It’s taken seven years, eight months and twenty seven days, but after Part Time 0 Full Time 3, it’s finally happened.
Reality has bitten AFC Wimbledon.
You would have to go back to the WFC era to experience not only hit a brick wall, but to remember the pain in your ribs for a few weeks afterwards. I think the last time that happened, it was the first season back in the Championship when the playoffs were suddenly out of reach (and no, I can’t remember what the game was – I’m not Mikey T).
Obviously, we all knew what happened after that, and no doubt our top brass will announce we’re moving to Kettering in the close season. But we’ve talked about consolidation for a long while (since the R1 days, believe it or not), and now it’s finally hit us, it hurts doesn’t it?
Earlier today, I mentioned what we were doing this time last season. If you can’t be arsed to read down, here’s another sobering stat : one calendar year ago (OK, 4th April), we were beating Team Barf 2-0 at KM.
Suddenly, being outmuscled and dipping out on the playoffs today doesn’t seem quite so bad.
OK, both their opening goals were dubious, and they celebrated both of them like they’d won the league already. But really, if they hadn’t have got them then, they would have got them at some point. That’s how it was. I don’t think we had any efforts at all, at least not ones that I can remember.
In many ways, this felt like the game at Oxford. We were clearly a level or two lower than the opposition, and it was always a case of when, not if. This time, Seb Brown came on, and I think the guy needs a run of games. He got more confident as the game went on, and I’ve no doubt he’ll be a good goalkeeper. But the smell ofÂ nerves were there, and Stevenage caught a whiff of it.
Really, what else can you say? I’m going to break my own embargo and mention something TB said in his post-match interview lower down. It looks like our players will be expected to hit the weights room in the close season, to build up their leg muscles. Those who are considered unlikely to be able to do that will be included in the cull.
What this means about part time versus full time is anyone’s guess. According to our manager, we haven’t been able to train this week at all because the field has been unplayable. So, if we went full time we would have to find better training facilities as a matter of urgency. I note a certain Richardson Evans is up for sale…
Things like this may well swing the DT membership vote about going FT or staying PT in one way or another (and I wouldn’t want to speculate which direction, knowing them). What is obvious is that all the while we remain part time – and even then, a few of our players are actually FT at the moment – we’re unlikely to sniff the playoffs. Games like today will continue to happen season after season until we make that significant step forward. It’s now something “ordinary” fans are mentioning on the terraces during games, and not the AFCW version of the chattering classes.
But do we want to go full time? If we do, then it will be a big kick up the arse for people, because as said so many times on here before, it will require a rethink as to how we fund ourselves. Plenty reading this will have immense distaste for the amounts Stevenage are allegedly spending, or York paying Â£50k for Michael Gash. But that’s the reality of bridging that gap between ourselves and the team that beat us 3-0 today.
I’ve always ummed and ahhhed about going full time. Today has made my mind up – if we can afford to do it next season, we should go for it. It may well make building the club up and going that next stage forward easier. I’ll explain why later on, when you get to TB’s interview.
As for the rest of it…
Plus points: Suppose we made some money today.
Minus points: Reality biting.
The referee’s a…: OK, my fault. I was telling somebody who hasn’t been to an AFCW game since Ramsgutter away in the league (a mere 3 and a half years ago, proving an earlier point made) that referees were better in this division than he was used to. So, one goal that was offside, another goal with the very real possibility of a hand getting used, and an ironic cheer when he felt shamed enough into giving us something. Not that he would have made much difference, of course…
Them: Look and learn how they’ve spent five years or so building themselves up. I suspect if they don’t go up this season they never will. Certainly they looked a more impressive – OK, one with more nous – than the side we could (and should) have beaten at Broadhall Way in late December.
They weren’t particularly aesthetic to look at, but somebody made a good comment earlier this evening. Remember the FAC game against Thurrock all them years ago? That took us 3/4 years to get up to their level, and it will take a similar amount of time to do so again. Effectively, they did to us what we’ve been doing to other teams from 2002 to 2009.
