So, your editor returns from the home of Galatasaray, and finds out in the desolate wilderness called the close season, an oasis of excitement was about to be discovered in the form of the gloriously titled Capital One Cup.
The seedings on the OS made it look so tempting. A moneyspinner against Birmingham City or Wolves? An intriguing tie against Brighton or Charlton? An emotional return to Selhurst Park? Even them…?
Unsurprisingly, it’s Stevenage.
At least it’s at their place this time round.
Anyone who predicted this shouldn’t get too smug and self-congratulatory. After all, it was as likely as us playing Plymouth at least twice next season 😉 That said, we seem fated to play them in every single cup competition – hell, they’ll probably enter the LSC next season after an administrative cockup.
Remember how pleased we were when they beat Franchise on penalties? Not forgetting the footballing lesson we got off them in the next game, which I still think we haven’t fully learnt from. We could even treat the JPT game as a bit of a slap and tickle – remember, Jack Turner played in that game.
But let’s be honest here – right now, you’re looking at the draw and feel a bit deflated. Daggers host Coventry, Barnet travel to St Andrews, Fleetwood get a nice mouthwatering tie against Forest, Bury get Boro and Plymouth welcome Pompey. Jealous, much? Only a little…
Of course, it is a cup game, and we might even win it. Stevenage aren’t managed by Westley these days, and we have two of their old players (see later), plus we did beat them in the Paint Pot last season. The non-Euro playing Premier League clubs come into the next round, so there’s your early season motivation already.
A victory before the League campaign kicks off would be a massive psychological boost, especially when you consider the back end of last season. We will have a new defence by then, and with luck we might have a better attitude/approach to cup games from now on.
Because to be blunt, we need to stop fucking about with our lack of success in them. I think that with the honourable exceptions of beating Scunthorpe in the FAC, and Maidenhead in the FAT in the RP days (and apologies if I’ve forgotten any others, although I don’t think there’s any more), we’ve never beaten anyone from a higher division in either the FAC, League Cup or FAT under TB. The JPT early rounds don’t count. While going up the divisions was always more important, it’s still a pretty damning statistic.
OK, there have been horror shows against Woking, Workington and Uxbridge too, but I won’t mention them again. Therapy bills are horrendous these days.
One thing is clear, we need to start being a team that does cup runs. While drawing a Palace or a Brighton may be a tall order to overcome, we should at least be able to have a chance of going to Stevenage and getting through. Think of how we threw it away against Bradford last season, and how we easily surrendered the opportunity of a third round FAC tie that we could have just as easily been in.
Obviously, the money-spinning side of it is important, as it is for every team in this division. Especially as we like to
whinge point out that our playing budget is lower than Sandhurst Town. And while we won’t win every game, it would be nice if we didn’t have the inferiority complex we always had going into these ties…
It will certainly be a good way for our new signings to make an impact, and the ones still here to justify why they’re still playing in League Two. I made a passing reference to mentality earlier, and hopefully the ones we do get in have the ability (and stuff between their ears) to not do what half our squad did last season.
Since your editor buggered off, we have added two players whom you know about. One is Louis Harris, who got released from the Wolves academy and was recommended to us by their former manager. I suppose if we sign youngsters, it’s best they’re from Prem/Championship academies rather than from somewhere like Woking, as they should have had at least proper grounding.
The likes of Moncur and Knott proved just what a gap is between those who have been brought through those sort of places and somebody like Brendan Kiernan. Who I bet may be wishing he hadn’t slapped in a transfer request now…
You also know about Stacey Long, who we tracked three years ago (cue alarm bells) and most importantly had this song associated with him. Plus, like Byron Harrison he does at least know where Broadhall Way is. OK, there’s the danger both of them may instinctively pass the ball to the opposition, but then that’s what half our squad did last season anyway.
So in stage one of the rebuilding job, we do now have a new right back and two midfielders. That only leaves us with a left back or two, a couple more central defenders and a reserve keeper to get. And anyone else I’ve missed out. Plus Seb Brown and Jack Midson still haven’t signed up.
Contracts expire on the 1st July anyway, and I would hope we’ve been properly making approaches so we don’t end up panic buying because we’ve been disorganised or dozy. While I don’t doubt our wage bill is amongst the lower of the divisions, I question if there are significant gaps between what we can offer and what, say, Aldershot can do.
The fact we released about fourteen players (I lost count) suggested our squad last season was not only too big, it was too thinly stretched in terms of talent. OK, tactics and managerial motivation didn’t help last season, but we do have a clean enough slate to work with this time round.
With more and more players like Long and Harris finding themselves without clubs, we should be able to get a smaller yet higher quality squad together which will be relatively comfortable in League Two and doesn’t go on the near catastrophic run we had to endure last season. Of course, the emphasis need to be on the word “should”…
Other things that have gone on? We won the Â£20k from nPower over that Fanstadium thing, which of course is never to be sniffed at. Unsure about whether those three choices given (new furniture/commentary for the
midfield blind, KRE toilet refurb or Kings College additions for the Academy) were all the club could have pinpointed, but it’s better to have it in the bank than not.
This does prove why the club has to be a Football League club though : in the Conference, all we seemed to get from Blue Square was some tacky advertising, a boringly written generic preview before each game from them and relatively insignificant amounts of cash. In the Football League, thanks to a clever advertising wheeze and a bit of guerilla organisation on social media, we made the same amount of money in a couple of weeks that Mike Richardson had to shell out for to land Jon Main.
Little things like that aren’t so little after all. Imagine trying to raise Â£20k in non-league.
Still, the close season is continuing, and with the Euros etc it’s nice to have a break from it all. We certainly need the recharging of batteries as much as most teams in this division, and as such it doesn’t seem to have dragged as much as it can do. The COCup draw and the fixtures coming out this Monday seem to make the new season ever closer, even if we’re actually two months or so away from it.
The first PSF is a month away today, and pre-season training can’t be too long in starting again. Though it would be typical if only eight players showed up for it…