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Groundhog Day

AKA your editor tries and write something that hasn’t been said or scribed in the last nine months…

By now, you’ve probably all used that “Insanity” description to describe things at AFCW. You know what it is, although you may not know that it’s likely Einstein never actually said it.

Eventually, however, things change. After Merton College 3 Merton Council 0, the worm is finally turning.

For me to describe the match will simply just require cutting and pasting from so many games this campaign and the last one too. To be fair, we actually started off all right. Not particularly special, but all right.

Then they scored, and it was practically game over.

OK, we had a few corners and we even managed to make their keeper save a header. But while I only sporadically go to fixtures, I sensed something changing in front of my eyes – and not in a good way either.

Yes, our tactics are awful. Yes, NA’s post-game comments are (deliberately?) missing out the stats that really matter. Yes, our transfer dealings have been beyond dire. And yes, we’re going down to League Two unless something fundamental changes.

But on Saturday, I felt the players were playing within themselves.

I don’t mean they’re not going to put 100% on the field (though as we all know, that’s not always 100% the case). But a foot doesn’t get put in when it otherwise might have done, or a cross is delivered badly when usually it wouldn’t be.

More and more fans have had enough. And one now has to think the players are pissed off as well.

If you want to talk about turning points, perhaps it was after Gills/Blackburn? Think about how the shackles were off after our manager yet again phoned up the sports shrink. Hell, he even admitted it himself, that once again he was being too overbearing and interfering.

Think of how free we looked against Gills in particular. OK, we drew against the third team even shittier than we are, but it gave you hope that with just a bit more luck in front of goal, and a bit more concentration at the back, we would be comfortably mid table.

See, even now I don’t think we’re a bad collection of players. We’re not a team by any stretch, and even if we battled hard every game we’ve still got big problems.

But since Blackburn, the shackles have come back on again, the overbearing, micromanagement style has returned on steroids, and the stats that are actually relevant speak for themselves.

And if you’re a player, why would you bother any more? Sure, professional pride, and all that, but you just know that if there was a change in ethos, it wouldn’t last too long anyway.

It has to be very demoralising to get forced to play in a system that is clearly failing, to then get the chance with a new approach that you clearly like, then get pinned down and get the ball-and-chain put on you again.

Perhaps that’s why the players just do what they’re told, regardless of how badly thought out it is? It’s just easier to put your head down and plan to leave the club whenever you get the first opportunity.

To quote after the game, when they’re going forward they’re not thinking of attacking but instead having to think about the shape. Won’t say who said it, but put it this way – if that’s the view throughout the whole squad, shit is about to get real.

Not just for the immediate short term, but longer term as well. See, players gossip. They’ll happily blab to other pros, and other former team-mates about what life is really like at AFCW. Chances are they’ll advise anyone we look at in the next transfer window not to sign for us, and not just for the wages.

And indeed, why would you join this club in January, if things don’t change and you do your research beforehand? You don’t exactly get better playing for us, you’re judged more on your ability on the training ground rather than 3pm on a Saturday.

And Satan help you if you’re even remotely creative or you’re a free thinker…

I think we’re at the stage where it’s a case of when, not if things come to a head. There’s still enough people who hope Ardley turns it around, but one suspects deep down they know he won’t.┬áNot to any significant degree, anyway.

Plus points: Parrett and Barcham looked lively.

Minus points: [cut and paste everything from about November 2016]

The referee’s a…: Was kind enough to blow the full time whistle to allow us to stop suffering.

Them: Never got out of second gear, and in truth never needed to.

Like many teams, they weren’t significantly better than us, but they have a gameplan that works and players who are at least au fait with it.

There was always the sense, even when it was 1-0, that if we had performed a miracle and actually scored, they would have perked into life and put a couple past us in quick succession.

In some ways, they must have been like L2-era AFC Wimbledon (two seasons ago, not 2018/19) when we failed to put away the bottom feeder because of concentration lapses.

The Kassam is still the same as ever, and the whole banners thing up their end still feels try-hard. I imagine a night game in a big cup game where the crowd are behind them could be quite an experience though.

Point to ponder: So, who is going to stand up to our current management team and call them out over their bullshit?

I noted over the weekend that mentions of THAT St Evenage game were made, along with the intriguing conclusion that we’ve gone beyond that. One or two have mentioned Crawley and Newport away too, where the senior pros pointed their fingers at Ardley and said “No more”.

