He’s apologised for being late, got the beers in, and is pinching himself as much as anyone right now.
So, Relegated From League One 2 Also Relegated From League One 0. Just let it sink in.
Yes, the last competitive victory was that horrible night in Lancashire on the 7th December 2021.
Three managers later, half a squad later, and if any more water was to flow under the bridge the Wandle would be an ocean.
There are kids born just before Xmas last year who have experienced for the first time an AFCW victory.
And that horrible run which cost us our League One spot, and gave the club the smack in the chops it desperately deserved is finally over.
It only took seven months.
I could go overboard with this, and I hate to be *that* guy but we did beat Doncaster first game of last season.
But if you told me that evening after Accrington, when I was in my Preston hotel bar, that I wouldn’t see us win again since 30th July 2022, I’d have looked weirdly at you.
Or at the very least, thought that *I* wouldn’t see another win until then, because I was elsewhere most games.
I’m sitting here with that weird post-victory emotion of joy and fuck-me-did-we-just-win, and it’s only sinking in how comfortable it became.
True, we needed the second goal – and what a leap by Jack Currie – but I felt more confident with us seeing the game out than I did for the entire 2021/22 season.
As this is SW19’s ARMY, there now follows the obligatory churlish comments after a victory.
There are a couple of things I didn’t like about today. I don’t like the way we kept passing it about at the back, and that will cost us a goal or two in future games.
I had the nagging doubt at 1-0 that we still lacking that one player for a massive spark, though who and where they play remains to be seen.
And as well as Josh Davison played, I still think the timing of his jumps is akin to Gary Blissett.
Remember him? Your editor does, especially the moustache.
Our distribution could be better at times, I think Tzanev had bets on how often the ball went out of play for about ten minutes.
But enough petty negativity. No, it wasn’t the five goal stonking that should have finally slayed the winless run.
It was a deserved win, and it wasn’t even a scraped 1-0 victory that leaves you going “we won, but…”.
So many played well today, from the backline, to Paris Maghoma, to Chislett, to Davison as mentioned above.
Johnnie Jackson himself was impressed, and he must already feel a bit of vindication in his selections.
Interesting he wanted to see how we physically dealt with Gillingham’s set pieces. Pretty well, as it goes.
As he says at the end of that OS piece, we can improve. The first 15 minutes or so felt very long indeed, and it was our first attack on goal that gave us the lead.
That was a decent strike by Chislett, one of those ones you could see hitting the net almost before he struck it.
Even when we went ahead though, there was still too much passing at the back.
We got away with it today, but it’s not something we should be doing on cold, hard Northern pitches against cold, hard Northern players.
One swallow may make your summer, and all that, but another pleasing thing that came out of today was not conceding straight after the break.
Granted, Gills came close twice, and their finishing was on a par with ours last season.
But there was always the possibility that a second goal would clinch the tie for us. And on 71 minutes, Jack Currie obliged…
It didn’t open the floodgates, and I’m not going to say it lifted the collective weight off everyone’s shoulders.
But you saw the squad visibly toughen up in front of our eyes after that.
Maybe we shouldn’t expect us to go on a barnstorming run, but if we can be that team you lose to if you’re a goal behind, that’s not a bad place to be.
Were we ever in danger after the second goal? Not really. Were we in danger when we were still one ahead? Probably.
But we killed the game off, and it was only the paranoid types (like, er, me) who were still nervous when injury time came.
Strangely, the reaction on the full time whistle was muted more than I would have expected. I guess we were all in shock.
But the monkey is finally off our back, and we can win games after all.
It might prove to be a false dawn, but I genuinely don’t think it will be judging by comments from other teams’ fans elsewhere today.
Personally, I think we’ve already proven we’re not quite so fragile, though that will be tested if and when we next go a goal down.
This season may turn out shit after all, but perhaps it won’t be?
Indeed, maybe we should give the players (and coaches) a bit more credit than expecting them to struggle again?
