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And our first game is….

.. Crawley in the Carling Cup prelim.

And no, that’s not a wind-up.

So, after plenty of grumbling about lack of pre-season fixtures, we finally find out why. Got to say, my jaw is still throbbing after it hit the floor at a rate of knots upon reading this, and I bet I’m not the only one.

When it got announced, it had a real element of “What the fuck?” about it. Surely it was a wind-up? Suddenly, all those little dreams you have about drawing West Ham in the first round look extremely shaky at a stroke, and it’s not the glorious start to life back in the Football League…

So, who’s fault is it? As we know by now, Birmingham City went down but got a bye to the third round, so there’s one place too  many and therefore a playoff is needed. So if Brum hadn’t fucked up in the Premier League, we wouldn’t be in this situation.

Actually, it’s Arsenal’s fault for being so shit in the Carling Cup final. Or more precisely, the Arsenal keeper for doing his impression of the crap keepers we used to have in the Ryman Prem. If he’d paid attention, then the Gooners would have taken it to extra time and would have probably won.

If we go out on the 29th July, we ought to go around to Wojciech SzczÄ™sny’s house and kneecap him. It’s his fault, the butterfingered kabanos munching cunt.

Being slightly less paranoid about this, it’s not like there hasn’t been a prelim before. In 2002/03, Bristol Rovers lost to Boston (oh, the irony), and it’s simply just one of those things. Unfortunately. No, it’s not ideal, and it’s not particularly what you want to find out, but them’s the rules. It’s the price one does pay when one is in the Football League.

So, down to the practicalities of this. Has it buggered up our pre-season preparation? One assumes the club knew something like this was on the horizon, if the lack of action over scheduling is anything to go by (seems to have caught Crawley a bit cold though, they’re having to postpone their scheduled game against Leyton Orient).

We do at least know what we’ve got to plan for. We now know that we have to play on the 29th July in a game that is genuinely important. We should at least be spared the humdrum of “enticing” pre-season friendlies against the likes of Slutton and Ks, and be able to arrange some from higher divisions. In fact, I would be very surprised if we arranged more than two from the Conference or below.

Practicality wise, all it’s done is put the beginning of the season forward by about a week. Pre-season training (according to the latest WHAK) starts in 18 days time, and by the time the last scheduled PSF comes around you’re more or less chomping at the bit to play a proper game. So on that score it shouldn’t affect things too much, if we’ve prepared properly.

At least it proves what being in the Europa League must feel like. Christ, Fulham have to play on the 30th of June – and you think we’re hard done by. It does seem obscenely early, but football is close to a 12-month industry all round these days. It hardly seems like a month ago that the Prem was still being played.

There are other things to be sorted out. Will this force TB’s hand with signings? While the whole Jack Midson prick-tease debate continues, and as he sits down this week with Kaid to see if he’s going to sign up or not, there is a bit of a need to get a mostly settled squad, and quick. Fortunately, the bulk of the squad who finished at Eastlands is still with us – imagine if we’d jettisoned half of it? – and therefore there’s no major issues about them gelling.

But the need to have a proper left back, the 1/2 strikers that TB is mentioning, another centre back and probably somebody else in midfield has become that little bit more of a priority. Hopefully things will start picking up again, we’ll need it to…