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Back down to earth

As Donald Tusk put it last week, hope dies last…

That massive thump you heard in the Norbiton area yesterday was the sound of AFCW’s momentum coming to a painful halt.

And judging by the reaction afterwards, one that may have been semi-expected.

Make no mistake though, this is a setback in our (still possibly unlikely) quest for survival. Had we beaten Gills yesterday, it would have been four on the spin, practically level on points, and people would have been planning for a late play-off push.

And try saying that last bit without your teeth in.

I jest about the playoff quip – sort of, anyway – but considering we only lost once in our previous six games, and were victorious in four of them, we can’t complain about recent results.

Which may explain yesterday after all, and its we-go-again attitude afterwards.

The buildup to yesterday was a strange one, it has to be said. People generally seemed a bit nervous, agitated even, and very few seemed to be predicting a win. Which considering recent results was quite odd.

It wasn’t just the fans either. Your editor saw Walter being interviewed at the training ground on SSN yesterday morning, and he was acting almost like he had a premonition.

I think that might explain his post match comments too, which weren’t exactly bawling out his players. Whether he did that privately I don’t know, but one suspects he didn’t need to.

That’s been one feature of this recent good run – the players look like a unit, rather than the disinterested rabble they have been.

They’ll be licking their wounds today, and no doubt this upcoming week.

Ramsdale had his worst game for us yesterday, though he’s literally saved us enough times since he’s been here. But when you hear the likes of Seddon were shite as well, then it’s clear yesterday was simply one of those games.

The trouble is, we can’t afford too many more of them. It’s painfully true that one more bad run of form will see us in L2 next season, although one suspects the players and management know that.

Make no mistake, we missed a big opportunity yesterday to really put ourselves within striking distance – we’re lucky that other sides also slipped up, and as this season has shown we can’t rely on them.

But there’s still seven games to go, practically all of them are winnable, and we’ve had a reality check at possibly the right time.

I know that psychologically we’ve gone back down to second bottom, and it’s still effectively a four point gap. And this result will sting, especially in the manner in which we threw it away.

It hurts. But it needs to hurt.

Yesterday, I think complacency took over us a bit as well. As somebody elsewhere put it last night, it was like we’d forgotten what we’ve been doing the last six games.

If we’ve got anything about us, we’ll reset things again, and go up to Scunny with the same mentality post-Charlton. The cliche about there being seven cup finals is also true.

We’re not infallible. We’re not a great team. We are still in big shit for a very good reason. But we can definitely survive.

See, we only need to be out of the bottom four one weekend for the rest of this season, and that’s after Bradford. That we’re still three points behind at this stage of the campaign is a minor miracle, and I would have snapped your arm off for that after Burton.

And now we’ve entered the stage where anything can happen. There’s an awful lot of football to be played – and yes, there’s still a lot of awful football ahead…

Anyway, it comes to something that we can lose a game at this stage of the campaign and I don’t feel that bothered about it. Things really are different at AFCW these days.

That we’re still talking about if we go down now, and not when, is testament to how we’ve pulled things around. It’s been a twisty and turny (?) season as it is, and one suspects there’s at least one more to come.

Speaking of things that are more complex than what it should be, as you know LBM approved our revised plans for NPL last Thursday.

Your editor was one of three AFCW fans at Crown House, and after sitting through some quite dull stuff beforehand our application was read through thoroughly.

Unlike the original approval (December 2015 – what a long time ago that feels) it wasn’t unanimous, I think one or two councillors objected (presumably to tell their respective NIMBYs that they did what they asked), and some abstentions, but it ultimately didn’t matter.

A few thoughts : I got to see for the first time the “squaring off” of the stadium, and it didn’t look too bad. I don’t know if it’s been put up for public viewing yet, but that arch idea has gone.

I assume it’s cheaper to build, which is why it got resubmitted.

There were two objectors, one of whom was from the WPRA and the other had been objecting to a previous application that evening. I believe she is known to go around objecting to a few projects that aren’t even in her vicinity.

And I never understand that approach – councillors and planners have heard it all before, often from the same people, and it’s just complaining for the sake of it.

The WPRA’s latest – and last – attempt on us is the whole air pollution thing, although as the whole planning blurb later on suggests (around page 197), this was effectively a “new” application but isn’t substantially different to the original one.

We’ve got to be mindful of the Judicial Review stage, as we were last time, but there’s been so much planning (boom tisch) on our side of things that I expect it’s all been wargamed.

Just keep the champagne on ice until it’s all finally through and there are no more hurdles.

Whilst writing this, I notice the OS has something on the funding side of things, in the programme notes yesterday. In other words, a share issue.

With all the best will in the world, you will not be able to fund NPL through the pockets of AFCW fans alone. They’ve given enough over the years, they have to pay more for tickets etc these days anyway, and as 80%Gate proved – there’s a limit to how far you can rinse them.

So we’re going down the “external funding” route, which will make some come out in a cold sweat but is something I’m surprised hasn’t happened sooner. I don’t know who would invest, and for what ultimate purpose, but we don’t have too many other options.

And like playing Franchise, once that taboo is broken it won’t be such a big deal having non-AFCW people involved with funding. Especially when it will help deliver something tangible like the new ground.

By all means have restrictions on it, and I’d happily back anything along the lines of the Chelski Pitch Owners scheme that comes up.

But things are changing at AFCW. The realities of being a professional football club are tempering some long-held dogmatism principles, both on the field and off it.

Take the whole betting partnership thing – in the DT’s increasing spirit of Glasnost, it turns out that 66% of the 1596 who responded are quite OK with tying up with a betting partner after all.

And that’s those who are motivated enough to join the DT and reply to these polls in the first place (one suspects the 1600+ who go to games but aren’t involved are even less hung up on this kind of thing).

Generally speaking, people are adults and they should be treated as such. I suspect there were many in the crowd yesterday cashing out when we went 1-0 ahead, so we might as well make some dough from things people do already.

By all means don’t sell the betting idea to kids, or anyone who’s got a gambling problem. But we happily advertise SkyBet and Wimbledon Brewery, and we did have a private betting outlet in the early Ryman days too.

Personally, I’m more concerned at the customer reviews of FansBet, which doesn’t bode well. Especially as other betting companies are available.

This place and others talks about “change” a fair bit, and that’s not just with the team, or the recruitment, or even the FCB. It’s supporters too.

It’s been mentioned before, but NPL will change AFCW forever, even when the construction starts, because then we finally start getting “real” about things. The possible share issue will prove that, as I think it will end up being relatively successful.

Pragmatism rules in the end. Or to put it another way – we spent our teenage years railing against oil companies. Then we bought our own place, realised that protest doesn’t pay the rent and we looked at a job with Esso…