And so, a month after the cull and many more weeks of scratching around for something to think about, this week is about to get busy.
Yes, rather than having info drip-fed us just to tide us over, we’re likely to be hitting the information equivalent of three buses arriving at the same time. It might prove to be a distraction, let alone give your editor a lot of updating to do ;), but it’s the first big sign that close season is truly over.
We get eased in gently (?) with the announcement of who we face in the Capital One Cup tomorrow. A little reminder that we really did remain in the Football League, and an early chance to get excited at a possible decent draw.
The OS has helpfully given us a rundown on who we can get, and it’s nice that this got tailored for us rather than the generic shite we used to get from Blue Square Bet.
There’s obviously one opponent we really don’t want, and no doubt the men with the balls have already put ours and Franchise in the freezer overnight. This said, I think that’s more down to annoyance these days than the major headfuck last season was. I’ll roll my eyes and brace myself for the circus that such a draw would provide, but at least it would be out of the way early.
Not to mention the money, which does make the whole carnival worthwhile.
Being a cup draw, seeded too, we have a fair good chance of getting a draw that gets the body fluids pumping. From that list, I expect you’d want any one of Birmingham, Leicester, QPR, Brighton, Watford, Charlton or Ipswich. And if you’re being really honest with yourselves, you’d like them away.
Obviously, we won’t get any of them, and it will either be Franchise or Crawley. It does depend on whether the Footballing Gods decide we’ve been punished enough for neglecting cup runs in the past, and gives us a nice draw to genuinely get excited about.
I suppose really you’d want us to go and win whoever we face and get a tantilising draw against a Prem side in the next round. And that would be a great early-season boost for us in so many ways : it will prove the team has shown a winning mentality it hasn’t really displayed too much in the Football League, and let’s face it – it will give fans a massive glow.
In the AFCW era there hasn’t been much in the way of glorious cup games. Whereas in the WFC days one could think of Villa away, Yernited and Liverpool at Selhurst in the final ten years alone, what have we really had since 2002?
Ignore the real low level stuff we had in the early years. We had Wycombe at home, Millwall away, and (albeit for far more sinister reasons) Franchise away that stick in the memory. We’ve lost all of them. True, we’ve placed the league way above them in priority, but now we’re where we want to be, it’s time we started doing ourselves justice in the trophies.
The way we set ourselves out against Stevenage last season was pretty pathetic, and whoever we draw tomorrow, it’s going to be a good way of getting that out of our system…
This won’t be the only thing to happen this week – the fixtures are out Wednesday at 9am, which means train and coach prices will skyrocket at 9.01am. This is the unofficial point when the close season finally ends and the realities of the new season upon us kick in.
Or in other words, you finally get to find out when we go to Fratton Park.
I suppose after last season we’ll be having mixed feelings about this though. Yes, the new campaign is exciting, every season brings out that baseless optimism. Although in our case in the 2012/13 season, that good vibe went after Reading.
But it’s been quite nice not having your weekends ruined, isn’t it? It’s been said on here before, but no matter what the gap has been between the Fleetwood game and our first matchup, it hasn’t felt long enough.
If we have a good pre-season, followed by a reasonably decent start when it starts properly again, we’ll finally start to relax. Until then, we’ll still be looking to take the bad taste out of our mouths that last time out gave us.
To do that, we still need to add to our squad. And with pre-season training starting on Monday 24th, we’re still pretty much threadbare. This week is when I expect things to finally happen – and I would expect NA wants to tie up as much as he can before the first session too.
We’ve gone in the time of the cull to the time you’re reading this with only two signings. Yet reading around various other messageboards, we’ve done as much as anyone. Chesterfield are still talking and admitted there have been stumbling blocks.
Martin Allen has pretty much stated the obvious, and last month there was a pretty startling warning from the Daggers boss that might raise a couple of eyebrows down the southern end of the District Line.
Indeed, with those comments by Burnett in mind, you do have to think whether the modus operandi of transfers in L2 has changed. On the one hand, you’ve got so many players released from Championship/L1 sides that are scratching around for work right now.
This is going to be a panicky couple of weeks for said players, as clubs are being stingy and more selective than they have been in the past. It’s easy to be forgotten the longer they go without a club, and more important than all of this combined – their agents are missing out on their cut too.
And perhaps because of this, if what the Daggers boss says is true, players in the Conference are now the rejected Football League types. You think of where our culled lot will end up, and while players can and do resurrect their careers – non-league is becoming more and more of a graveyard.
Young promising talent in the Conference (and below) is still there, but are they genuine uncut diamonds? Or players who to be blunt failed in the Football League? The likes of Drewe Broughton can now be found at your nearby Conference side these days…
So you either have to scout VERY hard to pick up a gem from non-league, sometimes even as far down as the Ryman, or focus more on getting players from higher up to drop down. It may not suit the romantic/traditional viewpoints, but then how many gems from outside the 91 Club did Wimbledon FC pick up?
This is where our need to get our development side spot on becomes ever more crucial. And to not make the monumental fuckups of last season that in the case of Warren Cummings we’re still literally paying for.
It may come as mere co-incidence, but there was a good interview with Bassey in the local Guardian this weekend about how our scouting works these days. And it seems to be properly done now – a team of four scouts, taking in up to ten games a week, with a database of over 200 players on it?
Just what the fuck were we doing last season?
But then, it’s the usual vibe that we’ve just discovered fire. I’m in no doubt that this level of scouting is pretty standard for this level. We won’t get it right for every single player, no manager does, but it does go a long way to preventing strings of poor signings.
The bit at the end about “feedback” sounds promising for this week’s (hopeful) signings, and it’s hard not to think that with a week to go before training, we will have been frantically googling the new players we’ve never heard of.
Busy times ahead…
Finally, and before we brace ourselves, the club released a statement on the OS this morning about something that was mentioned on BBC London last week. To be honest, I didn’t know what was alleged – there was something about “severing ties” which wasn’t particularly clear to even those who saw it – but the club obviously feels strongly/irritated/pissed off enough to release this rebuttal.
It was telling that there was absolutely no murmurings about what was said from the ITK types, who seemed to just dismiss it as a load of bollocks, and AFCW itself has effectively said that there’s been nothing of the sort.
We all know that there’s going to be a LOT of political manoeuvrings involved with this, and the last 20+ years should teach us that we can still be stabbed in the back one final time.
It would be difficult to believe we’re getting cold feet anyway – ES often updates people in DT meetings, the amount he gives away depends on who he sees in attendance, apparently. There has been a lot of hard work behind the scenes for the last 2/3 years (and more) and to be honest, we’ve simply gone too far down the line to pull out now.
We should expect more dirty tricks and pieces of propaganda from now until decisions get made, so all we need to do is keep pressing it with Merton, make our case that the town’s football club is a lot more viable than an industry that is one scandal away from being dead in the water, and basically make it a no-brainer.
Alternatively, we could let the other lot build their super-duper new greyhound track, then take it over in two years time when it flops….