Monthly Archives: January 2012

Crazy And Somewhat Unrealistic

Thirteen games without victory, then three wins on the spin. Football is a bonkers game, scarcely believable at times… Do other clubs supporters consistently experience such dramatic swings from high to low and back to high again? Maybe in the short-term, over a couple of years, but with the exception of a few drab years in the Premier League my entire supporting life has seen the sort of drama that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a work of fiction. In fact sub-Hollyoaks former Sky shitefest Dream Team used to regularly steal real life scenarios from the Dons, managing to make them seem even less convincing on the small screen than they had been in reality.

In fact I have a theory that what we refer to as reality is really some weird physical manifestation of a long running work of fiction based around the crazy and somewhat unrealistic tale of a football club. Which would make a lot of sense to me…. Far from being important and unique my entire presence boils down to being a simple bystander in someone else’s story. My faith in a more traditional view of existence is being eroded all the quicker with every unlikely dramatic last-minute win, of which last nights was just the latest.

Whatever your personal meaning of life, you can’t deny the Dons have spoilt us on the entertainment front this season – even if for three months that ‘entertainment’ involved Seb Brown picking the ball out of the net quite a lot). After convincing even glass-half-full types like myself there might be a danger they could get sucked into the relegation picture, three wins on the bounce and a dollop of guts, bottle, spirit, and other ingredients otherwise missing from the mix from October onwards has seen us shoot up the table into the comfort zone.

Such is the competitive nature of this division, our nine-point haul has left many dreaming of pulling off a Stevenage style rise up the table to gate-crash the playoff picture. I think the current squad, even if the parent clubs of recent reinforcements allow them to see out the season with us, will probably be found wanting in that respect. Even in victory last night, there were enough negatives to worry about, you got the impression on another day Macclesfield would have taken something from the game… the squad still show a willingness to play themselves into trouble more frequently than we could get away with against genuine promotion contenders.

The old problem of gifting possession in our own third reared its head on several occasions, as the back four caused alarm for those watching from the stands. The knee-jerk reaction was to urge the side to launch the ball forward, which on the occasions where the team obliged only resulted in a gargantuan Macclesfield player propelling the ball back deep into our half twice as quickly. We need to be a little more clever with our distribution from the back, so many times we see Seb Brown rushing to the right side of his six yard box to look for Sam Hatton, already shadowed by an opposition forward wise to the fact he’s our primary outlet.This would be a problem even if Hatton was on his game, as it was on the night he sent every other pass to someone who wasn’t there or worse, straight to the feet of a grateful opponent.

On the other side of the pitch, and more reliable on the night with his distribution (partly because whenever he got the ball he invariably gave it straight to Billy Knott…), Gareth Gwillim seemed to have acres of space. Now there were only so many bodies Macclesfield could commit to closing us down, we were always going to have the numbers to easily transit the ball into the middle third, especially as there are four competent footballers there (even if occasionally – promising talent that he is – C-Mac does resemble Bambi on ice when he has the ball at his feet…). There really is no need for them to make such a meal of it.

Defensive issues were merely a mild tarnish on an otherwise glowing performance. The Dons suggested they would dominate the game after a very bright opening, my first chance to get a view of three of the new signings and I wasn’t disappointed. George Moncur and Billy Knott looked completely at home and along with Sammy Moore were running the game for Wimbledon, hard to believe the two loanees were making only their third Football League appearances each. Absolutely no sign of nerves, that heavy touch you occasionally see when a player is thinking a little too much about what they are doing, they both looked completely at home on the Kingsmeadow pitch. In fact, I’d go further, they looked as though this was merely a stepping stone on their way to bigger and better things. Those guys signing ‘You’re just too good for us’? Couldn’t put it better, to be honest…

Byron Harrison also impressed. Like any new striker he needs a goal, you couldn’t fault any part of his game on the night – strong, holds the ball up well, will only get better when he gets used to his new team mates – the only thing missing was a finish. Admittedly, hitting the net is what goal scorers are judged on, but he’s getting himself in the right areas… only to snatch at the ball and shank it wide, or find that perfect cross bouncing back off his face. The arrival of Jason Prior may sharpen Harrison up, or provide an alternative should he need an extended period to find his feet. I have to admit knowing little of Prior beyond him being at Newcastle on trial and scoring an amazing amount of goals for Bognor… he does have a ‘footballers’ name though, so based on that alone I predict he’ll do well…

This is less of a rebuild and more of a reshaping exercise. Brown is no doubt aware once our loan players return (and I’m kind of hoping we’ve passed the 50 point barrier by that stage – even if it will take some kind of turn around for two of the bottom three to get anywhere near that target), he faces the challenge of effectively rebuilding the midfield in the summer. Sammy Moore is probably the only one safe in the knowledge he’ll still be here next season, but along with Jack Midson and his eye-catching goal tally he’s probably the most likely candidate to find himself poached by a bigger club come August.

