AKA the weekend after it finally happened…
We’ve talked a lot about thirty years, or three decades a lot this past seven days. Which is natural.
We’ve now sized up our new gaff twice in four days, and we’ve had not one but two home games.
Last Saturday against Bolton was one where even if we ended up losing 7-1 after all, it wouldn’t have mattered that much.
Tuesday was the first “proper” day of life back on Plough Lane, even though it took until half time to announce we’d finally got our full safety certificate**.
** – I assume Saturday must have been OK because they wouldn’t have opened the bar after the game. Or indeed allow a full capacity in the first place.
And when Gillingham equalised in the 97th minute on Tuesday, and we all left looking for the metaphorical dog to kick, it was uber-frustrating but also completely normal too.
It was the other side of football – the jammy last minute equaliser that they didn’t deserve but got anyway.
You walked out of the stadium just like 99% of every other football fan who has experienced that.
Don’t underestimate what normality feels like to an AFCW supporter. We’ve experienced more abnormality than just about anyone else.
Your editor was going to Sunderland, until about 16h30 yesterday (and I had just done some packing, which was fatal), but other plans have got in the way.
At least I now get to see how far Fulham have got with their new stand.
But if the team is like me today, they’ll still be smarting at letting what looked like a nailed-on three points slip away.
We’re young, if not necessarily inexperienced, but we’ll learn.
One wonders if we’d still be basking in the win if Darius had been out there, doing one final bit of defensive organisation to see us through.
You can’t rely on him being fit though, so the rest of our squad need to see things out.
We did so at Doncaster, Charlton and Bolton though, so I’ll write Gillingham off as one of those things.
For now, anyway.
I have to admit, I don’t have high hopes for tomorrow in sunny Mackemland.
A draw (or even victory) would be an immense result, but you just know we’ll concede early, struggle to get going and they’ll finish us off either before or after half time.
And this time around, there will be no impressive comeback.
We’re definitely stronger these days though, and a loss shouldn’t kill us too much. Personally, I’m more bothered about winning at Northampton next week…
Back to Tuesday just gone, and this was the first evening home game under floodlights since… well, I genuinely don’t know.
I’ve just checked my programme collection from 1990/91 and apart from Luton on NYD, I don’t think we played any league fixtures at PL in the evening.
If you thought the Palace 3-0 was a long time ago, then a proper night fixture is ancient history.
It was also the first time I’ve ever legally drunk alcohol at a game in Wimbledon (I’m 45 years old), so just a few random musings.
The club really, really needs to say which pop-up food stalls are going to be at the game when it does its pre-match buildup.
Your editor learned a long time ago to always eat outside before going in**, and it was a wise decision as it turned out.
** – as an aside, Artemis kebab shop on Garratt Lane was shut at around 6pm.
Reminds me of a chippy in one of those hamlets we played in the CCL days, where the owner was closing at 13h30 no matter what.
But then, the NIMBYs liked to convince themselves Earlsfield is a village…
Those expecting the cornucopia of cuisine for Bolton will have been understandably pissed off seeing not even half of what was on offer for Gillingham.
Have some of the stallholders decided it’s not worth setting up now? If so, the club will need to sort out catering for the masses.
I’m told the “gourmet” burgers weren’t all that, but the chicken balti pies were. No idea of the rest of what was on offer, but the queues suggested people were hungry enough.
As for the beer side of things, one kiosk with Guinness and none being served in the Phoenix is an oversight.
It wasn’t great either, very lively and I only had one.
As for the club pub, I reckon it will be fine when it’s finished. That’s not snark by the way, I understand it needs fully fitting out.
It felt a bit dark to go into, and I don’t want it to be the KM Main Bar II.
Unlike the KM main bar, the big queues were dealt with very quickly, and it didn’t take too long to get served.
I’ve never had Camden Hells before, and it’s not bad as an alternative.
There’s an all-round sense that everything needs to settle down, as we’re still finding our feet about so many things.
The south stand concourse was pretty packed, but it will help when the cordoned off bit with Buckingham’s rubbish gets removed.
Queueing generally needs looking at too, as it seemed a bit of a free-for-all.
None of this is insurmountable, and as the games progress I expect we’ll be more used to it all.
I do expect a growing number of people will drink in local boozers outside the ground at least beforehand (and certainly afterwards).
Your editor was going to go into the Corner Pin beforehand, and next evening game I think that’s where I’ll end up.
It’s a bit like those first few games at KM way back in 2002, when we literally didn’t know what was around.
We worked it out then, and we’ll work this out now.
This might upset a few Green Party types, but we do need to properly think about some car parking arrangements – especially for evening fixtures.
Whether that’s in hand and we’ve been awaiting safety certificiates remains to be seen.
But if the club can take over a nearby car park or two, and charge for it, that’s a little bit extra towards the coffers.
I think the residents might also appreciate that, rather than people trying to find spaces in their road.
Above all else, the club needs to know we have more choice now – be it food, drink, transportation and so many other things not apparently obvious.
KM was a captive market in a lot of ways, but PL isn’t. Even if it is home.
But “home” is where we are, and it’s telling how many people have settled into life in SW17 already.
Your editor felt that when I first stepped inside against tomorrow’s opponents way back in January.
… the best thing I can say about yesterday is that I thought nothing of it.
It wasn’t a chore like Selhurst or KM, and in the case of the latter it never felt like going to a home game in the way yesterday did.
Even down to little things like having a post game gossip with two particular individuals, knowing we didn’t have far to go afterwards.
Yesterday was shit football wise, but it otherwise felt right being there.
I wasn’t wrong, was I?
Our next home game is on the 4th September, when we get to welcome our good friend Karl Robinson to south London.
It’s an international weekend as well, so we’ll have even more interest than usual.
Maybe by then they’ll have worked out how to fill the empty seats on the east stand…