Looks like the Surrey Herald have been doing all sorts of proper journalistic digging and have come up with a list of triallists for the pre-season.
Now, in the past that very word has brought images of lumbering nobodies who couldn’t even trap a fart. And yes, that pre-season game at Met Police two years ago still gives your editor nightmares.
Anyway, who have the Herald dug up for us? Centre-back Ed Harris (ex-QPR), who was on loan at Handy last season. Then there’s Fraser Franks and Sammy Moore, both ex-Brentford and a centre back and centre-midfielder respectively. Franks was one of those we had mentioned when we did that triallist game at the end of last season, so obviously he’s been considered good enough to have another look at. As for Moore, he was at Dover and seemed quite highly rated.
Next, we have Michael Noone, who’s apparently a left back, certainly ex-Millwall and is currently at the Glenn Hoddle Academy in Spain. Thanks to the joys of YouTube, you can see him here. Now, while Hoddle may be a cock of the highest order, somebody like Noone has to be good if he’s considered a decent prospect there.
We also have another Super Hoop from West London, a forward called Jevon Morley, but most intriguingly of all, we are looking at a South Korean u21 international. No, he hasn’t been named, which can understandably lead to people thinking we’ve got the new George Weah relative on our hands (google Ali Dia if you need an explanation).
This is quite a significant development if it works out, and I don’t just mean the reaction from New Malden’s community. Firstly, if he’s u21 and legit, he’s got to be good. Secondly, why has he been recommended to us? Is it purely because of the local Korean population, with the resulting shirt sales, or are there footballing reasons too? As I understand it, we get triallists in because they’ve been recommended to TB/SCÂ from scouts and presumably other managers (and the odd agent) too. Anyone who just turns up wanting a trial gets sent to Marcus Gayle.
Again, why has AFC Wimbledon been recommended a young international? Presumably we’re now considered good enough as a club and as a team to get that caliber. There’s also a certain irony here – many of our own fans still see the club as an anti-thesis to “modern football”, with itsÂ high prices, even higher wages and something akin to an import/export business with all the foreign talent. Now, we’re looking at foreign players ourselves.
If this individual proves himself to be good, and we sign him up, nobody is going to care whether he’s a local lad or not. And I think that’s something AFCW fans collectively have forgotten since 2002 : in the WFC days, we were happy to cheer on the likes of Trond Anderson and Par Karlsson. One wonders how our “Fuck Modern Football” element will feel about us acting even more like a proper football club? They’ll probably be the first to get their new shirts with our first second* international signing’s name on the back.
* – yeah, I forgot Shane Smeltz. I will be watching reserve team football for the next month as penance.
Enough cynicism. When we went full time, this was the sort of thing I expected to happen, and suddenly your editor feels a bit more confident for the new season. Certainly a marked change when we were signing Ryman Prem players and wondering if we’d budgeted a bit too stingily. In fact, if you read the latest WHAK on the OS, going FT seems to please not only TB but Mike Rayner as well.
What we now have is a choice of decent players. If we’re being brutally honest here, we will take on three of the above mentioned at the very most. That’s the nature of triallists. But even before a ball has been kicked, we now have the best ever squad in the AFCW era – previously, we would have snapped up those who we will be rejecting.
The reason why these youngsters are now available is down to League clubs basically having too many players on their books. And more importantly, not being able to afford to keep them. It’s become a rather horrible vicious circle as well – Charlton have been struggling to get a squad together (which is why we haven’t been able to take their two players on our season loan yet), and Southend have had to cancel two PSFs because they couldn’t even raise a starting XI. From our point of view, providing we’re canny enough we can benefit from their misfortune.
This place has droned on in the past about how difficult it is for a Conf side to remain part time, in the traditional non-league sense. I will take it a step further – it is now impossible to be a Conference side and be part time. The romantic sounding days of the postman and baker playing in the first round of the FAC are long gone. Assuming we don’t mess up our 4QR, our inevitable first round game at Charlton will have a squad of players who will have spent all week looking at video tapes of the opposition – without having to get time off work.
Yeah, it’s unromantic. But as the time from 2002 to 2009 proved first hand, non-league football isn’t that romantic. Besides, it fucks off the Non-League Family, and I’m all for that.
There’s still a school of thought that remaining part time at this level means you get the best amateur players around, while being FT means you get the worst of the professionals. It’s an increasingly archaic viewpoint to take. The best part-time players go full time now anyway (exhibit one : Danny Kedwell), and the journeymen pros are being ousted by talented and hungry youngsters. The likes of Blanchett and Elder don’t stick around and could find it harder to make a living, and would you be upset if they didn’t?
Ask yourself why the likes of Gateshead and Handy are going full time. Their crowds suggest they can’t afford to do so, but the best part-time players aren’t as available now. And if we can find six youngsters to have a look at, so can they. If they don’t, they’ll end up in the Blue Square South anyway.
We would have struggled with Ben Judge and Alan Inns again this upcoming season. Those on trial will in all likelyhood be as good as them, Ismail Yakubu certainly is (and speaking of our new signing, it’s telling how impressed he seems to be with our squad already). This is also why things like the new matchday carvery and other such commercial ventures need to succeed – no, we won’t go down Crawley’s suicidal route, but the money is certainly more of an issue now.
Anyway, we have Meet The Manager tonight, and your editor will probably pop along. Might also go to Sandhurst, but will hopefully be at Charlton. I’m sure we can all go into these initial games with a bit of confidence and hope for the new season ahead. Let’s hope we keep it when the Addicks stuff us 5-0…