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Tick tock

It’s funny to think that barring something massive happening, the next update I put up here will be after something I hoped we never would experience in a lifetime.

I may come on here Sunday evening, it may be Monday or even Tuesday, although I could easily be licking my wounds until this time next week. Whatever happens, in a season that has already become testing this weekend may be the most taxing of the lot.

We’ve put this fixture off mentally, and over the last ten years we’ve often collectively told ourselves it will never happen. Or at least won’t happen for a good while to come. Well, it’s now on your doorstep and you have to step over it.

Everything you’ve ever planned to do should this particular moment arrive? You’ve got from now until Sunday lunchtime to go ahead and do it. Not in a couple of weeks time, not in some mythical period in the future that you know isn’t really going to arrive. But in less than two days time as you read this.

It’s some choice, isn’t it?

By rights, we should be expecting the worst on Sunday. They’re doing well, and we’re not. They’re on a roll, and we’re struggling. They are developing a squad that sadly will make it third time lucky in getting to the Championship, whereas right now we’ll be lucky to be facing the likes of Accrington and Oxford again next season.

You can’t feel too optimistic over this. In the back of your mind, there will be the inevitable clanger by a defender, midfielder or Seb (if he’s playing because Sully can’t) that will be ruthlessly exploited. If it happens within the first ten minutes, they’ll smell blood, and to be honest I fear the worst after that.

When I heard NA last week suggest that some players were playing for themselves and not the team, you really have to take a deep breath coming into it. OK, expectations are low, but they shouldn’t be this low. We should at least having something to grasp onto, like expecting this side to have a bit of fight within them.

And I think that’s one of the main reasons why I want Sunday over and done with ASAP. I want a win, I could put up with a draw, and the continued circus that will surround it (and will show us all how inadequate KM really is, not that we didn’t know that already), and a gallant loss will at least allow us to walk with our heads held high.

I just don’t want us humiliated in this game. We need all the mental boosts we can get right now, and I genuinely don’t think we have the character in the squad to get over a major kicking.

If we come out proud after the game, then good. From our point of view, this isn’t so much a game but a barrier that will finally be broken through. Any optimism we can get out of it will be invaluable when it comes to games that really matter.

Yeah, I know it’s the FA Cup and anything can happen. And I know that neutrals will bring that line out and say that it will be closer than many think. But then, they haven’t watched us play this season… 😉

Sorry for the negativity, but I suppose when you’ve had a run of one point from a possible nine – and that was a lucky one to get – you do tend to fear the worse. At least we’ve had a full week on the training ground, so we can have some semblance of proper preparation. In effect, NA has basically had to start again this week, as we’ve looked too much like the dying days of the previous regime recently.

Whether the press buildup will end up being a distraction or a welcome diversion will remain to be seen. Perhaps with apparently 40 or so meeja types descending on us this week, it might make our squad realise what an opportunity they do have on Sunday? I will never understand the stupidity of the average pro footballer at the best of times, but I cannot begin to comprehend the minds of players who could be L2 players who just don’t take that chance.

I suppose if the worst does happen on Sunday there’ll be no place for them to go but out of the exit door come January. To quote an AFCW insider from about six weeks ago, some of these players speak all bolshie when you’re dealing with them, but they’re actually quite weak characters when they turn away.

That all this is coming at a time where the management really has to do something to keep his job and our Football League status, and they can’t get away with being spineless wankers for too much longer.

Or in other words, if you can’t get up for this game, when can you?

Come Monday, we’re going to find out a lot. We’ll find out what Franchise are really like to deal with face-to-face. Funnily enough, while my own dealings with them have been limited at best, I’ve always found myself being non-plussed with them when actually seeing one of them out of the science lab. In fact, the abiding memory of seeing one of their number at South Mimms services was “is that it?”.

I think I just looked at them and thought that for all the emotion, they were really nothing. Not in a sort of vermin-esque way where what you’re really saying is that you hate them that much that you consider them less than zero. But in that “I thought I was going to care about you but actually I didn’t”. It was a very odd emotion to have, but one that many might end up sharing come Sunday.

This is why I talk about psychological barriers, because we might get an unexpected shock over the weekend – many might find just what a load of nothing they really are. We talk about revenge, and making a point, and whatnot, but there’s the possibility that this could end up being quite anti-climatic.

And I don’t just mean the anti-climax that being 3-0 down after 10 minutes becomes. See, we build up the likes of Wankie, and others involved with them to be the adventure comic-esque super villan. Certainly enough of our fans are reading their local press and message boards and using them to get riled up.

But that’s different to actually being there, being face-to-face with them. And I bet that many going up to the Frenzydome will leave feeling surprisingly non-plussed about them.

But then, when you read the opinions of fans of other clubs who live in MK, and they say pretty much the same thing – that Franchise fans are basically a bit weird and full of 50 year olds who used to support Arsenal – that might not be that surprising.

There’s a sense (I won’t call it a danger as I think that’s the wrong word) that this game might actually be over-played in its significance. Beyond it being the first meeting between us and them. It’s not even the game most likely to kick off this weekend – West Ham v Chelski, Leicester v Derby, Millwall v Charlton and of course Palace v Brighton are more likely to see violence than our fixture.

