At least we only have one more game left.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect anyone to do some scribing for the Bradford game. So you can thank Reigate Womble for the following…
On a very enjoyable weekend visiting a friend from university in Saltaire, there was a minor distraction between 15.00 and 17.00 on Saturday afternoon. Other than that, Saltaire is a beautiful place, and there beer is good too.
I was hardly expecting miracles on Saturday, but to continue our goalless April run and still looking like we won’t bag a goal until next August, I didn’t think we would be that bad!
It was a nice day in Yorkshire, sun was shining, the venue impressive, and you just hoped if it would be the Wimbledon of old that could churn out one last impressive away performance before we finally put this season to bed.
It was merely a hope. Scrambles in our box within the first minute or so were a sign of things to come, and we never got going… ever.
An uneventful first 25-30 minutes was interrupted with a Bradford penalty, and whilst many of our fans would feel hard done by, it only brought forward the inevitable.
Meades did try and tackle from behind, whilst he did get the ball, the player also went down and from the referee’s angle he thought it was a penalty. Macca got close, but it wasn’t enough. 1-0 Bantams.
The rest of the half-played out, with a late challenge from a Bradford player on Meades saw his withdrawal and only a yellow for the tackle. Again, Wimbledon fans feeling even more incensed.
Just as we were expecting to hear the halftime whistle, down our left-hand side, a Bradford player brought down Barcham whilst still on the floor, the ball ran loose and Mark Marshall (Bradford’s MOTM- I don’t know how) mishit his cross and I still can’t work how it ended up in the net… somehow past Macca at the near post.
That was that, 2-0 at half time, no way really back for Wimbledon and plenty of abuse aimed at the ref.
As a side note, whilst the ref wasn’t great on Saturday and chants were ringing out at half-time “We always get s*** refs”, he wasn’t to blame for our abject performance and in all honesty, I don’t think the refs have had significant bearings on results for us this season.
The second half saw the introduction of Poleon, with Charles withdrawn. Poleon had about one run down the wing which one a corner, and other than that, was about as effective as Tom Soares, who I noticed about as much on Saturday as when he’s playing!
I do wonder if Poleon will still be here next year. I’ve been very unimpressed since the turn of the year and NA’s post-match comments were scathing and should rattle a few complacent players seeing out the season.
The inevitable third without reply went in, again at Macca’s near post and although it was a free run in at goal, it did seem soft.
The full-time whistle went and again, we went home without a hint of anything positive to take away.
It was comforting to read NA’s post-match comments. He has been very defensive of his players since Christmas and quashed any rumours after Peterborough that they were in holiday mode. It seemed yesterday, all that defence came to an end.
“I have a big job in the summer. I have a bit of clearing out to do, but I have to take responsibility. This is my squad that I’ve put together and today has shown that we are far short of the best teams in League One.”
That’s a sign he’s not happy, and Saturday may have been the final straw for his defence of his players. We never looked like scoring bar an occasional run down the wing with no end product. We haven’t won since home against Rochdale, and that was against 10 men!
What next for NA?
I’m semi-optimistic reading his post-match comments. They show he is aware of how poor we have generally been since Christmas and maybe he has been defending his players to prevent any crisis, whilst in the background planning for the summer and the need to rebuild.
The issue is, does the squad require major surgery? Comments on SW19 the other week mentioned limited rebuilding needed. Maybe this was the sign we need more.
If NA were to cull severely I could see any one of the players on the list below go as they haven’t performed at a high enough level, if at all featured, since January:
Poleon, Whelpdale, Francomb, Bulman, Barnett, Oakley, Fitzpatrick, Kelly, Robertson – some could even stretch that to include Meades and Soares.
I don’t think NA would be that severe in his cull, but looking at the above list, he signed quite a few of them last summer… and how many of them are on two year deals?
This summer’s recruitment needs to be spot on. My big question mark is what we do with the GK situation. Shea is a good League 2 keeper at most. He’s been ok this year, but is still prone to mistakes.
He will be on more money than Macca and Macca could do a back-up keeper role from what I’ve seen in the last three games.
Anyway, time to enjoy one more pint of Saltaire blonde before heading back home. How we could do with a win next Saturday, even if it means nothing positionally, just to know what it feels like again!
I’ll admit that I only read NA’s post match comments this morning, and yes – they’re pretty scathing of the squad. Somehow, a tether’s end got reached over the weekend…
Not that I blame our manager for bawling out players who – let’s be blunt – have absolutely shit the fucking bed after the Franchise game. You can tell how things have fallen when you read the result and you’re not surprised one bit.
It’s odd that we’ve gone from a squad that would likely stay up again quite comfortably next season to suddenly needing to get torn apart and starting again.
Which makes you wonder what all this is really about. Yes, it’s been awful since 14/3/17. Yes, we’re finding out we need to sort out the Tom Elliott situation, and bring in a good replacement if need be.
Yes, we’ve switched off and played like we were already getting pissed in Las Vegas for the last month. And yes, as STTA said a week or two back, we are paying in part for such a truncated close season in 2016.
But something has gone wrong, and quite badly at that.
It could simply be a case of a collection of players that has got to this stage, safety in L1, and needs to be broken up now. It does happen quite a bit with squads that need changing, that all of a sudden, they nosedive.
There’s a similarity in some ways to our first season in the Conference, when we were finding out the hard way that being part time was killing us. Going professional was the best thing we did back then, even if it required some immediate changes of plan.
Remember TB’s “live with mum” approach to going pro? That lasted about three weeks IIRC.
What the 2017/18 equivalent of that is remains to be seen. However, it’s clear that this is going to be a busy close season yet again, and it’s not going to be a pretty one for those wanting stability.
