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Losing to Franchise. Does your weekend get worse than that?

Oddly enough, I didn’t get tons of emails with everyone offering their $0.02 on Friday evening. Funny that. STTA put his in though, and his thoughts are below:

I’m not going to write about our performance, it wasn’t bad in parts but against those cunts it’s really only the result that matters.

I’m not going to write how we’ve won anyway despite the result, because we’ve done it the right way. I’ve heard all that shit too many times and it means fuck all after losing 2-0 to them at home.

What I am going to write is that franchise fc reminded me more of a Wimbledon team than we did. Not an easy sentence to type that, but it’s true.

They were stronger, fitter, hungry to win the game and their players towered over ours (as it seems every opposition team do this season). Their defence looked well drilled and their midfield were tireless in getting back to create a wall we couldn’t break through.

In short they were committed to the cause.

So why weren’t we? I hear Neal say we gave everything – bit worrying in itself that when we came up so far short in what was one of the most important fixtures in the calendar.

To be blunt we’ve got 1 or 2 players who don’t cut it in games like this any more and plenty of others who don’t look very Wimbledon-like. A real shame Nightingale wasn’t fit for selection because he understands what the fixture means in a way I don’t think some of those who played ever will.

Do I think those players are having the depressing weekend we all are? Some of them yes, probably those who have been at the club a few years.

But there are others who I don’t think give a toss, they are seeing their careers out in South London and don’t really get why it’s different to any other league fixture.

So there are a few I’m beginning to have my doubts about but I’m not going to get on our manager’s back for his recruitment or the position we find ourselves in.

This summer was always going to be his toughest transfer window. Firstly because the average spend of League 1 clubs increased significantly when the likes of Pompey, Plymouth and Donny arrived in the league.

Secondly Neal and his management team had to try and replace Jake Reeves and Tom Elliot. Hard to replace but also hard to swallow when you’ve developed them into our 2 best players.

The contract situation with Tom was unfortunate but he would have gone anyway as Jake did, a small fee wouldn’t have made a material difference to our finances.

Neal has very little control over our budget, it’s certainly not his fault we have always been a selling club and will remain that way.

So every time he develops a player that’s key to his side he risks losing them, how many of us would put up with that in our job….. dust ourselves down and start looking for the next project? Very few I’d guess without feeling a little bit bitter at what we’d lost.

But dust himself off he did and made a number of very good signings. George Long was a coup and only achieved through Neal’s relationship with Chris Wilder. Deji is an excellent addition who only returned because of his history with Neal and the club, similarly Kwesi Appiah.

How many other clubs would like the services of Kwesi and Harry Forrester, plenty…. but we’ve got them.

The one recruitment failure was the target man and this is a stick Neal’s going to be beaten with until January, mostly by fans who are unable to come up with more constructive criticism or suggestions based on what we have got.

Neal wanted Michael Smith. The reality is the deal was never quite right. We may well have been used to up the ante to his final destination and in the mean time we were less focused on other targets. It’s a seriously competitive market and sometimes you lose out.

We could have settled for another Tyrone Barnett type just to have a lump but most of us who sat through his performances last season would have preferred we did without and kept the £100k a year in the bank, so let’s not complain when we do exactly that.

The bad news is we won’t be getting Tom Elliot back in January. The good news is that contrary to rumours elsewhere our benefactors remain very supportive of the club and I’m sure there will be help towards a suitable alternative in January if one becomes available.

So if we’re not sacking the manager and we’re not able to change the squad for now what can we do to improve things?

I’d like to see some minor changes in how we manage the squad and how we help Neal.

The most damning statistics I’ve read in the aftermath of Friday are these: In that last 18 games we have recorded 13 blanks, and we are bottom of the Football League for goals scored this season (5)

If Simon Bassey is responsible for coaching the strikers he needs some help. We’re not the type of club to start wielding the axe but surely someone with experience of scoring goals would be a useful addition to our coaching staff.

Our goalkeepers have an ex-keeper so why don’t our strikers have an ex-striker?

The other change I’d like to see is someone to help Neal. Not Harry (who at 73 should be left in peace to enjoy his retirement) but someone with experience to question the formation we are using (you know the one he’s rigidly sticking to despite the fact we don’t play it successfully) and to give tactical advice during games.

