Ah, the close season. Can’t beat it
To be honest, it’s been difficult updating this site. Firstly, because there isn’t much news going about at this time of year. Secondly, because anything I do consider writing, Anon Don keeps beating me to it. Bloody upstart. Still, give it a couple of years and he’ll be pissed off with people demanding updates when he’d much rather be watching telly…. 😉
Anyway, what’s going on? Erm, not a lot. Paul Lorraine re-signed for us yesterday, which was one of the more obvious moves that was coming. Apart from Jack Turner signing up, and Elliott Godfrey and Jay Conroy signing terms again, that’s really been it.
Yes, it’s been that quiet. Last week, What’s Happening At Kingsmeadow went on about full time versus part time, the rammifications etc. What it did also suggest was that we’ll have to wait until the end of June before any more significant transfers, because that’s when professional contracts run out.
Now, as we’re about eight players short of a Conf squad, it’s going to feel a little bit nervy and just a tad frustrating when the pre-seasons come closer and we haven’t yet filled our squad out. One wonders if we’ll have some signing pre-contract deals (ie committing themselves to us but waiting until their contracts run out), or whether we’ll have some massive influx of players that will send the OS into a nervous breakdown.
Whatever it is, it’s certainly a marked contrast to the last two pre-seasons, where getting in players early to bed them in was the order of the day. It’s an implicit acceptance that this season is consolidation (witness what Oxford are doing right now as a comparison). Which unless we get a decent run of form and the players settle down to Conference life – and each other – well enough is probably as much as we should expect.
The bookie odds of between 14/1 and 20/1 seem to be on our name and size of crowd alone. I’d put us nearer 33/1. Still, if nothing else, it does show that our promotion has raised a couple of eyebrows, and an exclamation of “Ah, Wimbledon? Interesting…”
There is some bigger news about. Yesterday, the Evening Substandard published this. Alas, it turned out to be paper talk (and cue conspiracies as to why it was leaked, who the spokesman was and indeed why did it go through the Mail and then the Mirror first….), but it has re-ignited the whole issue of the ground and AFCW’s future.
There does seem to be a bit of a brutal civil war conflict between the pro-Merton faction and the pro-Kingston lobby already. You can tell who the former are easily (I certainly count myself as one of them). The latter ones are the ones who proclaim themselves to be “realistic”. Does have to be said though, a couple of such individuals do preen themselves whilst saying that.
The arguments relating to staying at KM are basically:
– Can we afford anywhere in Merton?
– Merton Council don’t really want us
– Our community is as much Kingston now
– Getting anywhere in Merton will be difficult and would take ages to get planning.
I’m sure there’s others, but those are the main arguments I’ve heard. So then……
Can we afford anywhere in Merton? By ourselves? Nope. But then, how many stadia across the land are actually bought and owned outright by the club who plays in them? Very few. There’s always a leasehold option, which is what we do at KM (yes folks, we don’t actually own KM either). Naming rights (again, we do that at the Cherry Red Volkstadion). There’s grants from the football authorities, lottery, Olympic legacy funds, council assistance, “enabling development”, etc etc. And even just the simple, big-picture approach of “selling” the move back to Merton. Never underestimate the power of “the big picture”, especially in football. And especially something as emotive as this.
As an aside, too many of our fans seem to have an either/or attitude when it comes to this sort of thing. Unless there’s 100% control of everything, some of our lot just don’t want to know, be it stadium, or control of the club. Which is fine, the scars of seven-years-and-one-day ago are still fresh in our collective memories.
However, those pretty high up in the club have privately (if not publicly) admitted that the days of constantly asking the support to dip into its wallets have gone. A new share issue would certainly not raise nearly as much funds as it did in those heady early days. Could the practicalities of 100% fan ownership be coming to an end? Especially as the fans themselves can’t afford to fund their club? We’ll see, but as they always say in betting and business, follow the money. It will have a significant impact on anything we do from now on.
Merton Council don’t really want us: Welcome to Hammam era WFC everyone. What a psychological legacy he left us, eh? Here’s some interesting info – how many planning applications have the evil Womble hating Merton Council turned down since the ill-fated Wandle Valley proposal? None. Because how many planning applications did the poor, downtrodden, victimised Wimbledon FC submit to them? Er, none. The problem is, I expect a fair amount of the pro-Kingston faction want to “get at” Merton for perceived injustices…
The truth is, we don’t really know what will happen if/when it comes to the crunch with LBM. Last night’s meeting suggests there are about five potential sites around LBM, locations unknown as of yet, and the council are being pretty pro-active. Whether it’s a cynical ploy to gain votes for next year’s elections, or a guilt trip or – quite possibly – they rather like the idea of a high profile football club in its confines, remains to be seen. If ultimately nothing was to ever happen, because Merton let us down, at least we did the right thing. If Merton doesn’t happen because we – yes, we – are responsible, we lose all credibility in calling ourselves a community club. Though doubtless some will continue to proclaim themselves as such…
Our community is as much Kingston now: Hmm, I thought Chelski was Kingston’s local team. Judging by the amount of car stickers and flags about, anyway. Not joking here, but I see very very few obvious signs of Womble habitation around Kingston. Certainly not compared to SM4 and yes, SW19, where there’s a lot more car stickers about.
