I get the feeling the traditional SW19 end of season song might be a tad more maudlin than warranted this time round.
Granted, it’s finally over indeed, and we get three months off now. Or twelve well-deserved weeks watching cricket.
But after yesterday’s credible 0-0 draw at Lincoln, you’re almost wondering what this squad can now achieve.
There wasn’t much of note in the game itself, though. I was working anyway and wasn’t really following it.
Robbo himself seemed quite content, and tellingly he singled out praise for a player who is out of contract.
I expect Nik Tzanev to sign a new deal, unless we really try and fob him off with £400 p/w and reduced Dons Trust membership.
The contest didn’t matter in the end, and if we needed something out of it I think we might have delivered anyway.
Assuming everything was equal, and to give you an idea of how tight it could have been – had Rochdale beaten Donny last week, then this morning they would be safe and Wigan would be down.
Football doesn’t work like that, needless to say, and I’d much rather we enjoy the last seven days of safety than fretting about a “what if?”.
The stats will show that we finished 20/21 four points clear of the drop and with a better goal difference of, er, one.
If you offered that to everyone at the start of the campaign, we would have snapped whatever limb was outstretched off.
That was done with a backdrop of just two points from 33 on offer, a stat that cost GH his job.
It also includes gubbings against Hull, Sunderland, Pompey, and Posh. And Franchise. And Charlton away. And others I haven’t had the willpower to check.
Put it like that, and the turnaround under Mark Robinson has been even more remarkable.
I’ve noticed this week just gone that many people are looking forward to 21/22, and not just because they can go to games again.
There’s a genuine optimism already for next season. It may be misplaced, but it’s a legitimate feeling.
Paul Kalambayi seems excited, and I expect those who are definitely staying feel likewise.
In the case of our defender, I hope he keeps his excited thoughts to himself. And definitely not express them on a train.
Part of that optimism is down to, you know, winning games. We should do that more often.
But it’s also been done with nothing added to the same squad that was freefalling at the end of January.
While MR will possibly end up having to make more changes in the summer than he would like**, he’s proven actual coaching and having a game plan can make a lot of difference.
** – likely backroom changes too, if Justin Cochrane’s Twitter is anything to go by. The good thing is, there are plenty of his ilk around when looking for a more permanent appointment.
So we seem to be in a good place at AFCW, which is something we’ve not been able to say for many years.
One thing that did jump out at me when reading the above OS interview, is that our current Head Coach has been in charge for almost half a season.
Admittedly, that’s mostly down to the insane amount of fixtures between February and May, which I thought was stupid planning.
Could they have not started in mid-August and scrap the Carabao Cup/Mario’s Pizza Trophy for just this season?
Genuine praise is due to the squad and management for not only getting through that slog, but getting better and better as each game progressed.
Yet losing to Franchise, and then seeing post-game interviews bemoaning tracksuit tops getting left on the floor almost seem like yesterday.
We’ve come a long way since January 30th, 2021. Who knows how things will be on January 30th, 2022?
Interesting times ahead, and maybe not in a bad way either.
But 2020/21 will be remembered for being the strangest season we’ll ever get to experience.
There will be the usual SW19 end of season review later this week, probably at the weekend, and it’s proving interesting to write.
The hyperbole over dozens of clubs collapsing was always wildly overblown, and in some cases was a bit of wishful thinking.
Football clubs are surprisingly resilient, though the biggest success is getting through this relatively unscathed.
Bar the token efforts in December, having no supporters in all season has robbed everyone of the biggest fundamental of football.
It’s a cliche, and at times dangerously romantic, but football really is nothing without fans.
A select few of us have been lucky enough to still be able to go to games normally though.
Your editor has even been to two AFCW ones (Charlton at the Valley and Sunderland at PL), though given the results that’s not a positive.
No, I don’t feel guilty for mentioning that. You get to see our games usually and I don’t.
While I think everyone kind-of got used to watching games on a stream or listening on the radio, it’s been a tough campaign for everyone.
Especially in that grim period between December and February, where Rona rates were skyward, the weather was shite and you couldn’t even get a mental health break from attending games.
That particular time was very trying for a lot of people, and something that IMO will continue to have a profound effect long after restrictions are lifted.
Only the most psychotic Lockdown Lover would want to go through that again.
But we’ve all got through it, and that’s probably part of the reason why we’re looking forward to next season already.
There’s been plenty of times where I’ve had nothing to do, seen we’re playing at PL and ended up kicking my heels not being able to attend.
I bet everyone reading this has felt similar, and there’s even a couple of non-AFCW games this week where that will be the case.
All being well, from this time next week crowds will be allowed back into grounds – hopefully for good this time, but with capped attendances for a while.
That comes too late for the LSC at Cockfosters tomorrow, a game that would be a nice season-just-gone fixture to go to.
I’m pretty sure they could open that up without spreading the lurgy.
But that would be a good reason to get through tomorrow at Chalk Lane, to get into the semi-final and have some of our own fans at the game – wherever it is.
Of course, there’s also the small matter of the test event next Tuesday…
Your editor has a ticket, though no doubt I’ll be working that evening. It won’t be the grand opening that we all wanted, but we always needed to have these ramp-up fixtures beforehand anyway.
It will still be a special occasion, and plenty will be looking for pre/post match watering holes to round off the evening.
The big game will be the first home one of next season, and given the weekend’s results – it would be funny if it turns out to be Sheffield Wednesday…