Saturday brings with it the chance to extend our winning record to an unlikely four games. The odds seemed stacked in our favour, a mini run of nine points out of nine, Aldershot not exactly pulling up trees, unbeaten against sides managed by Dirty Deano…. away win it is then?!

Reinforcements

I’m starting to wish I hadn’t spent so much on Christmas. This is one of the down sides to the growing trend of employers paying you early in December… no money in January. Not intentionally of course, I’m just another victim of our buy now face the consequences later society, in other words I’m denying responsibility for some shaky mid-December budgeting when I was already pie eyed on sherry by 10AM most days. I still remember the conversation I had when Mrs AD questioned whether we could actually afford all the booze and presents and decorations and booze… ‘Of course we can, we’ll just have a quiet January. We’ll buy store products rather than brands, I won’t got to any away games….’.

What seemed like fun at the time has come back to haunt me big time, as the Dons prepare to travel to Port Vale with five new signings – and that number might have changed by the time I finish typing this and hit the ‘post button’. What would be an unmissable game under normal circumstances has been elevated to the level where you’d rob your granny to watch thanks to the return of a Dons legend… I’d actually quite happily rob my gran, the problem being my gran lives in New Addington, is quite capable of fending off the feral local youth who roam the streets outside her house, and by comparison would make mincemeat of a pampered, bloated thirty-something who hasn’t seen any hand to hand action since a playground scrap in 1989 (unless you include a few vigorous handshakes).

Of the five signings the return of Jason Euell was always going to steal the headlines, and I’ll come on to him a little later. Yet we’ve also permanently added both a centre half and forward (breaking our transfer record in the process), and two promising youngsters on initial month-long loans. The centre half needs no introduction, Callum McNaughton’s ever extending loan deal  mercifully converted (as far as our administration and their West Ham counterparts, forced to fill in and send off the relevant forms on a monthly basis), he is now Our Player for two and a half years. There’s no doubt he is still young and raw, but I’ve seen enough to accept he’s already good enough for this level, and can only get better – I’m looking forward to him forging a partnership with the impressive MMK that could see us through the next couple of years.

Joining him from West Ham is George Moncur, albeit on a month loan, along with Billy Knott from Sunderland. Loanees from academy sides are a bit of an unknown quantity when they first arrive, especially as neither of them have any Football League experience. Not a huge gamble for the club to take either of them for a month, they’ll either perform or the won’t, but the buzz surrounding Billy Knott suggests the likelihood is we’re going to benefit big time from his time at the club especially considering our two impact wide players in Djilali and Jolley are injured and suspended.

With Jack Midson toiling on his own with little help up front, the arrival of Byron Harrison gives us another attacking option. Finally Brown has captured the Kedwell replacement he has been after – for that is how Harrison will be judged. Harrison scored a few last year for Stevenage, eight in twenty appearances being a great return, and it seems Stevenage just went up a little to quickly for him to adjust. We’ll expect goals from him as a minimum, but its going to be interesting to see the impact his arrival has on our forward play in general.

A goal on his debut will help, which brings us onto our final signing, a guy whose we first saw spanking an overhead kick into the top corner of the Southampton net during a dreary and otherwise miserable day… We talked about Jason Euell coming back to the club in the summer, and the general feeling seemed to be not breaking the bank (and the wage structure) to bring him in at the expense of young payers who had earned their crack at the Football League. Right now his experience and proven ability are exactly what we need. Although his arrival might seem at first to be a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, even a publicity stunt, I would argue that even if that was the only reason Jason Euell has been brought back to the club, it will be worth it.

