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REPOST : (Definitely) Back down to earth

While you’re still licking your wounds from Franchise yesterday, a reminder of this time last year.

(read on…)

Yes, it is THAT Stevenage game.

I think this repost and the one following it (which got 50 replies in the comments section – normally, SW19 gets about 10) may inadvertently echo some feelings this December morning in 2016.

Of course, we know what happened after THAT game, and one hopes that our current form – that is currently slowly deflating and is getting papered over by Curzon/Bury – takes a similar path 12 months on.

Comments are open, so feel free to talk amongst yourselves…

I have to be honest, after the euphoria since Thursday I didn’t expect to be writing about this on the following Sunday…

I’m not sure how to start writing about losing to St. Evenage, after what should have been the slam dunk of all slam dunks. In true AFCW tradition, we managed to do just that, and it seems to have provoked quite a bit of reaction.

Some vox pops from those there at KM yesterday. Just a word of warning – there’s quite a few of them. Firstly, from Jampot:

My uncle use to say all footballers were ‘morons’ (the very older generation). He put it down to them heading those big heavy footballs, So no excuses these days for the present players.

OK, they are limited in their footballing ability as they play League 2, but surely they have enough intelligence to understand the way to play with and against the wind by now?

Hitting high balls against the wind was never going to work and to continue it when both Azeez and Elliot came on to use their speed seems the height of stupidity. Lots of puffing and effort but ultimately it was the wind yesterday that beat us, but credit to Stevenage for using it so well second half.

Next, some lengthy words from Tudor:

I’m sure enough has been said about the game yesterday. However, it’s probably better to talk about the season in general, the squad we have, and Neal Ardley’s (lack of) man management in particular – rather than run the risk of this being swept under the rug as (yet another) unlucky result.

As usual, we’re spluttering.

We’re frustrating.

We’re negative.

We lack confidence.

We have no heart.

We have no passion.

We have no mobility.

We have no will to win.

Examples, that will go without comment, as they speak for themselves:

  • 3-4-3 or 4-3-3 or whatever 3 you like up front, doesn’t work in this division.
  • One game, early on in the season, when we pulled into the lead on the 82nd minute. The players spent the next 8 minutes, plus 4 minutes or so of injury time, trying to get it into the corner, winning corners, and literally having two players in the box (not that the ball was ever delivered in)
  • Playing for a draw (and a replay) against Forest Green Rovers – and when they nicked a goal due to their “positive play for 90 minutes” ethos, we had no time to react.
  • Dagenham & Redbridge: see Forest Green Rovers.

This is the same as last season: dispiriting, overly cautious and negative tactics,

NA seems less interested in the final result, than he does the overall possession stats and whatever other weird metrics he uses to work out whether a player has had a good game.

He remains surprised when he gets the same result, time and time again.

When we were on that nice unbeaten run earlier, you could see the difference in the team and the way they played – even if it was in bursts. At least they had some awareness that the idea was to score more goals than the other team.

In the past month, we pissed away all that confidence and goodwill (and I won’t even go there in terms of pissing away an incredible amount of goodwill built up on Thursday…but fuck me, if you can’t put on a positive display on the groundswell of that, when can you?) instead, we had an extra special dose of the “Let’s not fuck up” timidity that has been the scourge of the team over the past couple of years.

Same old shit. Same result.

And speaking of shit – Stevenage were shit (just like FGR and D&R before them) but they won yesterday by a flukey goal (note to NA – they all count) and one player cutting towards the box and HAFSOG.

You know that if one of our players found themselves in that position, they would have trapped the ball, looked around, waited for a team mate to arrive, then played the ball sideways/backwards – to be quickly put under pressure by the reorganised Satanage players.

But I bet NA would have patted him on the back and told him “well done” for helping pad the possession/passing stats and “not lose the ball” in the Layer of Uncertainty, or whatever other management-speak NA spouts during training sessions.

Interestingly, when NA shouts at players during games, they glance at him and just carry on – with a terrible body language.

It’s said that NA is popular – after all, we hear how players want to come here and run training modules with him. However, is he respected?

The actions during competitive fixtures suggest not.

That doesn’t necessarily fall solely on NA’s shoulders, since either Cox and Bassey should fill the role as ‘bad cop’ – but the players obviously know that as long as they do “all the right things” in training (viz Charlie Sheringham) they’ll be fine.

After all, we all recognise that back-chat/individual brilliance/bad attitude to training means being sent off to Woking (KSL, Worner – and oh how we could have done with him this season, ironically) or ‘coventry’ (Midson).

