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A tube of Lockets

Because I’ve done too many Fisherman’s Friend quips on Fleetwood in the past.

So, then. Sunshine. A good away crowd. A crash on the M6. Your editor getting there 20 minutes late (and still getting charged the full £22). Missed chances. A goal. Mass bundle. Holding on. Bodies on the line. A win. That post-victory glow on the five hour return journey.

A perfect away day? Yeah, probably.

It may prove to be untypical of the next nine months, but if initial signs from Syd Little 0 Eddie Large 1 are anything to go by, we’ll be OK this campaign after all.

OK, we may need another striker, perhaps a midfielder before the transfer/loan window shuts, and we have to be less wasteful in front of goal when we get good spells. But there was little else wrong yesterday.

We looked a helluva lot more mobile and energetic, though at times last season even statues moved more than our players. Our defence put more than its fair share of blocks in, and King already seems to be slotting in well.

Decent save he made too.

It’s not quite the “new look” side that the OS headline suggests, I think we started with seven of last season’s squad, but we won because of one of them. Even the Met Police Football Unit’s Twitter feed was quoting “Feed The Pig”, with no hint of irony.

I’ve just seen his goal again on SSN this morning, and yes, we might have had a little bit of luck with a) the deflected cross, and b) the bounce when Piggy touched it. But we deserved it given our play.

Top goonage afterwards by our fans, by the way.

They hit the post and it went out for a goal kick, and I think after that there was a sense it was our day. And while I would have accepted a draw beforehand, it would have felt like a loss if we had.

One thing that was apparent – and very pleasing to see – was that we were looking for that second goal. While there’ll be times this season where we have to shut up shop, we look far better when we have a go.

Wagstaff has a decent shot in him, and he can take a corner quite well. Still got a shit hipster beard though.

The players themselves looked happier when the shackles were off, so to speak. Mind you, they looked a contented bunch afterwards – obviously, it’s a decent away win, but there’s a good vibe already…

So, what? Well, we’re not going to properly find out how good we are until we play Bradford on the 2nd October. By then, everyone will have settled down and we’ll see what our resolve is like after a setback or two.

We can enjoy yesterday, but we shouldn’t get carried away by it just yet. We won our first game in TB’s ill fated last season, lest we forget.

But things do feel a little bit different this time round. I remember going to Fleetwood last season, albeit with a couple more games under our belt, and writing this:

This was your editor’s first league game of the season, and one thing struck me about AFCW.

Something feels wrong

We’re so disjointed it’s untrue. The system, whatever it is, just doesn’t seem to work – the players can’t seem to settle into it, and I hate to bring out the PSFs again, but they’re looking more and more badly planned now the proper games are in full swing.

I wasn’t wrong, was I? But I didn’t get that foreboding premonition yesterday, and that’s definitely a promising sign already.

False dawn? Hope not. Decent season ahead? Maybe, maybe not. But we’re back in competitive action, and it doesn’t feel horrible…

Plus points: We won. Clean sheet. Decent all-round performance. Good defending. Piggy’s goal. Having somebody who can actually cross the ball.

Minus points: Only one goal. The realisation this is how we should have approached last pre-season.

The referee’s a…: Booked Appiah for a tackle then failed to caution a Fleetwood player for something worse. That said, given our #9’s injury record, he was probably booking him for almost crocking himself.

Them: To be honest, if they’re the average quality of L1 I think we’ll be fine. True, we got a bit of luck with the post-ricochet, but we weren’t second best at all.

Yes, there were a couple of other moments when a better striker would have undone us, but that’s the case in this division generally, if you haven’t noticed.

This was the managerial debut of one Mr J Barton, and he got a little bit of stick. The “sacked in the morning” chant at the end raised a few smiles elsewhere.

Actually, he got off quite lightly compared to Ched Evans. Look, I don’t doubt the guy’s a bit of a cunt – many footballers of his ilk are – but he was acquitted of rape. And as somebody said yesterday, he’s bound to find the net now.

The actual wording was “I bet he scores”, but that’s what got him into trouble in the first place.

