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Muddying the waters

After the game, and presumably jokingly, somebody said to me “I hope you’re not going to start it with Brown Out this time”.

I know what he was referring to (hint: it was somebody who has pretty much agreed with everything said over the past fornight and beyond), and I won’t. But after Blunt Knife 2 Sharp Dagger 2, I don’t know what to think now.

See, after that statement, after the stuffings, after the general malaise that we’ve seen far too much of recently, this was our chance to redeem ourselves. This was the time to come back and ram all the criticisms down our collective throats. This was the time to show that everything recently has been a blip. This was the time to be AFC Wimbledon v2.0 : this time, we know what we’re doing.

This was basically I Am Wimbledon, Hear Me Roar.

And to be fair, for the opening period, we weren’t too bad. A lot better than previous games, certainly, though that’s not really saying a lot. When Seb saved that penalty, it should have been the first turning point of the season. When we went behind then went 2-1 up, this should have been it. This was the moment to rise up again…

Which is why right now I’m sitting here and just thinking of how flat the second half was.

It was, well, nothing. Even before they scored, the crowd seemed pessimistic. It certainly seemed resigned to something, which came pretty soon afterwards. And as an SW19 reader put it afterwards, it was a case of whether the crowd itself knew they were looking at an era and it was simply a matter of when, not if.

Seriously, in a game you simply had to put up or shut up, we ended up confusing matters even more. As the title of this article suggests, things have got even less clear than before.

It wasn’t a relief-inducing victory, where you could act all triumphant for the next week (at least until Northampton stuff us) and believe you’ve turned the corner. Nor was it yet another defeat, which would have made things quite nasty. Which in truth I’m glad didn’t happen.

The atmosphere in the second half was the worst I can remember for a while though – not angry, but so dead I could actually hear the subs talking to each other as they warmed up. If it had been hostile I would have understood, but it was as though everyone had just accepted their fate.

Maybe everyone just collectively shrugged their shoulders and accepted that we’ll have a new manager within the month? You’ve got to be honest, this may not have been a loss, but it certainly felt as signficant as one.

FWIW, I don’t think TB will go by Northampton. I do believe that he’ll be given another month “just because”, although whether things are secretly in the pipeline remains to be seen. I do definitely believe though that he cannot lift the team any longer – this was his big chance to do so, and his actions on the touchline gave the impression he wanted you to know how much he still cared.

But had there been a spark, we would have won this game by a couple of goals. And there was none.

The youngsters may have offered something in the second half late on, although I don’t think we would have deserved more than a point to be honest. But if this us coming out fighting, it’s no wonder that Burton and Bradford stuffed us.

And when you do get the positives out of this game, they do seem rather peripheral to the general lack of whatever we’ve got. Last week, your editor was at Brighton v Barnsley for the nationals, and in the pre match buildup Gus Poyet and others were saying that while they hadn’t scored they were playing well enough to suggest that it was only a matter of time before somebody got a hiding.

Needless to say, it finished 5-1 to the Seagulls, and they beat Burnley 3-1 today. They could well go on a run. If you were to put your hand on your heart right now, can you seriously say that we can do the same?

If we came out in the second half and improved further, then maybe you can say we can. But it would seem an act of bravado – or just outright blind optimism – to look at the whole game and assume that somebody is going to get a kicking.

It may well happen at some point, but that is rather in massive hope rather than any sort of reasonable expectation now. Midson and (yes) Harrison could, but you sense that it would happen despite everything.

I haven’t mentioned the loanee signings yet, and to be fair they gave a good account of themselves. Although whether they played well because they haven’t yet been indoctrinated into our world class training methods is something we’ll find out about in due course.

And yes, I’m being cynical. But remember that George Moncur and Billy Knott were also part of that run which ended in THAT Plymouth game…

We may not have gone backwards (much) today, but we certainly didn’t go forward the one step we needed. It was a sort-of little shuffle motion that makes you think you’ve gone forwards but you instead find you’re in the same place.

So, now what? To be honest, I don’t know. I know what the obvious answer is, but I still don’t think that will happen any time soon. But what do we do to actually kick-start some momentum? And just as importantly, don’t do as we did last season as have a couple of good results on the spin then fuck it up again?

We have Southend on Tuesday in the JPT (which your editor hopes to be at, if only BT hadn’t changed my broadband changeover engineer visit to the afternoon), although it is the JPT and therefore it is illegal to celebrate any victory in it 😉 Then there’s Northampton next week, which to be honest I really don’t fancy much.

If we do get a spark from the Cobblers game, then so be it. The trouble is, even if we did you just can’t see it lasting….

Plus points: We didn’t lose. Came out fighting in the first half. Seb’s penalty save. Midson and Harrison could be a real handful if utilised properly. Loanees look OK.

Minus points: We didn’t win. Dire second half. Morgue-like atmosphere. Unclear what our tactics actually are at times. All round sense that we’re just simply waiting for something to happen.

The referee’s a…: Was a bit of a cock, to be fair, although others say that his penalty for them was justified. Looked a bit like Michael Barrymore apparently, though hopefully minus the swimming pool at home.

Them: Spirited but limited, and I say that as somebody who greately admires how they stay in the Football League. With all due respect to them, we had enough in quality to beat them, but we weren’t nearly as up-for-it as they were. If they had got a winner, I’m not sure if many of us could have complained.

Obviously without John Still they would be playing Woking every season, although he does seem to be able to be pragmatic enough to build a side that just about stays in the League each season. In other words, what they do we should be looking at.

