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Daggers at Dawn

No doubt the average SW19 reader has been lying low after going on the thieve this week, but for those trying out their brand new monitors for the first time, just remember you can’t take them back if they don’t work…

After a few question marks, tomorrow’s game at Daggers is going ahead. Guess the coppers aren’t scared of 2000+ football fans (some would argue that they’d prefer to arrest those who go to games than smash up shops…) and everything is back to normal.

Or as one D&R fan put it, there’s fuck all worth smashing up around here.

So, what to expect? Well, your editor won’t be there tomorrow (Crawley v Macclesfield for me.  Yes, really), so I’ve no idea whether we’ll see a repeat of the Brizzle Rovers first half debacle. The pre-game rhetoric has been what you would expect though. TB has promised a more pragmatic approach (and may put in Lee Minshull instead), Brett Johnson thinks we’ll be all right,  while earlier this week Ricky Wellard called for the spirit of Manchester to be invoked again.

Hopefully without having to buy everything through See Tickets though.

I haven’t seen the SLP, but apparently Jamie Stuart’s been pointing out how Rovers managed to close us down, so has there been an, ahem, frank exchange of views this week in training? The next couple of games will see how much of that has been taken on, by both player and manager alike. There’s certainly a vibe that we didn’t do ourselves justice last weekend, and the season really does start here.

Tomorrow should see an improvement, at least there’d better be. Fortunately, for the manager and the squad, we’re still in the grace period that every new side gets for about the first ten games. But even with this in mind, there’s now pressure on us to show we know how to defend tomorrow.

Your editor doesn’t subscribe to the notion that losing most of our first ten games wouldn’t be a major cause for alarm. For a team that’s built itself on a winning mentality, and where the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts, it would suggest a pretty bad nine months ahead. What would that do for our all round confidence, both on and off the field?

Nor does the “we’ve got 46 games” theory wash – in reality, you get about 20 games before you start becoming adrift, which is why Xmas is such a crucial time for a manager in this division. Look at managerial casualties from last year, and note their positions at the time. TB, take note…

True, we’ve only played one game in the FL thus far, but already the talk is of bucking our ideas up. That’s not a bad thing to do, by the way, as it shows willing and no “we’re just happy to survive” mentality. It does appear we do want to do well, to maybe push for the playoffs – though I think that’s too far, too fast, at least for this season – and with luck we’ll see something that resembles what we can do. Not only tomorrow but for Plymouth on Tuesday and beyond.

Whatever happens come the weekend, we’ll be doing it without this new striker we’ve been promised since the old King was alive Danny Kedwell left. We now know it definitely won’t be Jason Euell, who’s decided to go to Charlton instead. One couldn’t help but think he was more keen on going to the Valley than to us, although the usual rumourmongers were suggesting he’d been to KM to discuss terms.

We’ve also effectively written off Marcus Bent, although that seemed to be more of a fan/media ramping thing anyway. Though again, the rumour mill suggests talks did take place. Thing is, were these signings genuine attempts? Were they merely to placate the fans? Did the club itself have its head turned by such talk?

More importantly, would getting somebody who isn’t a “name” like Bent or Euell be a bad thing? It would mean there’s no more of a media circus than there usually is, and there’s always a danger of a Prem/Champ player being like a fish out of water in L2. Bent in particular hasn’t had a good goals-to-game ratio in the last few years, and would he necessarily explode into life in a division where he would be targetted by some clodhoppy defenders?

You can mention Marcus Gayle’s name here, and I’ll add Paul Furlong when he was at Barnet too. But then, both were no-brainers for us and the Bees, and they just seemed the right fit at the right time. I haven’t had that gut feeling about Euell or Bent to be honest, and while a young (or experienced but not a “name”) striker won’t get the headlines, we make enough of our own as it is.

There’s always the wages element, of course, and it would raise question marks about how really poverty striken we are. Bent wouldn’t be cheap, and would be at odds with our claims that we’ve got one of the lowest budgets in the division. There’s nothing to stop Bent joining us for £200 a week plus a free kebab and reduced Dons Trust membership if he wants to, but I expect he’s more likely to be wearing Brighton colours than ours.