Although I won’t be travelling to Port Vale, there are a good couple of hundred others heading up who otherwise wouldn’t have been going. The Macclesfield game, already targeted by the club with a cut price ticket offer, is set to be a little busier than your average evening game at Kingsmeadow. The feel good factor is back at the club, we now need the players to do their part and win a couple of games… it’s time for us to start looking up instead of down…

Tagged

The Cull

Right, lets have a bit of blog update. It’s been a little while, I’ve written before about the frustration of not being able to write regularly – it seems at Christmas I had plenty of excuses not to write, visiting family, rushing to buy or receive presents, general laziness… all that guff. I suppose the overwhelming reason would have been sitting down in front of the laptop and thinking ‘Oh god, this feels too much like actual work…’. The Dons form of late has been dire, so in the same way I don’t really want to sit down and write emails to people telling them how to fix their showers, neither do I want to dissect the Dons defensive failings over and over again – the difference being I get paid for the former, why should I subject myself to the latter in what is supposed to be my leisure time

It’s a little ironic, as for the last nine years I found myself yearning for the days when victories were celebrated rather than expected. The Anonymous Don was born amidst a blip in our BSS promotion year and my desire to have my say… I’ve waited years for an actual crisis to come along, and a twelve game winless streak probably counts. Is this an actual bona fide crisis though? In terms of averages, your typical Football League club probably suffers a double digit winless run every five years or so, we’ve struck it lucky in a way that not only did we have a great start, keeping our head above water, but as veterans of the last such run of form (the one that ended in relegation…) will attest, at least this one is from October to January, not February to May – giving us time to remedy the slump. The only problem is our form hasn’t yet turned… I mention it lasting from October to January, but there’s no guarantee we will pick up a win before the month is out. When will it come? February? March???

The fact remains, despite what has happened of late, we still don’t find ourselves in a relegation fight (yet). Putting our neutral hats on and looking at the table, seventeenth place and eight points clear of the drop zone looks pretty comfortable… in fact its pretty much where I and probably most of you thought we would be at this stage. We have time to address the situation, a side that needs to remember how to win and certainly knows where the goal is should turn things around soon. You look at how predictable we’ve been of late, wonder where the change is going to come from, then remember how the pace of Jolley and Djilali so terrified defences in this division – getting those two back on a regular basis might be enough on its own. Considering those two, and the introduction to the line up of the impressive looking Mat Mitchel-King (quite literally like having a new signing…), we aren’t going to be in trouble this season, surely?

Yet looking at things in a positive light only works if you don’t simultaneously have your head stuck in the sand. We have real and immediate problems that we cannot wait until the summer to resolve. Terry Brown has admirably stuck by those players who won us promotion last term, probably fully aware that one or two might not make the grade at this level but willing to give them a chance to prove themselves. The problem is you look all over the field and find players struggling… supporters not normally known for doom-mongering are looking around and wondering where the leadership is going to come from, who is going to stand up and say ‘this run ends now’. In short people are panicking because there is reason to panic – the prize we fought so hard for in May could easily still be surrendered tamely between now and the end of the season.

We’ve probably overused phrases along the lines of ‘This is the most important x months in our history’ during the last nine years but there’s no point in denying this transfer window is massive for the club. Brown is aware he needs to bring in experienced reinforcements, and if there’s one area of management that I even mildly doubt TB it’s his mid-season acquisitions – especially in the all important loan market.

We should be encouraged that Brown is not prepared to sit around and watch us slide into trouble without putting up a fight, his previous comments relating to new arrivals reinforced yesterday by the news not only are signings expected next week, he has already named the five players who could leave the club to make room for them.

Of the five I think the only shocker is James Mulley. His injury in pre-season didn’t help, neither did inconsistent performances when he did get game time, but to be fair he has been shuffled around a bit and played out of position. The problem was Mulley was originally brought to the club as he was something of a utility man… Brown cannot justify keeping him on knowing he’s only really effective at this level in certain midfield roles, especially if he is planning on bringing in someone who can. Still Mulley remains a personal favourite of mine, he never stopped trying – still nipping around the pitch in injury time when we’re getting stuffed, trying to make something happen and at least take something from the game.

I’m also a little disappointed Charlie Ademeno is on his way, but his fitness issues were always going to be an issue… presumably Brown has his eye on someone who will hold the ball up and take the pressure off Midson. Mishull and Porter always put a great deal of effort in but were hugely inconsistent. I’m not sure we’ve seen the best of Porter, and Minshull always had the air of a particularly talented Ryman midfielder who had somehow risen above his level but found his fitness and technical ability wasn’t quite up to scratch. Ryan Jackson has the pace to hurt League Two defences but lacks the end product vital at this level.

Which leaves us eagerly awaiting news of replacements next week. We can count ourselves very lucky we have a free weekend to sort ourselves out. With three games away from home I don’t think many rational supporters will expect overnight miracles, but a couple of points here and there will go a long way to settling the nerves.