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Ash Wednesday

And we’re back…

It’s been an odd fortnight with absolutely no proper football to speak of whatsoever. Hell, we don’t even have playing Palace in the Mario’s Pizza to mention.

I’m not counting the friendly against Brentford, the score of which I didn’t even bother to check.

Then again, considering the earmarked game was our regular trip to the circus, it’s probably just as well.

While it’s been long and strange, I don’t think having this time off has done us too much harm.

After drawing late on against Burton (remember that?) we did at least manage to stop the rot.

I don’t doubt that MR and co have been working on many things on the training ground this past 13 days.

A lot of managers like international weekend (if there’s no game) because it gives them a chance to do things.

It’s a relentless slog at times, and perhaps sometimes it’s a bit too demanding on players.

Whatever, we should have recharged our batteries, had a bit more idea on how to defend, and we prepare for t’Wednesday at Plough Lane tomorrow.

A fixture and a venue that would have been almost unthinkable a decade ago.

Yet we now no longer think of a club like Sheffield Wednesday coming to visit us in the league.

After all, in the last five years alone we’ve hosted Millwall, Charlton, Sunderland, Ipswich, Bolton and Wigan in the EFL.

The Owls have become “just” another fallen big club.

In a further sign of the times, we also don’t pinch ourselves that we’re playing back home any more.

Talk about capacity issues, why the 9300 isn’t actually 9300, hospitality etc is, well, “normal” in terms of stadia discussion.

We’ve got a nice new website on the corporate side of things, by the way. All we need to do now is market it properly…

I make no apology for yet another 30-years reference, but it’s times like this when it feels we’ve never been away after all.

As an aside, I’m probably in a minority of one here, but does anyone else see the “Cherry Red Records Stadium” name and immediately think it’s KM?

I’m glad we’re getting dough from it in a difficult market, and we’ll miss Iain McNay’s money** when he eventually stops paying out.

** – one wonders if he’s also still putting it in to prove a point about funding – something I think many remain in denial about.

But it’s always going to be Plough Lane to me, and probably the vast majority of others. Then again, did anyone refer to KM by it’s “official” name…?

Gripe aside, this is one of these games I hope we win, not only for obvious reasons but it’s the type of game we never do well in.

I mentioned earlier hosting some “big” names above, but how many of those I’ve named have we actually beaten?

At least, defeated in the AFCW era?

I’m struggling to think of many, and we’ve long had this inferiority complex against these sort of opponents.

Nobody is making pre-game predictions right now, which may be a good thing. But imagine the mood at 5pm tomorrow if we give them a horsewhipping…

Whatever happens, we’ll have to do it without Will Nightingale, who’s got injured again.

Quite badly, as it goes, and when they say “up to four months”, you know damn well we won’t see him now until March.

It’s a blow, especially for someone who must have thought his issues were finally behind him.

With Nightingale, there’s always that lingering sense he’s just one injury away from having to call it quits.

It’s never a good sign when a player like him gets crocked and your first reaction is “here we go again”.

We do have some backup though, and Kalambayi, Czoka and the evergreen (ie old) Darius Charles can step in.

In the case of DC, he played for 45 minutes in the Brentford friendly, so maybe he returned for these very scenarios?

Regular SW19 readers know that I really don’t like former players returning to play at the best of times.

The reason why is that they’re never nearly as good in their second spell as they are their first, and too many of them have left with lukewarm memories.

I hope if Darius does feature I’m not proved right.

Finally, while AFCW has justifiably got a lot of grief over its comms and ticketing, credit is due here.

Posting on the OS and sending an email mailshot about unused season tickets yesterday is a good move.

I’d like to think your editor’s comments on this post-Plymouth made a massive difference 😉

And to prove reminding people nearer the time does work – I’m at Reading v Barnsley tomorrow so I’m obviously not in SW17.

When the request popped up yesterday on the OS, it persuaded me to do it.

I don’t think I’ve released my ST back to the club since about 2017, and while it wasn’t quite so important at KM – it is now.

It’s why comms is so vital, and why we need more people who understand exactly why that is.

This will be a shock to some, but most people don’t follow AFCW happenings 24/7.

They don’t spend all their time on social media, or various fan hangouts. Some even have other things to do during the week and don’t think about football until Saturday.

Yes, really.

Because of that, they’ll always need little reminders, little prompts if their plans change. They will never pay the attention during the week some think they should do.

It’s a win-win, because the ST doesn’t go to waste, the club gets another arse in a seat, and that person spends money in the ground as a result.

We’re no longer at KM. We’re at Plough Lane and things are different these days. Or they should be.

While welcome, the ST returns policy can always be improved, both in application and advertising it.

I believe a Saturday morning reminder on the OS etc would work, as there’s always people who have to bail out late on.

The current respond-by-email (and getting poor Mandy to do the acknowledgement) does still feel quite tinpot. Though to be fair, AFCW does recognise that.

But tomorrow, for once somebody else will be sitting/standing in my seat. They may simply be a regular who doesn’t have an ST.

Yet they may be a casual fan interested in us playing Sheffield Wednesday.

Or they may even be a first timer, curious at what this brand new structure on the site of the manky dog track is like.

Tomorrow, we might have made a new supporter for life, and all because of a simple bit of Marketing 101 by the club.

Of course, this being AFCW – we’ll probably resell it to a Sheffield Wednesday fan…

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