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A few thoughts

We’re now approaching that weird purgatory part of the season when you don’t have a midweek game and it feels a bit like the season is already over. It isn’t of course, and things may yet turn out to be very important. In the meantime though…

– It seems that Crawley has been well and truly put out of peoples’ collective minds. Not so much in exhasperation or flat outright denial, but more in a case of “we move on”.

Certainly, it feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders. We’re starting to be a bit more, well, honest, about our strengths and limitations. Not just for the games ahead, but more long term too.

The general concensus is that yet again, and for the third time in four years, the loanees have failed to deliver. By now, we’ve gathered they just don’t work – or to be less polite, TB is shit at them. It’s no coincidence that his best signings have been ones where he’s been able to scout them properly, see how they properly fit in to a full training schedule and be in a position to get the players we want and not somebody’s cast-offs.

I use “full training schedule” because apparently, Drewe Broughton is still training at Lincoln for three days a week. If you consider that Elder and co failed in part because they only trained two evenings a week (at best), then it just feels we haven’t learnt any lessons from last season.

Drewe B has unfortunately started to show why  he’s a journeyman, but he’s got a bit of a crappy hand to deal with anyway. He wasn’t our first choice, and it’s possible he wasn’t even our second choice. To be reportedly stuck with your parent club three days a week and then do some pretty tiring (and unsettling) travelling down to do two further days a week at a club where a percentage of fans don’t want you to begin with – because of a previous club – is a sign that you need a new agent.

Were we really so stuck with players that we simply had to accept this arrangement? At the very least, is it really beyond the wit of the club to seek some (temporary) longer term accomodation down t’south for Broughton?

– These are the sort of things that the club will start having to face up to sooner or later. Doing things “on the cheap” can only last for so long – we can’t or won’t pay the money for another decent striker, yet we’re having to get players on loan who will end up costing us as much in the long run.

If we assume that DB is in a hotel for a couple of days, how much is that costing us per week? Not only in monetary terms but how effective the player is with such upheaval. He will go back to Lincoln at the end of the season, and more likely another club from there, but at the very least we should be in a position to give him more of a chance at succeeding here.

Effectively, we’re now going into the run-in with a knackered DK, an unsettled Drewe B, an inexperienced Brendan Kiernan, and two AWOL players (more on one of them later). Please stop tutting.

You will start hearing a lot of comments about “doing things properly”. This doesn’t necessarily mean money, either. Take Broughton’s situation for example. Remember in the Plough Lane days when we used to put out request for digs for our trainees? If an AFCW version of Mrs Miggins had a spare room for those sort of players to come down, they could at least have a bit of company rather than get left to their own devices.

As you will see towards the end of this article, it does seem to help players. Of course, we could be doing this already, although we seem to prefer the Live With Mum approach. Which isn’t going to help more senior pros, especially if we’re kind of forced into getting them…

Being a professional football club is more than just spending money on transfers and training full time. We’re slowly starting to learn that, although it does make one wonder how long that will take…

– With all this in mind, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Jon Main is spending another month at Dartford. If you go lower down to rediscover your goalscoring touch, only for it to desert you there too, chances are your days are becoming numbered.

What has become apparent is how quickly we’ve moved on from the Conference South era too. This felt quite apparent last night at the reserves game at Beckenham. That we’re in the LSC semi final is nice in itself, but for the first time it seems like the second string is finally starting to be the compliment to the first team it needs to be. You can see why we’ve put Brendan Kiernan on a contract, and time will tell if the likes of Dos Santos will join him.

We looked fit, organised, quite cultured, and even at 2-0 down at half time there was a sense we could come back from it. First team, take note. Not all of them will make that next step up, in fact 98% won’t. But that’s reserve football in a nutshell.

Your editor watched the stiffs at Slutton on Saturday (and try saying that after a couple of Murphys), and felt much the same then too. But this all proves the point of the importance of getting the second string right, and why we are/have to move into thinking like a pro football club.

OK, we haven’t got it right over Drewe B, for reasons stated above, but you wouldn’t be worried if Kiernan comes off the bench for a couple of games in the run-in. Already he’s above Main in the pecking order, and is young enough to be worked with. He can be taught to go into a 4-3-3, whereas Main couldn’t.

