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Goodbye to 2011/12

And that, as they say, is that.

It’s nice to end on a high like Petruchio 3 Katherina 1, even if it was the deadest of dead rubbers. OK, the opposition weren’t exactly going at full pelt, about half of those in an AFCW shirt today won’t be with us next season, and it was the kind of end-of-season game your mother warned you about.

First half was pretty dull though. So tedious was it, that the highlight was making a rather pointed observation to an SW19 reader that Chris Bush and the Shrewsbury #2 looked like two hippos fucking each other when they were both challenging for the ball. An image I’m not quite sure he wanted. That said, half the time I was checking the scores elsewhere.

Second half though…

To be honest, I was secretly hoping for one of those freak games that happen once in a while. You know, a 5-4 or 6-5 type game where chaos reigns and you walk out of the ground wondering what the hell you’ve just witnessed. That didn’t happen, but what did occur was the rather, ahem, alternative approach to goalkeeping from the man called Neal (and by god was he reminded about it, poor sod), giving Byron Harrison the perfect opportunity to score. Yes, our record signing is lethal from 6 inches out, as his partner would probably say.

No doubt their keeper will join us next year.

Whether it’s because joy like this has been few and far between this season just gone, but we looked well, decent. Hell, we even went 2-0 up. Mind you, they hit back soon afterwards. Although so did we…

There’s not really much more to say about something that ultimately means less than a PSF. At least with those they’re designed to boost fitness and match sharpness, this was a contractual obligation of a contest.

Was it a swansong for a lot of players out there? Jamie Stuart was shaking as many hands as possible afterwards, which makes a change from him shaking throats. Even if he had played well throughout the whole season and not for the last month he would have been gone. As much as I think somebody like FF should have been given more in terms of gametime, I don’t think we’ll see him in our jersey next season. Might be proved wrong though. As for Reece Jones…

Chris Bush? Dunno. I expect that he might escape because there’s a danger that we cull too many players. Ditto the likes of Toks and Luke Moore. They might go, but don’t be surprised to see them retained.

And Sam Hatton still has those pictures of TB, the donkey, the 12 year old and the Franchise shirt.

I do wonder if we’ve also seen the last of Jack Midson and Sammy Moore. Those two would be a massive boost to our bank balance, although the metaphoric cost of replacing them will be just as expensive. Midson certainly made it his business to applaud the TE on his own before the usual lap of honour, and so did SM. And while there are many lessons to be learnt in the months ahead, those two going could be even more critical than DK and Gregory.

But for today at least, we can reflect back on what has been an interesting season.

I’m not going to deny that I would prefer a different management team in the summer, and what I think should be done for 2012/13 will more than likely be started by 2013/14. I expect that part of the reason for that is budgetary, as in it would probably cost too much to move that stage further coaching wise at this time. Clearly, the club is hoping that there will once again be enough teams worse than us through the season to get away with a lowly position in L2 by the next time we have a final game of the season.

It won’t get any easier though. We don’t have Macclesfield and Hereford to kick around (er…) next season. You would assume that the likes of Plymouth and Bradford are going to be on the up again, and will rebuild sufficiently in the summer. Ditto Northampton, with Aidy Boothroyd and Brizzle Rovers.

We won’t have Crawley, but we will have Fleetwood coming up with their cheque book. And looking at it, Luton could be dangerous should they get over what we did to them last year and go up under TB’s prodige.

There’s a question mark over what to expect from Wycombe, Rochdale, Chesterfield and Exeter, although this rather interesting article appeared in the local press in the case of the last one. Suggestion they might be financially strapped? t’Stanley may be, as well.

One would assume that Daggers and Barnet will once again struggle, and there’s always the team that shocks everyone with their outright shiteness. So presumably the club is relying on teams like that to prop us up during a turbulent period.

One thing is certain, we won’t be bailed out by the post-Eastlands bounce next time round.

Make no mistake, TB is now under a lot more pressure to produce. He cannot have the same attitude to our back line that he had up until Pim came along, an attitude that would have got him sacked elsewhere with good reason. He will not get away next season with tactics that no other club in the division plays, mainly because they don’t work in League Two.

He has to ensure a lot more consistency, not to mention getting whoever is playing to play for 90 minutes. Not 45. Not 70. And he needs to be more tactically flexible, more aware, more realistic. If he doesn’t, he won’t see the next transfer window. And this pretty astute analysis on WDSA doesn’t suggest he’s guaranteed to learn that…

In short, he needs to be the manager he was in the buildup to Eastlands, and not the manager he’s been this season just gone.

Will he do that? We’ll see come August and beyond, but for the last time this campaign…

Plus points: We won. Second half. Huw Johnson getting a run-out. Some good passsing. Luke Moore. Sammy Moore.

