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They’re Coming Home

And no, it’s not a reference to the Euros. Not yet, anyway.

While England fans are probably nursing a hangover right now, AFCW fans have a little bit more to be happy about this morning.

Why? Because we’ve actually signed some players.

OK, we’ve signed one and re-signed another, but at least we no longer have that nagging doubt of being left short before the first PSF.

People were starting to get a little bit edgy and nervous that the 1st July** had passed, other clubs were making signings yet we weren’t.

** – for those who don’t know, this date is when contracts expire at clubs. Which is why it’s only now you’re hearing about more and more transfers generally.

Visions of us scrabbling round for a 17 year old from Reading, or Dave Numpty from Kingstonian reserves were starting to flash by.

Thankfully, it seems that we’ve found enough money down the back of the sofa to get pen put to paper.

So, welcome to AFCW Luke McCormick. And welcome back Darius Charles.

Our new signing from Chelski first. The rumour mill was spinning away at his arrival, along with a couple of ITK types doing likewise.

He was on loan at Brizzle Rovers last season, where he seemed to be one of their very few players with some actual talent.

He’s 22, was at Stamford Bridge since he was six years old, and is one of those “goalscoring midfielders” you read about in fables of days past.

He’s ours and not a loan, although Chelski reportedly have a 50% sell-on fee, if we get a good offer for him.

Given our previous transfer dealings, I’m sure they’ll be able to buy something for their boardroom with the £100 they’ll get.

No mention of how long the contract is, presumably it’s the 2+1 approach we’re trying to implement.

And while this might put me in a minority of one here – contract lengths are something fans don’t really “need” to have full knowledge of.

It’s like undisclosed fees – common practice in football transfers, done for a variety of reasons and isn’t something supporters have a divine right to know.

Even if they “own” the club.

McCormick’s signing got announced at 8pm on Friday, which was an unusual time. Though he’s now almost an afterthought after what we trumpeted yesterday afternoon…

The news about Darius returning was a bit of a bolt out of the (yellow and) blue, it has to be said.

No dodgy social media accounts with “Transfers” in their name were picking up on us getting him back.

His contract at Wycombe was up, and with him being 33 years old – he might not have got too many other places as a player.

Note the “as a player” comment.

You don’t even need to read between the lines of the OS writeup that Darius isn’t going to be here just as a squad member.

Regular readers of SW19 will know just how much I dislike us signing old players at the best of times.

And I would have felt likewise if he was going to be used as one of our main centre-backs – hell, he was injury prone when we went up.

But he’s effectively going to be a de facto player-coach, or at the very least the proverbial character in the dressing room.

Something we’ve lacked since, well, the last time DC was here.

When you put it in those terms, it’s a signing that makes a lot of sense. And is something that is another part of how MR wants to change the culture of the place.

You see that even in the way we tease new signings on social media, with the “Welcome to the family” motto.

One could be snarky and ask which type of family – the Waltons? The Simpsons? The Gambinos?

Fred and Rose West?

But the sentiment is the main thing here, and it’s clear the approach is to have the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Our biggest successes (in both the WFC and AFCW eras) have been when you’ve felt it’s a unit rather than a collection of individuals.

You only have to look at the difference between the L2 promotion side and what we’ve had since to know that.

One suspects there’s more new signings to arrive, and possibly within the next week or two.

Not inside knowledge here, by the way, but with our first PSF earmarked for the 17th, you’d hope we’d have most of our new blood in by then.

This is where properly “selling” ourselves to Premier League clubs comes in, and is something Robbo is keen to point out.

It may or may not work, but in the past it’s seemed like it’s been an afterthought.

Plenty elsewhere have pointed out that others like Accrington seem able to sign Liverpool/Everton/whoever youngsters, while we struggle with local PL sides.

Then again, dare I say we’ve now got somebody in charge who understands exactly how you go about building relationships?

It will be interesting to see who we get in next. We do still need more signings, maybe even an experienced pro who’s still able to play most weeks.

But in the space of a weekend, you’ve got more confidence we’ll get them in…

With two arrivals, there’s inevitably a departure or two. It’s a shame Archie Proctor has left, but youngsters moving on isn’t earth shattering.

And we’ve seen the last of Terrell Thomas.

He didn’t play beyond the 2nd January, although he got twatted with an illness (non-Covid?) that might have played a part in his decision.

After all, when you’re laid low in a hospital like he was, it’s natural to start making plans about your future.

It’s a shame he’s leaving, but he did have a tendency to switch off during games. And we did tighten up at the back without him towards the end.

It will be interesting to see where he ends up. Which reminds me – has Pigott got a new club yet?

As for AFCW, things feel a little bit different now, and I mean that in a good way.

I suppose because the new approach we’re trying to implement help kept us in League One this upcoming season.

You look at the video clips of the training ground, with the motivational messages about, and you’re left wanting the whole mantra to pay off.

In the past few seasons, certainly since we got into L1, I’ve never had a genuine feeling we’re going in the right direction.

Currently, I do.

Maybe that will prove to be a badly misplaced hunch, and we finish 21/22 rock bottom with fuck all to show for it.

Somehow though, and at the risk of this backfiring, I don’t think we will…

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