For all the bluster about Sunday, deep down I don’t think we’re like that.

Needless to say that some will prove not to be angels on Sunday, but your editor can genuinely put his hand on his ticker when he says this : unless there’s high profile disorder in the ground, any violence is going to be ignored by the wider footballing world.

I’ve no doubt something will happen on Sunday, but it might not particularly register to the outside world. Maybe some broken seats here and there, a re-arranging of the away end facilities. Which sounds like crimes of the century but happens more than you think at games. We talk about war, but it’s just as likely that the headlines in Monday’s papers become Tuesday’s chip wrapping.

OK, Wankie is going to do every single bit of PR he can get out of this, but my own experiences outside the AFCW bubble is that the only people who pay attention to him are AFCW fans. He always gets his mugshot on telly and in the press, but that’s because he always makes himself available to the meeja – hell, if SW19 was to phone him up and ask to do an interview this afternoon, he’d do it.

But people only speak to him (and us) when there’s nothing coming out of a Premier League or Championship press office. There’s interest in this fixture beforehand, because of what it is, but afterwards the only time anyone outside the respective circles will care is if us or Franchise get drawn against Man United.

As said earlier, we’re going to learn a lot of things this weekend, some unexpected. And I think the biggest lessons learned will be about ourselves, AFCW fans. We’ve already discovered something about our supporters that may not sit well with a few people – at time of writing, we’ve sold 2800 tickets and only have about 300 left.

It’s quite possible that those 300 will be snapped up, by people who weren’t going to go but have decided that there’s safety in numbers. Or that the emotion and the whole occasion dictates that for all previous misgivings they simply have to be there. They have today to get them, by the way.

I have to be honest here and admit that I didn’t think we’d get close to 3000 for this. Maybe 1500, although I’m sure elsewhere I may have even stated about 800 or so. Even so, for a “normal” match this would be impressive but for this one…?

Why are so many going? That got answered a couple of updates ago, but when somebody pointed out last week that they’re going because they didn’t want Franchise to prevent them from watching their team for a second time, that is as telling as any reason.

Collectively, we no longer define our support for our club by how much we hate Franchise. True, that’s not the case for every fan, and the older I get the less I understand why some still continue to hang around their various online hangouts.

Then again, I have a zero acceptance about reading any of it, which is why I’m not going on Sunday. While I consider myself 95% over it, the 5% still makes me not read anything of theirs, nor could I go on Sunday without either trusting myself not to do something stupid or simply to vomit blood. I go to football as a fan to enjoy it, and I wouldn’t have any pleasure on Sunday.

Mind you, we’re also crap at the moment, which isn’t helping my viewpoint.

As it turns out, I’m working tomorrow (at Watford v Barnsley if you must know) which means I have to leave Sundays free, so I would have been pushing it to go anyway. I’m not going to deny I had a few moments this last week of “maybe I will go after all”, although the people who I would usually go with are at KM instead. So that decision has more or less been made for me (I’m not going to KM either, in fact I am 99% sure I won’t even watch it on the telly).

And this is why I suspect we’ve sold close to 3000 tickets. A group of mates are going, so any waverers are going to tag along. And we can get all pious about not going because we asked fans of other clubs not to go (which was officially dropped some years ago, not that it would have lasted too much longer anyway), or whether you’re going to support the team or not.

Let’s face it, people are going to go because they want to go. If they get any pleasure out of the game, they’re going to take it, although needless to say many who will be there won’t enjoy any of it.

It’s interesting to read the viewpoints of columnists in the press for this buildup, praising us because we are going. I think it was one of those things where a boycott would have only worked if nobody at all turned up. That was always unrealistic, and it’s obvious that our fans share the view of the outside world over this – strength in numbers.

We can over-analyse why people are going, or not, but there’s not really much more to it than simply supporting one’s team. I seem to say this so many times, but AFC Wimbledon is a football club and not a protest movement. When you hear stories of people kissing their ticket for Sunday, you’d never think any other way again.

And as a non-attendee on Sunday, I salute anyone who is going. You’ll hear no cries of betrayal here, because there’s nothing to betray. We might have been formed in protest, but we’re not a protest club. In fact, I admire anyone who is going because they can obviously keep their emotions and previous evening dinner in check better than I could.

If you’re going, or even if you’re not, just make sure we come out of this with our heads held high. Remember, we’re not the ones who have to justify our existence on Sunday. This game should never be taking place for a variety of reasons, but the main one is the same reason as why AFC Wimbledon should not need to exist to begin with.

We’re here because we have to be here. Franchise are here because they and others chose to be here. We’re here because of hard graft and being shafted in the nastiest way possible. They won’t understand that.

We’re here because there was no way we were going to let others hijack OUR achievements of 14/5/88, or the FA Cup run of 75, or the Amateur Cup win in 63. Those in the Franchise end are still wondering the name of the side in blue that beat their Liverpool side in 88.

We’re here, because there is a lot of unfinished business still to be sorted out. We’re here because you really can’t keep a good man down.

We’re here because we are Wimbledon. But we knew that already.