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Goodbye to 2017

Yes, I know it’s not actually 2018 yet.

Given that there was so much hoo-hah about Harry Kane’s goalscoring record in 2017, and not a proper football season, I guess we can look at the calendar year ourselves…

To be blunt, this past 12 months hasn’t been a very good one at AFCW. OK, the 13th December will equal (and surpass) everything else, but otherwise it’s been a period to forget.

The awful goalscoring record, the negative tactics and interviews, two poor transfer windows and an all-round sinking feeling hasn’t made this a particularly good year, on-field at least.

One could argue it’s just the past fifteen years catching up with us, and the plateauing of the club was always inevitable.

But that doesn’t excuse the one big mistake in 2017, which has led to the (long) list of things that aren’t right at AFCW – we’ve tried to keep this club ticking over, and we’re not developed enough as an organisation to do that.

AFCW needs to keep evolving, to “grow up” in more ways than one. Instead, we had the attitude this year that we didn’t need to change too much…

True, NPL took our eye off the ball, and its financial demands will dictate things to a certain extent for a while to come. But that’s only part of what the club now needs to keep doing, and it’s almost forgotten that it’s a football club first and foremost.

There’s going to be plenty of opportunities to talk about what direction we need to be going in for a good while, and all that you’ve just read is simply just a glorified mid-term report. Tomorrow is another day, and it just so happens to be another year.

Tomorrow is also the start of the January transfer window opening, and it can’t get unbolted soon enough. Never has the need for such an opportunity to change things arisen.

Before we begin, this isn’t the most important window of the AFCW era. That belonged to January 2013, where the stakes were so much higher. Our fate this season at worst will simply be back to L2.

I don’t particularly want relegation, and the club should be very careful what it wishes for, but plenty of teams have gone from the third tier to the bottom one and come out of it. Though almost without exception, they’ve done so with a totally changed ethos…

So, what do we need to do? The big target man up front is the obvious one, and it seems to have been belatedly accepted by the management team. Many also suggest that we need creativity in midfield, although I’d also suggest that we might need to look at at least one full-back.

Whether it happens or whether it doesn’t, we will have to wait for up to a month to find out. What’s very clear is this – we’re going to need to move quickly, because things need to change now.

OK, we’re not going to get somebody new in at 0001 GMT this evening, although I bet somebody somewhere is going to do exactly that. They certainly won’t be available for tomorrow, and in truth we don’t require them to be in our colours until Franchise.

But we have to take risks now. We don’t have the luxury (?) of waiting until the window shuts, although circumstances may dictate that’s what we have to do.

It’s a self-inflicted wound, of course. We are buyers in a sellers market, for that is what the January transfer window is. It’s a great time to get rid of your deadwood to teams who are desperate, and you get more money than you otherwise would.

Don’t believe me? I give you Banjo “Byron” Harrison, who we somehow convinced Cheltenham into signing.

The shoe is on the other hand now, and in the particular area of the big target man it’s probably the worst position to need to fill at the worst possible time.

The chances of us signing a Barnett-esque dud is unfortunately quite high. Firstly, our league position will put many potential signings off – if you’re, say, a striker in the lower reaches of L2 but you’re decent enough, why would you sign for a club that is possibly going to be in that division next year anyway?

While the wages will help make a decision if you’re genuinely wavering, footballers aren’t accountants – contrary to popular belief, they don’t always base everything they do on money…

Strikers are the most high demand in terms of position anyway. As we know, they’re the most vital player you can have because without one you’re in a world of shit. As a result, they’re the most costly to buy.

It’s not so bad in the summer, where there’s a lot of talent out there without a club. Every signing is not a guaranteed success, and clubs do get it wrong (usually the ones with the inferior scouting/recruitment), but there’s a reason why you should avoid having to get a new striker in January.

We are going to have to pay more than we should do for somebody else’s cast-offs. We’re desperate, and other clubs know it…

So our best bet may well be a Tubbs/Michael Smith-esque loan signing – if nothing else, if we do go down at least we won’t have them on the wage bill by the summer.

Even just a young talent that gets some goals and makes some difference may suffice this campaign. We’re in needs-must territory now, just as it’s far more important to get scabby wins rather than the usual play-well-and-lose approach.

We are still 50/50 to stay up, if only because most of the division is a much of a muchness (which will make relegation more difficult to swallow because it’s 99% our own fault if we do). Gaps can be closed quite quickly.

But we won’t do that unless we change things. Yesterday at Gillingham sounded like the same old, same old. We clearly rely on Forrester, and we’ll be in real shit if we don’t add a backup to Taylor/McDonald running themselves in the ground and/or getting sussed out.

All this is written with the knowledge that players can depart as well as come in. The decent players we do have are vulnerable here, because Forrester isn’t guaranteed to be around this time next month by the sound of it.

The likes of Taylor and Darius could be tempted away with a waft of cash and better prosperity for next season, and the only loyalty in football is from those who pay to watch the game.

Ideally, you’d let the likes of Robbo and at least one of the Three Wardrobes go, although just like us and loaning a striker – a team needing a player lower down may not afford (or want to pay) the full whack.

This all said and done, nobody quite knows what is going to happen. One suspects, for all the bluster of loyalty to our current manager, us still struggling in March and the very real threat of relegation may focus minds after all.

Panic is a strange emotion, it makes people do things they wouldn’t necessarily do.

As for 2017, like a lot of things at AFCW, it won’t be missed once it’s gone. We just have to make sure that we don’t repeat 2018 in the same manner.

See you tomorrow. Or next year, if you prefer…