Yes, it’s that time of year again. Summer is well and truly over…
Once again, we all mingled down to the main KM bar for what has become an annual ritual. As the name of the event suggests, NA was there along with Bassey, although NC was absent due to family issues.
First things first – Ivor Heller plugged the new kit without anyone seeing it. Then, we were promised a different format from previous MTMs, which became clear even before the first question was asked.
This pre-season, we spent £50k on a load of stat stuff, GPS stuff*, projectors and other things that Premier League sides use. To which NA admitted, “I haven’t asked Erik if we could buy it yet…”.
* – morning update: apparently, because of the cost, we’re simply trialling this.
The different format was basically NA going through a lot of technical stuff, about how we track the individual fitness of each player (via GPS), through things like sprints, distances, conditioning, lots of bar charts, that sort of thing.
To put it in a context we can all understand, we did it for a training session on Tuesday and Callum Kennedy ran 10km in it – not much short of what an average player expects to do in a normal game.
The new players also impressed on their stats, although Bayo, unsurprisingly, doesn’t feature too highly in them….
So why do we do it? It’s getting them fit, but it also gets them working with the ball. No “double sessions” or army boot camps. Oh, and we’re trying to turn Tom Elliott into somebody who isn’t so much the target man but instead “runs in behind players”.
The squad seem to like it though, as they ask to see their own stats after the sessions end – there is “no hiding place”. As a further example of this, during warm-ups, Kennedy did 100m while one young player only did 14m…
It was all a bit technical, although the first question of the night concerned whether it covered shots on goal (it didn’t, just fitness).
What NA does do is make notes on who scored goals, who assisted in them, but also who was responsible for oppositions scoring and who should have done better.
How do we stop players over-doing it? We keep tabs on it, according to Bassey, and at the moment it’s full of short sharp sessions.
That opening showed NA doing what he loves to do best – demonstrate the scientific, stat-based approach to his whole managerial approach. “Profile” was mentioned a lot, especially those who we have signed thus far fitting into it. As for whether it could be used in proper matches – in a word, no. The FL wouldn’t allow it.
The Prem clubs (who NA clearly copies in his approach) have Prozone, and he made mention of his mate Sean Dyche who was a big fan of it.
Before it got even more technically overloaded, somebody asked about Meades. Ardley has worked with him since he was 16, and wasn’t injured last season but because of lack of selection (and being red-carded when he did play) he was surplus to requirements.
NA described him as coming from a “posh” family. His mum and dad are both GPs, his brother recently qualified to be one, and suggested (probably) tongue in cheek that he was the black sheep of the family in becoming a professional footballer…
I think our manager knew that two particular topics were going to come up. The first was somebody asking about playing three at the back. To which the answer was “And there’s the winner”.
Admittedly, I lost interest in this bit, but basically he saw Mexico first use it, wants to play it a bit next season but in conjunction with a couple of other formations. And it’s the one that needs the most work on.
Mentions of us using against Daggers last season were made – a game he thinks was a freak result considering how well we played inbetween the first and second goal.
Speaking of goals (scoring them as opposed to letting them in), the benchmark for getting in the playoffs is about 65+ goals, and whoever plays alongside Akinfenwa will need to do a lot of running.
It was then time for the piece de resistance – a flipboard with lots and lots of numbers on it. More specifically, the difference between 4-4-2, 3-4-3, 4-3-3 and probably something else. I switched off, and perhaps professional footballers do as well? It would explain a lot.
Anyway, one formation (3-4-3) gets more attempts on goal than another (4-4-2), and we’ll see the former a bit more next season. I think.
Onto less taxing questions. Jake Goodman? According to Bassey, our youngsters and his injury put paid to him, and wasn’t quite what we wanted in the summer. Which is why Osbourne fitted the bill much more.
It sounded like he needed first team football, which he wasn’t going to get, and Margate was the best place for him. That and the money TB was paying…
Oh, and something else about 3-4-3. We don’t need three lumps at the back, which will answer some people about Barry Fuller. Who is felt to be the best 1-on-1 defender at the club.
We have promising youth, some need more work with Alan Reeves than others. The yoof do training sessions with the first team, and Will Nightingale “was beating up Akinfenwa for six weeks”…
Daniel Ageyi? Interesting one, to quote NA’s words. We offered him a pro deal around December (only once have we done that before, apparently), and “we knew it was going to be difficult”.
Anyway, we heard nothing, and we all know what happened then. If he signs for a Prem club, then at least we get compensated, though if a fee can’t be agreed then it goes to a tribunal. Which if the Prem club doesn’t want to pay would effectively leave Ageyi in limbo.
Oh, and his agent is the same one as Raheem Sterling. No further comment necessary.
With so many stats, it was time for the mid-meeting break, but not before the new third kit was unveiled. You’ve seen it by now, and suffice to say, it got an interesting reaction.
Personally, I actually quite like it, although it did have to grow on me first. As I expect it will for many if not most people…
After what seemed quite a long half time break, everyone reconvened. A quick modelling of the new strip with shorts (which are dark green but with a light green sash), followed by a Dons Trust announcement asking members to make sure their contact details are accurate.
Yes, that’s to do with NPL, which will come in September apparently. It’s two votes, and it needs over 800 to reply to make it valid.
So, the questions started again. What about our away form? Sometimes, you can over-complicate things, so it makes us train harder and – should we lose – deflate us.
Oh, and goals change games, hinting that we would have won more of them if we’d kept Tubbs…
The next question I think was taken in good humour – is there a policy about whether players are allowed to shoot at the goal? To which NA replied “if you think I tell the players to get into the final third and pass it…”
The phrase “end product” was mentioned a lot – he tries to drill it into his players, take risks, and if they don’t then there’s not a lot more he can do. I wonder if this whole HAFSOG thing does annoy him a bit, especially as it’s used as a brickbat…
Craig Tanner? Didn’t work out, simple as that. Especially as he had been looked at 10/12 times and was flagged up as a potential goodun. Had he scored early on in his tenure, we would have seen more of what he can do.
