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We are still the champions

So, how are we enjoying the first few days of being Champions? Nice isn’t it?

I guess the weather is helping, but there’s a rather serene feel to everything right now. Maybe even a nice smug glow of self-satisfaction as well. Sure, playoffs are nice and all that, but titles are the ones to win. A playoff victory always carries the slight stigma of going up through the back door, especially if you don’t finish second. This time round, there’s no disputing we were the best side. If last year we had the luck, this year we had the talent.

It was quite strange listening to the playoffs this week. Was I the only one who increasingly found myself increasingly unfussed at the outcome of them? Obviously, we all have our preferences as to whom we’d like to go up (or stay down), but if it does turn out to be an Axewound v Eastleigh Basketball Association final, you’ll just shrug your shoulders and expect it to be a nice break from the Wrexhams and Oxfords next season. If anything, I’m more interested in t’Conf North ones – just imagine Gateshead away…

If H&R go up, at least it will be near. A word of warning though about people thinking it’ll be the Boxing Day/NYD fixture. Here’s a snip from a What’s Happening At KM? piece from last close season on this :

When the fixtures were being designed we were asked to submit an analysis of the distance between us and all other teams in the league. The idea is obviously to try to arrange the longer journeys on Saturdays when there isn’t a possible FA Cup or Trophy game, so that we avoid long journeys in midweek. You will have seen that we were allocated Fisher Athletic. While Hampton & Richmond are the nearest club to us, the person devising the fixtures must also take into account the distance between all other clubs and, on balance, they made the selections we now see. We asked that the August and Easter public holiday games should be against Bromley, and those games were allocated to us.

So don’t be surprised if we end up with Crawley, Ebbsfleet or even Oxford. Though if it’s the latter, you can guarantee the TV cameras will be down there.

Speaking of the playoffs, a cursory glance at the Setanta website suggests that the regional Conference playoffs aren’t being shown this year, although there are rumours they are trying to move them to the Sunday. Another reason to be thankful we’re champions. I imagine that the authorities really pissed Setanta off last year with the BSS one, constantly moving the venue and whatnot. Then again, the more cynical would suggest that H&R’s ground wouldn’t be able to cope with a live TV broadcast anyway – the lights aren’t good enough, there’s fuck all parking and where exactly can they put the gantry? But don’t worry everyone, it’s perfectly OK for the Conference. The FA said so…

Funny the difference a year makes. This time twelve months ago we were further reddening our collective arseholes with the buildup to Staines. Indeed, about this time last year I was in the queue at Staines trying to sort out their cynical attempt to get their own lifelong support (sic) at our expense. Shame it backfired. Anyway, the result was us getting promoted and thinking that the BSS was this mammoth division, a zillion times better run and one that people gave a shit about.

Looking back, am I the only one a tad disappointed by it? Not us winning the league of course, and I enjoyed the 9 months we spent in it more than the time from the second CCL season to the final game in Turdeyland put together. Funny what winning regularly can do. But in many ways the standard was no better than the Ryman. The collective attitudes were better (bar the dishonorable exceptions, mentioning no names…) but for the highest regional level of non-league football it was a bit, well, underwhelming.

This is probably another reason why Setanta have (at time of writing) given the regional playoffs this season the heave-ho. If it was us in them, they’d show them all right (be still, my increasingly large testicles) but really, who would care if H&R play Eastleigh? Clearly Setanta don’t. But then, they don’t give a shit about this level full stop. Once we do play our first Conference fixture, we’ll already see how much more exposure we’ll get. We’ll even get about 100 words in the News of the World each week. Sometimes, we’re lucky if the printed edition of the Kingston Surrey Comet gives us that.

We can also get to laugh at Woking, and how they’re coping with life in the BSS already. If you want to sum them up, I will quote you a member of their top brass to a journo in the press box there, as far back as the 2004/05 season – “I don’t like AFC Wimbledon, they’ve got too many fans”. Bear that in mind the next time they descend into Bromley-esque bitterness about us, how we killed Ks etc etc.

Anyway, we could still play them next season because of something called the AGM Cup. Basically, that’s the Conference AGM where teams apply to go out of the division because they literally cannot afford it. The rumour mill keeps churning up Grays, Ebbsfleet and Salisbury for the ones to be making a voluntary goodbye, so perhaps we shouldn’t get too smug at their expense yet. If they do stay up, expect the small-timed attitude to continue…

Obviously, there’s a fair amount of apprehension by us over finances next season. Should we be worried though? Grays and Ebbsfleet will struggle next season, and even Chester aren’t in great shape. As long as we are sensible, we should be able to survive comfortably. Next season might not be a bad time to consolidate – we’re certainly not ready for League football, yet we should be able to attract enough decent Conf standard players to gain that mid-table mediocrity we secretly desire.

Who is on the in/out list this time round won’t be officially known until after the End of Season Dinner. However, rumours abound that TB was spotted at Kidderminster, Aldershot reserves and Hayes since Sunday alone. Personally, if we have a chance of going for a Conf level player (or one even higher), we should go for them. I’m not a big fan of signing players from the division we’ve just come up from – they’re down there for a reason. If we hadn’t gone up, would DK have stayed? Possibly not, he joined us so he could play in the Conf next season. And you can bet there are better players than him hanging around in various mid table sides…

On the out list, Jake Leberl might be gone, if it’s true that he is prioritising other things in his life (his missus is about to have a kid). Shame really, as he’s a Dons fan, but as a footballer he knows the score on getting released. He joined us because he didn’t want to go full time with D&R, lest we forget. He could certainly do the proverbial job for an ambitious BSS club (rules out Woking then…). Other than that, it’s just the guessing game for the next week and a bit.

While we await anything to happen, you can read the latest SW19 article here. Either that or it’s twiddling your thumbs or read about how we’ve killed the current Ryman One champions…