Oh, and Gavin Hoyte played for them. Not sure anyone remembers him, although he was behind Hatton in the pecking order…

Point to ponder: Whither Terry Brown? He’s had a lot of arrows fired his way this week, and not from SW19 either. It really couldn’t have been easy for him reading that club statement on the OS. I kept half an eye on him today, and he was clearly animated, making points that he was reacting to everything. Really trying to give out the impression that he was still in control.

I do wonder if today people finally fell out of love with him. That’s different to hostility, of which he received precious little, but before his touchline mannerisms would have provoked a positive response from both crowd and players.

Today they didn’t.

Perhaps people have simply made up their minds about it, and just needed one good final reason to confirm it? It wasn’t as though the second half gave much cause for the doubters to think again, and while we will never know – I wonder how many people deep down today didn’t want us to win? Probably more than they will ever let on.

And it will be a sad end to the AFCW managerial career of TB if that is the case, for many reasons. Mind you, his pre-match “rally call” in yesterday’s local Guardian seems even more misplaced now.

“Careful what you wish for”? OK, fair enough. We might get somebody in who can start motivating the players again and given them that spark so painfully missing today. Nobody is irreplacable, especially our manager.

“It seems that in seven days I have suddenly become the worst manager in the world”. Obviously the club was concerned, because they called him in and felt the need to issue a statement too. And this by the way is a good answer to the “it’s just four games” argument – if it was only that, the club would have just had a little word and not a full blown meeting…

“This is a club that has succeeded because it has had a continuity in players and management”. That would be the same continuity of players where we saw over 14 departures from the club in the summer, a loan signing last week, two new loan signings yesterday – to replace the signings we made in the summer which we clearly did our homework on. And I haven’t begun on previous seasons.

“But we didn’t get beaten by a load of rubbish. Burton beat Leicester 4-2 and Bradford beat Watford 2-1 (Capital One Cup ties). These are not piles of toilet that we’re getting beaten by, these are quality sides”. That would be Burton who lost 3-0 to Exeter today, and Bradford who lost 4-0 to Rotherham…

Look, I know the guy must have been dragged over the coals this week, and I’m sure in hindsight I bet he wished he hadn’t left himself  open like that. He didn’t clap to the crowd at the end, at least what I saw, and he didn’t wave to those clapping him off when he went down the tunnel (which is something IIRC he usually does). It’s probably nothing, but at the same time possibly everything…

Truth is stranger than fiction: (1) Olympic heroine, and the kind of girlie all male Dons fans lust for, one Ms Sophie Hoskins. And a sizeable cast of those who no doubt claim they’ve always known her 😉 Perhaps she should have given the half time team talk?

[SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: It appears that our Sophie did the pre-game team talk. QED……………]

(2) Also seen apparently getting a complimentary ticket : former Brentford and Rotherham manager Andy Scott. Get those t-shirts printed now. (3) Pim’s very loud “FUCK!!!” when he failed to connect to a free kick. So loud that there is currently a 5 year old in Worcester Park grounded for repeating this naughty new word to his mother.

Anything else? It cost enough in time, and hopefully not in money, but to be fair the new KRE doesn’t look too shabby. Not that I would particularly want to sit in the first two rows, where the club really will have to issue QPR-esque “restricted view” tickets. Unless you rather like the look of the back of a ballboy’s head.

Even so, it does seem to have put our effectiveness into managing such projects into focus. And indeed, with this and on-field matters, just how we go forward from here. A couple of years ago, your editor was made privvy to a private conversation involving a representative of the top brass, who suggested we would be “winging it” should we go up to the FL.

I have absolutely no doubt that we are more professional today than we were at the beginning of last season, but even so, there has been a sense this week (and before that) that the club is grinding to a halt – as though there are too many events going on and we’re struggling to keep up.

Ask any DTB member about the last week and they’ll say how busy it turned out for them. They won’t give away much more than that (unless it’s just that they don’t trust me…) but it does illustrate just how much more work you need to do to run a Football League club.

Perhaps it might be a good time to start thinking of the next stage of the AFCW development? Or more accurately, make the first proper steps towards making sure people who are at the sharp end aren’t burnt out because of the way the club is structured?

How you do that I don’t know, and I would expect there’s been some initial steps taken as it is. But take the KRE as an example – who was the representative of the Client (ie, who at AFCW was making sure it was running smoothly)? Erik? He has about a zillion and one other things to do, and he had a zillion and two this week.

Was there a (retired or otherwise unengaged) supporter who knows things about such construction projects who could have been the club’s go-to man? And just as importantly one to, ahem, “chivvy” them up when they were taking too many breaks in Fat Boys? If not, why not?

I can understand why the club wouldn’t be keen on adding too many more to the payroll, but I don’t accept that there are enough people who are retired or umemployed dole claiming scum who could use their expertise as and when needed for the more “specific” or “highly evolved” jobs.

Has the club sorted out its chronic office space issue yet? If not, are there really no fans of ours who are renters of office space and who could do a deal? If we have such people on board, it makes every kind of sense to use them.

We’re in the second season of life as a FL club in this era of Wimbledon, and it does still appear to be stuck in the Conference (and at times the Conference South). We talk about a fresh start from the management bench, but perhaps fresh blood is needed elsewhere…?

So, was it worth it? I honestly don’t know. Probably not, in hindsight.

In a nutshell: The uncertainty continues.