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Back to it

And back with the false optimism that close season brings…

I’ve enjoyed close to a month not touching SW19, although that’s been down in part to being busy elsewhere.

So I missed things like Jake “Don’t call me Alan” Reeves returning for a third time in a blue-with-yellow-trim shirt.

However, I’ve got the motivation to update back with the two further additions inthe past 24 hours.

Welcome to AFCW Josh Neufville and Omar Bugiel. A winger and a striker, no less.

The former, who will childishly be called Ninetown until we think of a better nickname, was on loan for all of last season at GGL, and scored twice.

He’s also 22, so a “project” type like Azeez was, although a cursory glance at his appearances suggests he’s moved around a lot.

Hmm. And hmm again.

Actually, that might be unfair as he was at a club now in the Premier League, and chances are he was surplus to their requirements long before last season.

He’s ours for two terms, anyway, so if he’s shite we can always put him on loan at Woking this time next year.

As for Herr Bugiel, born in Berlin to a Lebanese dad and Polish mum, he too has come on the Thameslink from West Sutton to Haydons Road.

Was reportedly wanted by Cheltenham and other L1 clubs, although I often wonder how true those links really are.

Hardworking, does the dirty work and physical, apparently. More cards than goals, methinks.

He’s older than I thought he was, at 29, although he did manage to find the next six times last season.

One of those goals actually happened to be against us on New Year’s Day. And apparently he gave us the “shhh” treatment during that game.

Obviously next season he can whip his cock out in front of the south stand if he gets us the goals.

Football fans have both the longest and shortest memories, occasionally at the same time.

Both these signings have more than the touch of Craig Cope’s fingerprints on them, Ninetown is ex-Solihull after all.

It might already be a feature of his approach that we’ve already signed three players by the 1st June.

The window doesn’t open until the 14th June (I think, one place has it down on the 10th), and while I don’t doubt we’ve got three of the lower hanging fruit – it’s a notable change.

And one quite refreshing too.

How often in recent close seasons have we seen other sides get busy before the return to pre-season training, yet we’ve only signed a Dave Numpty from Chortlington Railway type character?

Only for us to give it the big one that we’re “waiting for the right deal” then get players who aren’t quite what we want but were cheap and available?

Where of course they were always the first choice…

Cope in particular appears to have a plan, which in the case of AFCW is like the discovery of fire.

And doesn’t having to say that proves how utterly pathetic we’ve been in recent years?

At least now we have the first inklings of what we’re trying to do next season. Solid if unspectacular players, hopefully ones that can see some leads out.

Even the length of deals hint some thought has been put into it (two years for Ninetown, a solitary year for Bugiel).

It’s possible – and likely – that our two latest signings might be ones for squad depth as opposed to starters.

There were many problems last season, but not being able to use a bench properly was a massive one.

We undeniably need more signings, and a way of getting some of the bed blockers out of this club – even on loan.

While hopefully we’ll never finish anywhere near the bottom ever again, last season’s failure is already reflected in who we’ve signed already.

Our incoming players so far probably won’t get us in the playoffs, even if Reeves did get St Evenage promoted last season.

But I don’t think that’s the aim for 23/24.

It’s telling that in the cases of Bugiel and Ninetown especially, the non-AFCW reaction to them has been they’re good enough players.

The club should always be aiming for playoffs, but our priority next season is to look like we belong in L2.

That means aiming for a top half finish, which we should be more than capable of doing as a minimum.

We were blind to this in 22/23, but there’s been a culture of failure at AFCW for the last half-a-decade.

That takes more time and more effort to turn around than you think, and certainly what the club has believed.

We’ve had a lot of false dawns on that score, and we’re still dealing with the cheques written when Mark Robinson was in charge.

Maybe it will work this time, maybe it won’t. Although if it doesn’t, the club has a seriously big problem it maybe can’t solve.

One final thing – assuming the transfers are as much to do with Craig Cope as anyone, if we’re still shit next season will people chant for his head…?

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