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That time of year again.

Goodbye close season, hello pre-season…

Like the first day of school, everyone is back. The players are on the training ground again, the fixtures/Carabao Cup draw have been released, and even SW19 is in front of the computer again.

I know, we can’t wait to get into it. No, really.

That’s enough snark for one week, it’s when optimism is at its highest, before the soul crushing of painful reality arrives.

Hell, we’ve even commemorated our collective return with two new players signed yesterday.

So, welcome to AFCW Ryan McClean and James Tilley. Two flying wingers respectively, no less.

The former is 23, he’s from Hereford and as it turns out this is his first professional contract. Which I have to admit, sounds a bit old to be having one.

As it turns out, he’s had a “proper” job for about the last year, and because of that he might be more appreciative of the chance he’s been given.

I suppose non-league gem could be the term for him, especially if he’s had interest from elsewhere too.

It could be a step up too far for him, a la Adam Roscrow. Equally, would he be any less effective than some of the players from other Academies?

One wonders if this is a Craig Cope-esque signing?

The latter is 25, and somebody who Crawley are going to miss. At least judging by the reaction of their fans to his departure.

That’s quite a good sign, although I don’t really remember him featuring against us last season.

You can read the bon mots about him on our OS, but it seems we’re beefing up the attacking side of things.

There’s still a fair amount to do in midfield and defence, it seems. We’ve made five signings thus far, and I don’t think it’ll be a surprise if we eventually get in five more.

I can’t remember when the first PSF is, the TBA one in Spain** one presumes, but the first fixture is Grimsby away on the 5th August.

** – and wouldn’t it be typical AFCW if we ended up not playing anyone after all? Or worse still ends up being Franchise…

The earlier you get players in the better, but we have just over two months to make signings. There’s still plenty of time.

That also applies to shifting the contracted ones we don’t want out, although that’s proving more difficult.

Which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with the remotest knowledge of contract law.

If we can still cancel a couple of contracts, and it doesn’t take a wedge out of our £1-50 playing budget, we should do.

It might upset the balance sheets of the bean counters, but moving on players who aren’t helping are worth a lot more than money.

Needless to say, we should prepare to be disappointed over this, and take anything else as a bonus.

As said above, the fixtures were out yesterday, and the sharp-eyed may have seen I managed to get a prediction right.

To be fair, if you predict Sutton or Crawley or Gillingham for the Boxing Day game, you’ve got a good chance of getting it spot on.

And at least El Suburbico is at home, so we don’t have the joys of scrambling for away tickets.

Interesting that the first home game is against Hollywood FC, although I’m sure we’ll all be Wrecsam fans for their first game back in the EFL…

None of the fixtures really stick out as being easy or difficult run-ins, finishing at home should be a bonus for most clubs.

Also, I hate to break it to you but the international break in November sees us travelling to Stadium:MT…

Of more interest is the Carabao Cup draw, and Coventry at home isn’t a bad one.

Whether it will get a televised outing I don’t know, Gillingham v Soton and Burton v Leicester are probably more likely.

Last season Sky showed Bradford v Hull and Sheffield Wednesday v Sunderland in the opening round, as a guide.

Still, it might whet the appetite for the new campaign, especially as the horrors of last season are slowly fading.

I said “might”. And I said “slowly fading”.

At least we get to do it in the new kit, which is slowly growing on me. Admittedly, I think it would look better as an all-blue design without the yellow band in the middle.

But at the same time, many have pointed out that it has more than a passing resemblance to Boca Juniors.

Including, apparently, a few in Argentina.

I did like the Boca Doniors quip in this writeup on it, and maybe we might get a bit of passing interest 7000 miles away?

Though if anyone goes on holiday to Buenos Aires and takes the new top with them, perhaps best not to wear it outside River Plate’s ground…

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