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Typical isn’t it? I go away for two weeks, decide to have a sneaky peak at the FA Cup draw whilst in the Mid-South and, well, you know the rest by now…

There’s one word that keeps going over and over in my mind about this potential matchup. No, it’s not revenge, nor is it even fear. It could be painful, as AFCW itself has termed this, but it’s not quite what I’m thinking of. Instead, it’s just one simple word.


Now, let’s get the bleeding obvious out of the way here : since Sunday, both Stevenage and Ebbsfleet have had their team talks for their replays already written for them. There is no guarantee whatsoever that this fixture will happen – by the sound of things, we’ve been pretty rubbish since we won the World Cup final against Crawley, and Westley’s men are no mugs. There could be a lot of disappointed people about in a week or so…

But fuck them. Let’s tempt fate, urinate on the Footballing Gods and assume that this will happen.  The dictionary definition of the word I’m thinking of says :

the process of releasing strong emotions through a particular activity or experience, such as writing or theatre, which helps you to understand those emotions

Within the last 48 hours, we’ve certainly had that. Regardless of whether or not this game now happens, we have faced up to one of the two biggest psychological stumbling blocks that AFCW fans will ever have to encounter (the stadium being the other, and it’s ironic that both have come to the fore within the past fortnight).

The reaction has been very interesting thus far – it’s a lot less fraught and dare I say hysterical than I would have guessed. When it got drawn, I didn’t have that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Maybe it’s because I had my own moment of cleansing when I saw a Frenzy at South Mimms services walking past me. I looked at him and thought that like his lifelong (sic) club, he was worthless. He certainly looked a bit “special”, in the travelling-on-the-little-school-bus-behind-the-big-one type  manner.

I would go so far as to say that the only time I really get that horrible feeling now is the England 2018 bid, and I think that’s as much to do with the FA as anyone. Granted, we still get the no-marks trying to provoke a reaction, and it’s now just tedious and as original as a photocopy to listen to. Bit like the individuals who start it off, really. But by the sound of things the England 2018 bid is gloriously falling apart, thanks in no small part to the game’s governing body. And I use the word “governing” in a loose sense…

Instead, I’m actually quite looking forward to it happening, and I would have never said that even two years ago. Why? Simply because we need this to happen. The hype will last for a week and a bit, and it will be a massive kick in the bollocks should we play them and lose. But we’ll get over it – in fact, I imagine a common reaction afterwards would be “actually, that wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be”. Especially if we did beat them.

As a club and as a support base, we are now mature enough to handle the fixture. I would go so far as to say we’ve moved on sufficiently enough to not feel completely sick when playing them. Yes, it will be painful to see them take the field against us. Yes, it will be the strangest game anyone in our end will ever experience. And yes, there will be plenty of fans who will simply not go in the ground or be anywhere near the venue. And probably never will be doing so even in a decade’s time.

But the reaction would have been a lot different a little while ago. That said though, since 2005/06, probably around Darlogate, there’s been this slight feeling that they’re drifting into irrelevance amongst a significantly sizeable minority of our support. Maybe even a majority. Be honest – do you check their scores religiously? Do you check to see how they’re doing, financially wise? Probably not as much as you used to back in the day. Christ, before I went away I was more concerned with how Crawley were doing with Project Promotion.

That said though, there’s been some schools of thought about this match-up that need addressing. I’ll quote some statements at you, you’ve probably read them at some point since Sunday:

– I don’t want to play them. We should deliberately lose the replay to Ebbsfleet.

Well, if you want to play in the FA Cup, you have to accept that this fixture could come about. And the higher we go in the divisions the more likely it will happen. Think of the fallout if we “encouraged” the team to lose at Stonebridge Road. Think of the insult to the professionalism of TB and the players it would be. Not to mention telling them they have to throw away a decent chance of the third round proper, simply because we can’t handle playing them. Though thankfully only the odd (very odd) individual now suggests we should withdraw from the competition.

You can’t keep running and hiding from them forever, which is how it will come across to the wider footballing world. And speaking of which…

– Why do pundits and opposition fans keep saying we crave playing them? We don’t. They’re so ignorant.

Let’s turn the question round. Why should they think the way we want to think? This may disappoint some of our more evangelical fans, but we can’t control what people outside the AFCW bubble think. There is no reason for them to believe that we wouldn’t want to play them.

Put it this way – if I didn’t support AFCW, I’d be wanting this fixture to happen. Remove the emotional attachment to the whole thing, and 99% of us would. It’s a football fan thing – I would always want to see Millwall v West Ham in a cup fixture each season simply because it would be so much fun. It’s a grudge match and then some, and we all like games with a bit of needle to them.

