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OK, Post-Season Syndrome (or should that be Pre-Season Syndrome now?) has struck SW19 again. This time, it’s disturbingly gone into the realms of bogus amateur psychology and uneducated guesswork…

I’ve just been looking through Paul R’s photos of yesterday’s kit launch, and of course there’s the usual fanfare associated with these type of events. Though I do have to admit, the thinkFolio slogan on the back of the shirt looks better (as in, less obtrusive and tacky) than one first feared.

There was something that jumped out at me. No, it wasn’t TB’s safari uniform, or even how crap our new shorts were, but the way the players seemed to be with each other. I don’t know whether the term is dynamics, or interaction, or something else a group observation psychologist would happily come up with, but we looked a bit more of a team than last season.

Or teams, anyway.

I’ll explain why in a sec. Before that, those who endured our “performances” from January onwards will remember how disjointed we were. A collection of individuals, if you prefer, and ones that were at times taking money under false pretences. The way poor Nathan Elder and Danny Blanchett (remember him?) just didn’t seem to fit in was painfully obvious, and when James Pullen told one of our dissenting fans to “fuck off” at York, it was pretty much a moment of clarity for everyone.

But when you look at just the snapshots of DK and JM laughing like schoolkids with each other, with Seb Brown and Brett Johnson clearly all smiles, and any other mental images of last year’s retainees you remember, it’s obviously we kept the right players in last May’s cull. Not just for reasons of talent – though they were clearly the best players too – but this particular group of players seem to get on well with each other too.

Granted, too much is made in football generally about “passion” and “committment”, and “putting a workload in” and general chest thumping. Those terms are used to paper over technical deficiencies and poor tactical knowledge. The English game, in other words. That said, having a unit as opposed to a collection of individuals is never a bad thing – compare Germany in SA to France or even Argentina. You could compare Germany to England too, but that would be like comparing a Franchise fan to somebody who can write their name and dress unaided.

And at this very early stage, we do like a bit more of a unit. How comfortable would you have been with James Pullen standing up there in front of everyone, knowing what he said about us a mere few months ago? How much better do you feel seeing players who clearly give a shit on stage looking like mates on a Club 18-30 boozeup?

You may have noticed that I said “teams” above, as in the plural. Is it me or do the new boys look like it’s their first big day at school? You get the impression TB and Ivor had to coax them out of their shell a bit, and poor Ismail Yakubu must be wondering what the hell he’d done signing for us when he was introduced at the front and presumably had a microphone shoved under him. It can’t be easy for new players to come into a new team, especially one where about 6-7 of the remaining players have that “bond” with each other.

This is where I think we went wrong last season, and why I still think we would be better getting 22 players instead of just 18. To put in a load of loanees halfway during the season is a risk. In fact, I would go so far to say that it doesn’t really work. We got away with doing it in the RP promotion season, and we all saw the results from last year. The more of a unit (rather than squad) we can build up before Southport the better, and there are more and more professional players becoming available. And by professional, I don’t just mean they earn their wages through football.

In addition, we will need to really start making moves with our youth/reserve policy this upcoming season. Earlier in close season, we had trials for reserves, and there’s no idea of the results of that (though we’re at Sandhurst on Friday, so might be a good time to see our stiffs in action). It will be a lot easier to put in a developed player who knows what the club is about, and knows what the manager wants from him, rather than take a risk from outside.

To put it another way, if we could have thrown in some decent young talent in January we would have gotten further. Even so, we did end up with some impressive performances by Ryan Jackson and Matt Harmsworth as a result…

So, the embryo that is AFCW’s new full time team is starting to take shape. No doubt there will be growing optimism, especially if we get in one more League/upper Conf level player. The Meet The Manager/Second kit launch is on Thursday, and it’s now less than a week to the welcome return of the Saturday afternoon ritual.

In other words, less than six days before Charlton stuff us and everything turns to shit again.