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Pre-Shrewsbury thoughts

Can’t remember the last time I did a Friday preview. Sure somebody will tell me…

So, after the shock of Clarke-gate (and does everything need to have a “gate” on the end of it these days?) is finally subsiding, it seems like things have become relatively serene again.

The more you think about that particular episode, the more it becomes something that is best for all concerned. I’ve no idea how much he’ll be getting paid at Eastleigh, but I doubt it will be peanuts.

From our point of view, while I certainly wouldn’t call him disruptive, I wonder if having a wantaway player like Clarke would have affected things in the squad.

Especially a player who didn’t seem to connect with our back line, to put it mildly.

It’s been pointed out a couple of times since Wednesday that our back line “clicked” a bit more when Shea came in, and that might be some of the battle won already.

What this also means for AFCW is that our wage bill has been trimmed again. While we (probably) can’t use it until January, at least we won’t have that excuse if we need to strengthen by then.

Make no mistake – this is not only a big opportunity for Shea but also his biggest test of the lot. He’s going to get a run in the team now for a couple of months at least.

If he steps up to the proverbial plate, then great – we’ll have somebody at the back to rely on. If not, then that’s probably his last chance with us gone.

This position is something that we’ll need to keep an eye on, because right now we’re short. And that is simply bad planning. Three months until we can start buying again is a long time to have got this wrong.

Your editor dug back when we signed Clarke, and it might have been a little bit prophetic:

We have made a start though, with the signing of Ryan Clarke for between the sticks. It’s a shame we didn’t get Roos back, but more seasoned observers reckon he was protected thanks to our back line.

Goalkeepers seem to be a bit of an Achilles heel with us, so you would hope NA and Bayes have got this right. Shea is still with us, and hasn’t been sent to Woking yet, so maybe there’s some competition once again.

Oh dear. Mind you, if you read that OS link, and especially NA’s comments – well, you have to wonder how let down he feels…

We all know about the loanee situation, and I’m not sure about the whole free agent thing and how much of an option that is if we start panicking, but hopefully our new #1 doesn’t make that an option.

Guess we’ll see tomorrow. And yes, your editor will be there, albeit in the press box. So don’t expect a match report until Sunday afternoon.

It seems that we might be seeing Chris Robertson on the bench at least, and given the amount of games we’ve got ahead, he’ll probably start a couple of them.

Admittedly, I forgot that we were playing Plymouth in the ex-JPT, but then so have most of us.

To be honest, our defence needs that kick up the arse. Charles has been a bit shit recently, but they all should be looking over their shoulder. Especially now Clarke has gone, so they can’t blame their deficiencies on the goalie.

Like the man between the sticks, we won’t be able to do anything until January, and let’s face it – our back line has let us down big time this campaign.

So they could be getting put under pressure, and not before time either. Because if we can get that right, and we’ll be in for an OK season – our front line isn’t too bad, as it goes, and there’s more than enough to get us out of trouble.

Taylor needs a goal or two, and with luck he’ll start finding the net tomorrow. No more needs to be said about Poleon right now, bar the song of his that is no doubt still trapped in your head.

Elliott and now Barrett are starting to find their feet again, and as Charlton, Chesterfield and (to an extent) Scunny proved, we can cause teams grief if we start hitting form.

We’ll see tomorrow. Shrewsbury is one of those teams you would expect us to get something from, at least by looking at the table, but as we all know it never works like that.

But at least there’s a bit of confidence about beforehand. Amazing what a good win the Saturday before can do. For once though, can we try and build a bit of a run rather than our usual fuckup?

Finally, and speaking of which – the Football League have finally dropped their fucking stupid idea of B-teams in the FL. You can tell how bad an idea it was when it somehow got even worse the more you thought about it.

No doubt the failure of the ex-JPT has done of lot of that, and reportedly Shaun Harvey (EFL CEO) admitted in the meeting it had been “a bit of a disaster”.

I know what the reaction of this bastardisation of this (admittedly unloved) tournament has been, though in a way I’m glad it’s been tried. Because at least we can properly prove just what a shit idea it is.

Those of us scabs who went to the Swansea B-team game will have seen how an ordinary-to-a-bit-rubbish-L1 side put three past them relatively easily.

Imagine how unwatchable L1, or L2 would have been if that was a proper league fixture?

