As I sit here at a cold, grey, damp overcast SW19 Towers with what appears to be some form of manflu (hence my tetchyness), I really don’t want to have to write anything about Harriers 2 Paper Aeroplane 0. Alas, I must.
This was the most spineless, gutless, let-us-redefine-the-criteria-of-the-phrase-bare-minimum, lackluster pile of shit that I’ve seen since last season’s slump. Actually, this was worse back than back then – last season, at least we had the excuse reason that this was a part time team with players that didn’t want to be there, going through the motions, Nathan Elder etc etc.
Yesterday? The more I think about it, the more pissed off I become. This was the same fucking team that came back against Crawley to win the World Cup Final. At least, that’s how we reacted afterwards. It seems so long ago now, but on Friday morning and Saturday morning we were beating ourselves off silly with the Youtube clips, and you can bet that the players themselves were basking in winning the Conference last Thursday.
Our attitude up in the Midlands was shit. We thought we just had to turn up, like we did against Luton and against Rushden. Check out not only the results but the performances – OK, Luton we were maybe a bit unlucky/naive, but there always this feeling deep down that the team would let itself believe its own hype, and fail to perform.
And that’s what hurts most of all about this “performance” – the fact it was so damn predictable. We have proven that we are not good enough to win the league, because we don’t have the required maturity to do so. When you are top, and you’ve just beaten a big rival, you then go into the next lower-key game full of confidence but with a professional attitude too. You don’t turn up in body only and put in a half-arsed performance that suggests you’d still be living off the game before.
Am I being too unkind? No. To have no real attempts on target and only one corner is shit. Especially against a side who, with all due respect, we should be beating if we have legit promotion credentials. Yesterday was a real test, probably a bigger one than Thursday, and we failed miserably.
We have Cambridge on Wednesday, so at least we don’t have to dwell on this “performance” for too long. One thing is certain though – if we produce another barnstorming performance, we might be best not to turn up for the FGR game on Saturday. After all, the team won’t…
Plus points: At least Arsenil, Chelski, Spurz, Bayern, Inter and Luton proved what sort of weekend it was.
Minus points: Everything.
The referee’s a…: I am not going to blacken my mood any moreÂ by thinking about him. If he was a football player, he would be playing for AFCW yesterday. Yes, he was that bad…
Them: Fair play to them, they saw our complacency and took advantage of it. Though post-match reaction from them suggests they had their best performance of the season – typical that another team has that against us.
Their ground looks a bit like how KM would look if it could be extended (and for those who are getting excited, KM cannot be extended to that extent). There was even a John Smiths stand there, though presumably with a better view and less odours of incontinence.
It’s often forgotten that they were a League club not so long ago, although when they went up in 1999-2000 they were in the same division as Ks and Slutton (the same season as WFC’s last in the Prem…). Yet again, proving the point that it’s harder to go up these days because of the Lutons and Grimsbys in this division. And as you will find out later, it will become even harder…
Point to ponder: Do games like this point out the weakness of not signing a couple more experienced heads during the summer? Yes, I know budget constraints etc etc, but as pointed out in the past, there’s a danger that we’re trying to do things a bit too much on the cheap.
We could have done with a younger Jason Goodliffe type figure for this, if only to have some sort of discipline when things were rough. One could argue that his type of caliber got us from Ryman Prem to BSP as much as Jon Main’s goals. OK, perhaps Yak and BJ could have made a bit more of a difference, but it was obvious that there was nobody to bang a few heads together.
And yes, I include DK in that – we place too much reliance on him. If he ever got injured or sold, we would be mid table. If a team can stop him playing, they effectively stop AFCW playing too. Kiddie snuffed him out, and it was clear that we just didn’t know what to do after that.
Which begs another question – what will the future for Nokkers and JM hold? Our summer signing was pretty much a bit-part player yesterday, and although he provided a bit of a spark (not exactly difficult) I can’t help but think this is Main’s last season with us. Yeah, I know he’s playing out of position etc, but obviously TB doesn’t have much faith in playing him in the middle.
For the most part, our formation has worked this season – we are third after all. And if the formation works, you get in players who are best at it. Of course, that will be easier said than done (read further down)…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) The programme sellers in their bar beforehand. Should have saved myself Â£14 and stayed in with them. (2) The traffic coming back – a 2h30 journey became nearer 4 hours. And it was raining. Doesn’t help when you’re under the weather either, but travelling around in this country really is shit. (3) Also shit : Cherwell Valley services. And the Texican burger I had from BK because they’d finished the all day breakfast. (4) Towards the end of the game, Seb Brown went out to throw the ball and slipped over. Oh, the metaphor.
