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Odds, sods and whatevers

It’s June, so it must be the footballing equivalent of purgatory…

As the players come back from their Las Vegas pissup end-of-season training session, and as our club representatives fly off to the Football League AGM pissup in Cyprus – yes, really – things might start getting going again.

We’ve still yet to announce pre-season friendlies, we’ve made just one signing in Max Porter, and even the new police control box at KM is only in its cabling stages. Any tiny bit of news suddenly becomes the biggest thing to happen ever, even if it’s from a dodgy psychic

So, what do we know? Well, we’ve signed Max Porter but you knew that a week ago. Without seeing him – or indeed remembering him – he’s none the less a player we’ve been after for a while. Which is fair enough, but we are building for life in League Two and not non-league any longer. Presumably TB thinks that Porter can make that step up though, unlike another potential signing.

Our transfer policy is going to be an interesting one. After our victory against Luton – and was that really just under three weeks ago? – TB said something to the effect of he was going to primarily sign players from non-league. I don’t think you need me to answer that, although in later interviews he did say he would be looking at L2 level players too. One hopes that was just the hangover from Eastlands kicking in…

This summer’s aim is to build a squad that will be solid in League Two. I don’t think going for promotion is likely, a season or two of relative underachievement (without getting relegated) wouldn’t do us much long-term harm. Where we’ll need to boost  up, squad wise, they should be of the caliber of the likes of BJ, of Stuart, of what Yaks was (it was only his injury that forced us to release him). In short, those who know the division we’re in next season.

It’s not like there aren’t any such players available to us, if you look at released player lists. It’s a buyers market, and then some, right now. There used to be a school of thought that L2 players would come down to the Conference because they had no other way of earning a living. Now we’re in the FL, the players we can get should be even better.

The current squad themselves seem confident of next season, with both Stuart and Seb even hinting at yet another promotion push. Who said that footballers can be cocky? 😉 In all seriousness, they’ve probably looked at how Stevenage have done and gone from there. Indeed, all four playoff teams in L2 this season just gone were Conference sides not so long ago, and one only has to look at Exeter and Doncaster…

Is the faith our players show in themselves justified? Until we kick our first ball in anger next season, we won’t know, although helpfully the squad is a unit and they do seem to want to prove themselves. What is guaranteed is that a couple of players won’t be able to make the step up – it could be a painful test of credentials for some fan favourites.

Whether we’ll be rebuilding sooner or later, wage demands will always be the stumbling block, of course. We’ll now be operating under a salary cap, namely 60% of turnover can be spent on player wages. If that’s not an incentive to get our commercial side (and other areas of the club) generating more funds, I don’t know what is.

Especially with a projected £400k (minimum) going into AFCW coffers, which has a fundamental effect on how we continue to fund ourselves. With almost a blink of an eye, the club’s benefactors are no longer the main source of income outside matchday revenues, although that’s no bad thing.

One suspects the club has relied too much on them, and has also over-relied on supporters constantly putting their hands into their pockets too. If so, it may not be a bad time to start the painful weening off that particular teat.

It’s been mentioned before, but there are potentially lucrative revenue streams if we get it right on and off the field. The most obvious one is cup runs – we are only one or two wins away from potentially moneyspinning games against Prem clubs in both the Carling Cup and the FAC. That’s one extra incentive that wasn’t open to us a mere month or so ago, and the other one has become a great deal more achievable.

Like them or not, Crawley discovered the fruits of investing in a team good enough to reach the fifth round of the FAC, and have given themselves an extra year escaping financial reality because of it. If we learn how to generate more money, and invest in improving the team, who knows what we can achieve?

Of course, it means losing a bit – OK, a lot – of innocence. Though I think we lost a fair amount of that over Darlogate anyway. The reality of being a League club again is starting to sink in, and how much more there is to it these days.

Even little things like literally longer contracts for players (would be interesting to know the difference between a FL one and a non-league one, and why there’s more in it) and the increased admin. Even something like having to find office space for new admin people will be a departure from how we’ve done things since 2002.

What does this mean for some things we’ve taken for granted for the last nine years? I’m thinking WDON – will it have to tone down its, ahem, slanted view on things? It surely can’t get away with having five people within reaching distance of the mic anyway, a maximum of three on a quiet day, maybe. I doubt if we’ll ever be able to get away with this arrangement again under the auspices of Football League media accreditation…

And that’s assuming we still let WDON be listened to gratis. We’ll really need to look at our OS, unless we’re happy falling even further behind with it, and it seems most other sides in L2 have a “Player” option where you pay £x a month to get your exclusive content, including club commentary. Would people pay for it, having gotten so used to listening to it without charge?

That’s for the upcoming months and weeks. Next season, on the pitch anyway, we should do OK, but we will show our naievity up big time at times. TB has already discovered with his comments about Paulo Di Canio that scrutiny is a lot tighter these days. And even indirectly being linked to Dave Boyle’s recent drunken escapades on Twitter is the side of PR that we never needed to deal with in the Conference South. Not that it’s a good idea to get mentioned in Mr Sale’s column at the best of times…

The days of saying something to the local press or the NLP and fewer than a couple of people caring are long gone.

Still, it’s all part of the Learning Curveâ„¢ and ultimately they’re just small prices worth paying. Think of how you went from primary school to middle school to high school, and that’s kind of where AFCW is right now. Nervous, a bit apprehensive of failing/making an arse of yourself but excited at the same time to be playing with some big fellas.

As stated just after Eastlands, our success since 2002 has been our adaptability, and we’ll get used to League football pretty quickly again. In a year or so, we’ll look back on this and wondered why we were ever worried. As long as we don’t go down, that is.

Now, how about some pre-season friendly news…….?