Alan Reeves was in the dugout Friday night so maybe this is already in hand. The period we had Shaun North as U21 boss I think he provided a useful second pair of eyes on matchdays but we’ve had nobody similar since. If Reeves is stepping into that role I think it’s an excellent move.

In the longer term I would like to see us return to a traditional Wimbledon style, both in how we recruit and how we play. Instead of the Millwall old boys network bring in players who are keen to earn a career or have come up through the youth ranks and have motivation to do well built in.

Plus points: Darius is back. Barcham. We are not in the relegation places. We have some real quality in the squad. We have a manager who will give everything he’s got to keep us up and continue to progress the club.

Minus points: Our lack of goals. Kwesi’s hamstring. 4-3-3. The potential hangover from this result.

Point to ponder: as I mentioned in my last piece the concern about this squad is the probability of injuries and I wonder if that’s what might send us back to League 2. I’ve no doubt our first XI could accumulate enough points to stay up but I’m not sure the squad can.

As Darius finally returns Kwesi departs and if we continue to have to play without 2 or 3 of our first choice players through the season I think a relegation scrap awaits. As to whether we are Wimbledon-like enough to battle our way through it ….. the jury’s out.

Truth is stranger than fiction: what genius at the EFL decided it would be a good idea to go into battle on the franchise use of the name Dons? And to say our actions ‘create the potential for unrest amongst MK Dons supporters’ is frankly breathtaking.

But does now put the EFL in a position where the franchise use of the name ‘Dons’ and the effect on supporters (of both clubs) is open for discussion.

I happen to know for a fact that we are very up for the fight on this one. I’ll say no more but in the months ahead I wonder whether the EFL might look back and wish they never opened this particular can of worms.

Anything else: I’ll leave the cringey rallying calls to get behind the team to our Facebook crowd but I will suggest a bit of empathy for a fellow Wimbledon supporter, the one who happens to be our manager.

He will be feeling personally responsible for every Wimbledon fan’s shit weekend, on top of his own disappointment at losing the game.

So was it worth it: we’ll have better nights

In a nutshell: life goes on

A few things : firstly, we’ll see if Reeves has moved to the proverbial front line on Tuesday – annoyingly, the LSC is the same evening as Sarfend, although I wonder how many will be going to that instead of Essex?

If he is, I think it’s a very good move as it’s clear we need some fresher ideas coming from the bench. You know what they say about doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

After Tuesday, we’ll have reached the ten game stage, and to be fair it’s been, well……. underwhelming. Not underwhelming enough to publicly hang NA, but enough to keep the questions about him rolling on.

A cursory look at the L1 table suggests that amazingly there are five teams below us who manage to be even shittier than we are. OK, it doesn’t help there are four relegation spots in L1, and you can never rely on other teams, but we’d still be safe if the season ended now.

What is clear is that our aim until January is to ensure we’re not totally adrift. If we’re where we are now by the time we’ve gone to Priestfield, I think we can count ourselves fortunate.

I note the comments about not having a target man, and TBH I’m not entirely convinced NA was after one anyway. True, I don’t doubt we wanted Smith, but I don’t believe we couldn’t have got somebody in.

Even Barnett would be an improvement right now, and I’m not saying that lightly. But then, I suppose it’s proven what a bad decision it was not to go with one.

And yes, NA is going to continue getting beaten with that particular stick, because it is a bad miscalculation. He may get away with it until January, he may not, but this is League One and not La Liga.

We will need to get one in as soon as the window opens, because if we go into February without one…

Kwesi’s injury doesn’t sound good, although it might force us into a change in formation that could end up working well. Taylor really doesn’t look happy being shoved out to the side, and it doesn’t do his confidence any good.

I could go on about on-field matters, but after the EFL statement yesterday I don’t think you’ll pay any attention to it.

It’s all very petty really, and even a couple of the battle hardened hacks at Reading yesterday (and the bloke on Five Live, apparently) were shaking their heads at it. Our club statement** was suitably terse.

** – as an aside, the very phrase “club statement” goes alongside “newsflash” or “news report” in its seriousness. Admittedly, when I first saw it I thought NA had walked, though I read ours before the EFL statement and thought somebody had encroached onto the pitch.

Before I go on, I’ll have my non-AFCW hat on at some points in the next section. Be warned, and no – the comments section is still closed until we play a proper team again. So you can’t abuse me any more than normal 😉

So, what have we actually done that’s upset the EFL and Franchise? At the moment, we don’t know – it’s important to remember that at this stage, we haven’t been charged with anything and it’s just us getting asked for our observations.