Ardley has a team of robots. Which is what he wanted. However, it’s a squad of automatons that are not built to win in the rugby-playing shitshow of League 2.

I hope he’s proud.

And a full report from Hash:

Are you really surprised?

There was something very typical about Jesus 1 Satan 2. We’ve just had one of the most significant weeks in the club’s history. I arrived at the ground with a smile on my face, a spring in my step and, like Sammy Moore, I was ‘buzzing’. So what else were we going to get?

Let me put it this way, if you combine horse shit, diarrhea, vomit, pubes in urinals and warm Carlsberg**, the finished product would be better than what we got on the pitch yesterday.

[** SW19 note – no need for the “warm” bit]

It actually started quite well…we paraded Erik on the pitch, had a nice rendition of ‘Show me the way to Plough Lane’ and a few more home related chants.

Then the game started.

So the first half was dull, we played alright if uninspiring and when we took the lead from a George Francomb header in the 43rd minute, it wasn’t exactly a surprise, even though most of the positivity and buzz had been sapped out as people looked for places to go and have a snooze.

Then the second half happened.

I’m normally fairly positive about things and I like to give the team the benefit of the doubt. Yesterday, I just couldn’t. That was easily the worst half of football I have seen from a Wimbledon team in a long time. Yesterday I said it was all season but thinking now, it actually stretches further back than that- possibly to 2 or 3 seasons ago.

It was terrible. To be honest Satan were not much better. We conceded a decent goal for the equaliser and then, out of nowhere, they took a free kick from their own half. It bounced, went over Wilson’s head (through his hands) and into the net. The entire Chemflow gave a sigh of inevitability.

We continued to huff a bit but didn’t even get to the point of puffing, let alone blowing houses down. In fact even when we huffed, we fucked that up too.

Shall I summarise?

Plus points: the final whistle was quite cool.

Minus points: Everything pretty much. You name it, it was shit.

The referee’s a: To be honest didn’t notice him. There was a point when everyone in the Chemflow was shouting at him but I think that was more out of boredom than anything else.

Point to ponder: 5 league games without a win? I have made no secret my support for Ardley and that I want him to remain our manager but this is getting a little dangerous now, isn’t it?

Anything else? Yes, that was shit.

And finally – I promise – a short if not particularly sweet comment from Colin Whitehair:

Best forgotten

If you’ve gone through all that without losing the will to live, congratulations. You’ve earnt a prize, which is a new stadium by about 2018.

It shouldn’t have been like this, should it? I was genuinely pissed off that I committed to do Fulham v Brentford, which makes the fact I got the better deal out of it even worse.

Let’s not pretend otherwise – this result and performance has really spoilt this last couple of days. It should have been the perfect performance to end the perfect few days.

Instead, it feels like we organised a homecoming party, the main invited guest got drunk, shat over the newly laid carpet and spent the rest of the evening calling us cunts.

There’s a lot of anger even now, as the amount of people who did – or offered – to write me something testifies. And there’s the usual frustration after yet another predictable game.

But I sense there’s something there’s something deeper to this now, which ironically sprung from the events of last Thursday – resentment.

I use that word because in this, the weekend where we really deserved the performance of the season, we got spat in the face instead.

I watched the goals on SSN this morning, inbetween writing about how shit Fulham’s set piece defending is, and it seemed pretty much par for the course for so long.

But the real bitterness right now isn’t so much the game itself, but the aftermath. Firstly, NA didn’t turn up to the post-match interview.

Now, he isn’t contractually obliged to – the club has to put somebody up, and it happens at other clubs too. But this was the sort of result where he should have fronted up, and gritted his teeth even more than normal.

It wouldn’t have been ideal, and it may not have been particularly convincing. But at least it would have been right of him to do so, and he would have been respected for it.

Instead, he remained in the changing room, and wasn’t seen mingling afterwards. Mind you, he wasn’t alone – the big bone of contention seems to be the MOTM presentation, or lack of it.

It went to Francombe, but he didn’t go up on stage to collect it. Instead, NC came up, and by all accounts dropped our loanee keeper in it.

As opposed to our loanee keeper, who just drops it full stop.

Even so, it’s a pretty piss poor way of conducting things – we all know McDonnell should have been given a shot, we all know Wilson isn’t quite up to it. But that’s just bad man-management, and it doesn’t improve anyone’s mood.

So, why didn’t Francombe go up and at least face the music? The players Xmas party, that’s why. In Manchester. With the train to Piccadilly at 6pm, so they couldn’t stay behind, apparently.

Just let that all sink in for a moment. Firstly, why Manchester? If we were playing at t’Stanley, or Morecambe, or elsewhere up North, then it would make sense.

