It’s me, isn’t it?
I managed to miss us going up to Field Mill (home of an infamous incident at the bus station and a Terry Phelan goal) due to a last minute call-up elsewhere, and by the sound of it I missed one of the better performances of the year.
Whether it was because we couldn’t play any worse than York, whether it was a sub-conscious stirring amongst everyone that our season was about to fizzle out with a whimper, or whether it’s because Mansfield will soon become our favourite team to play against is unclear. Not that anyone cares about that right now.
As nobody sent me much in the way of detail, there will be even less comments on the match than usual. Although I’m reliably informed that DK ran his nads off yet again (does he have any left?), Will Hendry linked up well with him, and Nathan Elder looked like he couldn’t wait to go back up to Shrewsbury. But what was getting people buzzing afterwards was Seb Brown. Or rather, his penalty saves.
Helpfully, they were captured here, and looking at them again just now, they were pretty good stops. Even if the first one was a bit too close for comfort with the rebound. It’s hard to believe that Seb Brown is only 20 years old – yet from what little I have heard he was physically standing up to yet another big strong outfit…
Alas, the same couldn’t be said for Derek Duncan, who did at least get first use of the soap. Whether he was at fault or not I don’t know (by our accounts he wasn’t), he does seem to have the Tom Davis habit of trouble following him around. And we all know what happened to him afterwards. We should know by now that at this level, teams are a bit more craftier and, dare I say it, “professional”…
I think the word “professional” is going to become the buzz word for a while now, just like Learning Curveâ„¢ has been for most of this season gone. Right now, predicting what’s going to happen during the close season is more fun than the remaining handful of games we have.
The big issue is of course whether to remain part time, or take that step up to full time status. We can all make guesses with varying degrees of success right now, but here’s what we can safely say : if we want to keep the likes of Ben Judge and Alan Inns, we’d have to be part time. To get players of their level and above on a full time contract will cost shitloads – check out the average wage of a League Two player. It’s around Â£50k, give or take.
Rumours abound that Elder is on something like Â£600-700 with us, plus a flat in Raynes Park. OK, player wages are always a highly subjective subject, although I think this country should follow what they do in the US and publish the wage bills of their playing staff. If this season has shown us anything, it’s that running a football club at a non-tinpot level is expensive business. Yes, we are close to finishing sixth, and for a team that isn’t professional that is pretty good. But we won’t finish that high next year.
So, what do we do? Well, one theory is something that came from TB’s comments from the beginning of this season. It’s no secret that he’s wanted to build up a young squad that will stick together for the next 3-4 years. At the same time, he’s seen some players not living up to how he himself thought the Conf would be in 2009/10. Listen to his post-match Stevenage comments below, when he mentioned about getting more physical players in – I can’t recall him ever saying that before publically before now…
Maybe a full time team with a load of 19/20 year olds is going to be the answer next season? If that does happen then I would like to see us also pay for an experienced Jason Goodliffe type, albeit one that isn’t on his last legs.
Such an approach may make a lot of sense. Firstly, we’re a couple of years away from being legitimate promotion contenders anyway. If there’s no Football Combination for us next season then that’s going to kibosh anything like that. Rebuild while we don’t need to get promoted.
Secondly, the impression the club gives out is that it would like to go full time,Â because it’s just delaying the inevitable. Remain part time for 2010/11, and by April 2011 we’ll be talking again about going full time. And perhaps with a “wasted” year to boot. It’s obvious now that a part time team can’t get much higher than we are now.
But most importantly, ask yourself this question : who have been our five best players this season? You’ll bound to say at least one of DK and Luke Moore. But you’ll also seriously consider putting Seb Brown and Ricky Wellard on that list too. And not forgetting one Mr C Hussey too. Their ages : DK is the oldest of the bunch at 27. Luke Moore will be 22 at the end of this month. Seb Brown is just 20, Ricky Wellard is just a year older and Coventry have a promising 21 year old on their books.
Suddenly, a full time team of young players doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Of course, it’s all very well talking about getting young players in, but where do you actually get them? Well, when we got promoted last season, I remember there was a little bit of talk about being able to get in young players from L2 sides. From what I’ve discovered on my travel to League clubs over the years, there are a lot of young players about who have gone into top flight academies (Middlesbrough apparently has a very good setup), but who then find themselves ousted and into League 2 at 19. And if their face doesn’t fit, or if they’re not selected for whatever reason, they’re on the scrapheap at aged 20.
Lightbulb switching on, anyone?
I deliberately mentioned the rumours about Elder above, not just because of the money aspect. Just as importantly, it seems that we are now providing digs for players too. I’m only idly speculating here, but if we found a couple of really promising youngsters from up North, who were good enough to go full time with us, we’re hardly likely to hand them a copy of the Ellisons brochure and tell them to find a cheap flat. At that age, they’re barely getting over puberty, let alone dealing with the stresses of moving to a new club in another part of the country.
Footballers are strange creatures and often need their hand held. Mark Hughes once said that he settled at Bayern far better than Barcelona because the Germans sorted out a car and accomodation for him. Going “professional” means you have to get it right off the field too. While I expect some of our fans may have distaste that we’re renting out flats for our players, a reputation for looking after players can’t be bought.
Anyway, that’s for the next couple of months. Is it me or has this season flown by? It’s a shame that we won’t have a final Saturday game to see off the season, although I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have Saturday off. If we play the first team on Thursday, that will be six games in 13 days for them. No matter what way you look at that, it’s too much.
Oh, and no comment on James Pullen…