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Main line terminus (updated)

UPDATE (4 Feb): Typically, what I write below may be premature. Here’s a quote from TB on the OS:

“We don’t normally comment on individual players’ circumstances but there have been press reports recently about Jon Main so I thought we should explain the position. Jon is contracted to us to the end of the season and is getting valuable game time at Dartford where he is on a one month loan. We haven’t yet had a conversation with Jon about extending the loan for another month.”


Have to admit, it all sounds a bit murky and not exactly clear cut. Will he be seeing out his contract with us after all? Will he do a Mark DeBolla and come back to net in the playoff final? Or has TB’s vagueness about him signing and indeed any news on whether  he’ll sign an extension at Dartford said more?

My own gut feeling is basically everything I’ve assumed in the original article below. I think he’ll be on his way at the end of the season if not before, though we may yet get a cameo a couple of spies at Dartford’s last game suggested he was at his level.

We shall see………………

First things first – there is absolutely no way I am writing anything about York City away on Tuesday. Apart from the fact my laptop stopped working there and is now officially DOA. I was never intending to go to it, but couldn’t make Gateshead, and ended up having to eat a shit sandwich instead of a nice roast.

I think this will be my last visit to York (which like Cambridge should be filed under the “over-rated city” category), because I don’t think I have ever had a good time there. When the highlight of my trip was residing in Leeds, you know how bad it was…

Anyway, that was then, and this is today. In news that was never entirely unexpected, Jon Main won’t be having his contract renewed. Plenty has  been written about him recently, not all of it positive, but even so it’s another little chapter of the AFCW story that has closed.

I remember the evening after we’d thrown away a two goal lead drawn with Tonbridge Angels in the last Ryman Premier season. One of the most memorable SW19 reports too, if I do say so myself. There we were, bitching about losing such a position and with two goalkeepers who were injured/crap to boot. Licking one’s wounds is never a nice thing to do.

Then came an anonymous post on the main guestbook that the guy who scored twice against us that evening had agreed to sign us. After sleeping on it, the news was confirmed. We needed a new signing, and Jon Main was that guy.

Word quickly spread that we’d paid money for him, and this was I think the first signs that we were being bankrolled. As a statement of intent, it was certainly up there with signing John Fashanu in 1986, and to quote Mike Richardson afterwards, I want to get out of this bloody division…

He came, made his debut at Hastings, and he was impressive. Even won a penalty for us, from memory. And without checking the stats, we’d got somebody we so desperately needed.

Did he get us up that season? Not by himself, but christ we needed his goals. If you still have a copy of Football Hurts, our third goal in the semi final against Hornchurch was him at his best. Spectacular? No way. It was more than that – in such a nervy, high pressure situation like that game, to have such a cool head and slot it in was the sign of somebody worth the transfer fee.

I can’t remember what he did in the next game. Not that it mattered…

If ever a division and season suited a player, it was Jon Main in the Conference South, 2008/09. To be record scorer (and with a period that he hardly scored any) is something we will behold for a long time. With another Fashanu-esque signing in a Grays reject called Danny Kedwell, the two hit it off like a married couple, presumably minus the shagging. This time, you really could argue his goals got us up. He, like AFCW, stepped up to the Conference with trepidation but a lot of excitement.

There was the dream first fixture of the season, at home to Luton. He came on, he won us a penalty, we scored and…………

To be honest, I’m not sure what really happened after that with him. Yes, he got a few penalties which helped his tally into double figures that first season, but the Jon Main we saw ripping up the Conference South never appeared again. True, he was hit by injury for the latter half of the season, but the way we were playing by then, he probably wouldn’t have added many more.

Nathan Elder came and went, although to this day I would have liked to have seen him link up with JM. But he looked a bit more like the JM who wasn’t scoring goals in the Conference South than the one who was. I have three abiding memories of him last season – the first was him having a consolitary pat by one of our players and TB himself when he trudged off that sunny August day at Grays. He’d scored a penalty but he didn’t look like a goalscorer.

The second one was away to Alty, a one-on-one that you would have expected him to score. That he slipped the ball past the keeper only for it to go wide summed up how things had fallen for him. There was that brief (as it turned out) flurry of the old Jon Main, when he finally – finally – put the ball in the net at Forest Green Rovers. He was back, or so we thought.

Still, a new season, and we really had high hopes for him again. Although there were some private doubts about his fitness in pre-season, he looked reasonably strong in a new position out wide. The new professional era at AFCW, and he was one of the top guns we were relying on. He even got used in promotional material.

We went to Southport in the first game, we got a penalty, he took it and it got saved. His head symbolically went down, and it all went downhill from then on.

He looked more and more ineffective in his new role, but to make things worse for him we were winning without him. Indeed, the argument often raised against him was that we were up the top as one of the best three sides in the division and he was a benchwarmer.

Even though plenty were calling for him to return, and to change the successful playing system to suit him, his last appearance of any note was Kidderminster away – he came on and he did look a better player. Mind you, we were so shit that day even Elder would have looked good.

When he went to Dartford, deep down most of us knew that would be it for him. The rumour mill suggested that he and DK were on similar wages and goal bonuses, so you can make of that what you will. Even with this incentive, he looked increasingly less and less like a Conference player, let alone one who could be in League Two come the summer.

And that was really his problem – as a Ryman League player, he was brilliant. As a Conference South striker, for that one season nobody could touch him. In the harder, more sophisticated world of the Conference, he became the new Kezie Ibe.

Some of the reaction of him going to Dartford was a lot like when Rob Ursell left. He deserved more of a chance, some were claiming, this despite Main looking more and more ineffective. All he needed was a run of ten games, in his proper position, and  he’d show us what he would do. He’d certainly show the doubters and shut them up.

He didn’t.

And looking at it dispassionately, he was never likely to. In a way, he was paying for both the expectation he generated during the Conference South days, and AFCW being in the top three throughout most of this season. If we were mid-table mediocrity, we would have carried him along, given him the ten games and maybe even built around him and DK.

But then, football is a cruel, cuthroat business, especially when you’re getting paid money to do it. We’ll never know what his wages were, though one can reasonably expect he was a high earner. With more positions needing to be filled, the wage bill was always likely to be an issue, and this has probably contributed to today’s annoucement.

Still, it is the end of an era. Only Sam Hatton remains from the poxy Ryman League era, although Kennedy Adjei is still on our books. In fact, of that glorious CS time, only DK and Luke Moore remain. It not only tells you how far we’ve come in such a relatively short space of time but also how much more difficult it is to become a Conference level player. Ask Jon Main.

We’ll always wish him well, of course. While getting a lift back to Leeds on Tuesday evening, the conversation turned to JM, and the point was made that we’ll always  be wondering what might have been with him. 48 hours later, it’s a question we’ll never have answered. If we suffer goal scoring problem this season there will be the cries to bring him back. After all, some would sacrifice their new born simply to see the Conference South Jon Main netting them again.

And let’s face it, they were pretty special…