But we were playing in London.

And I doubt if there’s anything up there you couldn’t get down here in t’Smoke. Indeed, you just know when our lot went up to MCR, they probably went into Nando’s then onto the Printworks** by Manchester Victoria….

** – I’d better explain that the Printworks is a “music and dining complex” which is frequented by yonners from the Mancunian equivalents of Crawley and Luton. I only drunk in it once, and once was enough. Our lot would think it’s wonderful.

If you win, you can get away with it. But Bassey (who didn’t go up with them – tellingly?) said afterwards that we lacked desire. So why did we not have it, this of all weeks?

Reading those comments again, it sounds quite concerning in terms of communication. I’m sure I’ve read this sort of thing before:

It only gets sorted on the training ground. I am sure we will analyse the game and have a meeting with the players to make our points heard. I am sure the players have been left in no uncertain terms that it was not a Wimbledon performance that we want to see again.”

It doesn’t sound good in isolation anyway, so when you read this and you’re not surprised, that’s when it starts getting worrying. How many times can you bawl out the players on the training ground before they finally stop listening?

I’m not going to single out NA, or the players, because both deserve it equally. But we seem to have the same problem as Louis van Gaal has at Yernited right now – a lot of money (pro rata) has been spent, and it hasn’t come off.

And because of that expectation, the problems become a lot more magnified as a result.

Of course, Yernited cancelled their Xmas party after Wolfsburg, because it wouldn’t have looked good. Our lot couldn’t wait to scarper to theirs…

One thing has become clear this past few days is that we’ve seen the best of AFCW and the worst of it. The best came from all the years of hard work of those off it, often without payment.

The worst came from those who should have professional pride, who should have topped this week’s cake with a cherry. They didn’t so much not read the script, but tore it up, shoved it up their arse and posted a photo of it to Instagram.

And no doubt plenty will be checking various player social media accounts right now to see how much effort they put into last night’s pissup.

There’s definitely a wedge now between those on the field and those off it. Although perhaps “disconnect” is a better term to use.

We saw the first signs of that on Thursday, if anything, when on Twatter Akinfenwa said “what happen?” when somebody asked him comments on our “momentous decision”.

Now, I’m fully aware that pro footballers aren’t the most worldly wise of people, and it might have just been an innocent mistake, but it really pissed off those who saw it. Even from individuals who you wouldn’t normally expect to get riled up by anything football related.

Given the history/culture of AFCW, including the very reason why there’s an AFCW to begin with, it’s always going to go down as well as a bowl of cold sick.

Thankfully, it wasn’t waved away like a dismissive “who cares?”, but when players don’t seem to get why Thursday was the biggest deal of the lot, that’s when the barriers come up.

And when that happens, people don’t bite their tongue as much.

For the avoidance of doubt, NA isn’t going anywhere – he’ll be given January to send a few players “on loan to Woking”, he’ll get the usual younger from Cardiff new players in, and we’ll have a few splutters of life here and there.

But his tenure is starting to look ragged now. It hasn’t kicked on yet, and real questions are now getting asked whether it ever will.

As somebody put it elsewhere whilst I was typing this out, how come Teddy Sheringham has managed to get to grips with L2 in three months, and NA hasn’t in three years?

Previously, SW19 has said that NPL could be a saviour for NA this season, as we’ll be distracted by that and forget about the on-field stuff.

If the reaction after the first bad performance post-announcement is to go by, I might have to have second thoughts.

I guess that’s because there’s a side-of-the-bargain attitude right now. What I mean by that is, off the field we (ie the likes of Erik Samuelson) have done exactly our bit to help AFCW along.

Because of that hard work, and because of that emotional energy (and money as well), we expect that in return from those who are in charge of the football.

When we feel like we’re getting short changed, we’re no longer likely to push it aside and forget about it. If we’d taken the same approach to NPL as the current players and manager have to winning games, the site would have been awarded to the doggers.

And you can’t keep saying NA is still learning as a manager any more, that he has a miniscule budget. Neither of those are true.

Equally, you can’t say this still isn’t *his* team. At some point, there needs to be a bit of proper responsibility, beyond the usual platitudes.

No, he won’t leave before this summer at least, but barring massive improvement it’s only going to get more uncomfortable from now on. For both players and management staff, and you can’t claim either wouldn’t deserve it.

Things have changed at AFCW since Thursday at 2235, probably forever. There’s a new sense of purpose off the field, because NPL is no longer an abstract concept.

There’s a lot that has been swept under the carpet that will now need to be sorted out one way or t’other. And that extends to stuff on the field of play…