To the outside world, that’s what us against Franchise would be – a grudge match with a lot of tasty little sub-plots to boot. I’m afraid we come across as pretty insular when we express shock that others think we want to play the cunts. By all means keep telling people that we’d rather not play them, but don’t expect them to come around to our way of thinking. I wouldn’t if it wasn’t AFCW.

– The threat of violence is too real and will immensely damage the image of AFCW.

Can I use the word “insular” again? Whenever I hear this comment, I can’t help thinking people assume that we’ll be dealing with Ramsgutter type “security” for a second round proper tie against a League One outfit. Yes, this is going to be a high-risk fixture. But does anyone believe the Met doesn’t know how to handle these? They put up with Arsenal and Spurs at least twice a season, not to mention Chelsea and QPR and West Ham and Millwall and Charlton and Palace.

Also, let’s be blunt  here – we’re hardly Millwall. Christ, we’re not QPR either. We might be Fulham, although we’ve yet to have somebody killed at one of our games. We might think that our contest with them will be World War Three, but in all likelyhood, it won’t be. We’re too much like Fulham or Wycombe fans.

Yes, some people from elsewhere may, ahem, turn out to discuss the weather. But that’s where police intelligence comes in – they dedicate whole departments to this sort of thing, and you can bet they’ll be keeping an eye out for anyone who might be along to cause trouble. Look at any league table of banning orders and see  how the police usually keep on top of things. Serious disorder usually happens away from the ground these days, and has done for a number of years.

As for how it will look to people? That assumes that people will care as much as we will about our image. Those who want us to do well aren’t going to suddenly change their minds if a haymaker or two gets thrown – they’ve probably seen their fair share of hoodlum activity themselves. And those who are going to use it against us will be doing so anyway.

– We MUST play at Kingsmeadow. To go elsewhere is wrong.

Personally, I hope it gets moved, because KM just won’t be able to cope with the needed security measures. There’s one entrance and exit, we wouldn’t be able to put up sterile areas, and as much as you want it to happen, somebody running into the directors area and murdering Wankie isn’t going to do us much good. Not to mention the police really won’t be happy without any CCTV to look at.

Once again, it will prove that KM isn’t suitable for AFCW. But then we knew that already.

And yes – Mr Columbian Marching Powder himself is bound to turn up, regardless of whether the police tell him not to. He’s that stupid. Or arrogant. Or brain damaged. But looking at it dispassionately, he does have a “right” to come to the fixture, although it’s unclear whether we could refuse him entry. Which in itself would be interesting to try..

As for where to move it to? Fuck it, make it Selhurst. It’s a symbolic fixture, let’s go the whole hog. Although I think Brentford or even Craven Cottage would be as likely. Whatever happens, we will lose money on it.

One further thought on this – imagine if this fixture was to take place at a new stadium in Merton?

– We must use it as a day of protest.

Best thing to do along these lines? Win the game. I mentioned insularity earlier, and the problem with any kind of protest is that it can be mis-interpreted or simply backfire. Especially if the club does it – it can be thrown back at us for us looking churlish, and immature, and that really will do damage to our image.

There will be absolutely no doubt whatsoever that there will some sort of protest and/or symbolic gesture by supporters. But I don’t think the club should do anything other than just the mandatory. Play the game, don’t bother mingling with the Franchise dignitaries. Blank them. Keep the mentions of them in the programme to a complete minimum. Wankie will try and hype it up, because he has to. Don’t join in any war of words, they really aren’t worth it.

As for fan protests, just ask who the protests are aimed at. Franchise fans? Like they care – I bet most of them don’t even understand the signficance of this fixture. Ourselves? We know what we think. The wider footballing world? The same one that thinks we’re looking forward to playing them? Again – why should they care? Chances are they won’t remember anything afterwards, most protests are forgotten 36 hours later, if you’re lucky.

Remember this as well – AFCW has a lot of respect and admiration for what we’ve done, but the same people also treat Franchise as any other club. Not a particularly well liked one, but they do have a friendly approach to the media and we could easily be painted as whingers, especially if we overplay the victim card too much.

Best to let the football do the talking and, where possible, treat this as much of a “normal” game as possible. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt, walk softly and carry a big stick.

There’s probably some other comments made, but the jetlag is starting to kick in.

Anyway, no doubt we’ll play shit against Ebbsfleet and Stevenage will gub Franchise, so we don’t have to have this group therapy session for another year. One thing is certain, we won’t be in such angst the next time such a draw happens.

Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten, we’re playing a league game at Alty tonight. And no, I didn’t divert the plane to Manchester…