Yes, I know it’s more than 24 hours late. Shit happens.
This is starting to become a bit of a habit, going top of the league again. If Wandle 1 Tyne 0 teaches us one thing, it’s that last season we would have lost this game. Or at least not won it. I can’t remember the last 0-0 we had without looking it up (it was Stevenage Borough away last season, for the record), but had this been twelve months previously, we would have huffed, puffed and restricted ourselves to one half chance.
I suppose it’s because we’ve had more time to practice long free kicks these days, but it was becoming obvious that one goal was going to win it. And yes, we’re tired, and for the second week in a row, the players have been given tomorrow (or today, if you’re reading this in daylight) off. But you can’t buy quality.
Which is what Yak’s header (and Wellard’s delivery) most certainly was. We love our rampaging centre backs at Wimbledon – Matt Everard still receives marriage proposals to this day after Herne Bay, and those of an older vintage may remember Eric Young scaring the fuck out of his own forward line.
But then, our success this season has come from getting more goals from elsewhere. Poor DK looks like he needs a month off, and we all know about Jon Main. And yes, he’s being played out of position etc etc. But he took a main (sorry) role against Southport and his head dropped after he missed that penalty. Maybe that’s as much a reason why he’s on the bench these days?
Unfair? Professional football isn’t fair, and especially when wages are now clearly an issue. We won yesterday because we’re a confident team. We have a growing belief in our own ability – indeed, TB said in the press conference afterwards that he’s not embarrassed to be top and neither should the players. That belief took us through a potentially tricky tie yesterday – we knew we had to be patient, we didn’t panic and we’ve now got cock-waving rights over Crawley for the next fortnight.
We are starting to mature, and after the robbery at Wrexham last week, we now realise that we can go on a decent run. Whether we will or not remains to be seen – Luton are starting to find their feet again, and despite getting gloriously twatted by Newport you would expect Crawley’s money to shine through.
No, yesterday wasn’t a vintage performance. But then, it didn’t need to be…
Plus points: We won. Clean sheet. Solid all round performance. Knowing how to grind out a result. Decent play. Yak’s goal.
Minus points: DK/Jolley/Jackson all knackered.
The referee’s a…: Meh. Did give him 7/10 for the NLP though, on the basis that nobody in the main stand hollered their disapproval at him. Mind you, I’m not sure a live lesbian sex session between Katy Perry and Shakira in front of them would get a reaction…
Them: Decent enough side, one of those clubs that could be Conference regulars if the money doesn’t run out and they build support. For some reason, they remind me of Welling, and last season could have been a similar sort of day. Come to think of it, didn’t they make us look crap the last day of last season? Not that they needed much help…
Mind you, their problem could be the same one that faces many a non-league club that doesn’t have a ready made fanbase. I have to confess I don’t know much about football supporting dynamics up in the North East, but I would imagine that you support Newcastle or Sunderland and that’s about it. You might watch Heed or Blyth on the odd weekend off, but if the Toon or Mackems are at home, you’ll either go or watch it on some dodgy foreign feed in a local boozer.
Put it this way, the guy from the Heed programme was sitting next to me, and his laptop wallpaper was NUFC related. If he wasn’t involved with yesterday’s opponents, he would probably be at St James Park instead. And that may well be their problem…
Point to ponder: What wouldn’t you give for a Combination level reserve side right now? Yesterday BJ and Lee Minshull were seen doing warm-ups. and it’s likely Johnson himself will get a bit-part role at Basingstoke on Saturday. But the way Yak and Ed Harris are playing, it’s impossible to justify dropping them at the moment.
So in effect, we have a couple of our best players who will not be getting much gametime. Andre Blackman will be back for Basingstoke, but you kind of wish he had a couple of lower-key games under the tutelage of Marcus in the meantime. And it’s not doing anyone any good if we’re putting decent players into reserve squads that would struggle in Ryman One.
Hindsight is clearly such a wonderful thing,Â but if we were applying 2010 knowledge to 2002’s initial setup all over again, we would have ensured that our second XI wouldn’t have fallen so far behind so quickly.Â If standing behind TB and SC at a reserve game last season was any indication, we’ve had to release players who could be Conference level with two years development. Think of how much we could have already lost out on.
