In a sign of things to come, I wasn’t there on Saturday – I was at Upton Park instead – so I got 911 to write the report. Read after the literal by-line.
I could bore you about my trip to sunny East London, but I won’t. I expect most people will have memories of THAT 4-3 game, the infamous tube power failure game, and the one with Di Canio’s goal which was the first real sign that we would be in the Championship next season. Sure some with longer memories will also remember 80s FAC and League cup contests, although your editor also remembers the protests about the bonds
One thing I will say is that despite their new main stand, precious little has changed. As a club, they live off past glories more than most, as the constant reminders of Bobby Moore suggest. You know how Ingerlund obsess about 1966? I’m not joking when I say that this season, their programme is going to feature the Class of 86 and what the results were 24 years ago that week. Is that an admission of underachievement or what? Though you will be pleased to know that the first game they mentioned was WFC 4 WHU 2 at Plough Lane…
Sure somebody went to that one. Whatever, I think it shows the difference between celebrating past achievements and being tied up by them. In our case, it’s natural that we’re a lot more protective of things like the 88 FAC and 1975 Leeds. But at the same time, we’re forever looking forward – us going full time was the latest step. Mention what an AFCW fan wants from the club, and it will be League football and a new stadium in Merton. Both are achievable, if both will take bloody hard work and a fair amount of luck (or destiny?).
But we have that collective drive to achieve the next big thing, even if our motivation for it is unique. What do West Ham and others look forward to each season? They were advertising tickets on general sale for Chelsea and Spurz – two games that should be an automatic sellout. Granted, the cost of ticket is beyond piss-taking, but even so there’s less of the one-game-a-season brigade snapping up the ticket for a treat.
Perhaps that’s a major reason why clubs in the Prem and below are and will be seeing empty seats? You spend a lot of money to watch clubs who either have no ambition or will not win anything anytime soon. And no matter how many lectures about loyalty you give, it gets dispiriting after a while.
Success breeds success, and that’s why AFCW must never be happy to stagnate and be happy with its lot. There are plenty of examples about proving the point, although at least you couldn’t say that about Saturday’s opponents…
Well that was fun wasnâ€™t it?Â Playing against a classy team who knew what they were doing and we out musculedÂ them !Â Not often we have done that.Â Even against a pacy and skillfull outfit we held our own and in the end we wanted it a bit more than they did . TB will be concerned with a few areas – however if you reflect on how the pre season has gone it looks fine.Â Yes I know it’s only a pre season kickabout but there was so much on show that wasnâ€™t there in Feb, March and April that we go into the new season with a bit of confidence and with a team who we can believe in.Â OK the squad has cost us a bit more than was planned and yes there are still some niggling worriesÂ but overall pre season gets a solid 9/10.
Happily Gunned up 2 Gunned down 1 was a very good advert for pre season friendlies. They arrived with youth pace and skill ( and bigger salaries than our players ) howeverÂ after a shakey first 20 minutes we matched them and fundamentally we won it with strength which is something we did not do last year ( DK aside ).
The day itself started early with the official team photo and the release of the squad numbers ( hardly a secret )Â The injury ridden number 4 slot went to Gregs which is a worry but those with longer memories will know than Vinnie had the number 4 shirt years ago and he did ok with it.Â The newly formed â€œcarveryâ€œ area in the back bar made its debut and looked good from the sneak preview I got. Seems sensibly priced and subject to the right marketing could be a good money spinnerÂ for the club.
â€œ Car Park Full â€œ sign went up at 2.15 which suggested a decent crowd.Â The Arsenal team coach arrived at 2.45 so we had a delayed kick off till 3.30 which had a double benefit. Firstly there was a massive downpour at 3.00 and secondly it meant the bars got another 30 minutes pre match revenue (not sure if that means it loses 30 mins post match or not?)
Never seen so much interest in the arrival of a team coach at Kingsmeadow.Â Huge excitement as a load of unknowns climbed off the bus ( Liam Brady aside ) and strolled into KM. Eventually we got going.
We started a bit slowly as they passed it around neatly and closed us down well. We didnâ€™t really get into itÂ until they had missed 2 sitters and late in the first half they clattered the cross bar.Â Half time and its still 0 – 0 . Had we been one down we could not have complained.
Whatever went into the tea at half time did the trick. They made 3 changes at half time and their number 5Â ( who has played Champions League ) wasnâ€™t there any more to keep DK in check and suddenly we were off down the wings are really looking interested.Â 15 minutes later and we are 2 goals up and they lose heart and the last 30 minutes were played out in a typical pre season format with loads of substitutions and a bit of end to end fun but not a lot of end product.Â Our first goal was a good Wellard/ Blackman / Sammy Moore combo whilst the second was a Blackman drive that went in off the post.
They got a consolation at the end after Seb fumbled a shot but it turned out to be the last kick of the game and left the home fans happy with the result.Â However it was the energy and the second half performance that gives us real hope for the next 9 months. Only downside from us was the inevitable long ball stuff which was a result of them closing us down. It may work against huge number 5s in the BSP but this lot were way to quick to be undone by it.Â Â No real injuries was the best result .
Plus points: No major injuries. Wellard has learnt how to tackle . Brett Johnson ( easily MOM ) New Wellard corner routine with flick ons.Â A team wanting to play football. A far more solid midfield. Seb shot stopping.
Minus points: Don’t want to start this early in the season with a rummage through what was bad other than to say we started a bit shakey ( just like last season ) . Still got thatÂ waste of time short corner routine that never delivers a cross ( please shelve it till next year ). SH pace when defending.
The referees a…: Did fineÂ – nothing controversial and let the game flow well. Even awarded a foul throw in a friendly !
Them: Started better than us and were clearly a skill level higher. They knew how to close us down and pressure us into giving the ball away with a long upfield punt. They had more nationalities in their squad than probably in the whole BSP and with 3 of their starting line up already having played champions league footy it is easy to understand why they know what to do.
Point to ponder: Wimbledon 2Â Arsenal 1Â – nuff said.
Threes a crowd: Well 2922 paying guests actually and the club must be pleased with that. Probably about 400 supporting the ArsenalÂ – good atmosphere all round. They had one vuvuzela in the crowdÂ – did not hear any others.
Truth is stranger than fiction: Our last match against Arsenal was April 2000 and we lost 3-1. Not sure when we will play them competitively and certainly in the league would be in our dreams. However its been done before so donâ€™t give up believing that one day…………….. As for now just look forward to Southport. The Carling Prem is beset with its own problems so its not actually the promised land anymore. Our own Prem is just fine for this year thanks.
Anything else? Yes actuallyÂ – A new edition of WUPÂ – filled with the usual comedy stuff and articles about going full time without a vote and a bit on the stadium.Â Â A usefull guideÂ to away grounds asÂ wellÂ – fair value at Â£1 for bathroom reading
MostÂ of the big guns in the BSPÂ have home fixtures next saturdayÂ – may be just a co incidence ?
Under 14 s on the pitch before the matchÂ – amazing record they have and it bodes well for the clubs future if we can keep someÂ of them
Floodlights on before kick off for a August afternoon match ?Â At least they stayed on ( remember 1997 at Selhurst )
In a nutshell: Bring on Southport