Decent turnout by them, although I would have expected that anyway from a team doing so well. Oh, and their #5 looked like Steve Foster. Sadly, played a bit like him too.
Meet the manager: I’ve been doing these post-match interviews for over a year now, maybe two. To me, this has to be one of the most revealing ones I’ve ever listened to. Have a listen:
You can pick out your own particular nuggets, but what struck me was the clear realisation that we’ve hit a brick wall. Or rather, the past seven years of fantasy has finally caught up with us. Granted, I don’t think he should talk about playoffs in the way he did before the game, because it does make him sound like he’s changed his tune.
Two things. Firstly, anyone playing the close season retainee list may need to bear in mind who’s likely to be kept now. It’s interesting to read the post-game reactions from other fans, basically saying we’re too lightweight. Did TB change his viewpoints when Stevenage gave us a reality check? Or did he always think this, but had to keep his comments positive for public consumption? Only one person knows, and he’s got the most important job at AFCW.
Secondly, it was disappointing to listen to him pointing out that we’re not ready to put a side in the Football Combination yet. Not because we don’t want to put them in, but because the development of the club hasn’t reached that stage yet.
And this is why I said earlier about why I would now endorse going full time if we can afford it. We’re effectively writing off next season anyway, barring some absolutely wonderful luck, so we might as well not delay the inevitable. We’re likely to fall further behind by remaining part time, because at least one of Stevenage, Luton or Oxford will still be here next season. Not to mention other FT sides like Rushden and York too, and Wrexham possibly getting their act together at some stage.
Being full time will mean we can start properly developing players. Currently, the full squad trains two evenings a week (less if we have a midweek game), so we don’t really have enough time to practice with the entire squad. If they could all come in Monday morning after a game and work on what they need to, then who knows? Christ, we may even be able to get a corner or free kick right…
Point to ponder: Deliberately put this section lower down than I usually do. And here’s why – was it me or did Nathan Elder look, well, bothered today? The rumour mill suggests his (pregnant) missus has told him to move back down south. And I wonder if TB’s hints above have given him a new lease of life at us?
On paper, Elder should be a good signing for us if we went full time. He’s strong, he knows how we play, etc etc. Trouble is, him and DK just don’t perform together. I still think he’ll be gone by the summer, but to be honest I’m not so certain about that as I was. Incidentally, the guy from the Surrey Herald (?) was interviewing him afterwards. Could be worth keeping an eye on their website, see if he drops any subtle hints…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Does Ivor Heller really need to be on the mic every half time? Once in a while is fine, but there’s only so many penalty shootouts you can handle. (2) Speaking of which, we could have done with the under-10s for the second half. (3) “Sounds of the Suburbs” by the Members over the PA at half time. If it’s true they’re doing sponsorship of playlists now, perhaps SW19 ought to club together some dough? Although one does fear for the health of the John Smiths stand, especially if I get Sabbath, Sepultura and German Punk pumping over the PA.
Anything else? Yes. For reasons best known to myself, I found myself in the JS for the first time in a long while. The view is still crap, and I wonder if that’s what is putting off some of the floating fans back to KM?
Anyway, I think that we will help ourselves more when the away fans are shunted into the JS next season and we get back the KRE. I couldn’t have been the only one looking at the Stevenage fans in there today and thinking they’ve got a decent view and we haven’t. I know why they haven’t been moved in, and it’s rather symbolic of the club right now that the segregation is in a state of purgatory.
But as the AFC Coldseal playoff (1 year, 11 months and 8 days ago, to continue a theme) illustrated, we seem more comfortable when both goal-ends are filled with our support. I’m sure somebody with time on their hands and an absence of a life can work this out – how many games have we won when we’ve filled behind both goals and the opposition fans get the crappy JS bit?
So, was it worth it? Nope
In a nutshell: There’s always next season.
And finally: As you may have guessed, writing this tonight has felt like getting blood out of a stone. As a result, it will be very unlikely that I will be doing a report from York (but I will be doing the SLP and possibly one other newspaper “proper” report from there) and Godalming. Though submissions for both are always welcome. So no complaints please…