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A few things…

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. This really is an update.

To be fair, a couple of relatively minor things have happened in the AFCW sphere, and I can’t bugger off to Hong Kong and Japan next week without people whinging that I haven’t said anything for three weeks getting up to speed.

So, it’s close season. We’ve digested the “out” list, some/most have even got over Jack Midson not being in AFCW colours next season. And there’s some interesting comments from him here this morning, where he appears pretty philosophical about his release.

Although no doubt some will claim that his comments are hiding his true feelings, especially the bit about us not being ready for promotion yet 😉

To be fair to him, he’s not wrong about our progression. We’ve still yet to finish above 16th (officially or unofficially) since the AFCW Football League era, and we’ve never properly kicked on in the way that Crawley, Stevenage, Fleetwood and even York have done since they got into the 91 club.

And needless to say, certain events last season prove that parts of the club still struggles to get above Ryman Premier level…

Anyway, the rumour mill gets going at this stage of the calendar, and one of them is Darren Jones apparently returning to Newport. Which would be a shame, although it just means we have to get an extra CB as well.

The back line has been one of our genuine areas of improvement this past twelve months, and it’s not an area that will need another major overhaul. Indeed, it’s one of those ones where we really can keep our powder dry and get a Framps/Fuller type bargain late on.

Our main priority, as the world and his wife knows, is up front. And earlier this week, we missed out on Danny Kedwell which did genuinely seem to disappoint people.

We know we have to rebuild our front line, and on one level DK made sense – he was out of contract, there was no guarantee that Gills would offer him a new deal, and he and we know what he’s all about.

Insert comment about SW19 hating returning players here.

It’s interesting that link said there were a few clubs interested in him, so he and his agent were obviously playing Gills to give him a new deal. So, was the interview with him on the OS post-charity game really just meeting up with him again?

We have form for this. Remember, AFCW also retweeted Meades getting released from Bournemouth, the affection and dewy-eyed naive optimism that he would join us rewarded with him going to, erm, Oxford.

I’ve no doubt it was a serious bid, just like we were genuinely serious about getting in Akinfenwa too (who has also been offered a new deal at Priestfield). But then, others may have done likewise.

What that does prove is that there is money available to get a decent enough striker in. I would guess that DK wouldn’t have been on less money than Midson was, probably a fair bit more.

And it’s a position where you just can’t cut corners, otherwise you end up with Charlie Sheringham.

The actual budget may or may not have increased, but our ability to properly strengthen in certain areas has. We (or rather, our former manager) paid a lot of money to Seb to sit on the bench, by all accounts, and there’s no reason to splurge on a reserve keeper.

Our back line doesn’t need a major sorting out, bar another CB and a new LB. The midfield needs a fresh feel, but with Luke Moore gone and the likes of Francomb, Arthur and Pell needing a decent pre-season that too just needs a bit more quality rather than a big overhaul.

Assuming Teddy’s kid finally gets the hint, we’ll need three or four new strikers. The proper, Kedwell-esque marquee signing is a given, but you can play around a bit more with the other two.

As we all know, NA likes his loanees, and if we can get a Smith or Appiah for a year (or at the very least, plan for a quick replacement in January) then we’ll be more than OK. When both of those names got going, they were the best strikers at the club, and you can bet our manager has a list of similar youngsters for 2014/15.

It’s the third choice striker that could be an interesting one. He may not be the most popular player we’ve ever had, but if we could get him cheap enough, Hylton may not be the worst selection.

He did change things for the better off the bench on more than a couple of occasions, and I’ve no doubt if we wanted him Rotherham would happily cancel his contract.

He is apparently on a four-figure weekly deal up in South Yorkshire though, and I don’t think he’s worth us paying that. And certainly not as our main striker. But then, you never know – I didn’t expect us to get Francomb when he was released.

There is the issue of kids like Oakley. If NA is looking to have a smaller squad of about 20 next season (smaller but better quality) then they’ll have a damn good chance of getting there if they’re good enough.

It makes complete sense for us to blood those who can make the step up, because we won’t have to import them or scout around for more loanees who aren’t ours.

The gap between the first team and the yoof in the AFCW era has been pretty wide, and the success rate has been piss poor, to be blunt. Fortunately, both NA and Shaun North know what they’re doing on this particular score, and while none of the featured kids are guaranteed to be in the first team – the door is open for them.

Finally, and I’m leaving all this B-team bollocks until it properly gets proposed (which I doubt it will) – we have some friendlies announced. Quite a few of them, as it goes.

For those who have been comatose this past week, they are:

– Margate (a) Saturday, 12 July

– Chelsea (h) Saturday, 19 July

– Salisbury City (a) Tuesday, 22 July

– Woking (a) Saturday, 26 July

– Havant & Waterlooville (a) Friday, 1 August

– Aldershot (a) Saturday, 2 August

First thing that springs to mind – there’s no split games first off like there were last season. Those who went to both Walton Casuals and Sutton are better fans than the rest of you, and can walk around smug for the rest of eternity.

Margate was always going to be an obvious one, although I can do without the mutual masturbation over their manager. Wonder if we might see some more familiar faces down in sunny Kent?

There is only one home game, which given the pitch has been relaid isn’t too surprising. In the AFCW era, I’m surprised we’ve never played Chelski in these sort of games, considering David Barnard’s links.

Those who know their history will know that quite a few who used to go to the Bridge one week went to PL the next – even during your editor’s time at high school – so there won’t be much need for segregation 😉

I presume that because of the restricted amount of games at KM this pre-season, we’re not going to get a Brentford/Orient/Charlton fixture added. Although I think most of us still need therapy after Reading turned up last time…

The rest are pretty much as you expect. Woking is always a good afternoon out for a pre-season friendly, ditto Aldershot. Playing Salisbury on a Tuesday evening is a bit of an odd one, though – are we staffed by druids and other bearded weirdos who simply have to be near Stonehenge that evening?

On second thoughts, don’t answer that.

I can’t imagine Havant being a full strength friendly, and I would guess there’s some more of those sort in the pipeline. Those are quite enjoyable in a strange sort of way, especially the ones at places we never even got to see in CCL days.

It should be pointed out by the way that we tend to pick the “homely” friendlies against sides who don’t have pitches that will injure the players. So those wanting a romantic nostalgia trip to Chessington and Hook will have to get their kicks elsewhere.

Apart from all that, we’re winding down and recharging our collective batteries. Quite a few involved with the club are now on their holidays already, and it’s not that we haven’t needed it.

Barring anything major (and even then, that’s no guarantee), SW19 won’t be updating until I get back early June. I leave on Tuesday, so no doubt we’ll be re-signing Charlie Sheringham on Monday evening….