Well, it’s been happier since about August onwards.
As 2023 is set to be sent to its watery grave, it’s tempting to look back on the previous twelve months.
But given we’re slap bang in the middle of the festive glut of games, it just proves that no time is more important than the present.
And in the case of AFCW – very important.
Your editor missed Sutton through work, but to cut a long story short would have spent that game on my couch instead.
I think the players must have had some weird bug themselves, judging by all accounts.
I did go to the Colchester game, which made me a bit feel better. Our attacking did, anyway, our defending was clearly influenced by too much mulled wine.
Tomorrow, it’s the last of the holiday fixtures, with FGR at their place awaiting. A game we *should* win, but as we all know – it’s AFCW against a team down the bottom.
We shouldn’t accept a draw, but don’t be entirely surprised if that’s what we end up with.
FGR away isn’t what I would call a fixture to keep travelling down to a minimum, although I think we’ve been lucky this campaign.
The days of 1pm kickoffs at this time of year seem long gone though, which doesn’t upset your editor.
Back to tomorrow, and it sees us with AAH and Omar Bugiel for the last time before the AFC Asian Cup takes them both.
The former going is no surprise whatsoever, but it seems that Bugiel was a late replacement for Lebanon, with a new manager who rates him highly.
Great for them and him, not quite so great for us…
It seems that we will lose both for a minimum of three weeks, longer if their national sides are actually any good.
Bugiel is likely back by late January, but it’ll just be our luck the Iraqi Scouser will be in the team of the tournament, and we’ll still be watching him well into February.
And us wondering if his next game back will be in one of our shirts.
Tomorrow is the crunch month as far as this club goes, and is set to be the most important January window for some time.
This time round, there isn’t major surgery required. But instead the pressure is on the decision makers not to tear this unit apart.
We might even get a first glimpse at what is to come down in Gloucestershire tomorrow.
Bass, Lemonhead and Joe Lewis are all on loan, and it’s the time of year where recalls are issued.
If they all feature, you can hope they’re with us for the duration. If not, Craig Cope is immediately going to have to get his contact book out.
The way Assal** went missing at Sutton this time twelve months ago was a warning sign, and one looking back we didn’t properly heed.
** – speaking of which – does anyone keep tabs on what he’s now doing? It’s almost like he never played for us.
While we can adequately plug any of their gaps tomorrow, any one of those three going back would be a blow.
From what I can gather, Bass is well down the pecking order at Sunderland, and Lemonhead is in his last six months at Edgeley Park.
Lewis is on a longer deal there, although if it’s true they’re OK with centre backs right now – we might get off to a good start after all.
The clincher will be losing the likes of AAH and Currie, and – this bit usually seems to get overlooked – replacing them adequately.
Josh Davison is scoring goals, four words you don’t expect to say too often, but he’s inconsistent.
Our top brass simply have to be brave this next month and resist most bids for our better players.
Obviously, if it’s a stonking offer, then we’ll be idiotic to turn it down. Same for most if not all clubs at this level.
This will be the first proper test of the Craig Cope era, as our need to have somebody lined up almost immediately becomes vital.
With this club’s hierarchy, there’s always something at the back of our collective minds that we’re capable of repeating the Ollie Palmer debacle.
PTSD of the last couple of seasons is still truly there, and you can’t blame anyone for being fearful for what happens between now and May.
And that’s why I think this next month could have a profound effect on this club for far longer than this campaign.
If – if – we can get through January 2024 without much upheaval, and keep hold of most of our players, then that’s a resounding success.
I would be very suprised if we don’t have to make another important replacement though, but if we can do that – that’s almost as good as keeping things intact.
Should we do lose a number of players, replace them with shit and/or youngsters from Premier League Academies, then it’s a depressing revert back to type.
It’ll almost be the club waving the white flag on any sort of progress, because it’ll then be saying that it simply can’t afford to be a remotely ambitious professional football club in League Two.
And considering what the feel-good factor is right now, that will be just too tough to take.
It hasn’t all been wonderful this campaign, but for the most part this has been a genuine pleasure to witness.
Free scoring at home in a way I can’t remember for a good long while, looking more like a proper team the rest of the field.
Yet that could all be taken apart in the next four weeks.
The club’s short-to-mid term ambition is on trial right now, and accepting we’ve got to be poor no longer cuts it with our support.
98% of football fans care about what happens on the pitch first and foremost, and we’re certainly no different.
In our case, we’ve spend the last few years being force-fed some absolute crap, and now we’ve got a decent on-field product.
Can the club really afford to at least not try to keep that going?
I accept that we’ll likely lose AAH and possibly Jack Currie too. I also accept that if we don’t go up this season much of this squad leaves in the summer.
But for the last couple of seasons at least, AFCW’s standards have been allowed to drop exceptionally low, to a level they should never be at.
A new year is supposed to bring in optimism and a fresh outlook. It’s a great chance for the club to prove it’s changed, and that it’s properly learned lessons.
Will it take it…?