Three weeks plus without a proper update. And it still feels too soon.
As your editor’s digestive system finally gets back to normal (while I enjoyed both HK and Japan, especially the latter, I wouldn’t rush back to either of them. And it made me realise just how far Australia is), the big news within the last 24 hours has been us finally making a signing.
So, welcome to AFCW Danny Bulman. A man who it sounds as though NA has been chasing for a good while. OK, so at 35 years old he’s no spring chicken, but if we can get a decent season out of him then it’s not such an issue.
Or as Stuart Hall might have said, age doesn’t matter if they’re fit enough.
NA seems pretty convinced about his fitness levels:
“He’s a fit 35-year-old. And Dannie tells me that he has the body of a 25-year-old. When I’ve spoken to several people about him that’s the feedback I’ve received. I’ve seen it with my own eyes; he’s a very fit and energetic midfielder and I think he will be a big player for us next season.”
We’re in an era when people like Ryan Giggs and Del Piero can play at the top level until they’re about 39/40, and I’m sure there’s a list of players who are old enough to be somebody’s grandfather.
And for those with longer memories, before he stuffed Wankie’s STD-riddled cock into his gob, a certain M Harford didn’t do too bad a job for us in the 1990s…
Bulman does sound like a signing we’ve done well to get. By the sound of it, Crawley offered him a new deal, so they’re not so bothered about his age, and we weren’t the only ones chasing him.
Which if true does at least suggest NA is capable of talking around potential signings.
TBH, as long as the guy is injury free – and you can easily sign players far younger who are that – then we have somebody who is apparently a bit of a hard bastard. Which we’ve needed for a good while…
If nothing else, at least we’ve finally added to the squad. Taking a three week leave of absence and only signing one player before today (Sean Rigg) has been pretty frustrating.
Will we now get a spate of 2/3 in each week from now until pre-season starts? We are in that stage of the close season (and yes, it is still close season as opposed to pre-season) where the window is starting to close a bit and you do have to start making signings.
It’s still 11th June, needless to say, and the first laborious training sessions that all players dread is still three weeks away. It’s sufficient time but there’s a fine line between holding on for a bargain and panic buying.
So Bulman won’t be the last signing doing cheesy grins on the OS this month. Or at least, he shouldn’t be. Players are still on holiday, and transfers are notoriously slow anyway.
While writing this, your editor had a quick glance at **when** we’ve signed players in close season. TB was notorious for leaving it much later than today, and I think we signed the late, lamented Jack Midson around about July 2011 (can’t find it on the OS or SW19).
Our current manager only made two signings in the close season at the same time last year, although it was towards the end of June (21st to be precise) that we signed Worner, Francomb and Frampton in the space of a week.
We also signed Charlie Sheringham at that time, but he doesn’t count.
So I expect things to start moving quickly from now on if past form is anything to go by. Which considering we lost some more players since the last SW19 update – more on that later – is something of a necessity.
What is most important, as last season painfully showed, is that the players we get in are able to gel as a team. That was one of the genuine issues of 2013/14, and we never seemed right.
Indeed, I would go so far as to say the squad we had between January 2013 and THAT Fleetwood game was a better one than at any time last season – no, they weren’t nearly as good individually, but they were together as a unit. It has been under six weeks since the end of a campaign that had the best AFCW era players we’ve ever had, but it certainly wasn’t anything more.
And yes, NA must take a lot of blame for that. The jury is still out on him for the upcoming campaign, and I’m not having my weekends ruined for a fourth successive season.
We have some freed-up wages to add to Bulman and Rigg. Losing Darren Jones and Aaron Morris was a disappointment, but these things happen. Especially Morris, of whom you have to be breathtakingly naive to think he wouldn’t jump at the chance of playing in League One.
We finally managed to get rid of Sheringham, and the world has been a better place since. That was a signing down to NA being at his ideological worst, namely somebody fitting into a “system” that didn’t work, with a player who was crap to begin with.
I know he became a scapegoat, but he really wasn’t up to the task in L2. He wasn’t even a Danny Hylton type of player, and it’s no co-incidence that he found his scoring boots in the middle of the Conference table.
Speaking of Hylton, it’s interesting that he’s rejoined Waddock at Oxford. Would you rather have him or Constable though?
