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One week to go…

With the Fleetwood game in April still somehow lodged in our collective mindsets, it’s rather odd to think that this time next we’ll be preparing for our first game since then.

Pre-season is well under way, the players are no doubt still wishing they were on their holiday, and there’s even a bit of looking forward to travelling down to Dartford.

And there’s Meet The Manager before that, too.

Yesterday evening, we added Andy Frampton to our squad, in one of the least surprising moves since BBC Radio Kent first announced his signing last week. I guess anyone who feared up being gazumped by Portsmouth or Southend can finally put such paranoia to bed.

So what do we know about Framps, as we’re now contractually obliged to call him? Well, we’ve got him on a two year deal, he’s got a good CV (ex-Palace, Brentford, Millwall and of course Gills), NA played with him at the Den and he’s 33.

Obviously him and Benno won’t be the quickest pairing in the division, but do they need to be? As everyone knows, our defence has been complete fucking shite a weak spot, and importantly they just need to be solid, reliable and keep the silly mistakes down to a minimum.

That we kept the one bona fide proper defender at the club (Benno) and replaced the others with two ex-Gills types does highlight how much work needed to be done in this department – although it’s hard to think of anyone who believes it didn’t need doing.

And if there is, I believe Stuart Cash is wanting to speak to you.

Framps can also play left back, but to be honest I would rather us go for a player who actually plays in that position. It’s all very well saying that Fenlon can play there (he can) but he is still a youngster and could easily be over-used.

We were never properly comfortable with MMK as right back towards the end of last season. OK, we weren’t comfortable with him as a centre back either, but there’s no mileage in skimping on this position when you don’t need to.

On Monday, contracts around the country expire, and I refuse to accept there won’t be a proper left back looking for work. Yes, Arthur or Framps can play there as well, but only should do so if our LB is injured.

As Graham Westley notoriously told our ex-manager, in this division make sure your defenders defend.

It’s quite a nice feeling though, knowing that most of what we’ve needed to be done has been sorted out. You can argue the toss whether we need another left back (we do), or a third choice centre back (maybe), or even another striker (quite possibly), but we could send out a team to Torquay this minute if we needed to.

Which a week away from your first pre-season friendly isn’t in a bad place to be.

It does sound that NA has got who he wanted, or at least the type of player/characters he wants. It also appears that he hasn’t spunked the budget up the wall – he’s been diligent and it doesn’t feel we’ve been bounced into making panic buys.

He might have even more to play with if the noises about Seb are correct. If he, Cummings and perhaps somebody we haven’t thought about can be offloaded when other clubs realise they’ve been short this close season, that’s going to give us some bargaining power down the line.

We know that our budget isn’t the biggest in the division, as we’re so constantly reminded, but this isn’t the Prem for discrepancy between clubs. Come to think of it, the Conference may be as bad for that as the top flight, especially if it’s true about certain clubs spending more than many sides in L2.

Getting tactics right and your team to “click” perhaps matters more than most other divisions, which is why you can’t blame anyone for feeling a little bit giddy about our chances next season.

There’s no way we’re going to be legitimate playoff contenders. Stranger things have happened of course, and that niggling stat of our 2013 form putting us one place off the playoffs still, er, niggles.

But one senses that this is going to be a decent campaign for us. For us, “decent” means mid-table mediocrity, never looking remotely like going down although not likely to be touching the cloth of the playoffs.

We’re a naturally ambitious club of course, our record over the last decade proves that, but being mid-table mediocrity next season will be seen as real progression. AFCW has a lot to catch up on, after all.

Maybe that’s just groundless bravado, and us trying to get the shit out of the last two seasons out of our system. But given the last couple of campaigns, who would blame us? It’s a nice feeling to have a bit of genuine confidence going into next season, even if it’s going to be crushed when we get stuffed against Torquay/Wycombe/Dartford.

Looking at it objectively, on paper this is a mid-table squad of players. The likes of Midson, Benno, Frampton, Francomb and Sweeney aren’t duffers who are lucky to be in League Two. Which is something you haven’t been able to say about every player in the recent past.

While one may have some doubt about Worner, or Sheringham, the reaction from fans of their previous clubs haven’t been one of hysterical laughter and high-fiving each other. They’re obviously there to develop, and in a team that is on an upward trajectory who knows?

It’s been interesting to read and attempt to gauge reactions this week, because the hope and expectation for the upcoming campaign is genuine. Sweeney seems to hint at it in terms of the squad,and the giddyness of the supporters went up when Francomb signed.

Of course, it’s bound to go wrong at some point…