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Kick and Rush

OK, Pearl Necklace 1 Diamonds 0 got a bit hairy towards the end, and we still can’t play properly for 90 minutes, and we relied on Seb Brown yet again, and…

But we got the three points, and at this stage of the season it’s easy not to care how.

The sad thing about this game was that at half time, I said to the poor bloke next to me how much I enjoyed watching it. It was as though we’d started off with a clean slate, treated it as a new season and played without any fear or pressure whatsoever.

Unfortunately, we realised we were still in 2010/11 in the second half, which is why we were lucky in a way we didn’t lose this. Once again, step forward Seb Brown, and the post too. And the lino flagging their “goal” offside. True, you’re happy to get any three points at this time, but do we have to make so much fucking hard work of it every single time?

On another day, with slightly better opponents, we would be holding yet another post-mortem. And my mood would be worse than normal, because in the first half (when we got going), we looked more like a team who were actually near the top of the table.

Not for the first time this season, our credentials as a team likely to do well in the playoffs were sorely tested, and it’s hard to see anything beyond merely just getting in them this time round. I’m not sure I buy this “if we play badly and still win then it’s a sign we’ll win the playoffs” viewpoint – it’s straw clutching and it only applies if you play most games well.

Which we haven’t. We’ve lost three on the bounce, and there’s always going to have a bit of the self-doubt creeping in when the full time whistle is in sight. TB was reportedly giving them another bollocking after the game, and it’s not hard to see why – we looked a totally different side in the second half, and not in a good way either.

Why? Are we simply not fit enough? When you consider how we seem to fade for one half of football – on a regular basis – you have to ask the question. And considering a lot of money was raised in the back end of last season for those heart monitors, you have to wonder what the point of having them is if we’re still fading.

This will definitely happen if we do somehow go up, but I would suggest it happens anyway – we need a bloody good long, deep, hard, serious think of where we go from here in the close season. While the attention will always fall on TB and his transfer policy, the club itself needs to be brave and look over the entire first team setup with a brutal set of eyes.

The question should be asked whether our backroom staff are as good as they could be. If we do, and we find they are, then all well and good. But we need to be able to do that – we’re now at a level of football where those minor differences can end up with quite a fundamental effect.

Next season will be tough, probably the toughest one in the AFCW era, and we won’t be able to wing it any longer. We can and do bitch about our loan signings, and David James today could be talking about us. But it’s worth taking on sooner rather than later…

Plus points: We won. Clean sheet. Mo’s debut. First half. Seb Brown.

Minus points: Second half.

The referee’s a…: Well, I suppose he could just about find it deep within him to give us a penalty. I know we go on about the standard of refereeing, and often I think it’s over-done, but come on. We had something like 23 fouls conceded, and about one booking (and that was Luke Moore being unable to keep his gob shut). Meanwhile, our opponents…

Them: Considering they have a nice stadium (if somewhat out of the way) and were in the League for a little while, they never seem to be viewed as an ex-League club. They certainly had a bit of Ryman Premier type “gamesmanship”, looking to fall over whenever any of our players got near them, helped by a subservient ref.

Reportedly gave Seb a few digs whenever the ref wasn’t looking. Then again, they are managed by Justin Edinburgh, who was one of the more cuntier members of that rather cunty Spurz side of the early 90s. Did he really give a snide middle finger to the JS?

Point to ponder: Wasn’t yesterday a tale of two strikers? On the one hand, we saw the debut of Kaid “Mo” Mohammed. No, he didn’t score, but considering he’d only trained once with us, he seemed to show a fair amount of promise and somebody who will slot in sooner or later. While he faded a bit in the second half, he wasn’t the only one.

Compare and contrast to poor Drewe Broughton. And by poor, I mean in both senses of the word. To only come on for about 5/10 minutes and still generate enough negative discussion about you isn’t a particularly good sign. Mind you, your editor heard after the game that Broughton is up in Lincoln three days a week because he’s doing a college course (paid by the PFA I think). So if nothing else, at least he’s preparing himself for part time football.

But then, at least Broughton was able to come on for DK (who thankfully just had cramp) as a like-for-like. Which is kind of the point why we signed him in the first place. I know people are giving him grief now, but they’d be just as complaining if we didn’t sign somebody like him, and were forced to put on Minshull up front.

Perhaps that’s something else to think about for the close season? If we can keep DK, and Mo turns out to be as good as we hope he does, that already alters our plans for another striker. Maybe we need our own donkey, our own lumbering sack of shit, our modern day Carl Leaburn? While your editor is no fan of buying players from the Ryman Premier, for once he wouldn’t object to us doing so for that sub striker who comes on with ten minutes remaining.

