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Bourne Ultimatum

Thanks to JP for the Eastbourne report below the line.

Just a few notes on my trip to the Withdean yesterday, one in particular a lesson some people should heed. Basically, for those who have never been there, just imagine the KM athletics track right in the middle of Merton Park. Complete with misguidedly high snootyness factor. Anyone who thinks that parking around KM is bad should try a 1.5 mile parking exclusion zone.

OK, BHA do well to put up with it, but christ they hate being there. Which is why they really get excited about Falmer. And I mean, really excited about the move there in August 2011. Excited in the sense of phenominal interest in the corporate side alone (whether this is their present situation or whether it’s a forerunner to them moving I forget, but they have 27 interested parties for one – yes, one – suite).

But it’s more than that, and it’s something the average AFCW fan would understand. At least, I hope we would. When the guy in the PA box explained to me the absolute chill down his spine (in a good way) when he passes Falmer, I know exactly what he meant. When he said that he wants to just put in a grassy surface and watch the next League game there, I couldn’t concur more.

And when he said that the next year-and-a-bit will be the most frustrating of all because you can see the stands and you think it’s ready…. well, put it this way, my neck is still loose from the nodding in agreement I did.

All of which makes me think of our own ground situation. Since 1991, we’ve had so many lies told to us that I can understand that people have the stuffing knocked out of us over it. I doubt if I’m the only one who rolls their eyes whenever the club says it’s making good progress on Merton – been there, heard that. I so desperately want to be proved wrong, but as usual, you get the feeling we’ll be painfully let down…

Not that we shouldn’t try of course, and I think anyone who wavers on this should spend an afternoon down on the South Coast, to prove what it really means. The whole go-back-to-Merton-or-stay-at KM is a subject that is surprisingly sensitive. I know there’s arguments about cost and whatnot, although I maintain to this day that KM will end up being as costly for AFCW as any move back home. In more ways than one.

Unfortunately, I’m also detecting a rather nihilistic tendency amongst a minority to support KM simply to “get at” Merton Council and/or the people Erik Samuelson ill-advisedly called fundamentalists. A little snipe here, a sneer there. It’s almost like the long term future of the club takes a backseat to pointscoring. That’s an attitude I don’t get, will never get, and leads me to openly question if they are true AFCW fans or not.

I’ll happily state this now – moving back to Merton would propel this club forward in a way that staying at KM will never do. I’ve seen first hand what it means to everyone at BHA, and they haven’t had it as bad as we have. When you speak to them about moving to Falmer, there’s a real buzz and energy that comes through. I once worked with a Brighton fan who said that if they didn’t have enough money to build it, they’d just construct whatever they could afford and move in PDQ anyway.

That’s what it means to them. It would also mean the same to us if we were allowed that opportunity.

I do believe the problem we have with grounds is that we have never had anything properly presented to us since 1991, which understandably makes people think we will never get anything and that it’s all a big pipe dream. That said, it will just take one legitimate proposal and you watch the whole club burst into life. Think of the commercial opportunities alone.

AFCW itself has about 4-5 years to sort out the club’s ultimate direction. It will be difficult, but it could do a lot worse than travel down the M23/A23 and pick a few brains of a certain football club who also hate Palace.

Anyway, while we’re on a South Coast theme, I’ll let JP get on with it. He’s been rather patient…

Game on! (well, maybe)

Well that was better. Not perfect, but certainly better.

The score line Eleven Fit Men 2 Twelve Angry Men 0 came after a hard physical encounter but in truth if it hadn’t been for ex-Don Danny Knowles in the Eastbourne goal in the first half we could well have been 3 to 4 goals up. In the end, it was the first bit of football – played on the ground and excellently executed by Wellard – that set up the goal for Poole to score from about a yard. Cue long exhale of breath from all around the ground.

Second half and Eastbourne tried even harder to score (and kick us off the park) but seriously, except for one back post block by Pullen where he made himself big (why is it that phrase sounds like someone’s just wanked himself up? Though I suppose that also would put an attacker off scoring a goal), they didn’t produce any other worthy efforts at goal.

Of course, this was also the time when the inevitable injury to a player (Kennedy) occurred, as we all knew it would, since in truth we started this game with only 11 fit recognised first-teamers. Our bench consisted of 4 youngsters, the most senior player being Seb Brown!

There had been much talk & confusion over player injuries before the game. Then, to top it all, there was that rather muddled comment by TB after the Harrow game on the OS that suggested Godfrey had gone on loan to Staines. This seemed ‘unwise’ at the very least since we already had 7 known injured players (Alan Inns, Jon Main, Brett Johnson, Stephen Gregory, Lewis Taylor, Ross Montague, and Will Hendry) plus Rapson & Turner already on loans.

It then transpired we lost both Moore and Blanchett to flu in the last couple of days. It seemed TB had possibly lost it – I certainly hadn’t known about the flu, but it now seems after the game TB was contrite, admitting he perhaps had been too hasty (see here).

We do seem to suffer a lot of injuries – it might just be perception as I have no other figures for other clubs to compare but it has been noted (thanks Optimistic Don), that we’ve received 36 yellows/ 2 reds compared to 54 yellows/ 5 reds for our opponents so far. We are definitely being sinned against, and that is certainly a factor in fuelling the injury crisis.

Of course, protection for our players is in the hands of the man in black. More about today’s excuse later, but I have been severely disappointed with officials in this league. I’d expected a ‘step-up’ in performance just like I expected with the players and play. But, apart from maybe a couple of performances, there has been plenty of ammunition made available for the crowd to chastise the officials. And if things are this bad at this level there’s no upward pressure on the refs further up the league to improve. I see this weekend’s MotD seems to be focused on poor penalty decisions. Bit like the Elder one yesterday.