This is always a bit of a strange one anyway. I believe we’ve started making overtures to the South Korean community, but nothing obvious as of yet. The sense I always get around Kingston itself is that those who support us supported us anyway. Every time I go there, it never feels like our community. The local paper will naturally favour Ks, and we’ll still be the outsiders unless we were to change the name from Wimbledon. If I was to pick anywhere outside Merton that was more “us”, it would in fact be Sutton. Which does at least tie in with our guilt-ridden uptight middle class liberal demographic 😉
For the record, I fully support any and all attempts to branch ourselves out to Kingston, Sutton, Wandsworth (an untapped market IMO), Epsom, even Croydon. Just remember though, the name and the colours and the heritage and the profitable mascot are all Wimbledon.
Getting anywhere in Merton will be difficult and would take ages to get planning: Fine, I don’t disagree with that. Warrington’s Halliwell Jones stadium took over 1000 days to get from start to finish. But anything we do or anywhere we go will have exactly the same issues, maybe more so. I wouldn’t consider that a legitimate reason to abandon all work done so far with Crown House.
Let’s flip the argument around now, and apply the same criteria to staying at KM. How realistic is it really?
Can we afford anywhere in Kingston? Depends if you want to be stuck with a 6k stadium or not. In the current KM footprint, that’s basically as big as we could go anyway. The trouble is that next season we could hit 6k for some games if we had the capacity. So that projected capacity sounds a lot but ultimately isn’t. It would still be one of the smaller ones in the division and is something we would outgrow PDQ on current progression.
So go much above that capacity and you’ll basically need to flatten and start again. Which means – yup, you guessed it – a lot of money. Maybe as much as anywhere in Merton, even if you use the KM site. It certainly wouldn’t be as “sellable” as a return to Merton would be, and there’s the additional complication of what to do with the athletics stadium. I believe it’s owned by Kingston council, and has been there since 1961. To move it elsewhere would be pretty costly, both financially and politically. The only way you’ll ever keep the cost down is to have a 10k stadium with an athletics track around it……….. There is some land behind both stadia, but they’re being eyed up for housing and AFAIK have been for some time. Even if that land was available, the cost would still be pretty high and probably more difficult to raise than returning to Merton.
Kingston Council don’t really want us: OK, bit of an unfair one here, because our dialog is the short-to-medium term is a necessary and pretty constructive one. But outside the KM complex (see above) would they be as willing to help out? At least LBM are dealing with a club that bears their name and with “history” behind it. What is really in it for RBK with us? Politically they’ll be helping an “outsider”, and I doubt if NIMBYism is a minor disease there. The other thing to bear in mind is that they are local councillors – they can fuck us up as much as LBM could. And they wouldn’t have so much of a community duty to us either. Anyone who thinks their political representatives will welcome us with open arms and break their spines in bending over for us should smell the coffee. If we put all our faith in them and they say “no” at crunch time, then what?
I would answer the last two points but I’ve answered them already. I think the issue here is, what exactly do we want and what exactly do we need? The vast majority of the pro-Merton lobby would happily agree that KM needs some renovations to prevent the club getting caught out should it progress well enough on the field. Not to mention sorting out the shit view from the JS whenever more than 4 people stand on it.
Any constructon and planning of bigger stadia will take 5 years minimum. That’s not necessarily a pro-Merton or pro-Kingston comment, it’s just what we have to deal with in 2009. In five years time we could also be back in the Ryman and all talk of moving will be pointless. In all likelyhood though, we won’t be. Doing up KM to about 6k will do us for now, but it will only ever be medium term anyway, for sheer size alone.
Personally, I’m all for pro-Merton agitation, simply because I remember the 1990s all too well. I certainly remember the likes of Xavier Wiggins and Lee Willett slogging their guts out when a large bulk of the fanbase just didn’t give a shit (I expect some of those now involved with AFCW were part of the sit-down-and-shut-up brigade there). If you do remember the 90s and the Shitehurst era, you’d feel a sense of deja vu at times over all this. So you may have to forgive those there at the time for not wanting to abandon Merton for the second time in 20 years
And if you really do have doubts about all this, if after everything you still don’t think returning to Merton is a good idea, consider this. AFC Wimbledon v Franchise cunts at the Winalot DoggyDome, Plough Lane, Wimbledon. AFCW need just a draw to gain promotion to League One, while Franchise need to avoid defeat to stay up and avoid liquidation. It’s 0-0 in the 95th minute, and from a corner up pops our central defender to head past their goalkeeper……