After all, how can a team call itself a League one without at least one complete donkey up front?

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) When was the last time we got a penalty? Let alone scored one? (2) Decent crowd there in the end, 3069 wasn’t the psychological sub-3k figure we all secretly feared. Not bad considering it clashed with internationals and some march up in town. Though one suspects those who went were secretly going to the boat race instead… (3) Andre Blackman spotted. Though apparently he doesn’t expect to play for us again. (4) The mascot. An 18/19 year old female. No truth to the rumour that Tintin Haydon was busy showing said mascot just what he means when he has a good burrow at KM…

Anything else? Know what I said earlier about AFCW needing to think long and hard about our backroom staff in the summer? Perhaps the time has (finally) come to do it across the whole club.

This thought occured when the third kits were being paraded around at half time by some slightly embarrassed youth teamers. The reaction around me was “they’re not very good are they?”, though they were referring to the garments. I think.

OK, the Chelmsford-esque claret one is the nicest of a pretty lame bunch, but will it be the moneyraising tool that we need? Could we do better than what we have right now?

That’s what we need to start asking ourselves more and more, both on and off the field. See, we’ve gone close to nine years now without really stopping and thinking if what we’re doing is the best course of action. The club has stated point blank that it wants to be a Football League club, which it should be. Since 2002, we’ve basically bulldozed our way from fields with a barrier around it (literally) to grounds that wouldn’t look out of place in the Championship.

When you’ve been that single-minded in your determination, the ability to self-analyse properly becomes ever more difficult. You can see AFCW hitting the buffers next season simply because you can’t go on like we have forever.

This summer should see some pointed questions about where we go off field. Is our marketing all that? We don’t know, because it never seems (from the outside) that we’ve looked at it properly. I live on the Wimbledon side of SM4, and to be blunt I hardly see much presence. Except for the car stickers in quite a few vehicles – the ones from 2002 that is…

OK, we have wrap arounds in one of the local freebie papers, and I’m sure you can pick your own examples of what we’ve done or what we should be doing. Personally, I’d like to know why we never have posters advertising upcoming games dotted around, or why you can’t buy AFCW shirts in the centre of SW19…

But they’re incidental to the main point. One is starting to sense that a bit of freshness within AFCW is needed. A bit of new thinking, a bit of innovation (if that’s the right word). To build for the next eight years, a period that will be more challenging that at any time in the last 108 months.

Am I suggesting the club is starting to stagnate? Actually, I’m not, but it could easily fall into the trap that blights clubs without them realising it. We’ve seen on our travels (both as WFC and AFCW) what happens when a club rests on its laurels and goes for 15 years or more doing the same thing.

In this regard, our ambition to regain our stolen League place is a massive help. We constantly push for the next level up because it’s in our DNA. Supporting Wimbledon (both versions) has always been like that – we could never have been a non-league side, and we’re as much a Conference outfit as Wrexham or Mansfield.

But to make that next step up, you do need to have periods of self-reflection, and this next year or two could be a good time to have one. Quite possibly, we may need to re-invent ourselves. And it needs to be done properly – it won’t do us any good to spend 12-18 months dithering over some minor sticking point that isn’t particularly relevant.

Nor will it be done in a week. It’s easy to convince yourselves that we got from the CCL to second in the Conference in eight seasons without so much of a sweat. It wasn’t, and it took a lot of manhours, thinking and planning to get there. Where we go from here will end up being just as painful too, but anything worth doing puts the odd nose out of joint.

To do it we must though. We could start by asking ourselves whether Tempest are the best we can do. Or whether John Smiths are the best we can do for stand sponsorship, or why the KRE is still the KRE. Things that could start generating the next amount of money we’re going to need.

When we do fundraising, are we constantly asking the same people over and over again? If so, why? Can we really not ask different people? Is our approach to media (new and traditional) one becoming of an upwardly mobile club? At least one that likes to think it is.

In fairness, we are starting to do that in a couple of areas. The club has hit on a good one with the unemployment concessions for next season, although increased ticket prices never go down well. And pisstaking aside, the carvery does very well and does have a good reputation.

There are also (one hopes tangible) plans to do something proper with the Official Site. The OS is a classic example of what’s been whinged talked about in this section. Considering the importance of the internet these days, our OS has looked outdated for a good five years. It’s always had a feel of afterthought to it, that it’s there just because we have to have one.

The most important question of all remains though. Do we have it within ourselves to not only ask the questions but to accept an answer some people may not like?

So, was it worth it? Suppose so.

In a nutshell: It’s three points.