We’re in June. Not June as in, “Terry And…”, but the month.
When it comes to close seasons, it’s a bit of an odd time. The beginning of it d–r–a–g–s on if you’re otherwise unoccupied and waiting for the strange phoney war called pre-season to commence.
Then the fixtures come out, the first training sessions finally kick in and all of a sudden the peaceful summers become anything but.
As I type this, we’re about to start another week where you’re going to have to rely on cricket to fill your sporting obsessions. NA is on a well deserved holiday, and there’s been precious little more on the transfer situation since the last SW19 update.
We might get little scraps of info before he comes back – we already know Huw Johnson is gone (if not entirely missed), and perhaps KSL will finally come in and sign his deal. We may even get another PSF announced. But in a quiet close season, this week could be one of the quietest of the lot.
It’s been five weeks since the Fleetwood game. By the time pre-season starts on the 24th, we would have been for eight weekends where the players haven’t been doing anything except keep fit – it’s a long time yet also somehow doesn’t feel like a significant amount.
Admittedly, in the case of your editor, some of that has been down to going away for a couple of weekends, but I guess last season wore us down so much that even close to two months without anything still doesn’t feel long enough.
Once our boss gets back from Butlins (I jest, but I wonder what sort of holiday he prefers? I imagine he’s a family holiday man in Kos, although equally could be dragging his kids around the Louvre), things should start happening again. And quite quickly too.
We will – and should be – finally getting more of the new players in. At least, if we don’t want the new players to be catching up on pre-season fitness. If it’s been a fair while for us fans to be waiting for things to swing back into life again, then imagine if you’re a currently unemployed footballer.
You now have a month to get a deal before your current contract expires (assuming it’s not cancelled beforehand) and clubs are simply waiting to get the best deal. I would be extremely surprised if NA isn’t doing what many other managers are doing.
To give you an idea of the plight of a released footballer, a new site for players has been created, and together with the PFA list you canÂ bet there’s going to be some talent on there. Some of it will be so desperate, that it will be the football equivalent of hand jobs for cash. Though I hope their profile doesn’t including “bling rating”…
In our case, I wonder if we’ll be aiming (or gambling) on players coming to us quite late on. Though obviously not too late. I say this, because of this quote from the OS last month from about what we can expect when we go to Dartford in five weeks time:
â€œThe meeting was also to provide guidance on pre-season and the season ahead. They will be initially joining in with the first-team for the first three or four weeks of pre-season and will play in the first couple of games. Then their programmes will branch off slightly.
Bold bit mine. We’re obviously not going to get everyone we’re expecting/hoping to get in by the first couple of PSFs. And remember that the first couple of friendlies are always a mishmash of rusty regulars, confused newbies, wide-eyed youngsters and those who you never hear from again.
And that’s just the crowd.
If you can cast aside your horrible memories of the PSF campaign last year, we’re not really going to get any idea of how we will line up for the first proper game of the season. We should be nearly up to speed before we head off to Monza (no pun intended), but by that stage players really will start getting desperate for work.
Don’t believe me? We re-signed Pim Balkestein on the 17th July last year. OK, that was a couple of days after the Reading thumping, and the less said about our scouting and transfers in 2012 the better, but it will pay to be patient.
Obviously, you like to hear the ins-and-outs (literally) of our squad, but one thing that has been notable this close season are the lack of rumours about. Towards the end of last week, Jacob Murtagh told somebody on Twatter that getting sniffs at AFCW these days is a lot trickier.
Basically, it seems that whatever is planned is held very close to the chest by our management – perhaps even done away from the club itself. And that was the case last January too – we only got inklings that we were going to sign Pell and Benno when sources from the other clubs were leaking to their own message boards.
You wouldn’t have guessed that we were going to sign Arthur and Fuller, in fact I don’t think they even got leaked on the Havant and Barnet hangouts. The ITK types will readily admit they’re not so in the know these days – things have truly tightened up on that score.
OK, they still happen – last week a player from Staines got mentioned, ditto a Brentford player, we’ve had Charlie Lee’s name mentioned this morning, and NA himself threw out the bone about Charlie Sheringham. But one suspects that unless it’s NA explicitly mentioning them, they aren’t coming from our end.
In an interview clearly done before he went away, as in it’s just been published, our boss also talked about keeping hold of Luke Moore, although I was intrigued by this comment:
” I have spoken to his agent about a number of things and Luke is one of them.â€
As in, things are happening and there’s some deals going on, but like fuck he’s going to tell anyone else what they are.
Mind you, given how secret things seem to be now, telling papers of the odd transfer target is an unusual one. A red herring, perhaps? If so, why? That said, NA is one of the first batch of managers who cut their teeth in the Premier League era, and it does seem a modern way of doing things…
Is it “better” this way? In terms of scurrilous rumours, of course not. After all, summer is spent convincing yourself the one-legged keeper from Eastleigh we’re linked with is the undiscovered diamond who Arsenal will pay Â£5m for.
If it means we can get players without drawing attention to them, then it is. We’ll never know, but how times did we miss out on potential targets because of too many loose lips? Whether that’s us being more professional (that word again) or just the way NA prefers to do things, we don’t know. Chances are it’s a bit of both, although like many things it’s taking some adjusting.
Whatever happens, and whoever we sneak in through the proverbial back door, they have that trip to Monza to look forward to. And it’s a training camp and friendly, and not MikeR taking them for a jolly to the Italian GP.
Now, my wallet would have liked it to be in northern France/Belgium/Ireland/Netherlands/Germany, but the chance to relive the Anglo-Italian Cup was too great. Firstly, it’s a good trip to a foreign team – anyone who can get there is bound to have a nice time regardless.
Whether the club will arrange any transport remains to be seen, though there’s bound to be interest, and you have to admit that it’s better than hosting Kingstonian. I’ve no idea how decent they are, although my lousy Italian suggests they’ve done something good this weekend.
Getting the players away for a week to train hard and “bond” (ie let off fire extinguishers at 3am in the name of “banter”) is something we’ve never really done before, and it’s something that NA in particular tried to work on during last season. This is a training camp in northern Italy, it sure as hell won’t be a holiday for them.
Perhaps the only concern I have is that unless we’re having another (unannounced) friendly over there, it does feel that we’re a bit short on PSFs. Last season, we had seven of them, although as we all know by now by the time we went to Stevenage it felt like we hadn’t prepared for even one.
We’ve got four thus far, and it does sound like an unusually long time for others to be announced. I don’t know whether our boss going away puts a further spanner in the works, although perhaps those sort of things can be finally confirmed without him?
Besides, if we’re playing Slutton we have to play Woking too…