But if our current problems aren’t the squad, then what is it? NA himself? Before I go on, he’ll be here next season and has earned the right to be – though of course, no manager is ever entirely safe at any side.
And our current manager is under pressure a bit, which may explain his weekend comments. He’ll be expected to at least match finishing in 15th next season, which isn’t that unreasonable a target for us in truth.
He’ll possibly (if not probably) have to deal with replacing Elliott, and he’s getting brickbats over signing Barnett and Whelpdale recently. Two poor signings, and by the sound of it not cheap ones either.
It’s true that any club can damage itself by just one bad close-season of recruitment. That’s especially applicable to us this next three months, and just looking at Reigate’s “out” list above, a lot of those are players we signed last summer.
Except in the case of Tom Soares, who we signed in January and had been tracking for a good while, apparently.
Tyrone Barnett and Chris Whelpdale are the butt of many jokes. Robertson handled against whoever it was and he’s never been seen since. Soares hasn’t inspired too many, though he needs a proper pre-season with us, and the less said about Ryan Clarke the better.
When you look at it in those terms, we had a very bad transfer record last summer that we managed to get away with. Only Parrett is off the cull list for most people, and perhaps Kelly is the other one many would keep.
The rest honestly wouldn’t be missed, and if we find that certain players are sticking to their contracts and won’t be budged, we’ll be lumbered with some pretty expensive mistakes.
And if there’s one thing our board does not like, it’s drains on our resources. Especially as NPL is going to take ever increasing priority. Perhaps they might be reading NA’s “we’ve not got much money” comment with interest…?
Finally, it probably escaped your notice but Kingstonian played their last game at KM this weekend. And I can sense the collective shrugging of shoulders through my LCD screen already.
I was going to sit down and write a separate article on them, why it’s come to this stage etc etc. Hell, I even thought of a snappy headline – “The Ks Catalogue”. Then I realised that if I was going to do that, I’d lose interest half way through.
And that is a good metaphor for the relationship between AFC Wimbledon and Kingstonian. They’re gone, and I don’t think they’re going to be particularly missed.
It never worked out, did it? Especially considering it should have been a slam dunk of an arrangement, even down to AFCW fans popping to KM to watch the other team there on occasions.
I did the latter thing once. Just once. So did quite a few others, and that tells its own story. A Ks game was a lot different to watching AFCW at the same venue, even back in 2004. Our games were full of life and vitality, theirs were, well, typical non-league really.
There wasn’t much reason to return for a second time, put it that way.
Not that it ever seemed a particularly “warm” relationship, even from the off. Cast your mind back to 2002 and the embryonic stages of what we call AFC Wimbledon. We all remember the Slutton game back then.
But how many of you remember we played Ks at KM three weeks later? In front of 4500? I’m not making that up by the way, and I don’t think I even bothered doing a report for that fixture. But draw your own conclusions as to why nobody remembers it.
I suppose it was always a marriage of convenience and not much more. We needed a decent ground at short notice, Ks were vulnerable after losing KM to Khosla in 2001 (IIRC), and it seemed to fit in.
But there was always a bit of suspicion, especially from those in red and white. Were we taking over and taking their potential support away? Perhaps, but the clientele at a “typical” non-league is a lot different to watching AFCW – those who chose not to watch Ks weren’t likely to go to them, even if we never existed.
Something a lot of non-league clubs that level still find it difficult to put their head around, to this day.
They felt we should have been grateful that KM was available. OK, fine – except we were genuinely looking at Imperial Fields even in the first AFCW season. Who knows how history would have changed if that happened after all?
We would have found somewhere to play eventually. I don’t think they liked us saying that we were giving them a damn good deal, when we finally took over the KM tenancy.
Trust me, we could have been a lot more arsey with them, and there were other potential suitors who wouldn’t have thought twice about kicking them out in 2004…
From our point of view, I think we just got fed up with being constantly blamed by some of their fans. Not all of them, and some do seem to get what’s what, but they seemed to take it as a personal affront when we asked them “what have YOU done to save yourselves?”.
The biggest bugbear from us to them is exactly that. They had fifteen years or so to sort themselves out, to raise money (either through their own efforts, or tying up with local businesses etc) to buy at least some stake in KM, and they didn’t even save enough for a pot to piss in.
Even if they couldn’t buy it outright from us, at least save up enough to go to Chelski (or whoever) and make a business arrangement to remain there with them.
But it’s easier to blame us, I suppose. Hell, I’ve even seen some of them blame their directors for paying us just to look after the pitch post-game.
AFCW fans do like clubs to be self-sufficient, to make good use of any windfall. That’s why there’s an affection with Merstham, or Walton Casuals, or Hartley Witney. Ks don’t fall into that category, if anything it’s totally the opposite.
And that’s why nobody on the blue/yellow side at KM will shed too many tears at their departure.
They’re on their own now, and one suspects their problems are just starting. A cursory glance at their forum (you can find it yourself) suggests there’s a lot of factionalism, some of it pretty poisonous, but they will no longer be our problem.
Will they still exist in ten years time? Who knows? Though I suspect many reading this will answer “who cares?” – while I don’t wish to see any club bar the obvious go to the wall, I feel pretty unsympathetic to them now.
Probably because of these stickers left behind at KM after Saturday. If that’s how some of their “brains” think, then I wouldn’t blame any Ks director for just settling their debts then doing a runner.
Still, if they want to goad us with that, we’ll just put them in with their fellow whingers the doggers and stockies. Perhaps they could all meet up every Saturday, and spend all their time blaming us for their buses being late?
On second thoughts, doing something like that would require a bit of effort and planning. And we all know how bad they are at that…