And that can mean anything. Just mentioning “MK” on the scoreboard? Technically, we couldn’t put “Milton Keynes Dons” on it anyway, because it wouldn’t fit. And you’d be surprised how many other scoreboards often don’t have the name of the opposition on it.

Not mentioning their goalscorers? Again, there are a few grounds where that doesn’t happen, so if we’re going to get done for something like that there’ll be quite a few in the dock with us.

Making their players/directors/customers have to go through the back entrance? There’s mitigating circumstances for that, I guess the police and the local authority would have a massive say in our defence, and besides – we know that KM isn’t suitable for something like this.

I believe that we have an arrangement with Franchise over this, albeit one that is mired in deep distrust.

Was it a tweet, as R5 apparently suggested? Perhaps, although we wouldn’t be the first club to ever get done under social media.

I note that these regulations that the EFL mention are new, and I don’t doubt they came in partly because of the first time we met them at KM. Although I suspect it’s as much to do with more social media about these days generally.

Was it the programme? This might be the reason behind it. I don’t buy it any more, and haven’t for a number of years, but not putting their designed-by-a-retarded-seven-year-old crest on the front cover isn’t going to go un-noticed for too long.

It’s one of those very petty rules that only a blazered official could ever come up with, just as it is the mandatory handshakes before games and having biscuits in the directors bit beforehand.

Something else entirely? We’ll find out eventually. Maybe.

The reaction from our fans is as you’d expect, and the “creating the potential for unrest amongst MK Dons supporters” comment seems to really rile people.

The thing is, and I warned you I have my non-AFCW hat on, I’m surprised we managed to get away with what we did after March this year without getting called up upon it. We’ve obviously done similar on Friday, and this time we’ve got the phone call from the EFL.

I’m in no doubt we’ll fight it if charged, and we’ll have a ton of very interesting stuff to throw in. I pay no attention to what happens in a big London-overspill town in Buckinghamshire that has tons of roundabouts and some shit concrete cows, but apparently their use of the “Dons” name is equally contentious there as well.

So yeah, I fully expect some embarrassing (and more serious) stuff to come out in the wash. We’ll use it as a rallying cry, “We Are Wimbledon” and all that, and we’ll make our point well known again.

And after all is said and done, and when the dust settles, I’ll expect we’ll get a slap on the wrist, a suspended fine, a reminder of our responsibilities and a stern message from the EFL to drop the student politics act.

Will we comply? Yes we will, because it’s easier to piss our own fanbase off than the EFL. It will be under duress, and it will feed the slightly paranoid “the EFL are out to get us” stuff that some fans love to cling to.

You can certainly make your point against a football governing body, and sometimes you can make them backtrack a bit, but ultimately you don’t actually win against them. They hold the rulebook, and everyone knows it.

By “comply”, I mean we’ll still continue to do the absolute bare minimum against them we have to, although that has since been beefed up. They’ll still never be welcomed, and they know it.

And not putting their badge on the cover etc may make us feel better, but it’s probably the last time we can do this. It’s run its course in its effectiveness, I’m not quite sure who we’re aiming the point towards now, and the brutal truth is – in the wider outside footballing world, few give much of a shit about AFC Wimbledon v Franchise these days.

The first game was everything, the first time we played them in the League was something else, and your editor remembers the phone calls from national newspaper sports desks when we went above them in L1.

And the game at KM in March was the cathartic moment.

Friday was quite anti-climatic in a lot of ways, I’m told that it wasn’t nearly as intense as that game in March, and deep down we’ve know we’ve moved on to an extent.

Indeed, your editor wrote on Friday how “normal” it seemed, and if you told me I was watching Northampton or Bury instead of Franchise, I would genuinely believe you.

Calling them “Milton Keynes Dons” will undeniably rankle, and losing to them will ruin more than your weekend, but that’s just typical of a grudge match now. Whoever loses the Sheffield derby today will be in the same bad mood as we have been since Friday, so our suffering is not unique.

The club itself is in the metaphorical puberty years right now, minus I assume the excess wanking. That change to the footballing equivalent of adulthood is going to be a difficult transition for many. To quote an Americanism, this isn’t your grandfather’s AFC Wimbledon any more.

Of course, none of this will have mattered if we’d beaten those cunts on Friday…