As I write, there are but thirty-four days until a Wimbledon team take the field in something resembling a proper game of football. Who we play is anyones guess – although it should be announced this week – but I think that’s besides the point, we want to see our team and we can’t bear to wait any longer.
I can’t decide whether its down to the nature of signing players and arranging friendlies as a Conference club or extremely clever marketing by AFC Wimbledon, but this drip feedingof information has kept The Dons at the forefront of my mind this summer. I seem to remember last season that a whole host of signings were made pretty early along with pre-season games, and then nothing happened for weeks on end. I ended up getting distracted by Euro 2008, then finding other things to do with my summer Saturdays.
In fact I was so distracted I arranged to visit my old Nan bless ‘er, over in New Addington on the day we played Croydon, which was weird, as we virtually passed the ground on the tram and saw loads of Wimbledon fans milling around. I never felt like I was missing out though (these being the days before I spent most of my free time blogging about the club). In fact last summer must have been the most unappealing pre-season I can ever remember as a Wimbledon fan, perhaps excluding the Brentford game.
The only other friendly I bothered with was Salisbury at home, a mind numbing 90 minutes where the only entertainment was provided by a leaky home defense that pretty much made my mind up that we were due a ‘season of consolidation’. This year, things are different. For one the signing of players seems to be in waves. I know the ‘Whats Going Down At The Meadow’ newsletter (or whatever its called) told us to expect this, and I know I need to be patient, but its not quite happening.
If we had done as we had last year, we would have signed a load of decent young players, then watched open-mouthed as rivals started cherry-picking the cream of the Football League released players list, and realised maybe what we had wasn’t all that after all. Its not as if its not hard enough already to work out our relative strength. Terry’s policy of only signing younger players means we have to place a little bit of trust in him. Its all too easy to get carried away that players like Stephen Gregory and Luke Moore are going to turn into world beaters because the gaffer said so, despite Terry’s attempts to put together the basis of the team that will go on to win us promotion, experience tells us that perhaps three or four of our strongest starting lineup next year won’t make it, no matter how hard they try to develop.
And its impossible to tell now who will and who won’t. For example, two young players who really made the shirt their own last season, Chris Hussey and Sam Hatton, faced a lot of criticism from some of our supporters last year. Hussey made mistakes last year, but how many of them actually cost us goals? This from a player who is five or six years away from peaking as a footballer.
And Hatton seemed to get it in the neck quite often not for what he had done, but for what people perceived he should have been doing more of. Once more, Hatton featured in a lot of the moves that lead to goals last year for doing exactly what he was put on the pitch to do; move the ball on quickly and retain possession. Now I can’t be sure that either player has it in them to be a Conference winner, but then neither can anyone else.
Don’t get me wrong, those players have areas of their game they really need to work on. For example, Hatton isn’t strong enough in the tackle, and Hussey can’t pick a simple pass when its needed. Plus they are really going to get taught a lesson by a few experienced hands in that division. But that’s not something we should be afraid of as a team, learning from players who are, quite simply, better than they are is the only way younger players can learn.
Next season will tell us a lot more about these boys characters, but in the mean time and for the good of the club, one or two of us are going to have to button it a bit, these youngsters need our support, so all those knob-heads who boo and call on the manager to bring in experienced heads, you have to understand we are going to lose points at home through inexperience, but for each time that happens we will probably see them take points they had no right to on paper, just through being a young and fearless side.
We have to accept the inconsistency that a young side will experience, and if we do that for a couple of seasons we will see the results blossom into something spectacular. If that’s something you think you can’t handle and feel the need to spout of about it during games, just remember for a lot of matches next year there will be Dons fans locked out who are prepared to be positive, or at least just shut up and watch the game. Plus if you are the sort of person who likes to shout abuse, have a look round at the dozens of punters surrounding you who don’t feel the need to be so outspoken – and remember, all those people know a lot more about football than you do.
As it happens I’m relishing going to a game and watching just a game, a battle for three points rather than a minor part of some larger war – and spending half the game checking rivals scores on your mobile or what the implications of that late equaliser will be. I’m pretty confident we have the quality to avoid relegation easily next year, so everything else is just a learning curve as far as I’m concerned. And I’m bloody looking forward to it.
I think we are half way there as far as player recruitment is concerned. I think we could name a pretty decent 1-11 at the moment, one that will certainly put us mid-table, we just need a few extra faces to add competition, so we have that 17-18 man squad where the manager won’t be afraid to field any of them. No more of these Aitouakrim type players who are in the first team squad but aren’t getting anywhere near the starting lineup.
