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It’s oh so quiet…

Close season. Difficult for fans at the best of times, and even more of a challenge when you have column inches to fill.

Sadly, your editor going away (and I had a very nice time, thank you very much for asking) didn’t bring us much in the way of action. No signings of experienced centre-backs, at least. However, as the world, his wife and his bit on the side now know, we’ve signed Andre Blackman.

It’s been close to a week since we’ve signed him, and I still can’t get my head around it. On the surface of it, a highly rated youngster who has found himself out of the professional game at such a young age isn’t much to worry about. One may go further and suggest that he is the kind of youngster a full-time AFCW should be looking at : obviously talented, has spent his short career thus far at top pro clubs, somebody with the proverbial point to prove, and most importantly of all he’s cheap.

Unfortunately, a Google of his name suggests that trouble follows him around.

OK, what he’s alleged to have done is a bit stupid, although from searching around nobody has officially come out and said what it actually was. Even so, it’s a gamble. TB admitted it after we signed him. That said, the SLP let slip on Friday that Blackman is moving back to London – Norwood to be precise – to live with his mum.

I suppose if you’re a young kid like Blackman, especially one who may get themselves into bother,  moving away from your “own” environment to somewhere like Bristol or Leicester is asking for trouble. He will at least have DK slapping him around looking after him, and no doubt he’ll have his groupies, especially if he decides to mix with the fans in the bars afterwards…

Yet somehow you can’t help but feel we’ll find out why he’s had so many clubs in due course. You will have to pardon my cynicism, but we’ve been down this road before. Last year, we signed up Derek Duncan, a man who couldn’t seem to stay at any club for more than a season. Playing for us was supposed to be his big opportunity to settle down and prove to everyone that he can make a fist of it.

Right now, I don’t see he’s signed up with another club.

The other player who we bought in under this if-we-work-on-him-he-can-be-special was the much maligned Danny Webb. Who is now at Barf City, so we get to see him again next season in case you’ve got withdrawal symptoms. He’s been converted into a defender, which at least is a step up from his goalkeeping exploits for Salisbury last time.

Anyway, it’s often forgotten but Webb came to us on the premise that he was the second best natural finisher at the club he left to join us. As we found out, the first best finisher was David Swindlehurst’s one-legged brother. So when TB says he’s done something different in signing Blackman, in a way he hasn’t…

The whole transfer thing has become really quiet though, and with pre-season training starting in less than a month, one could be forgiven for feeling a tad nervous. We’ve signed the grand total of three players, none of whom have – let’s face it – set the ejaculative juices flowing.

And this is a lesson the club is going to learn pretty damn quickly, and in a rather harsh manner too. In one of today’s papers (can’t remember which one, might be the NLP), we’re losing out on a lot of what I would call Conf level players. Now, I assume that’s down to money, because I expect we must be a good one to play for otherwise. You don’t have the pressure of a Luton or Grimsby, yet you’ll play in front of a regular crowd that would be considered decent in League Two. We have decent training facilities, apparently, and we have some good medical staff. Certainly an experienced one when it comes to ACLs.

But it seems we’re losing out, and now at a stage where we ought to be  making  at least one such signing.  I’m hoping that we’re not putting ourselves in a position where we have to panic-buy just to make up the numbers. It’s a surefire way of getting things wrong, and as we’re so often being told, we have to spread ourselves more thinly this season.

Have we underestimated the cost of going full time? Did we set aside enough for the realistic wages we would need to pay? I’m led to believe that in the Conference, a couple of hundred pounds per week on a player’s wage is the difference between signing a decent Conf player and not. How accurate that is I don’t know, but it was common knowledge in the CCL days that a player really would join another club the next week for £20 more. If it was like that down there in 2002, imagine what goes on here in 2010.

Before I went away, the club announced it would be doing more on the commercial side next season. It will have to, and really up its game in the process. Whether it was intentional or not, our sponsorship in the main has been through firms with AFCW links to begin with. Cherry Red and Paul Strank are AFCW supporters, ditto Tempest. TomTom is with us because the sales and marketing manager supports us. The ones with no obvious AFCW links (Cappagh, Centre Court) are local ones anyway.

How we’ll attract companies who don’t fall into either of those two categories is for the commerical/marketing department to figure out. It doesn’t help matters when there’s no remote sniff of a TV deal though. Unlike this time last year, there’s not even been a grandstanding piece in the NLP saying that the Conf is “extremely close” to getting Dave Comedy Central Babestation ESPN to cover 100+ games next year. And no, I don’t expect our game at Altrincham next season to get moved to Thursday night.

Or are we simply just unlucky so far? We do still have time, although not as much as we had, and there are still a lot of  released players who haven’t found clubs. Christ, think of the ones we’ve let go. How many have found clubs? Not many. I still find it inconceivable that we won’t have the 18 players by the start of the new season, although there has been five weeks without any sniff of action beyond the usual paper talk.

I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. Three little words that sum up this close season so far, aren’t they? Let’s just hope they don’t become a millstone…