At a time when we need somebody with bollocks, where is that going to come from this time around?

Those here on loan won’t be doing it, and they’re not going to. Any youngster who does it is likely going to be sent on loan to Woking. Of the senior pros, a couple I could mention will be praying NA stays on because they may otherwise get challenged themselves.

Anyone else? I mentioned player power above, although it’s going to be more like a death from a thousand cuts rather than an outright calling-out.

You can forget fan power changing things, in case you haven’t noticed. The board? Fuck knows what they’re doing, although it’s well known they dream of NA leading us out at NPL. So they’ll probably give him a new deal regardless.

Remember that the powers-that-be are notoriously very slow to act over situations like this, although it’s their reputation for competence on the line too (especially as our new ground seems to have hit an s106 impasse and a growing sense that something is wrong behind the scenes).

But somebody with clout needs to speak out, and now. They may have done already, of course, in which case it hasn’t worked – if anything, things have become more entrenched, as though a siege mentality has taken over.

And not in a good way, either.

Doing nothing when something is fucked is a dangerous game to play, especially as the begging bowl gets shoved under our noses every November/December anyway.

Mind you, it’s hard to see anything changing without some kind of a) upheaval or b) undermining NA. Even putting a Shaun North type figure in will do the latter if he then starts telling our current manager what he’s doing wrong.

But then, that’s the situation we’re in. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, although that’s entirely self-inflicted…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The fan who got put in his place when he went full-on psycho over Francomb. 2) Mind you, the same people people openly supporting George weren’t nearly so supportive of Cody McDonald… 3) The amusement arcade by the ground. Should have stayed in there, really.

Anything else? We can talk about indictments all day long, and how bad things are right now. But even if you stick your head in the sand with everything else, this next bit should chill you as to how far things have fallen.

When people are talking about how we need to lose games, or get tonked just to force something to change, that’s when you know we’re in real trouble.

I had a couple of pre-game conversations along those lines (and no, none of this was me saying this), and it practically goes against every sensibility of football supporting. Wanting us to win is almost as natural as breathing, right?

But it’s true. No, they won’t admit it in public, or on t’internet, but it’s a genuinely held belief amongst a growing number of people. The same happened in the dying days of the TB era as well, and it’s not that unusual at other clubs in clusterfuck mode.

You can argue about the merits of sacking Ardley, or keeping him on, and the list of the former will be a lot bigger than the latter now. That’s only natural in the situation we’re in.

When you’re having doubts about whether you even want to have three points, just because it will keep things the same, that’s a whole new level of discontent. It’s quite a sacrifice, because winning games is a nice feeling.

Beating Blackburn made for a nice weekend. Beating Scunthorpe last season was nice. Beating Franchise in March was, well, a bit more than a nice Tuesday evening. And yes, I’m struggling with listing many other victories we’ve had in 2017.

Northampton on Saturday should be a slam dunk, even for our useless cunts. In fact, NA himself has to be extremely lucky that not only is he at a club where he gets chance after chance, even when he doesn’t deserve it, but two out of the next three games are against sides even shittier than we are.

Winning at Sixfields should be a nice feeling, but in many cases it won’t be – it’s just delaying what is increasingly the inevitable. We all know that we will revert to type against Charlton, or Oldham, or Brizzle Rovers, unless something drastic and far-reaching happens.

I mentioned just now about similar feelings abounding in the TB era, and when we lost to Torquay it felt like a relief as there was no credible way back. Should we lose on Saturday, it will feel quite similar for a lot of people, especially as it’s half an eye on the long term health of the club.

Many others will condemn it for lack of faith/loyalty, but is that the case? Football supporting comes in many different forms, and blind loyalty is often one of the worst ways to support a club.

There may be such a thing as being a “true fan”, but it does not equal being a sycophant.

And yes, your editor has a lot of sympathy and understanding for people taking an almost heretical viewpoint on matters right now. Contrary to popular belief, I love winning games and the post-game glow it gives off.

But at this moment in time, I don’t blame anyone for wanting a negative outcome at games to change things. After all, it’s not their fault they’ve been pushed into thinking that…

So, was it worth it? *snorts*

In a nutshell: That ticking sound is getting a lot louder.