David Connolly? He, not Tanner, was the replacement for Tubbs, and again that didn’t work out. Potter? Injuries did for him, though showed his ability at times.
Bassey confirmed that Osbourne was one we didn’t expect to get, but he was way up on our preferred list.
What did NA think about internet rumours? Put it this way – our manager reads them and thinks that people who come up with them are bored in the summer.
So much so that Ardley’s brother (an AFCW fan himself) keeps asking him about players he’s seen rumoured and he knows absolutely nothing about. Or as he put it, obviously these rumour mongers travel in the same car as he does.
With regards Osbourne, a player who we have signed, we contacted Brizzle City early in pre-season, and we had to wait for his availability.
Back to the technical stuff. Why did we not play with two on the post at defending corners? Out came the tactics board with the different coloured magnetic markers, to which one of them fell off, and somebody yelled “Wycombe”.
The edge of the six yard box is the most dangerous, lots of mentions of zones and needing to head the ball away. Or something. Our problem last season was that our players weren’t big enough in that area, and those we could have got in who were physically apt weren’t good enough.
How hard was it to keep Akinfenwa? Not very, according to Bassey – he played 52 games which is the most he’s done in a campaign with anyone. He loves it here, and loves the attention, but he’s obviously very professional.
He did look at the US, but only had two offers – one in L2 and one below, and decided to stay with us instead.
Centre backs? A problem last season, though Winfield was the most commanding in the air NA has ever seen since he’s been here. Sweeney needs a few games with Alan Reeves.
The inevitable question about Deji came up. And no, we didn’t offer him £200k, if we had that sort of money we wouldn’t go for him.
Needless to say, NA would love him back – he’s not gone on tour with Cardiff, but a couple of L1 clubs are very interested in him. We’re looking to conclude our remaining business within ten days (ie before La Manga), and the possibility of him returning is slim.
Strikers? We can’t afford 30+ goal forwards, and they’re pretty rare at L2 anyway. We are in talks with a decent one, they want a fee and the player wants to come, apparently. So watch this space I guess.
Who will go up? Both Ardley and Bassey reckon Luton and Pompey. As for the ones that went down, Orient is unclear while Bassey mentioned that Crawley was a house built on sand. Followed by applause, although I can’t think why…
Bassey does know the assistant manager there, and felt it was telling that their aim was to stay up.
Somebody asked the the question with the dreaded phrase – is Osbourne a season long loan. To which Ardley replied – “yes”. NA explained that Smith was only earmarked for six months anyway.
As for Tubbs, we were ever going to lose him to one team, the one he signed for in January. It’s only 30 minutes for him there as opposed to over 2 hours travelling for us, and initially it was us and them after him – the latter the favourites.
Why he came to us is clear – we were going to play him while Pompey under Awford weren’t. Of course, Paul Cook came in, and any faint hopes were dashed when he admitted he would change his system to accomodate him.
One little postscript : when we won at Fratton Park, and Tubbs showed his non-celebration, NA and Bassey were inbetween him as they walked off, and NA said “I wouldn’t want to play for that lot”…
Favourite opponents? Luton and Pompey, because we beat them. Least favourite? Stevenage, as he hated Westley and their style of play. And we always lost to them.
What happened to Worner? Perhaps diplomatically, Bassey simply said that Shea was better, and that McDonnell was a perfectly fine understudy.
Our aims? Bassey wants to win every game, and we deserved to finish higher than we actually did last season. NA wants top seven, and if we get the two final players we want we’ve got a good chance.
Somebody asked about Fitzpatrick, to which NA said that he’s got good ability but we need to work on his mentality.
Do we look for a long-throw specialist? Only as a bonus, we don’t sign a player just because he can do that.
Speaking of signings, how do we convince them to come to us? Obviously, money is a factor, but we also do homework on them. We’ve even been known to highlight one or two performances from their previous club, which goes down well, apparently.
We like to offer honesty and the personal touch to prospective players, arm around the shoulder and all that.
Mention was made of the Spanish triallist who, well, won’t be any more. He was in tears, apparently, which is a shame as he ticked many boxes.
There were very few questions that seemed a bit silly, although the one about more goals up the KRE came close on that score. A more sensible one about Sammy Moore pretty much told us what we already knew – he wasn’t playing, he was doing a lot of travelling, and his mum dying really hit him hard.
How do we compare to the Cardiff academy? The Bluebirds are the biggest draw while we’re not, effectively, but with us there’s a pathway towards playing in the Football League.
How do we select a captain? They’re there to carry the manager’s message, as much as anything, and intrigingly Barry Fuller had to be reminded of that at some point last season. Although afterwards, his form skyrocketed.
The final question was quite a straightforward one – do we fear losing anyone? Not really, only Will Nightingale if he comes on in leaps and bounds. Which is why NA won’t play him….
That was the end of a rather in-depth MTM, with the usual round of applause. It was different, very technical at times and might have been too much had it gone on longer.
Overall, I can see how NA attracts the players, though equally I can see how he can overdo the technical side of things. Although arguably, if you’re a pro footballer you should be able to understand it.
Unlike last year, where we had the Jack Midson stuff amongst others, there wasn’t much need to spend justifying decisions made. Maybe the HAFSOG question maybe was the only one that slightly peeved NA, but we thankfully didn’t get the usual “who would win in a fight between…” ones that we usually get.
Mind you, I’m surprised nobody asked him about returning to South Wales…