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One Step Beyond

chelski2014_1Played two, lost two. But after Mumford and Sons 2 Madness 3, I get the sense we’re on the right track…

This time last week, I was close to gnashing my car’s steering wheel in annoyance. This time around, I think I’ve almost had my faith restored in pre-season friendlies.

Be honest – you feared the worst before the game didn’t you? Especially considering how awful Margate was. Whether today was a reaction to that, a case of us raising our game even at that stage of the season, or just a straightforward progression in pre-season, this was the diametric opposite to the rabble on the Kent coast.

OK, we lost. But that was only because a) we changed most of our squad by that stage, and b) Chelski had John Terry, Salah and Ivanovic in the second half. And don’t forget, they’d just come off gubbing Wycombe 5-0.

The first half (and some of the second) was probably close to who will be the starting XI for Shrewsbury. And the thing that struck me was how much of a unit it looked.

We got to see Tubbs and AA start with each other, and you get the feeling against some of the crappier defences in League Two they could have a field day. The way Tubbs forced their defender to give away a penalty was something that I can’t remember seeing for a good while, probably since the Jon Main era in Turdeyland.

Granted, some things didn’t come off, but generally players seemed to know where each other were, which as previous seasons show hasn’t always been the case…

One shouldn’t get carried away, of course. We could have a stinker on Tuesday, and the last 20 minutes showed that we may not have the strength in depth we hope we have.

But the general mood around the ground afterwards, and on various social media sites is telling. And in a good way, too.

See, I don’t believe that pre-season is purely about fitness. If we had been playing Chelmsford instead of Chelski today, I would be in no doubt that our squad would have been split like it was last week – and almost certainly no Tubbs and AA together.

But we played our proper team, and it’s done us a big favour.

It gives us something to work with properly for the rest of the phoney war of PSFs. They didn’t look unfit, for starters, and now we can concentrate on getting them to play for 90 minutes instead of 60.

We’ve found out two friendlies in that players like Pell and (sad to say) some of the promising youngsters, ahem, “need a bit more work”. Question is, do you disrupt a team enough to give them that in the remaining PSFs, or do you keep building them up elsewhere?

Pell in particular seems to be getting singled out a bit right now, and whether it’s unfair or not it’s being picked up by many.

Still, plenty of reasons to be cheerful – and genuine ones as well. Though no doubt normal service will resume on Tuesday, when we go 2-0 down after ten minutes…

Plus points: Lots of promise. AA and Tubbs linking up well. Jamie Shea. Looking like a team. Arthur and KSL in second half. Scoring twice. Wondering what would have happened if the starting XI finished the game.

Minus points: Losing right at the end. Realising some of the youngsters are some way short of the first team.

The referee’s a…: Typical referee, always favouring the Premier League sides…

Them: You forget just how good somebody like John Terry is until you see him in environments like today. It’s no stretch to say that without him coming on, we would be basking in a confidence boosting win right now.

And yes, he comes from a family of cunts. And his mum shoplifts. And she loves Scouse cock.

Other than that though, they’re obviously far technically better than us, but they weren’t that special. No, it wasn’t the Chelski side you see on the telly most weeks, but they did stuff Wycombe 5-0 early on in the week.

Mourinho was there, indeed he remained on the coach for a good while as the rest of them went to the changing rooms. Ever the attention seeker. He was getting a bit animated when we were leading 2-1…

It’s fair to say that they’ve always had a percentage of dickhead fans, and a few of them clearly haven’t changed from the Selhurst Park era, but some of them buggered off at half time. To be fair, plenty of others gave AA a nice round of applause when he was warming down in front of them.

Oh, and it was live on Chelski TV. So that’s another station we’ve managed to lose on – ITV, Sky, BT and now them. What tournaments do the BBC have the rights to?

Point to ponder: Doesn’t this game prove why clubs like Chelski buy in players from abroad rather than develop their own? Clubs like ourselves do it out of necessity, but apart from the obvious ones singled out, none of those wearing Samsung branded shirts are going to remain Premier League level for long.

I don’t doubt that the academies at places like Chelski, or Arsenal, or Yernited or whoever are pretty decent. But if that’s the standard of youngster that regularly comes through their ranks (and they will have the pick of the best talent in their respective areas, as those in our academy will testify) then England fans can forget any sort of international success for a good while longer.

There’s been a lot of stuff said about the England national side’s “performance” in the World Cup, but is it possibly that generally speaking, English players simply aren’t any good..?

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Seeing shirts of Arsenal, Sunderland and Fulham there today. One wonders who the Fulham fan was supporting today. 2) “Cretin Hop” by the Ramones on the PA beforehand. I offer no comment. 3) We’ve got ourselves a scoreboard. Yes, really – it’s below the TV gantry on the YGT Stand, which is yet another reason not to stand there. Needless to say, it doesn’t actually work

Anything else? I can’t place the year of the above ticket stub I came across this week, but it was between 1994-97. Today was a bit of a step back in time, at least in terms of the amount of away fans making it feel like a game at Selhurst.

I can’t remember these sort of friendlies before, usually it’s some Fulham or West Ham XI one that nobody cares about. That we get to keep most of the money raised is a bonus – perhaps in the past we didn’t need to do them?

Still, back to the point in hand. Towards the end of WFC’s time in the Premiership, it was clear that the Chelski of Doug Rougvie’s red card, empty stands at Ponti Stamfordi and 5-2 wins were being replaced by the one that mutated into the one you see today.

WFC got left behind back then, some of it self-inflicted of course. But it took until today just to make you realise just how big the big Premier League sides are now.

The AFCW era saw us literally start at the bottom, as we all know. And for a League Two side, our crowd sizes are pretty good. But try comparing ourselves, or Brentford, or Orient, to Mourinho’s men and it’s not even a contest – back then it would have been.

Hell, try even comparing QPR to Chelski these days as well. I can remember when the former was bigger than the latter.

Could an AFCW ever get into the Premier League these days to begin with, let alone go to Stamford Bridge and win? Probably not, unless the club hit the most purple of all purple patches.

Would we want to be there in the first place? Of course…

So, was it worth it? Well, we feel more confident than we did after Margate.

In a nutshell: Nearly.