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A decade on

Time flies, doesn’t it?

Today is the once-a-year AFCW equivalent of Remembrance Sunday. You know exactly where you were a decade ago today, when the cataclysmic news came in. And my own anecdote from this day in 2002 : I was in an office just off Thornton Heath high street, getting a phone call around 1125 that confirmed the horror of all horrors.

I looked at the two empty gas canisters that were near me (this was an engineering firm), and was tempted to nab them and throw them through the (now ex) WFC offices at Selhurst – hopefully injuring a couple of deserving cases in the process.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure what my reaction was after that, although I think it was bewilderment more than anything. All I remember was eating some crisps in the Asda car park in Beddington, and then being sent home early after them finally realising that saying the wrong thing to me would have resulted in legitimate GBH.

Mind you, I also remember hearing about a contingency plan of us forming something called AFC Wimbledon. And thinking it wouldn’t work but it was better than nothing…

Needless to say, I will always remain convinced that we were a test case for the concept of franchising in this country, and that our reaction and Franchise’s “progression” helped stop the likes of Tranmere get similar ideas. That it had to be us though will make me forever bitter – as PL winner and all round cockhead Mario Balotelli may have once said, why always we?

This might end up being the last such update on this particular date, at least for a while. There are two reasons for this – one, a lot of what I still believe from the past 120 months was eloquently (?) articulated this time last year. So there’s not much point in repeating it again.

But the other reason might sum up everything about our past, present and future in a nutshell – until somebody reminded me this morning, I’d forgotten that it was the 10th anniversary.

In a way, I’m forcing myself to write about something like this because it’s the date (I count today rather than the 30th May as the date because it was when the shit hit the fan big time). Normally, I think about what to write in advance, and I do actually wait until this day comes so I can get fingers to keyboard. This time? Well, thankfully I’m not doing anything this morning…

Which is kind of a step forward. And a big one at that. The most important news story of today may not be the 10th anniversary of that decision, but the revelation that Jack Midson may be staying. Whether he does or not remains to be seen, although you still expect him to go if somebody comes up with the required amount of dosh.

But on what is still a pretty historic day, our collective focus is on who will be playing for us next season.

And that is AFC Wimbledon on the 28th May, 2012. A club looking forward, not backwards. A club that is doing things that Football League clubs without our emotional baggage do all the time. Or to put it bluntly, a club that no longer feels the need to base everything it does with Franchise.

For the first few years of the AFCW era, perhaps even up until Darlogate, whenever this day came about it was always used to compare ourselves to them. What we’d done, what they’d done, and anything to make us take the moral high ground. It took an uncompleted form to start focusing our minds away from a stolen team 70 miles northwards and onto what we as AFCW were doing. Or not, as that case proved.

It took winning at Staines, playing at Newport County, promotion to the Conference and going full time in it to get us mentally prepared to where we are today. From probably the first Conference season, we now focus 99% on AFCW related issues and not them.

Some still seem to pay as much attention to the League One playoff failures as ever, but they’re in a minority now. This incidentally is why I think the local Guardian’s “Drop The Dongs” campaign hasn’t really captured the collective imagination – it’s not so much to do with the sentiment but it’s the sort of campaign that belonged to 2005 and not 2012.

But that probably explains why today doesn’t mean quite as much as it used to. We’ve basically moved on. No, remembering why AFCW is formed is never a bad thing, but a decade on it’s more historic than contemporary. It matters, but not in the way it used to. If I was to do another update today, it’s because I want to write about us signing a couple of League Two level defenders and not because Franchise have got the arse.

And that’s not forgetting our history, if anything we’re just keeping going that Wimbledon tradition of always progressing, of always trying to move forward. As a club, and as a fanbase, we have never been able to stand still – hell, it’s why we’re starting the AFCW era’s second season of life in the 91 Club as opposed to “eagerly” awaiting finding out when we play Staines.

The first news item on the OS today wasn’t about what happened on 28/5/02, but a Q&A on the next stage of AFCW’s funding issues. Again, that’s another symptom of what the last ten years has really proven – our ability to adapt has been pretty amazing. Only as recently as the Conference, to even suggest a change in our funding model would have caused outrage quicker than you can say “fans club”.

Today? The little matter of an urgent refurb of the KRE and ex-JS has focused minds. Neither can be avoided, and if anything it’s done us a big favour – it’s forced us to deal with the horrible, unethical world of proper financing. Anything that dilutes the somewhat dogmatic approach of “only we can fund us” will help us out for the next two years, let alone ten, and it’s simply part of the club’s increasing maturity.

Will the current proposals work? We’ll have to wait and see, but if they don’t I expect us to change tact quite quickly. I just can’t see how we can continue to forever expect the rank-and-file to keep shelling out any more, especially as the projects will now start running into the millions. After all, don’t we spend more on stewards now than what was our entire budget in the first CCL season?

I’m sure I make the same comment every 28th May, and I’ll make it again today. The next ten years will look a lot different to the last ten years. If the club was a person, it’s still just about in its cheeky, child-like stage where it can appear with Noel Edmonds on Are You Smarter Than A Ten Year Old? But pubes, acne and behavioural issues are just around the corner…

And that’s the underlying message on the 10th anniversary of the 3-Man Commission fucking us up the arse. It’s not so much what we’ve done in the last ten years that matters, it’s what’s going to happen in the next five. If you consider how much the club has changed in the last two years, then it’s no stretch to believe it will look so much different again come the time when the ex-JS is rebuilt.

Even a year on post-Eastlands has changed the club and our collective attitude in a way one may not have expected. We are more cynical all round, though in the grand scheme of things still the naive suburban housewife trying to get to grips with an Oyster card. We’re still not battle hardened enough as a fanbase, our skin is still too thin especially when it comes to criticism of team and club matters, and we’ve had a LOT of readjustment to do in the last decade.

But that will go over time. Like puberty though, it’s just a literal ballscratcher to get through to the other side.

In closing, if you’ve forgotten what happened 10 years ago today, don’t worry. Nobody is expecting flowers as an apology. If you haven’t, you may be thinking how recent it feels but also how long ago it really was. And if you’ve come on here expecting more reflection over the past ten years than I’ve given, then apologies.

Although on this very day a decade ago, if you told me in 2012 we would be talking about grounds and transfers as a Football League club, I would have killed you for it…