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Here we go…

Ah, summer. The sun is shining, the birds are tweeting, various insects are flying about, it could only be August.

Oh yeah, and the football season starts today.

I’ve got to be honest and admit that today’s game has crept up on me a fair bit. It hardly seems a couple of weeks ago that we were getting into gear with Wycombe at KM. Mind you, it hardly seems like any time since we were spraying champagne after beating St Albans.

But today really will be our first competitive fixture in 3-and-a-bit months. Maybe it’s because of the euphoria (and relief) from last season that this has all flown by. Christ, even the Test matches aren’t over yet, although looking at yesterday’s scorecards…

Anyway, it’s Luton. The one we all secretly wanted and didn’t want at the same time. Not Luton United, or Luton and Bedfordshire, or some other variation of a well known team. Luton Town. The Luton Town.

Yet even so, it doesn’t feel real at this moment. It feels a bit like a PSF today in a strange sort of way, although that will soon disappear when you realise that the league table changes today. Even the ITV and BBC buildups don’t entirely compute – did the AFCW era really start seven years ago? Off Wimbledon Common? And was it really around about this time, 84 months ago, that we all trapsed down to Sandhurst not knowing what the hell to expect from this club that was finally ours?

If that day was the first day at Primary school, today is the first day of going to High school. You’re in with the big(ger) boys now. Gone are the days of misplacing your Transformers – now you’re in the culture of teen pregnancies and getting your first car. You’ll be all right once the first day is over, but you don’t half feel some trepidation.

And that’s what I think a lot of today will be about. What I want at 5pm today is to know we haven’t disgraced ourselves. We have a young side which I’m not sure has really gelled enough in this pre-season. We’ll be playing against a team today who in all truth shouldn’t be at this level. We should lose 4-1 today.

But then, will we? We are an unknown quantity, and while we may not have the experience (though neither do Luton if you think about it) we certainly have the desire to prove a few wrong. Reading around various places this summer, it seems that we’re pretty much underestimated throughout. While I think we’ll finish between 9th and 14th, it’s quite an odd feeling to read us and not be told we’re the major scalp as usual.

The re-adjustment in 2002 (and up until last season, if truth be told) where we went from being one of the smallest to THE biggest was often quite difficult to take. Now, we’ve got to go back to 2000/01 in the WFC era – good enough but not the top dogs in the division. This readjustment will put some noses out of joint – we won’t win every game, in fact we will get tonked a couple of times.

Not only that, but I do think we will lose a few fans simply through being in the Conference. Since 2002, we’ve gotten rather used to having it our own way – going to the bar at half time, meandering back in half-hour later, a relaxed atmosphere etc etc. If you look at the OS and the arrangements for today, it all reads rather like a pro-club doesn’t it?

The people I don’t envy today are our stewards (the AFCW supporting ones, not so much the ones we get from outside). It’s a tough job to do anyway, but when you add in that a fair amount of our support will really get the arse when they’re told they can’t go to the bar….For a few of our support, they will probably think that the cuddly AFCW they’ve enjoyed for the last seven years is no longer cuddly. They will still support the club but basically want it to remain that CCL/Ryman outfit that we could never be for long. No doubt the bars of a few local RP sides will hear the odd cheer at 5pm when the vidiprinter says we’ve beaten Oxford…

For the rest of us, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. This is where we’ve wanted to be since we started. Today will be the hardest game of all season, because we don’t know what we’re letting ourselves in for. Our innocence will be lost forever today (in a good way or not), and that will always be difficult to take. Let’s face it – we’ve had it pretty bloody easy since 2002. Seriously, getting up the leagues was always a case of when, not if. That’s not going to be the case any more.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this before the game, chances are it’s starting to sink in a bit more now. We’re in this for the long haul, and TB’s comments about first games of the season ring true. Should we lose 4-1 then it will be a bit of a wakeup call but nothing more. A couple of morons would see that result as proof we shouldn’t be in this division, but those sorts have opinions that are worthless anyway.

Apprehension, tenacity, fear, excitement, relief and knowing the nine-month rollercoaster is starting again. Can’t wait.

WHILE I’m here, a quicky about Chester – how fucking idiotic are the Conference in giving them the OK to play when the FA haven’t? By the sound of it, they’re pretty much bent over and about to be sodomised big time. Most people know that they haven’t been able to fulfill even pre-season fixtures, so how they’ve been allowed to get to this late stage is beyond comprehension.

But I’m starting to see why Chris Wilder (Oxford manager) called it a “poxy league” last season. Earlier this week, we had the fiasco of the clubs losing that money from Setanta. By the sound of it under a bit of a cloak of silence. While I think we should be OK, and perhaps even better off, other teams making their budgets in good faith really are going to get shafted. Compare this to the League where they really do pull out all stops to stop their teams going under, the Conf seems to enjoy making it difficult for everyone.

As for the TV deal, I really am convinced they’re trying to do a deal with the lifeless corpse of Setanta. We were supposed to hear of something yesterday, and obviously that hasn’t occured. Still rumours that it’s an ESPN v Eurosport battle, and I read on Digital Spy that there’s a sticking point with the cameramen doing current BSP footage over the highlights.

Perhaps Turdeyland wasn’t quite so badly run after all…?