In many respects today was almost Altrincham revisited. The only difference was that the team today actually put in the shift of work to try and close EB down. Not perfect but a 100% better than last week. And that is why Poole was on the end of Wellard’s cross whereas last week he would still have been wondering what to do, standing 10 yards outside of the penalty area. And the introductions of both Stafford and Harmsworth showed, perhaps through the naivety of youth that pushing forward, attacking and trying to thread balls through does have a positive defensive effect as well.

Perhaps TB’s youth policy is still right for us. After all, the youth really won the game on Thursday, and they didn’t seem scared to try today when they came in. Maybe it’s just that our ‘youth’ from the beginning of the season have now almost become ‘older men’.

And we need the new youth of today to come in and play without fear to remind the old men it can still be done.

Anyway …

Plus points: Ricky Wellard. Another clean sheet! 6 wins, 1 draw in the last 7 at home. Keeping in touch with the playoffs. Youngsters’ enthusiasm. Dare I say DD?

Minus Points: Kennedy injury, Opposition goalkeeper’s form, Injury list. Lorraine doing excellent impersonations of Bambi on Ice! Everyone else around us winning. Why do we still persist with Hatton free kicks? (Ok, good strike today but it was straight at the keeper whereas if Wellard had taken it the other side of the wall it would have been going to the gap and the goalie would have had to make up the ground)

The Referee’s a …. total disgrace/cunt to the profession. Some said a typical Ryman official. Personally think that was unfair on the Ryman.

From the outset he seemed to decide it was ok for the EB players to rugby tackle our players; hack them down whenever they looked like breaking free; and generally get ever decision wrong. Ok that sounds mad but it seriously felt that bad at times.
How it took their No 5 nearly 30 mins to get booked I do not know (see below).

His incompetence was summed up by two incidents. Second half, ball played up to Kedwell in front of John Smiths, lino 5 yards away. Flags for foul on Kedwell. Ref 25-30 yards away, gives the foul the other way! What is the point in having ref assistants if you don’t use them?

But worse was to come. Late on a through ball is picked up cleanly by Pullen but an EB sub comes in and leaves his foot in, catching Pullen’s head. Ref ushers him away without recourse and then tells Pullen off for complaining he had been kicked in the head. Incredible. No wonder we have the injury crisis we have!

He must have known it being Saturday 13th he wasn’t going to pull or get tonight.

Them: Why 12 Angry Men? Well they certainly came with an ‘angry attitude.’ Maybe it was a sign of the relegation dogfight. Certainly tough we were all surprised it took until about 30 min in for their No 5 to get booked. Think he thought the number of his shirt was the number of times he could foul Elder with impunity. Finally the ref got the message but by then it was too late as their attitude, and the ref’s lack of control set the tone of the game. Shirt pulling, feet left in, elbows flaying and to top it off a flying two-footed tackle on Pullen by, utterly surprisingly ex-Don Jamie Taylor (who btw still looked the business) brought nothing more than a few yellows from the man in black. He was their 12th man, and he seemed angry with us all day. As a friend said, you do wonder sometimes if you are watching the same game.

Regarding their fans it looked like a fair number came. Heard them once or twice. Bit like our fans then.

Point to ponder: Have we really got enough left in this team to get to the playoffs, and if we do, actually do anything? WUP 7.4 fanzine had gone all sentimental in one article about great goals and the winner reminded me of other playoff games, including that Fisher game where we literally did go into the game with about 11 fit men. Perhaps that is an omen. But at the moment we really do need more help – rumour has it we might have an Aldershot player on the way in as an emergency loan.

Funny thing though these emergency loans – doesn’t seem they require any evidence whatsoever of the ‘emergency’ that you are claiming. Odd that in a way, that real evidence isn’t required by the FA…. where has that hurt us before?

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) That the much maligned Derek Duncan had a pretty good second game on the trot, supplying a nice cross for DK’s goal that sealed the game. He’s not the fans’ favourite yet but hasn’t done too badly in the last two games. Watch him not get the York gig next week. 2) Was Matt Harmsworth the youngest player to don an AFCW in a proper league match today? 3) Rumours he did more with his feet in his first 30 seconds of coming on than Nathan Elder did in the rest of the match, was purely mischievous observation. Elder continues to frustrate. 4) That not one EB fan was under the age of about 40* – apparently the stand seats for EB sold out in a record time for the season 5) The Main Stand not moaning but laughing their arses off. Said occasion occurred, I am reliably informed by my daughter, when some wag in the stand, after another failed attempt by the podgy linesman to get something right was heard to shout: “Lino! You’ve got nothing right all afternoon…“ followed swiftly by, in sincere and glowing terms, “ You’ve got a nice pair of tits though.” Cue roars of laughter and general wetting in pants that would have see Tena for Men accomplish record sales.

* – SW19 NOTE: to be fair to Eastbourne, nobody under the age of 60 lives in the town.

Anything else: Yep. We have now officially metamorphosed into Wimbledon FC. There that’ll at least please the fundamentalists in the camp. I claim we are a long ball team and we will remain so whilst we play Elder and Kedwell together. OK, Hobson’s choice today but next week at York? Will we see the return of Main or Moore to compliment Kedwell or Elder? Don’t bet on it yet.

So was it worth it? Staves off planning for retirement for this season for another week

In a nutshell: Job done. Who’s next? York? Oh! Where’s the duck tape, and do you think the Royal Armouries in Leeds will lend us some of their stock for next Saturday, guv?