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We go again

Or alternatively – the 2022/23 season starts tomorrow…

I suppose it is a welcome back to nine months or so of competitive football. Which is coming after thirteen weeks of relative bliss.

The pre-seasons are done. The cricket season is now an inconvenience. Weekends become fraught again.

And as confessed on here recently – it’s a new season that I’m actually quite looking forward to.

I reserve the right to change my mind, and say how fucking shit everything is at 5pm tomorrow.

Of course, we actually win against Gillingham. Stop laughing.

Tomorrow is the first proper game under JJ, and last night your editor went to Meet The Manager at Plough Lane.

As you all know, I’ve sat in press conferences with our new boss when he was Charlton’s gaffer, and he seemed more relaxed in front of us than he did with the media.

Whether that’s because there’s less pressure in SW17 than in SE7**, whether JJ himself has to be more guarded, or whether it’s because he didn’t have the BBC London microphone shoved under his nose, I don’t know.

** – well, there *is* as much pressure at AFCW as at Charlton, it’s just a different sort.

He seemed liked, respected, perhaps not as beloved (IYSWIM) as previous managers, but that might not be a bad thing.

He’ll be a public hero if he gets us back into League One this time next year though.

As for what he said, it wasn’t earth shattering and a lot of it you could have gathered already.

Our signings don’t seem to be done (he mentioned wide players), but he’s not taking loans on for the sake of it.

As a quick aside – no doubt we’ll sign somebody as soon as I press “Publish”. Set your watch to it.

He hinted that he wants the training ground upgraded, at least in the hypothetical world where budget wasn’t an issue.

Tzanev and Broome command his confidence, JJ believes we’re physically prepared for L2, and we might see a couple more yellow cards this season.

It was interesting he didn’t see the 68-million game winless run as an issue, effectively clean-slating it and putting it as something that happened last season.

Though he did acknowledge that at the Ipswich PSF, there were old anxieties creeping in.

Some might want more pizzazz from a MTM, or deep meaningful philosophy that people can (over) analyse for the next week.

Yet I remember how deep-thinking MR came across in front of us lot this time last year…

But Jackson is correct in stating that everything from tomorrow is a reset. What’s done last season is done, and it ultimately doesn’t matter any more.

The problem is though, the mental scars that 21/22 brought us will take a fair time to heal.

If we lose or draw tomorrow people will start getting nervous very quickly again.

That could be JJ’s first and hardest task, namely dealing with fans and many squad members who have PTSD.

For the players here last season, they will have that albatross on their back (or is it having a monkey hanging around them?) until we, you know, win a game.

As try as you might – you can’t fully shake that off.

We will inevitably earn three points at some point, even these players are too good to beat the record winless run.

Which is why I’m also treating current doom-laden predictions with a massive dose of potassium chloride.

The truth is, we just don’t know what to expect this season. I don’t, and neither do you.

Nobody will know what will happen when – not if – we win our first game and what that will do to our psyche.

All we can assume is that it will lift us.

Get through that mental barrier with a 1-0, or even better give somebody a tonking in one of our first games, and our mentality changes at a stroke.

Because I do think a large part of last season’s problems – and the main reason we’re in L2 this campaign – was between the ears of the squad.

They were mentally broken by both the winless run and a coaching staff that pretty much abandoned them when they needed help most of all.

Remember how many times even a shit squad were ahead and just lacked the discipline to keep leads.

If we can break that sooner rather than later, it could turn out to be a decent season after all.

Of course, we don’t know how good other teams are. I suspect we’re not amongst the best but we’re by far and away not the worst either.

That elusive win is the hardest one to get however, and failing to get three points by the time September comes will send many into meltdown.

We might have to learn patience as much as anything for the first month, as difficult as that may be.

I’m in no doubt the usual suspects will turn against JJ by next Tuesday September or October, but the moon appearing at night is less predictable.

Generally speaking, we know it should be better than last season. Even finishing 13th to 16th will be considered an improvement.

Though I think top half is perfectly achievable, and given the uniqueness of L2, perhaps playoffs aren’t unrealistic.

JJ and co certainly have the ambition for it. Let’s hope it’s justified.

Anyway, it all starts again tomorrow, and you’ll be back into the swing of it before long.

PL itself might be better organised with concession stands these days. And unlike last season, we have a full twelve months of being back home under our belts.

But results matter most of all, and Gillingham certainly won’t be easy.

One thing is guaranteed though. If we’re 2-1 up tomorrow on 90 minutes, and the official indicates a minimum of eight additional minutes, time is going to pass very slowly…

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