Getting over bad habits doesn’t just apply to the squad…
Plus points: Seven months of hurt over. Clean sheet. Got more comfortable. Jack Currie. Ethan Chislett. Paris Maghoma. Killing the game off.
Minus points: Too much poncing about at the back.
The referee’s a…: He wasn’t giving us much, was he? Mind you, he also got better as the game went on.
Booked Paris for diving, and all I’ll say is that I’d like to see the replay of that.
Also, was it me or did he blow up early for full time? Not that I’m complaining.
Them: Funny to think this was a League One fixture last season.
Gillingham going down was more of a surprise than us doing likewise, although today I didn’t think they were any better than us.
If they had a goalscorer they might have put us to the sword this afternoon, but in L2 those who find the net are worth a lot in gold.
Are they a fancied team this season? If so, then we shouldn’t fear most of this division.
They put on Cheye Alexander, who was greeted with indifference at best. I don’t understand the booing though, it’s not like he left on bad terms.
He didn’t stick it to us, by the way, though wasn’t as bad as NGW was at Blackpool for Reading apparently.
Considering shitty transport options from Kent, it was a decent turnout from them in the end.
Clearly some of their fans wanted to know which bus to Wimbledon they needed to get after we scored our second goal.
I assume that’s why they rushed over to the segregated bit, anyway.
Point to ponder: With the rumour mill suggesting that Luke McCormick wants out, I wonder if this is going to be the transfer saga for the next month?
I can’t say we missed him today, and we might think it will be worth cashing in on him now.
While half the money we get for him will go to Stamford Bridge, it would still give us a bit extra to get in one additional player.
At times today, I did think we just looked one short, and this is one of those occasions where it won’t hurt to spend just a little bit extra.
It’s a lesson that I think we still struggle to deal with at AFCW, namely you do have to get the wallet out sometimes.
We still have time and a few games to work out who else we need in, and I don’t doubt JJ and co are already thinking about that.
As for McCormick, if he’s being arsey about being in L2, perhaps like the rest of them last season he could have done a bit more about it…?
Truth is stranger than fiction: 1) Our first win since 7 December 2021. No, I’m not letting you forget that. 2) Is something up with the PA? Very loud in the main stand, non-existent behind the goal. 3) I note our chant for JJ isn’t the same one Charlton fans sung for him.
Anything else? Before I start – I hated getting relegated in April. And it will still leave a bad taste in the mouth for a while to come.
I do think, however, that if this season throws up more than a few like today, it’s a price that’s almost worth paying.
I said “almost”.
Every fan of a relegated club says this, and we’re no exception – we need to get the “fun” back into supporting the team again.
Today was more solid than just about every game put together last campaign, but for the first time in far too long – it felt good.
Good watching us not be complete retards, good in how professional we started to look, and of course good in terms of us winning the game.
Singing “We’ve won a game” after the full time whistle was a genuinely held sentiment as much as it was taking the piss.
But even that glow getting the bus to Wimbledon afterwards, seeing the shirts** around, and everyone clearly in the proverbial good place.
** – the “away” blue kit looks very nice, and almost seems as popular as the home shirt, though it does look like a t-shirt.
We’ve lost that, and it’s only after today you realise how much by.
As a club, we’ve needed to rebuild for much longer than we admit, and we took the first steps this afternoon to doing just that.
There will be setbacks this season, indeed we might come a cropper at Hartlepool this time next week.
And yes, our aim must be to get back into League One.
But us being in League Two isn’t the end of the world, and it could be the most enjoyable campaign for a number of years.
A crowd of 7000+ for the fourth tier of English football isn’t bad one bit, and as my old man used to say – success breeds success.
It may just be one game in this season, but today has already removed a lot of the bad vibes from 2021/22.
At MTM, JJ said that we could do well if the club unites. Judging by how things feel this evening, we might made that important initial step…
So, was it worth it? Seven months.
In a nutshell: All good things come to he who waits, indeed.