If the club can get the suitable cash injection it so badly needs, will we see another purge of our stiffs? Would we be in a position to afford taking on something akin to a Kingstonian level side? I’m not suggesting we steal their team along with their ground (bite…) but to run a top level Ryman Prem side would be the sort of sums we’d need to do with a reserve outfit for a top Conference side like ourselves.
Of course, one could argue that our current first team is akin to a League Two or even League One reserve side itself…
Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Good to read on the OS that the club/Anderson Travel have already sold 3/4ths of their train tickets for York. Even better that they might be considering buying more. Again, it’s something I hope works out to the point that it becomes a regular thing. Would save your editor some grief, anyway. (2) After this week’s discussions, read both Erik’s programme notes and this from the Barnet chairman, especially the question about the average range of wages. Although the rest of the interview is pretty interesting stuff. That said though, how many people will give a shit all the while we’re winning? Or when things look promising on the ground front? Especially if any costs are managable…
Anything else? Just been reading WUP (the fanzine) and something has grabbed me. And no, it’s not the distinct lack of “We really hate MK Dons” articles in it 😉
Virtually every fanzine I’ve read within about the last 5 years has had a reoccuring theme in many of its articles : football is fucked. Player wages, money men, rising cost of entry, poor atmospheres etc etc, you name it. The game is going down the plughole.
Question is, is it?
OK, wages are too sodding high, and for the IFK Gothenburg friendly in the mid 80s, we were charging Â£2 (or Â£4 today). People who complain about high wages and even higher ticket prices have every right to do so – as long as they don’t, you know, actually pay them.
But crap, uncaring owners who don’t give a fuck about the supporters? Sam Hammam and Ron Noades? Clubs going to the wall? For all the fear stories, very few do even today, and they’re either ultra basket cases like Chester, or they’re too small to withstand what happens (Ilkeston). In living memory, only Aldershot and Maidstone have ever had to resign from the League (Newport went bellyup in the Conference). Bad management was as rife back then as it is today.
See, football has always been a basket case. If you ever want to know why segregation, CCTV, all ticket games, police escorts, over-zealous stewarding and new expensive stadia make up the bad modern era of football, it’s because of Heysel and Hillsborough and various other actions that the likes of Danny Dyer now make money out of. The Germans have a word for people who yearn for the old DDR days – Ostalgie. Which means you forget that the Stasi were keeping files on you, spying on you through letterboxes, and encouraging your kids to snitch on their classmates.
AFC Wimbledon could only ever exist in modern football. I don’t mean it’s because of the act of franchising – Arsenal did that many years before some coked up wankstain, Koppout and the Three Man Commission decided to play soggy biscuit.
The current climate of football means that people are more aware of what goes on – we can communicate readily, letting people know almost instantly if something is awry, and mobilise accordingly. AFCW couldn’t have set up without the knowledge base that places like W&WW and WISA Chat built up during that 2001/02 season.
Many may lament the prawn sandwich brigade coming in since the 1990s. But the, ahem, “better educated” (at least, in accountancy) have taken the reins at AFCW, and we’ve managed to survive and to an extent prosper because of such knowledge. Teams at our level get more media exposure than ever – radio stations cover games (both broadcasters and people like WDON) which would be literally unheard of back in the early 90s.
Not to mention Prem Sports covering our games live. OK, bad example…
If modern football is an evil, then so was the game in the 80s, or even the early 90s when commercialism grew and the fans didn’t bother to stand up against it. If anything, fans have probably more say over how their club operates than they ever did, regardless of ownership model. Phone-ins, fanzines and websites fill a low level gap, indeed some may argue that phone-ins have increased the likelyhood of a manager getting the elbow. Meanwhile more “professional” supporters are able to win against their clubs and other football businesses in a way that never happened before.
Football has changed since the 1980s, and not always for the worse either. Yes, prices are too high. Yes, wages are stupid. But we are far better educated today than we were back then, but maybe because of that we don’t see football in the way we want to see it – regardless of whether it actually was the case. Trips to Stamford Bridge, Anfield, WHL and Highbury in the 1980s were never as atmospheric as all that. And grounds like Maine Road and SW6 weren’t much better than Plough Lane, just bigger.
And of course, modern football means that at the end of this season, if we’re in first place in the table, we don’t have to wait for the re-election process. Imagine facing THAT in May…
So, was it worth it? I guess so.
In a nutshell: Howay the league leaders.