As for Jim Fenlon being on his way, it’s always a shame when a youngster leaves in such a manner. But if his attitude really was bad enough for NA to mention it on the OS, it must have stunk worse than a post-curry turd.
You want yoof to come through, but you can’t bend over backwards for them just because you want them to develop. At the end of the day, we have to win football matches, and if a player isn’t pulling his weight, it doesn’t matter if they were here since they were 14.
Contrary to the impression that the club would give you at times, we’re not that poverty-stricken. At least, not to the point that we have to put up with something that obviously brought things to a head, and the reaction to him leaving was tellingly non-plussed.
We move on.
As will Fenlon, and it will be interesting as usual to see where he will end up. As is the case with all our released players – Midson is now at Big Spending Eastleigh, Seb is at Bromley, and Luke Moore decided to take the unsustainability dollar at Margate.
Only Jones (Newport) and Morris (Gills) have failed to drop down a division or two, and in the case of the former he was returning home and nothing more.
The rest are tellingly clubless, if not clueless, although I understand the local Findus factory is thinking of putting in a bid for Sheringham. But this was a collection of players that did play in L2 and despite the problems stayed up relatively straightforwardly.
I would have genuinely though that Midson would have ended up at Cambridge or somewhere similar, although I’m perhaps more surprised that Constable joined him at Eastleigh too – guess the money from their basketball franchise has literally paid off.
As for Luke Moore, it still raises eyebrows even now. TBH I don’t blame him for taking the money – he was never going to get another FL club, and he’s obviously smart enough to know that he can become quite financially comfortable thanks to this season’s version of Chelmsford/Fi$her.
But Turdeyland? Jesus, you might as well sell your arse in an Amsterdam window if you’re going to do that. I imagine you’ll pick up less diseases than playing at that level, too.
Which does make getting it right up front all important. Some of the names getting bandied about are very interesting, though getting them to sign on the dotted line is usually the hardest thing of all.
NA wants three of them, and I expect one of them to be a loanee. Personally, I don’t have a problem with signing such strikers, as long as they’re a) good enough while they’re here, and b) we plan to move quickly to replace them when they go back.
After all, our two most effective forwards last season were Appiah and Smith, and to NA’s credit he does seem to do quite well on the loan front in that position.
Somebody like that will come in quite late, perhaps even after the season starts, so we need to nail down two before the pre-season starts. This is where I think the idea of targeting your resources and going for the fewer-yet-decent approach proves to be the most effective.
If we get two decent enough strikers in, then that would go some way to solving one of the big issues from last time out. I’d rather save money on a reserve goalkeeper, par example, if it helps us get somebody who knows where the net is.
(as a slight aside on this – anyone else thinks that Mike Richardson’s £1-for-£1 pledge is just reminding people how fucked we would be if he stopped putting his dough in? I doubt if the WAWF has come close to raising £100k in two years, let alone getting that total in a month in close season…)
If the last three years in League Two have proven anything, it’s that much of the division is pretty similar regardless of budget spent. What separates the playoff chasers from the dregs is consistency (relatively speaking), and tightening up in certain areas.
True, you need to have L2 quality players to begin with, but as said earlier – it’s the whole rather than the sum of the parts that counts most. Why do t’Stanley survive year in, year out? Because they’re a team and they’re set up to be one. They’re a L2 side in the way we’re not, despite us having twice as much money as they have.
Some have already moaned that Bulman is an old man, but if he’s effective and used well enough (and doesn’t break down) then he’ll make a positive difference to us. Look at how much better we are with Framps when he plays, and he’s only a year younger than our new signing.
We are likely to see more youngsters come through this season, as the old news about Jake “Three Point Deduction” Nicholson and Tom Beere signing up suggests. Again, if they’re good enough to be an effective part of the team (that word again) then that’s half the battle for next season won already.
I’m more and more convinced that success/failure in L2 is down to how good your manager is. NA hasn’t yet sealed the deal on that score, I do still question his pragmatism and how much he can really motivate players.
If he continues to blame the players for not following his instructions, and continues to manage like a Masters graduate rather than a football coach, then he won’t last the season. On the other hand, if he does manage to build a unit that matched the one from January-May 2013, with better quality players, we might finally start to kick on…