So, what is going on around the wonderful (?) world of AFC Wimbledon? A few little things…
- The close season officially ended this Monday when the players returned to training. Presumably we had enough players for an impromptu five-a-side game…
It’s funny how quickly it appears to have come around again, hasn’t it? Even though the last game was in fact two months today. It’s also a bit hard to think that this upcoming weekend will be the last one that will be football free for a good nine months (and yes, I know about the 11th August).
Who we need and who we haven’t brought in has been done before, and since the last update precious little has changed on that score. We’ve dipped out a couple of times in the last week, although whether we were genuinely in for them and not “for public consumption” will never be fully known.
Once again, you can spend a quiet moment browsing through the PFA Released Players list like a Screwfix catalogue when you need a new shower unit, where you can convince yourself that the player just released from Tottenham will willingly race towards KM for a carvery meal. Full price, of course.
When you browse through something like that, a couple of things spring to mind. Firstly, with all that talent lurking about and willing to work for food, there isn’t much excuse now not to bring in any experienced players. OK, I wouldn’t particularly want to buy a player released from Barnet, any more than I would buy one released from AFCW, but there are some familiar names there.
Secondly, and the point was made last pre-season on more than one occasion, this is a very good example of the trickle-down effect from the Premier League. Decent players who in a previous era would have been top flight regulars (think of many a WFC player) are now playing for Championship sides. Championship players from 10 years ago are now in the division above us.
As a result, this makes League Two in 2012 the third tier of 10-15 years ago.
This does mean that the likes of Nathan Elder and Drewe Broughton are being pushed out of League football, as better players become (slightly) more realistic in their wage demands. For those players returning to our training ground this week, that list should be at the back of their mind, and how many of their team-mates last season won’t be wearing FL badges on their shirt…
- The final point in relation to that list is – whither Brendan Kiernan? His transfer request becomes even more stupid now, especially reading that list. Wonder what his thoughts are as he goes back to our training ground having shown his cards to the club – and the club responding?
Like 98% of other clubs, we are obviously an outfit that needs to sell players, and we’re not exactly going to notice him gone. Youth will play a significant part for us over the next few years (see later on), but that will mean a youngster has to be good – not only in talent but in attitude and mentality too.
I reckon one of two things will happen re: BK – he will either withdraw his transfer request before the Chesterfield game, complete with the usual “I’m going to work hard and keep my place and help us push for the playoffs” bollocks that every sheepish footballer comes up with. Or he will go for a fee, but will go to a Conference side like Woking who can afford to splash a little bit of cash.
If every other released player ended up in the Conference (note that Djiaili and Mulley are still without clubs…….), then a fringe first teamer like him would be advised to quietly come back with his tail between his legs…
- One player who is staying is Seb, who as we now know has signed an improved deal with us. Though whether it’s “improved” for his bank balance or for us to cash in on him in future remains to be seen.
This will be a very important season for many people, on and off the field, and our main goalie will be no exception. Whether he didn’t play well with JS will remain a mystery, but there were times last season where he looked a little, well, raw. OK, maybe that’s the wrong word to use, but more will be expected of him next season.
As we need him to be, and not just because of the win/loss column. Your editor has bored those who read the SW19 comments section (what? You don’t read them? Forever flaunt your ignorance) by constantly suggesting that SB needs an experienced keeper as his understudy – a 35/36 year old who can still play those JPT type fixtures but is keen for his first coaching role, and can give our current #1 much needed advice.
Again, go to the PFA transfer list, and just search for keepers. And they’re the ones we know about.
But SB is possibly going to be our (first?) big money move in the next couple of seasons, perhaps as likely as Midson or Sammy Moore, and as such we need to fatten him for market. While we’d love a fellow AFCW fan like him to remain long term with us, if he does stay then it’s either because we’ve got into the Championship or because he’s failed to progress as a goalie. And if the latter was to happen, that would be a real shame – especially if we let him down with the coaching.
- Which does bring us neatly onto the final point of this little update. You’ve probably seen the thing on the OS about the youth development, and anything that bridges the gap between the yoof and the first team is always a good thing.
It’s stating the bleeding obvious that this particular part of AFCW has failed to catch up with the First XI, and it’s of no real surprise that since MG left the reserves have been jettisoned. Apparently there isn’t going to be much of a reserve league generally for League Two clubs, as many clubs have the same idea as us.
And all the while we were in the Suburban League, with some of the teams we faced, it was never going to close.
I guess the “performances” in both the LSC and the Slurrey Senior games were the straw that caused the camel to require urgent spinal surgery, and while I expect we’ll still be in both competitions next season they might finally have a use.
And we might even be able to win them.
So, what does this all mean? Well, the EPPP thing caused a lot of aggro amongst Championship clubs, Palace being one of them, although reading it does seem to benefit us as we appear to get a lot more money out of it. It’s nothing we’ve had in the AFCW era, certainly.
But while our “reserves” seemed to be a mish-mash of semi-promising youngsters and fringe first teamers, the youth players got to play much better quality opponents on a regular basis (predictably, the OS is about as useful as Byron Harrison was last season when trying to find out who). And barring a second XI that is on a par with our CS winning side, that is the only way we will bridge a pretty large gap.
That said, it is a gap that is getting smaller. Even with our previous setup, we’ve given pro contracts to Huw Johnson, Jim Fenlon and Frankie Merrifield, and only yesterday the club announced that Dan Sweeney, Emmanuel Akhokia, Emmanuel Akiotu, Harry Wise and William Bor have progressed from the Senior Academy and get to train with the first team.
Even if just one of those players becomes a first team regular, that’s one less position we have to worry about. Especially as the ability to scout and identify players at the club took a bit of a knock last season with some of the crap we ended up with.
And in theory at least, the young players will get a chance with us. We have seven seats on the bench each game to fill, and providing they’re not discarded after a couple of games because they didn’t play like Messi, there are some good opportunities awaiting. This morning, it was confirmed we’re not going to chase after Knott and Moncur again, and quite simply I hope we don’t have to go down that route because of sheer panic.
Even if they aren’t, the likely implementation of an under-21 league will help. We’re at something called Category 3, whatever that means, and like so many other things at AFCW we need to develop and move on as an organisation to get up to Category 2. And ensuring we don’t have to rush out and buy the likes of Prior or Djilali just to make up the numbers is a good way of doing so…