Minus points: The goal. Dull first half. The realisation it doesn’t really matter.

The referee’s a…: End of season for him too, so he’s excused anything. Didn’t really notice him though, although it was that sort of day. The lino seemed to have already gone on holiday for a couple of their offsides…

Them: To be honest, I expect they only turned up because they had to. Rumours they were on the lash all week seemed to be quite plausible, their goalie certainly was for our first goal. Even so, you got the suspicion if they had needed something for this game they would have got it.

587 of them wasn’t too bad, I assume that it was all we could have given them. As said earlier, their #2 was a fair old unit. To be fair to Chris Neal their goalie (yes, he has a first name you heartless lot) he took it in as good a humour as he was able to. Although I’m sure he used a certain finger when he was asked the score at 1-0…

Point to ponder: Can I just say how pathetic, woeful, inadequate, amateurish, brittle, fuckwitted, brain dead, slow, disinterested, cumbersome, inbred, idiotic, mongish, airheaded, limp-wristed, incompetent, chickenshit, neanderthal, impotent, abysmal, deformed, attrocious, dire, depressing, grotesque, horrifying, gutless, rancid, loathsome, rank, odious, poisonous, lamentable, wretched, pitiful, cringworthy, small dicked, Conference South level and all round Franchise loving our shit sandwich of a defence was this campaign?

No? Oh…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Strange to think the season is no more. That opening day against Brizzle Rovers seems only a short while ago. October to March didn’t half drag though. (2) Come to think of it, wasn’t it strange not to see the KRE there too? The new stand will make it look better, but even though KM and that stand has little emotional attachment, something did seem out of place today. (3) Those cheerleaders – hmm, yes, well. And they looked about 13. (4) It’s May, it’s the end of the season. It should be shirt sleeve weather. I was wearing the same stuff as I did in November.

Anything else? So, what have we learnt this season? The short answer is, a helluva lot more than we have done since 2002.

More accurately, we’ve learnt how much professional the Football League is. We found that out on the field too many times, but off it as well. Reportedly, the amount of paperwork you need to fill in the 91 Club is a lot more than ever before. The club is struggling with office space, as anyone who walks into the office on a non-matchday will know.

But it’s had its naievity truly exposed. For the first time, it’s not fully in control of its own destiny. A good example of this is the KM refurb – the club thought that it could get away with doing the KRE and put back the JS. But it’s been caught short, and now has a much bigger bill than it planned as a result. That was apparently down to the Football Licensing Authority (FLA) acting after plenty of complaints by opposition fans.

What that shows is that the club is under a lot more scrutiny, and it’s not going to be treated as sympathetically. Give a shit view in the Conference? Fine, nobody really gives a flying one, and the Conference Board is too dumb to do anything about it. Do it in the FL and you do as you’re told – the FLA couldn’t give a fuck that we’re AFC Wimbledon and we started life on Wimbledon Common. They’re more bothered about the “experience” that KM gives you, or lack of it.

Earlier this week, we saw the initial set of proposals about funding, which if nothing else suggests the elephant in the room is finally getting noticed. Even if the opening paragraphs have a somewhat patronising tone. It’s clear the days of wondering where your iced buns have gone are dwindling, and the loud roaring sound isn’t coming from your Aunt Mabel.

Even if the club just gets the Vice Presidents setup, that will mean a pretty notable shift in the culture of the club – OK, one could say that under Mike R/Paul Strank/Iain McNay we are half-way there already, but for the first time something like that will be formal. The fact it’s been floated suggests that there are enough loaded fans of ours who have at least been sounded out.

Which let’s face it, we’re going to need. Not only for the JS and KRE, and transfer budgets, but longer term too. Moving back to SW19 won’t be cheap, although it’s something that is fundamental to the future and – just as importantly – culture of the club (if you know your history, and all that) and has to be tackled and not run away from.

But even without the finance, we’ve learnt you can’t take anything for granted in this division. Not in scouting, or in transfers, or in tactics. Or in planning, or in administration, or in anything else. Looking back now, we knew that we were clueless about this division and what it entailed. Only now are we finding out how much we were woefully underprepared.

It’s more than you think. Or want to believe.

As a side, and as a club, we are in stage one of the big rebuilding programme of AFCW. We will make plenty more mistakes in our planning, and some of these mistakes will be costly in both senses of the word. They will be ones we have to learn from, and to be fair to the club it tends not to repeat the most painful financial errors that easily.

We will no longer be the new boys of the Football League next season. And that may be the most important lesson to learn of all.

So, was it worth it? Season? Yes. Game? Hmm…

In a nutshell: Roll on 2012/13.