I know they’ve been bankrolled, but I don’t mind Fleetwood. They’re more likeable than Crawley, they did at least go from non-league to the third tier in the proper way, unlike a certain franchise in Buckinghamshire.

Who annoyingly won at Oldham yesterday.

Come to think of it, there’s a couple of clubs in the north west that are copying the Fleetwood model. Salford City is the obvious example, although so is AFC Fylde. Yes, you can question their long term sustainability, but you can’t blame any genuine supporter of such clubs living the dream.

Oh, and a quick note to whoever is designing the ticket office for NPL – make sure when somebody arrives late they can get to it without having to literally run around the houses. You will be thanked later…

Point to ponder: I mentioned it earlier, but isn’t it better when we have a go at teams?

If we had won 2-0 or so yesterday, nobody could have complained. There were a couple of times late on when we had some good chances, and you’ll feel the relief when Appiah and Hanson eventually find the net.

I’d even go so far as to suggest our L1 survival relies on it.

One should try not to make too many comparisons to last season already, but in this instance it’s unavoidable – leaving the ground yesterday, there was a genuine good feeling about. One I haven’t sensed in over a year.

Not just because we won, but because we put on the sort of performance we should expect – perhaps even as a minimum.

And isn’t that all we want? Taking the game to the opposition, and making them sweat it out, that kind of thing. True, we’ll have stinkers this season, and I really hope NA doesn’t start tinkering with a potentially winning formula.

One other thing – at some point during the second half, your editor realised that Barry Fuller wasn’t playing for us any more. And I don’t think we were worse off as a result.

That certainly isn’t a dig at one of the best servants of the AFCW era, and one player who you genuinely can’t find a bad word for. But like Robbo, I think he had to move on when he did.

To NA’s credit, he did try and bring in younger players, and we already look more mobile as a result. Perhaps the era of going for “more experienced” (ie old) professionals is drawing to a close?

2017/18 may have been a watershed in the way we did things. I hated the AFCW of last season, but I’m starting to warm to this current incarnation already…

Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) The sprinkler in front of the away fans being turned on at half time, which sprayed over us. Not intentional I’m sure, but I’d like to see them try that on Sunderland or Pompey fans. 2) Fleetwood stewards acted sensibly when dealing with an issue. Lancashire Police were clearly a bit bored and over-zealous when dealing with a similar one after the game…

Anything else? The ESS on Friday did a preview on us, and it was quite interesting to discover the transfer fees for some of our squad this summer.

How true they are, I don’t know, but £100k on three players is a bit of a departure from previous seasons.

At least we can’t complain about the budget this season, because we’re definitely not scrabbling around in the bargain bin. Granted, it’s nowhere near some of the figures other L1 sides are dishing out, although as said on here before – there are a lot of wage thieves in this division.

Yesterday’s opponents prove that already.

It does seem that AFCW is getting used to the idea that playing in L1 comes at a cost. A literal one. Ideally, you’d prefer to have a team full of freebies and yoof teamers, and in L2 you can do that.

But we’re in the third tier, and increasingly, you can’t.

So it does force us to look at the funding side of things. This influx of cash for transfer fees – not wages – I believe might have come in part from a bit of cash from the NPL contingency pot. I could be wrong though.

If so, I know why we’ve done it (though I prefer if we didn’t dip into that kitty) but it does highlight how we need to start generating funds in other areas. Our commercial/marketing side of things, for example – apparently we have a marketing manager in place now, and they should know their remit.

That’s not easy at a woefully inadequate KM, but it’s something we have to do. Especially as you can’t quite rinse the ordinary supporters as much as you used to, and that side of things has often felt under-baked.

It won’t be too long before we start paying out £100k transfer fees on one player, not three of them. It’s almost unthinkable now, let alone what it was a year ago and further back. And I doubt that will happen while we’re still at KM, but you never know.

And if they’re like Pinnock (who’s a tribunal) or Piggot (who we also paid a transfer fee for – thanks Wu on WUP for being a surrogate Google), then you’re not going to complain that we are…

So, was it worth it? Of course.

In a nutshell: Better than 90% of last season already.