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Sign of the Times

Well, this is nice to wake up to on this FA Trophy Tuesday – an article in the Times.

This one is however an article with a difference – for the first time I can remember, the angle is about the realities that are about to face us as we progress. There is the usual “isn’t it marvellous what AFCW has achieved?” arselicking, but Matt Dickinson (who’s sodding tall in the flesh, BTW) has effectively “gone there”.

Of course, those who have read this place will have been reading the same conclusions since 2002 😉

OK, there are a couple of quibbles in the article to get out of the way first. I’m not too sure whether Erik’s “fundamentalist” jibe was particularly well advised, even in jest. The whole ground location issue is still an emotive subject for many (myself included), especially if you’ve got a long memory of the WFC days. And remember kids, the same people labelled as such are responsible for you having an AFCW in the first place.

Also, would a new construction really cost £14m? I can see the land costing that, although I can’t think of any football club who has either paid for it all themselves or indeed paid it all off in one go. Makes you wonder how other clubs with less support than us manage to construct their own stadia if they are the costs.

Although it’s telling that Dickinson used the exact phrase “wherever it is”. Guess he really does read SW19 then.

Points of contention aside, I’m glad this has come out, and at this very time when we’re all starting to get giddy again about League football. Finally, a reality check for us all. We’ve been pretty spoilt since 2002 – we’ve had more or less the pick of the best players in the division, we haven’t really been hampered by financial constraints, and we’ve basically been the kings of the division. In other words, we’ve lived a pretty closeted existence.


Like last season, this period of “consolidation” hasn’t quite worked out has it? If anything, after Saturday it’s intensified. Today, there’s even more dreams and daring thoughts about the playoff final at Wembley. And to be honest, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

There is that feeling of injustice about the whole AFCW “thing” that I don’t think will ever dissipate, even if we do find ourselves in League One by 2018. It’s not that we shouldn’t think like this either, and it’s interesting to see the amount of non-AFCW fans who believe we’ll be a League Two club in less than five years anyway. If you ever go to places like Aldershot or D&R or Barnet, you’ll soon realise that if they can become part of the L2 furniture, so can we.

This is why I can’t abide by the (admittedly still very few) comments going about right now that somehow we shouldn’t be pushing for League football if it means we give up – or even dilute – the club’s ownership model. Two things : firstly, we are apparently run like a L2 club anyway, with directors/investors putting money in per year, coupled with transfers and cup runs. And the power and influence will always follow the money trail. Therefore, one could argue the whole ownership model is diluted now anyway.

Secondly, such comments remind me of the stories that older Wombles tell me about WFC’s push into the League in the 1970s. There were some WFC directors who didn’t want to go into the League, but Ron Noades was the one who put the effort into what eventually culminated in that day in May 1988. How true Uncle Ron’s real involvement was I don’t know, but it does prove the point that Dickinson makes:

What happens when the supporters, accustomed only to success during the heady climb from the Combined Counties League, become frustrated that progress has stalled, as it inevitably must?

Will they continue to delight in having a club at all? Or will they vent their frustration, and demand change and investment? The higher they go, will the happy camaraderie be put at risk?

He’s right of course, whether you want to admit it or not. If you want to argue the toss, just imagine how you felt when we won that playoff against Staines. Or clinched the BSS title (bar the mathematics) at the BeaverDome. Were you drinking merrily all night because you were supporting a club that had rules and regulations about club ownership? If you were, then everyone else was celebrating because we got promoted into a higher league. You know, a football thing that football fans do.

Still disagree? If you see an Alty fan tonight, just ask them if they’re still happy that we got more votes than them in 1977. Remember to duck after you’ve asked them that.

Dickinson has managed to ask the right questions, in the nicest way possible, and for once we feel obliged to answer them. He’s making us think what we really want from AFCW. Is it the ownership model? Is it the fact you’re going with your mates to somewhere near(ish) Wimbledon? Is it us doing well? Is it the push to League football, that is so tantalisingly near right now? All of this? None of this? Whatever the answer is, we’re about to find out.

For what it’s worth, I think we’ll continue to develop the AFCW brand by stealth, eventually pushing the DT into some kind of Chelsea Pitch Owners association, which is where its long-term future will lie. We will become a League side eventually, and like the challenges we’ve faced thus far, we’ll overcome them well enough. Remember how apprehensive you were this pre-season? The BSP doesn’t seem so bad and scary now, does it? In more than the odd case, we’ll simply end up wondering what all the fuss was about.

We can thank Matt Dickinson for this article, not just for the national publicity, but to ask questions I believe too many of our fans shy away from asking. His report may be the most important catalyst of this weekend, without us realising it.

While writing this, the list of DT candidates came out. There’s a lot of interest in the four places up for grabs, which surprises me but perhaps it shouldn’t. Maybe the spectre of League football has motivated people this time round? It’s certainly very interesting to note that three of the candidates are ex-WISA top brass. Even more interesting that at least two of the individuals were directly involved in these discussions with Merton and Koppout, though I stand to correction.

Maybe, just maybe, Dickinson’s comments may be more pre-emptive than first thought…?