Three months, however many days and not a few transfers in and out later – the new season is here.
It seems odd in a way that the new season properly starts tomorrow at home to Shrewsbury. Odd, because despite it being about three months without competitive football that game against t’Stanley almost felt like yesterday.
Anyway, the vibe is good. People are happy, one or two are even smiling again. And there’s genuine hope, even if some predictions of the playoffs are a tad optimistic.
It wasn’t quite so nice these three months just passed, lest we forget. Remember the mood when Midson left? It was a lot different then. I honestly, genuinely read somebody on a social media site hoping that he would play and score against us, to teach NA a lesson…
We then signed Tubbs, then AA, and suddenly he was forgotten. Seriously, have you heard his name mentioned at all since we signed the Twin Towers?
We’re going to have a busy month ahead of us, as always happens this time of the campaign for some reason. We’re going to need to use all our resources in the next four weeks, so it’s a good thing that we’ve got Adam Barrett on loan and Callum Kennedy has re-signed.
Barrett of course is yet another push to turn us into GFC Wimbledon. Strangely enough, when it was announced by the Gills that he was available, and Framps got crocked, his arrival almost seemed written in the stars.
He’s obviously on a par with Framps and Benno and Phillips, and that’s the kind of replacement we need. Whether we’ll see him past October remains to be seen, but I suspect we might need him – and could probably get him as well.
As for Kennedy, I know that we re-sign old players a bit too readily, but normally they’ve played for another club before we try to relive past glories with them.
It’s a bit of a headfuck, but I doubt if CK cares – he’s got a club again for this season, even if it’s the same one, and a second chance to prove himself. Good for him, and for us too.
The triallists didn’t do themselves any good at Margate, and NA pretty much stated that Kennedy was better than all of them. And obviously we can afford him (presumably on a contract more favourable to the club than previously – he probably needed us more that we needed him).
But we do need him, and the others, for six games this month. Shrewsbury, Luton and Southend won’t be easy ones, although a good start will help. Fortunately, it starts settling down on Bank Holiday weekend, so we can find out who has got injured as soon as they kicked a ball.
Then there’s Franchise.
Whether it’s because of the summer holidays and not being properly tuned into football again, or whether it’s the C1C first round being the equivalent of the second round of the FAC and JPT combined, I’ve found myself distinctly unbothered by it.
I’ll care come Tuesday, probably, but it really is low key. AFCW itself seems to be playing it down a lot, pretty much like an inconvenience or contractual obligation to get out of the way.
As a significant percentage of our fanbase are too, by the looks of it. Apparently we’ve only been given 1000 tickets, but that’s all we’re going to need this time. One coach got filled without advertising, but there’s nothing about a second coach as yet.
The usual caveats here apply as much as ever. There are those who will never go, there are those who may one day go if it becomes a regular fixture (your editor), those who can’t wait to be there, and those who went the first time and got it out of their system.
I’m not going on Tuesday, I still can’t bring myself to be there, but I know some who boycotted the first time yet are going this time round. I’m sure if you plunge the annals of SW19, you’ll see words on this sort of thing, though I haven’t
been arsed to look for it found it this summer.
Basically, the argument has gone that things will be different the second time we play Franchise – it won’t be nearly so intense, and may even take on a large degree of “normality”, if you could call such a fixture normal. It will never be friendly, but it may not be the “big thing” it could have been.
And it’s getting proven.
It’s not on telly, which may surprise some of our lot but, as your editor will readily tell you, it’s not that big a deal in the wider football world. From our point of view, we want to win because of a) the vermin we’re facing, but just as importantly, b) we’re due a cup run.
Should we win on Tuesday, I will of course pretend how much I was building myself up for this. Needless to say, it will give us all a boost…
As it will for NA. Having read a couple of other previews this past day or so, it’s accepted that he needs to step up to the plate himself this campaign. Our boss made a little telling comment at the end of this article today:
“If we fall short and finish mid-table, to me that is progression, but I will let others decide it that is good enough.”
Has NA been told his job is on the line? Indeed, would it be alarmist to suggest this could be his last season with us?
The sycophants will have a stroke after hearing that, but it isn’t so far fetched. NA is no longer a rookie manager – assuming he hasn’t been poached/sacked by then, he will have had his third final game of the season with us. It’s also often forgotten that he had a good 5/6 months when he first took charge.
So he’s got to now move us up to the next level he’s promised to do – but not really delivered yet.
He has the tools now. His budget has been increased, he’s gone for quality over quantity, it looks more of a team than it has done in recent years, and expectations have justifiably risen this close season.
The jury is still out on Neal Ardley, but he’s bought himself more time.
It’s fair to say many fell out of love with him last season, for reasons you can easily read back on. He’s rekindled that love, but it really is make-or-break for him now.
If we start well yet fall away like we did last season, it will be failure. If we start poorly and never recover, it will be failure. If we start poorly then get going, then who knows?
Success will be us finishing higher than 12th, and/or looking like we’ll get better in 2015/16. Just a sense that we have improved, and properly so. Do that, and NA will have earned another season with us.
If he doesn’t, then he can’t say he didn’t get a good shot with us.
Anyway, the trials and tribulations of last season might be behind us. One does question what other black holes we’ll find within the running of the club though – last season’s three point debacle blasted open a few issues in public.
The club needs to grasp something for this upcoming season, and it’s this quote from Ayn Rand.
“We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality”
That came home to roost last campaign, and to be fair some sections of AFCW have grasped that. The increased budget and the club shop looking to get its online shop sorted are two such examples of forward thinking.
But this club is expanding beyond what it can reasonably cope with, and it’s clear something has to be done this next nine months. Perhaps even quite radically. While you’ll always get grumbles, I can’t recall the level of complaints about not being able to contact the club over STs etc than this past month alone.
There’s obviously some staffing issues at the club, perhaps quite bad ones, and according to some volunteers your editor knows, these side of things are (and I quote) “stretched to breaking point”.
It won’t have a choice but to do something, because there’ll either be another serious admin issue, or various organisers will be quitting because they simply can’t cope with the demands put on them any more.
And when that starts happening, the club starts grinding to a halt. Or worse. You don’t want it to come to that, and prevention is always better than cure. It will be a good time to shake up behind the scenes, because the time is ripe for it.
The current structure is being ground down, those who actually have the brainpower and skills to get things done are tied up in the new stadium project, and have we ever had a proper re-alignment of how we do things at AFCW?
I remember putting Dave Charles in whenever he came was a big deal at the time, but what’s changed since then? A couple more office staff, one more on the Football Club Board and I’m struggling.
Oh, and Chris Slavin coming on board. But it’s still not unrecognisable from the first time we played Luton in the Conference, perhaps even before then.
With all this in mind, we’re going to have an interesting season ahead. We’ve had too many downs, so we’re owed a few ups. With luck we’ll have a couple of cup runs, Tuesday will be an excellent time to start that, and if there’s one thing we need to do – we need to start enjoying ourselves again.
Now watch us lose 5-0 tomorrow…