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Close to the edge

It must be Friday afternoon in the close season, because there’s nothing happening and your editor is bored.

So, where to start? Well, the players return to training tomorrow, and TB has already laid down the law. Nothing we nor the players didn’t know already, but now they’ll have to prove they mean it.

And by the sound of it, nobody is safe. Not even JM and DK. For those sorts of players, this is probably their big chance of making it (relatively speaking), and they would be absolutely retarded to blow it via some close-season indiscipline.

That said, in newspaper interviews previously, JM said that he was doing 2 miles runs virtually every morning, while DK was doing lots of manual work on a building site too. Therefore, the question mark does have to hang over the likes of Ben Judge and Alan Inns instead.

Guess we’ll find out tomorrow. Which hopefully might also finally, finally, give us an answer over the Ricky Wellard saga. At times it feels that Michael Jackson stands a better chance of playing for us next season than the man nicknamed “Bones”.

Indeed, reportedly in yesterday’s Kingston Informer, TB himself was getting fed up of the transfer dragging on in this manner. There really has to be a temptation to pull the plug on the deal right now. Especially as we’re only a matter of days away from a mass of players coming on the market.

Then again, if we’re still persevering with it, Wellard must be one helluva player. At least, one would think so….

Whatever happens though, it’s a change of tack for us all. While it strangely seems to be harder signing a Wellard type character as a Conf side, than it ever was as a Conf South outfit, we’re becoming more and more like a side in the top flight of non-league football.

This fitness regime is probably more brutal and less forgiving that at any time in AFCW’s history. We can’t get away with slackers and piss-takers any more – the opposition will now find that out for us. And unlike in previous seasons we can’t just take yet another player into our bosom as and when we need them.

But it also applies off the field too. While reports of 2250 season tickets swells the ego and swells even further the bollocks, there will come with it a degree of upheaval.

Basically, those who have gotten used to the AFCW experience over the last seven years will need a re-education, and quick. As the club moves forward, so will the way we do things, and some people won’t like it..

SW19 is considering taking bets as to how many will complain at the first KM game that they can’t swap ends. Or are stuck in the JS. Or even that they can’t get to the bar. Probably quite a few, if truth be told.

See, that’s another side of us going up into the big boys league. Yes, playing the Oxfords and Lutons will be good, and one hopes a TV deal will be in place, but it will come at a cost.

I do reckon that we will lose some fans next season because they’ve got too used to the non-league scene. They rather like the friendly, relaxed atmosphere that games vs Hendon brought us. It won’t be like that any more, and with it will come some resentment.

It won’t be the surrogate social club atmosphere next season, it will be more akin to a “proper” game, more like what you expect in the League. And for some, it will be too hard to take. Part of the appeal for them is that while AFCW was always well supported, at the same time it was practically immune from the harshness of football higher up.

I bet you (again) that within the first couple of months of the new season, that at least one person will go on WUP and say they’re not coming any more because it’s not the AFCW they knew and rather liked.

Just as the backwaters of non-league football were difficult for people to adapt to, likewise the more intense, segregated, war-footing mentality of the Conf will put some off. Possibly for a long while to come.

Will it be a shame that we’ll lose some to return to Carshalton and Sutton and Walton Casuals? Yes, although that is the price of progress. And, to the relief of the AFCW bean counters, those we will lose will be replaced by those who can’t wait to see us in a more proper league again.

Anyway, it’s two weeks tomorrow before the first PSF. We’ve got through about two whole months without anything. What makes me think this upcoming fortnight will drag longer than Ricky Wellard’s transfer?

UPDATE: Guess I forgot to update about Setanta. The problem is, there isn’t much to report. There was a scurrilous rumour on the Conf National board for windowlickers WUMs that Paul “Holocaust” Parker was fronting a consortium for getting the BSP on Dave.

Now, if that’s true, it doesn’t really do much for the image of the BSP. At least under Setanta the division had a degree of respectability. Should it go to Dave or somewhere like that, the whole thing becomes a novelty attraction again. It will prove that non-league will never shake off its “eccentric” image.

Just read back from last week on SW19 and looks like I was a bit wide of the mark with Setanta being around next season. Perhaps more worryingly, the Conf Chairmen were doing the same too.

In fact, the reaction since Setanta went into admin is scary. If a TV company could ever be given a blowjob, it’s certainly getting one from the Conf and its member clubs now. There really seemed a belief, even 24 hours after its demise, that Setanta would rise from the ashes to bring us Salisbury v FGR next season.

We’re starting to find out a bit more now, even if only in rumour stage. For example, the Conf had no contingency plan in case this happened. No SPL bailout here.

The Ebbsfleet chairman (who ironically was the Conf head honcho when the Setanta deal was signed) thinks it’s “unlikely” that ESPN or Sky will take on even a reduced Conf contract.

All in all, while our own OS says we’ll be OK, even if we’ve taken a hit ourselves, it’s turning into a very bad week for the Conference. The era of 42 or so live Conf games is now gone – a broadcaster may not wish to show each club live once, and it’s only the big clubs (AFCW included) who any suitor will care about.

One would hope the Conf is knocking on the door of ESPN and/or Sky right this very minute with begging bowl and a free grope in order for some scraps of coverage next season. Somehow though, one can’t help feeling we’ll be relying on AFCW TV again. Or even the return of Dons Online.