If Dos Santos makes the step up too, for next season we’ll have three strikers without having to sign anyone. Granted, unless they show themselves to be the new Michael Owen (the one we saw on his debut for Liverpool scoring a penalty against us, that is), I wouldn’t want to make them first team starters for the next couple of years. And the new DK is a necessity rather than a luxury.

But all of a sudden, we start getting choices. Right now, you can tell Main to spend another month at Princes Park, as there’s now another player we’ve got who didn’t look any less effective than he did all season. Which admittedly isn’t saying a lot. No, one half-hour performance isn’t a full judge of a season, although that doesn’t stop people clamouring for Reece Jones to be included…

In many ways, the rebuilding of AFCW and its future direction is starting here. We know we need quality across the board to win promotion, more than we have at present. We know that we’ll have to make some decent purchases in certain areas during the summer, and that we’ll have to work out how to fund it. If last season we were dipping out on players because of a £200 p/w wage difference, we will have to bite the bullet a bit more this time round.

We may do well in the playoffs, assuming we get there, but we’ll probably reach the semis at best. However, just as last season’s slump showed we had to be full time, this time round we’re being shown of the need to blend good youth and decent experience. And why you just can’t cut corners these days. In short, realise how much more we’ll need to be like the Lutons, not less.

Believe it or not, we could have won on Friday if we’d had a couple of top notch strikers on the pitch.

– Above all else though, we’re in for a tough period, which may well last into next season and even beyond. When you’ve done something in a certain way for eight years, with unprecedented success, it’s very hard to change it when it’s no longer as effective. Realising that to begin with is half the battle, but even reading the above may make our transition into a genuine L2 club sound simple. It won’t be.

The day we sell Seb Brown and not adequately replace him will be a shock to many people. Ditto DK and other top players you can think of. We haven’t properly replaced Chris Hussey at left back, which again is another symptom of the transitional period we’re in. And we’ve just about got away with that this season.

When we step out onto the field against Rushden on Saturday, it will practically be a new campaign. Our aim now is securing the playoffs and getting some resemblance of form back. After that, it just becomes a lottery.

Players may be fighting to stay at AFCW next season, or (dare I say it) putting themselves in the shop window. One thing is certain, lose again on Saturday and people will start to lose their patience…

– And finally, the most amusing story of the week, even if it was untentionally so. Before Friday’s game, outside the home end, two local lasses were selling some rather shit looking t-shirts with Matt Tubbs on them. Anyway, they were not t-shirts commemorating their goalscorer, but were a pop at……… Danny Kedwell.

“We’ve got Tubbsy, you’ve got fatty” was the somewhat cringeworthy slogan of these shirts. The rumour mill suggested that the WUP t-shirts with DK really got under the skin of Evans and co, as did DK’s rejection (and subsequent comments).

That the same rumour mill also suggested that a League 2 club came in with more money than Crawley reportedly ever offered may have had a bit more to do with it too, although both were obviously rejected, but it seems it got under their skin a bit too much.

Perhaps the funniest bit of this entire story wasn’t that it was done by some Crawley fanzine, nor even a fan or two working off their own back, but Crawley Town FC itself. Yes, that’s correct – the club itself sanctioned a t-shirt that was supposed to rile us up and make us realise how much of a failure we and DK should feel.

Christ, can you imagine the brainstorming session that particular wheeze produced? I imagine it lasted longer than planning our ticket arrangements, although even a DVD of Nick Roddis’ Greatest AFCW Matches would have taken longer than that.

Anyway, it must have had an effect, because reportedly by the time kickoff started they were still selling said t-shirts for £1. Yes, you read that right. The fact hardly any of us knew about it until afterwards proved how successful it wasn’t. Still, they could afford the losses they made on it.

While we navel gaze at ourselves, Crawley in the League could be quite amusing after all. Especially when their non-leagueness shows through against people less forgiving than ourselves. The next time we play them, perhaps WUP could do another “Some Things Money Can’t Buy” t-shirt and just put a picture of our support…?