Still, common sense has for once prevailed, and the “Whole Game Solution” has a few more proposals. Some of which may or may not make any sense.

This is what the EFL statement says:

.. regionalisation, the number of teams per division, divisional restructure, winter break and from where in the game the additional teams will come from.

Regionalisation is one of those sort of things that might sound good in principle, but these days is a bit pointless. We last had Division 3 (south and oop norf) in 1958, which was in the days before proper motorways and A-roads.

It’s not that difficult to get around most of the country, at least not so difficult that it’s prohibitive. Teams have very good buses these days (yes, even AFCW) so comfort for players isn’t so much of an issue.

Especially as most clubs take the train for longer journeys, and it’s now 2h between London and Manchester. You struggle through London in that time by road.

I know you can bring out the Plymouth-to-Hartlepool type fixtures, but they’re usually about once or twice a season. Between now and Halloween, we’ll be at Peterborough, Oxford, Coventry and Bury – hardly going along the Silk Road.

If there is a problem with geography, I’d question why we need to go to the outskirts of Manchester on a Tuesday night. Although again, it doesn’t happen that often.

The only reason I can see for going back close to 60 years ago is the cost of said transportation, although again that’s probably cheaper than it used to be back then.

There was an article about Daggers a couple of years ago who had to do long away trips on the day rather than stay overnight, although they always were a non-league club in the FL. Well, they were anyway.

And besides, long away trips are fun. Especially if you win.

Winter break? Don’t like it, and I hope that it’s rejected as much as the B-team proposal was. Mind you it’s telling that L1/L2/possible L3 want to play through it, which will render it pointless anyway.

Cast your mind back – how often do we get a raft of postponements anyway? Only time I can ever remember it in recent times was the backwater non-league days, where pitch maintenance is often at a minimum.

You can get postponements at any time – us vs Pompey on Easter Monday this year springs to mind, and you can bet that it will a) be used for foreign trips, and b) the weather will be great when it’s on and shit when it finishes.

Ditto the distaste for playing FA Cup games in midweek – again, something that comes under the not broken, so don’t fix it file. Although the FA does seem to devalue its own competition each year, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at this (hopefully rejected) proposal.

The big idea is the shake-up of the divisions, which now it’s going to be Conference sides I’m certainly not opposed to at all. If we’re being honest, the whole thing has needed a sort-out for a good long while.

The problem, as always, will come in the logistics of doing it. Currently, the Championship, L1, L2 and the Conference each has 24 teams in them, which is about 4 teams too many.

You can gather that when you look at our fixtures for August just gone. Especially when you add in the EFL cup and the ex-JPT, let alone having an FA cup run or even just a couple of postponements.

I’m going to leave the mathematics of this next bit to people who know what they’re actually doing, but creating a 20-team League 3 would (I guess) mean relegating six teams per division for that one season and promoting only two.

Which as you can imagine will be fun and games.

I don’t know how practical reducing each division by, say, two for a couple of seasons would be, although that would probably make one division (likely L2) almost impractically large.

Filling up the rest of L3 would be easy – just promote the top eight Conference sides for that one season. Or more accurately, promote eight of them.

Ground grading rules may scupper some teams, and if we’re being honest – would a team like Slutton cope for very long with being a Football League club?

At least not without major boosting up behind the scenes, anyway.

From the Conference point of view, losing eight of mostly your biggest clubs would force a major reorganisation, but having a division with Wrexham and North Ferriby is pretty much fucked already.

I’m sure you can dig out old SW19 references to League 2.5, but a L3 would basically just confirm what it has been for a good few years.

Some non-league types continue to moan about everything and everyone the FA Trophy being won by ex-League sides, who consider it a nuisance, and removing all bar the ultra-shit bigger clubs will at least turn it back to the Gola League era.

And yes, it needs to be 3-up-3-down between each division. Which includes Conf to L2 (currently), and dare I say L2-to-L1…?

Can it happen? Yes, although with some upheaval. Will it happen? To be honest, I don’t know, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the 91-club setup left as is.

OK, there’s a strong case to be made about harmonisation for promotion and relegation places – true, we benefited last season, but we could certainly do with just three going down this campaign 😉

But the rest of it may ultimately be seen as gimmicky. Especially if the case for additional funding fails to get made. FL clubs seem in a bit of a mutinous mood, as the B-team failure proved, and ultimately we all act in self-preservation…