It’s the end of the season, and therefore it must be the traditional End Of Season Cull.
Unlike last season, it’s been done a lot earlier and with less romance attached to it. A year ago, we looked at losing the likes of Jon Main, Yaks, Mark Nwokeji and Kennedy Adjei with a little bit of a heavy heart but many thanks.
This time around? To be honest, I’m not sad to see any of them go. There are a couple that one will think that maybe we didn’t give them a chance, but you’re not going to notice them when they disappear.
And that kind of sums up the season just gone – without exception, all of them didn’t make the step up you thought/hoped they would. The list includes those who were gone anyway – Ryan Jackson, Lee Minshull, James Mulley and Max Porter – but we’ve got the first list of those who will now be phoning their agents.
As is to be expected, SW19 goes through all of them and lists why they’re gone:
Chris Bush: Not too surprised at this, although there might have been a touch of the keep-him-on-as-a-squad-member. Always seemed played out of position (not his fault) and never appeared fully fit. It was telling that when he was at Brentford last year, Uwe Rosler put him on loan to Thurrock…
Fraser Franks: Hardly played, and somebody who in a more ideal world I would have liked to have kept on as a utility player. More a victim of our lack of proper reserve team than anything.
Gareth Gwillim: Given that he appeared to have had an ultimatum about sticking with his day job at LUL or become a full time pro with us, this seems the least shocking of all. It’s a shame really, as he was the best left back at the club since Chris Hussey, but he missed the last few games of the season and you had to wonder what was up…
Brett Johnson: When rumours that he was joining Simon Bassey in the cab drivers union surfaced, he was always on his way out. His CV now reads he’s failed to make it at AFCW, Northampton and Brentford. Will be a good addition to a Conference defence, but his handball against Bristol Rovers set the scene for his season. And not in a good way.
Jamie Stuart: On his way down. Rebuilt a lot of his reputation in the latter stages of his AFCW career, which had been dented by being slow, cumbersome and coming across as a bit of a bullying cunt in the process. But helped stabilise our Conference season at the back, so deserves a cautious handshake for that alone.
Reece Jones: The rumour mill suggested that he missed the Barnet game because he went to Thorpe Park on the morning of the game, went on the roller coaster, became violently ill in his mate’s car and as a result wasn’t fit to play. The term “village idiot” gets used about him a lot…
Ricky Wellard: May have raised a couple of eyebrows, but another player who didn’t play as much as you think. Always appeared like he was one tackle away from being literally broken in two, which made his “Bones” nickname ever more unfortunate.
Kieran Djilali: Injury prone, and when he gave it the big one to Marcus Gayle in full sight of everyone at the LSC, his card was always marked. Talented and promising, but then so are many others at this level and below.
Jack Turner: On the one hand, I’m a bit surprised at this. He would have been somebody who we could have put on a season long loan and developed. On the flip side though, his two League games weren’t all that, and his Twatter account made him come across as a serial whinger. Indeed, it seems he can’t wait to open his big mouth when he finally signs off, as this (now deleted) tweet this morning testifies:
@Jackturner20: Thank you to most of the fans really have enjoyed my self but…. AS Afc wimbledon still pay my wages I will not say what I really feel YET
I really wonder what goes on in the minds of kids like Turner (and to cut them a bit of slack, they are only kids). Or just as likely, what sort of advice they get – be they gobby parents, dipshit best mates or whoever. In his case, he does seem like he spouts off before realising what he’s said and then backtracks.
You can see him saying the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong manager, and then he’ll be wondering why he’s never made it as a goalkeeper.
We might not have heard the last of this either, if the “ongoing” comment on the OS is anything to go by. Plenty might have speculated that Sam Hatton would have been finally released, but as he still has those photos of TB on “holiday” in the Philippines…
So, what? That’s nine players released today, and tellingly most are in defence. I hope nobody asks why that is so. There could be a couple more being released, and there are speculatory stories about Sammy Moore being courted. Couple that with the possibility of Jack Midson moving on, and this is one seriously, seriously big rebuilding job to be done.
The problem this is that most if not all of the players released are non-league level. Turner has already been asking his mate at Bedfont Sports for a trial, which is hardly the sort of place a L2 player will be heading for.
The squad members who are genuine League quality, like Jack Midson or Sammy Moore, won’t be released but sold instead if the money is right. If the culled players had some value, they would have either been kept on or we would have got a transfer fee for them.
So we have to replace nine players at least, all of whom have to be better than those we’ve just got rid of. At least half of those we get in have to be of League Two quality, so we can build a spine of a side around them. That was the mistake we made last season, and when the post-Eastlands bounce wore off we were exposed.
Can we do that? Even with the Â£3.25 we’ve got to spend on players? Well, we are already seeing stories like these coming out from elsewhere, and they won’t be the last. I would hope that at the very least we’ve had those sort of players mentioned to us.
I do have to admit that my heart sinks whenever I hear stories about TB and co being at Slutton v Welling, or Paul Priddy being at Oxford City (not Oxford United). Maybe the odd one or two uncut diamonds, but if last season taught us anything, you need more to be in the Football League. Much more.
We saw what getting in Pim/Knott/Moncur did to us, and arguably all those three helped keep us up last season. The average wage of a L2 footballer doesn’t seem to be too budget-busting,Â and we should be able to at least build a spine of players who have done it at this level. If we don’t, we’ll get exposed big time again, and we’ll be looking for a new manager before Xmas.
You do wonder who we will now bring in. A little hunch tells me that Jason Euell will be wearing an AFCW shirt next season, probably in a player-coach role. Will we get a vastly experienced (ie old) defender who will be the much needed defensive coach, but can still play? I will struggle to contain my cynicism if we can’t even afford those sort of players.
I don’t think we can do the let-us-wait-until-July-and-see-who-is-available approach this time around, because all that will do is lead to panic buying and another big cull come January. It’s a very non-league attitude to take re: transfers, and TB still hasn’t proven himself as a Football League level manager. Mind you, we scouted Harrison and Max Porter for ages, and look how they turned out.
But at least we now know who we need, even if it’s taken us until May to do it. By the first League game of next season, we may have a smaller squad, but of better quality, with the likes of Brendan Kiernan, Louis Theo and Huw Johnson continuing to develop. Not to mention a couple of Knott-esque loan signings.
And who knows, maybe the odd decent tactic…