Back to pre-season, and I’m going to stick my neck out and say I think the first game on the 11th will be home to Brighton. I don’t know whether we will see any midweek visits from league clubs, although a Fulham XI rumour was doing the rounds it seemed to die out. Put it this way, if we were playing a Fulham or an Arsenal, even a Charlton, someone would have leaked it by now. After ‘Brighton’ we normally take on a couple of local-ish sides in split squad matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Saturday after is Ramsey, perhaps another away game (Tonbridge) in the week before FC United on the 25th. One other game before we visit Farnborough then a weeks hard training before kickoff. You see, it all puts itself together really, and you should be expecting a full coverage from The Anonymous Don for all Saturday games except Ramsey (unless someone is driving… I don’t mind hiding in the boot on the ferry…).
Whoever we play on the 11th you can guarantee I’ll be standing there grinning like a fool at the pleasure of paying entry to attend what is effectively a practice match. It won’t be until I’ve travelled half way across Surrey on the Wednesday night and walked four miles down country tracks, sweating like a pig as its so humid despite the fact its pissing down and having been stung, bitten or generally molested by every flying insect known to man (plus a few that have been hiding from us) to find my way to an ex Surrey League turned CCL club, only to find I had misread the O/S and it was a reserve game, and I appreciate this has already been an extremely long sentence so perhaps I shouldn’t waste your time further by pointing it out, in fact now I’ve forgotten what I was talking about, oh no, its coming back now, until I start getting a little fed up with pre-season games.
While I’m on the subject of that game on the 11th, the week before Anonymous Don HQ will be moving across town to a flat over looking the river on the Portsmouth Road. Ok, that’s a lie, its overlooking the reservoirwith the river just beyond that. Plus its so small the bedroom turned out to be a cupboard just off the hall (otherwise known as the living room). In fact the bathroom is just about the biggest room in the place, or it would be if it didn’t double up as the kitchen.
Still, its great to know I’m moving up in the world! Next stop a mile down the road to one of those penthouse jobs in Charter Quay… The point being there may be a service delay as far as this blog is concerned depending on how quickly I can get Virgin Media out to sort my broadband/TV. So don’t say you haven’t been warned. And before anyone tries to give me advice, Tiscali are bollocks, they still haven’t sorted out my refund from when I cancelled in January. Plus I still haven’t fully forgiven Sky for all those times it went off just because there was a thunderstorm… and I’m not allowed a dish…
The number we should really be focusing on is 61. This is the magic number of days that as of Sunday 7th June we have to wait until our first ever Conference Proper game. That is unless by some miracle Setanta are still broadcasting and select us for their first live game, which could be on the Friday (urgh…) or more likely Sunday. There is a chance another television company could come in and nab the rights on the cheap, however I’m not sure quite how appealing 5th level English football is compared to German football or example, which will also be up for grabs. I think we can kiss goodbye to that £85 grand, the good news being so can everyone else in this league, and we won’t have to worry about making arangements to travel to Tamworth on a Thursday evening.
All that is for the future however. We still have a tournament free summer to get through. Ok, I know the BBC are showing Confederations Cup on red button, and its an important tournament for world ranking and stuff like that, but by the time I’ve seen these famous brown shorts that Italia are supposed to be wearing with their sky blue shirts (http://www.whoateallthepies.tv/2009/06/italy_national.html) I think I’ll lose interest.
Of course England are in a major tournament this year, the Under 21 Championship, which I would normally follow but the Under 21’s are full of bling loaded idiots wearing headphones who think they’ve made it because they were earning twice as much as the rest of the players at the Championship side they were loaned to last year, the true England contenders at that age group are probably already in the national side. Plus its easy enough to ignore as its on Sky, which of course I don’t have.
Aide from the national team I get more satisfaction watching the ladies national sides, performing miracles when you consider apart from the lucky ones who got a move to the US Pro League, they probably think they’re quite lucky to be earning the pittance of £16k or so from a central contract from the FA.
You could try watching another sport I suppose. If you get in quick enough, and have a Dutch granny, you might be able to leap on the Netherlands bandwagon in the 20/20 World Cup. The short version of the game reminds me of baseball in a way, in theory the best side should win, but on the night anything can happen. They should play the final as a best of even series, but I suppose that’s missing the point a little. When that’s finished you could support our very own Surrey Brown Caps of course (stop laughing at the back please…).
Or in the classic words of the theme to Why Don’t You?, you could switch off your TV set and find something less boring instead… and if the worse comes to the worse I’m still here writing my blog, trying not to show any desperation that there’s still nothing worth talking about. Coming soon the Conference Files for Gateshead and Forest Green, plus Marcus Gayle get the Dons Icon treatment. Stay tuned.