The thing is, I already knew I would be missing the game on 9th July, whoever we were playing. One of my friends decided to get married that day, the knowledge that at kick off time I would be elsewhere, directing people to their seats, my first and last piece of stewarding for the foreseeable future…
So forgive me for being slightly underwhelmed at the news Fulham are coming to town. In all other respects it’s a decent first game. Obviously the commercial aspects of playing a Premier League side with a large local fanbase has been slightly undermined by Fulham’s Europa League campaign kicking off – if you were only going to watch one game in a week would you choose to pay a fiver to see your first team ease past a bunch of fishermen, or double that to see a ‘mix strength’ side face the Dons in what is effectively a training exercise?
The fact there are large pockets of Fulham fans in the area, added to the fact its our first game, means the attendance may trouble last seasons final warmup against the Arsenal kids. On the pitch, perhaps facing a full strength Fulham side wouldn’t have been entirely helpful, unless Seb requires practice at picking the ball out of the net four or five times. Fair enough, the first few games are all about fitness, and results are never that important, but there’s not too much to be learnt from playing a side that’s on a different planet to you – preseason is frustrating enough as it is, I mean it’s dressed up like football, there are eleven blokes on the field trying to knock the ball in the other teams goal, but comes nowhere near satisfying our urge for proper football to return.
I know of people who completely ignore preseason and I can understand that – if you were starving you wouldn’t hang around outside restaurants watching the diners tuck in, would you? I’m as guilty as forgetting that as the next man, even though I acknowledge it now I’ll still set myself up for a letdown prior to Sutton or whoever we are playing on the 16th.
This has been a strange, truncated summer, where through a combination of playoff euphoria, transfer speculation, and an earlier start to the season than we have been used to, the end of last season and the start of next seem to be merging together. The Dons warmup schedule seems a little lightweight as a consequence, effectively six games, with a seventh following shortly after the season begins (Tooting, and that’s if you count that weird League Cup pre-qualifier at Crawley as the start of the season…).
I’ve always wondered whether we needed to play so many games in years gone past, we may well find with six games we have reached the optimum… we would have played an extra game (as so many fellow League clubs will) had it not been for the aforementioned Crawley game. We don’t really find ourselves in a position where we need to field half a dozen trialists, we will probably see a couple in the opening games but there’s no need for us to go to the extents Charlton did last year, when they turned up a Kingsmeadow with a whole teams worth.
Elsewhere in the preseason schedule, the reserves are heading over to Guernsey to face the islands CCL side. Nine years ago the Ryman League turned our application down, with various doubters suggesting we were simply a protest club who would fade away before too long. Yet the CCL were only too glad to have us. The Guernsey experiment is slightly different to ours, being sponsor driven rather than fan power alone, yet the reasons behind forming the club seem to be based on a desire to improve the standard of football on the island rather than parachuting a club into the upper echelons of the pyramid simply for the sake of having a club.
There is obviously no guarantee the people of an island never previously considered a hotbed of football will turn out in numbers to support the new venture, it may take a few years and a few promotions before the club is even remotely viable – if it ever is. But the Guernsey people who have spent years preparing deserve their chance to test themselves in the pyramid – and once again it is the CCL who deserve credit for welcoming them onboard.
Admittedly, there is plenty in it for the CCL and its clubs – increased exposure and the chance for a free trip to Guernsey to play in front of what should be larger than normal CCL crowds. And it remains to be seen what will happen in the event of large-scale postponements. There may need to be a learning process, but the whole project is an interesting one that I’ll keep an eye on (perhaps even venture to one of their local games), and I’m glad our club could play a small part in their early development.