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Junior Senior

Ah, that was a bit better.

After the rubbish that’s been served up recently, beating Croydon Athletic in the LSC semi was a bit like playing a computer game where you reset the skill level to “easy” and bash the living crap out of everyone to make you feel invincible again.

OK, 3-0 was a good result, and with a bit more luck in front of goal it would have been doubled. Yes, it was Croydon Athletic’s stiffs too. And it’s a nice feeling to be going to a cup final after the season officially ends. But I think most of us were more interested in who was actually playing.

Last night’s team was the following : Jack Turner, Ryan Jackson, Jordaan Brown, Kennedy, Paul Lorraine, Jay Conroy, Ricky Wellard, Elliott Godfrey, Nathan Elder, Peter Rapson and Will Hendry. In other words, it was Close Season Clearout Bingo, where you get to predict how many players will be here next season.

We can safely put Nathan Elder and Elliott Godfrey on that list for starters. Elder’s going back to Shrewsbury, and Godfrey has his own business so can’t go full time anyway. You can also believe that Conroy could be out on his ear, and – dare I say it – Paul Lorraine too? Both were decent enough last night, though against a youthful Athletic side I would have hoped they would be.

Which leaves the youngsters. And I’ve got to say, considering the opposition, they aquitted themselves pretty well. Certainly Jackson and Brown (which sounds like an R&B duo, or a firm of solicitors) looked the part. What does concern me is whether either or both of them will be quite at that level next season, against the likes of York/Rushden/Oxford/Luton/AN Other. That’s why I’m disappointed that we haven’t seen both of them get given first team runouts now it doesn’t matter, though there’s still two games left…

I do expect them to be around next season, ditto Jack Turner, Kennedy, Rapson and Harmsworth (who came on as sub). Not forgetting Ricky Wellard, of course. The team last night did look a bit more of a unit than previous Senior Cup outings. You really could see all of them benefitting from a full time contract under their belts.

Which may make the jump into full time a bit easier to swallow for some. What is blatantly obvious now is that we’re going to have a lot of players gone by this time next month. Chances are all the loanees this season won’t be taken on. There could be a couple of eye openers too, especially if the mood (let alone the budget) is putting us in a culling mood.

There’s a natural tendency to think the worst when you hear “youngsters” coming in for next season. Well, Wellard is a youngster, so is Kennedy, ditto Seb Brown. And Luke Moore. Ryan Jackson and Jordaan could be the next ones added to that list. Are they going to be any less effective than the more experienced loanees we’ve brought in?

Sometimes, our collective lack of knowledge about football at this level works against us. A case in point – the other day, I was watching Football’s Next Star on Sky. For those who don’t know the programme, they take a few promising youngsters from trials in Britain and Ireland, and they put them through Inter Milan’s youth academy – the winner gets a pro contract with Inter. OK, it’s a repeat, and there’s a slight hint of contrivance about it. But to even get into one of these academies in the first place, you’ve got to be good.

If it’s true that we’re looking for players who have been through the academies in this country, they will at least have a good solid education of how to play the game. These are hardly likely to be cloggers we’re getting in – physically brutal, maybe, but compared to some of the donkeys we’ve encountered they’ll have a bit more of a brain to them. No, they won’t be the cream of the crop. If they were, their alma mater would have snapped them up pretty damn pronto.

But even in our case, for the first time in the AFCW era, we’ve now got players who you think could make that step into the first team. No guarantee any of them will of course, but that’s the chance every football club in the land takes. And this is just us, with no academy and a developing youth system.

If we rebuild sensibly this close season, we could end up with a pretty decent side next season. And crucially, one that is on the upward trajectory. Of course, it could all crash and burn, and we’ll be fighting off relegation. But last night, we had a little glimpse of the future. It might not be so bad after all.

Anyway, enough misplaced optimism. Thankfully we haven’t got a game tomorrow, so we are spared the mass suicides of Chester inevitably beating us. Although it’s annoying that we don’t have that final weekend match of the season, it does at least give us a little early break – collectively, I believe we’re all a bit footballed-out at the moment, and we could do with the close season more than we think. Though anyone who needs an additional fix can take themselves down to GGL to see our stiffs play Slutton.

Now, are we going to do an LSC Cup Final song…?