Anything else? Yeah. According to somebody’s free NLP yesterday, Mansfield are the latest side to get a cash injection. Indeed, they’re planning on doing a Doncaster.
Now, we’ve heard this all before, and people will start linking it to Crawley. And I’m sure many will salivate over the irony that entails. But there’s a big difference, and one we at AFCW should be fully aware of – Crawley aren’t big enough as a club to substain the pressures of all the money they spend. But Mansfield are.
The likes of the Stags, Luton, Grimsby, Wrexham, York, Darlington and Cambridge United are all decent sized clubs. Underachieving, but certainly bigger than Crawley, Rushden, Tamworth and Kettering. In fact, they are all as big as us, if not bigger. And not all of them will waste money on mercenaries – as Oxford proved last season, with some decent money and decent coaching behind you, you will go up eventually.
Mansfield with their cash boost will inevitably get promoted at some point, because they have the potential support and the pedigree to do so – unlike Crawley, they’re not a tinpot club with money. And remember, these ex-League sides are down in the ConferenceÂ because they’re basket case clubs. They shouldn’t be in non-league, but they are because of bad management.
More importantly, what does this mean for AFCW? The truth is, it’s bad news for us. Not so much because it’s yet another big spending team to put up with, but it makes getting the costlier players that we do need in that bit harder. If there isn’t one already, there’s going to be one helluva spending gap between ourselves and people like Mansfield, let alone the gap between Barrow and the top payers. A gap that not even the carvery will bridge.
Granted, talking about footballers’ wages is a bit like talking about the size of your dick – often over-exaggerated and usually with a bit too much gusto. But ballpark figures suggest that even today, Luton and Mansfield and Crawley are paying double the average wage that we are. In fact, we’re not even in the second tier of spending, which considering that we broke our budget this pre-season is pretty sobering.
When Mansfield start spending big, the second tier sides (ie Darlington, York) will start putting in more money out of necessity. Which means we willÂ have to. Ignore where this money will come from, because it only seems to be AFCW who worries about that. Right now, we can afford (or are prepared to pay) maybe one Danny Kedwell or one IsmailÂ Yakubu. But as yesterday proved, you need a Jason Goodliffe in his prime, or a better quality version of Lee Minshull as well.
Neither of whom will come cheap. And as the gravity of spending rises higher, they become even less cheap than before. Yes, the wages paid to players are stupid, and I know we would rather have a team of home grown players all fighting for the club etc. Unfortunately, it’s also the footballing world in which we live in – we have to play along with the market, and not the other way round.
Alan Hansen was laughed at when he said that you win nothing with kids, but the team who proved him wrong was the one that has dominated English football for the past fifteen years. And even then, that Yernited side also had the likes of Steve Bruce and Eric Cantona. So Hansen is actually spot on : no team with predominantly youngsters since then has gone on to achieve loads. Ask Arsenal fans.
We have our own team of juveniles, who are perfectly fine when things are going well and totally ineffective when they aren’t. For us to progress further, we will either have to pray that they find some balls when going to somewhere like Kidderminster, or to compliment them with some top quality talent who can bring the best out of them. In other words, a couple more in the Danny Kedwell mould.
There is a possibility that we could actually end up being left behind in the Conference because of our spending policy. Yesterday proved that. We’re not sufficiently producing the talent from below, and we are relying on kids like Ricky Wellard to spark us into life, as his substitution at Kiddy was supposed to do. The BSS winning side could rely on more experienced heads like Ben Judge to get us through some rough patches. Who is our equivalent today?
It’s all very well for TB to say that if we can keep this team together, in 2-3 years time it will be one helluva team. Trouble is, two years is a long time in football, let alone three. We will be vulnerable to selling players, perhaps more than most teams at our level. If Mansfield wanted DK, they could afford him. I don’t buy the club’s line that they won’t sell to another team in the BSP – we would, if the money was right. Whether we will sell to Crawley is another matter entirely.
And then what? More (cheap) youngsters in, more bedding-in periods, more “we will be good in two years time” and more runs of form like beating Crawley then stuffing it up next game because the squad can’t mentally cope with such highs. Unless 50 of our “club owners” guarantee Â£1k into club coffers each season to pay the wages of one experienced player…
To put it another way – could you imagine Luton or Crawley or a big spending Mansfield going to Kidderminster yesterday and putting in what we did?
So, was it worth it? Go away.
In a nutshell: AFC Wimbledon, meet planet Earth. It may be a bit bumpy.