premiership squad about now, in fact I’m not sure how many WFC pre-2002 there are about full stop. We might end up with a cameo swansong from a Chris Perry, or a Jason Euell in the foreness of time, but after those, that’ll be it for that chapter. Surprised we didn’t go for Rob Gier though. I’m not going to say we’ll never end up with a former Prem/Championship player ever again – in fact, if you can get one who wants to play for us snap him up. As Gayle last season, and as Mick Harford proved eons ago, the legs may go but the footballing brain doesn’t.
But most importantly of all, I realise just how different things are now. I’m not really talking about players moving on (though after some of his crossing against Coldseal, I can see why Fergie went now), I’m talking about how the vibe is now. It’s been said so many times, not least on here, but the time around the playoffs (and before) were just so stomach-churningly jittery that I really did wonder how we’d get through it. Now compare and contrast to our trip down to Bath last weekend. Don’t we look more self-assured now? Don’t we look more of not only a squad but a unit already? Even though we haven’t kicked a ball in anger yet?
Last season was so full of rumour and counter-rumour about bitchfests in the squad that I think we were ready to blow. Some people did, and I shudder to think what we’d be thinking right now if the last ten minutes hadn’t have happened. Although IMO we wouldn’t have done much differently there as we have now. Yet look at the pictures where the management are playing against the squad – dare I say team spirit?
Of course, it wouldn’t be an AFCW pre-season without at least one injury. Step forward Chris Sullivan, who was so determined to fit in with his new club that he damaged his shoulder before he signed. OK, I’m being harsh and I would hope that we knew about this when we signed him. If we did I suppose that now is a good a time as any to get this sorted. Maybe we’ve got better medical facilities so we can get Sully and others fitter and ready to go? Lest we forget Marcus Gayle last season, who was seemingly on the scrapheap by January until we discovered exactly what his problem was. The rest was history…
But just reading that little snippet and if you ignore the usual stuff of how he wants to be here, big support etc etc, the fact he’s mates with JG helps enormously. See, even with the playoffs last season, I sensed some of our our players were doing it more for their own pride rather than AFCW’s. Some of the stories I heard gobsmacked me (especially alleged stuff that went on between Mark DeBolla and Fergie) and did jack shit for team spirit. Look at the pics from the Bath weekend : how everyone looks intense and focused when the hard work is on, and how everyone is joking around with TB and Stuart Cash afterwards. While I’d never thought I’d write C***y G**g again, there’s more of that mid-to-late-80s spirit about now. The days when the CG tag was legitimate before Hammam hijacked it and made it a crappy marketing tool for his own ends.
Now I’ve written that, expect an 11-man brawl on Saturday with our own players and TB resigning on the spot.
For some of the more desperate amongst us, pre-season has already started. Like 20 other hardcore Wombles, I popped down to Chertsey on Tuesday to see us get whalloped 4-1. Well, that’s slightly unfair, because we were 3-0 down after 35 minutes or so with what can best be described as a scratch team. Second half looked more like what I imagine our reserve team will look like in the upcoming season. And considering it was a full-strength Chertsey side (avec Coops, Lee O’Leary and another ex-AFCW player whose name escapes me right now) it looked quite promising.
TB turned up in the second half, so that probably explains why we played better 😉 Actually, it might be worth keeping more of an eye out for the reserves this season as one or two of those players I saw in the second half Tuesday may be in our first team squad come the back end of the season. I do however hope that it was just a week too early for most of those I saw in the first half….
Elsewhere, Micky Haswell seemed to do OK for BHA in Athlone last night. Firstly, here’s what their local paper said:
“AFC Wimbledon leftback Michael Haswell, who, like Andrew Whing and Jake Robinson, played the whole 90 minutes, did his bid to earn a contract no harm.”
All well and good for him, although manager Micky Adams followed up with this:
“He did okay. He worked hard and he showed a bit of promise but I don’t want to judge him on one performance. I’ll take him to Worthing (on Saturday) and see where we go after that”.
He did play the whole game there so maybe he’ll sign. Though Adams did sound a little bit non-committal, so maybe he’ll be back sooner than we think? Whatever happens, it does prove that we are being looked at by pro clubs, and we may have to get used to losing our better players in this matter. Again, this is why a strong reserve side is so vital this campaign and further down the line. If Adams likes Haswell, we will need to replace him – so up steps Chris Hussey with the minimum of fuss. Painless and ensures we aren’t shitting ourselves already
Granted, we’ll miss Haswell if he does go, but we’ve done well enough since 2002 with nobody poaching our players. Just look at it as a compliment……..
Finally, the problems with the site going down this week should be OK. I’m looking into a mirror site, and thanks to everyone who offered me new hosting. Don’t be surprised if I suddenly start asking for money…………..