Although with us putting in an interest, no doubt Gillingham are going to sign him instead.

It has increased the pressure on us before the transfer window closes though, and I hope the club have been looking at other strikers who are more realistically going to join us. Do we just need another forward though? Or is what’s wrong with our defence the pressing issue? If we need somebody in that position, anyway, and it’s not just our current back line being dozy twats. We do need a spark from somewhere though, and you don’t necessarily need a “name” to get that.

Whatever our signing intentions, we need to really get a move on with them, because I don’t fancy being glued to SSN all day on the 31st August hoping we’ll sign some Fulham reserve…

One final thing, and has seemed to have passed without much comment – according to last Saturday’s programme, the stadium thing has taken on an interesting twist. For the first time I can remember, we’ve got some inkling of a timing : three months until we narrow it down to one site from three “with unaminous support”.

Now, three months is an annoying long time to wait, but we’ve had 20 years of false dawns and being outright lied to. So again, forgive any cynicism that may arise. I’m still convinced the long term plan is KM and remain so until I’m standing/sitting in the new HalliburtonDome in Wimbledon…

A few thoughts though : if one site was the front runner, why have we (suddenly?) switched to three different ones again? Perhaps it became too costly, or there were more planning hurdles than previously thought. Or maybe something “better” has come along anyway?

Alternatively, it may have been down to the bar-room/salon gossip that may or may not have been, er, gossiped about. That there’s been no obvious leak over any potential site location is a minor miracle in itself, but perhaps somebody somewhere has got cold feet because somebody else has blabbed? If so, it’s another reminder for people to keep their gobs shut…

That there are three possible sites is a very good sign indeed though, it reduces any excuses that there isn’t anywhere available for a start. All three are likely regeneration sites, and some places in SW19 do need that.

Fortunately, we have Colliers International on board along with, it appears, Merton Council. Colliers seem to be involved a lot with this kind of stuff, so it proves we’re serious. This isn’t Hammam-era “negotiations are at a critical stage” bullshit, at least I hope it isn’t. It does seem we’ve gone too far down the road both in terms of finance and politics to not make a very real go with this. After all, a lot of credibility is on the line here, AFCW’s included.

One wonders though if the major reason why it’s gone from one semi-definite to three need-more-looking-at is down to timescale? While the timeline of 7-9 years contines to get bandied about, I don’t think the club wants to be bogged down any longer than is necessary. Cost alone would be an issue if we got stuck in the mud over this. At best, there will be some hurdles to vault over anyway, but we might be reaching the point where a long-term solution is starting to become a mid-term one and we will need to move quickly.

You don’t need me to tell you of what KM was like on Saturday, and I expect there’s some behind-the-scenes costings that we have to do at KM that might be forcing our hand a bit more. Perhaps the thought process in the past has been to work on THE best site and expect it to take 7-10 years while remaining at KM, but realising what’s required as a League club is more pressing than first thought?

There’s also a possibility of downscaling. We may have initially gone for the absolute dogs bollocks of a project but are finding that we’d be better off rebuilding the Kassam? With the fourth stand, one presumes.

Actually, perhaps we shouldn’t laugh at that, because stadia in the past has sometimes had to be constructed piecemeal. In the last decade or two, both Oxford and Huddersfield have/had incomplete grounds. There was even talk about 3 years ago that Brighton were considering building one main stand and having the rest as temporary for now, simply to cut down on costs.

Could we do the same? A week or so ago, Erik Samuelson gave the first ever price of a new stadium that I can remember anyone revealing (£30m in this quite revealing interview) and in the golden rule of constructing anything, take a figure then double it. Apart from the obvious all-round suitabililty, we’re also sorely lacking in corporate/executive facilities at KM, and even a new main stand with boxes etc, plus three temporary stands would serve us better than KM does right now.

I doubt if anyone wants it to come to that, but we’re now moving into the stage where shit starts getting real.

Still, we’ll know in about three months from now. Or not, as the case usually ends up being. In the meantime, perhaps Colliers could find us a win tomorrow…?