Perhaps we can file this one under Gobsmacking Transfer Of The Summer – Pim Balkestein has rejoined AFC Wimbledon.
Not on loan, but actually our player. One to cherish, hold, get to do community things and not worry about what happens when we return him.
First things first, he’ll certainly be welcomed back to AFCW. In fact, that’s what he more or less said on the OS:
“I was really impressed that Terry and Stuart Cash still thought about me and tried so much to get me back here,” he said. “The fans showed that they liked me last time I was here and I hope to play a lot of games next season.
“We have made some good signings and hopefully we can do better than 16th next season. I think that we can climb six or seven places and maybe challenge for the play-offs.
“It was made clear to me that I was not part of Brentford’s plans after they signed another centre-back and it is great for me to get another chance in English football.”
It can be argued that he was a major factor in us being a Football League club again this season. We all know that he was the smash-the-emergency-glass signing after that Plymouth game, and he proved a revelation by being able to actually defend…
We can wax lyrical about how he did things like kick the ball out of play, look imposing, giving a previously Conference South level defence a bit of confidence and having a clue about defending. If we were lacking haemogloblin, he was our blood transfusion.
When he left, I think he was one of two loanees (Billy Knott being the other) who we were genuinely wishing could stay. Wages were obviously a concern (and more on that in a bit), and you just felt that some other L1 club would come knocking for him if Brentford let him go.
But he’s come to us again, and there is one serious buzz because of it.
I don’t know whether we’ll see him at Maidenhead tonight, although we’ll certainly see him at Bognor. When he does make his second debut, he’ll be wearing the #5 shirt (hope he likes the Batman motif) and has already become the senior defender at the club.
This has to be one of the few transfers this summer that you can’t say anything negative about. It is a genuine “wow” moment, although it’s believed he was on our shopping list under the nice-to-have section.
And most importantly of all, he boosts our mandatory ex-Brentford quota up again.
There are a couple of questions though, one of which may be considered slightly churlish. He was believed to be on pretty good money at Griffin Park, so how much are we paying him? He will certainly be one of the top earners, if not the top one at the club, even if he is only apparently here for one season. Not that he won’t be worth it, but it kind of puts the club’s
whinging deeply held concerns about having a low budget into perspective.
Perhaps the money is coming out of the club’s pot, or perhaps the money is coming from a donor or sponsor? Again, that does throw open what we really have to do with our funding model from now on – you want to get the likes of Pim, you have to pay for them. Mike Richardson’s comments on WDSA (link not available) seem a bit more pertient right now…
And yes, player wages are far too high, and are a main reason why clubs get into so much debt. Sadly, we either play the game or we go back to the backwaters of the Conference.
On a more footballing level, does this mean that Aaron Downes and/or Steven Old won’t be taken on? From the little we saw of him, I’d like to think there is still enough in the budget to sign Downes (not so taken with Old, if truth be told).
[UPDATE 1245] Aaron Downes has been let go, although we’re still looking at Old. Unsurprisingly, Ben McNamara has also been shown the door. Hopefully he was able to open it unaided.
As last season showed way too often, centre back is where you need to get it right, and I’d rather have Downes and Pim there and put in a youngster elsewhere.
Mind you, there is the story of Michael Hector being linked with us, although unlike Pim, he may be more tempted to be in League One next season.
While your editor has bored everyone often enough with the goalkeeper player-coach idea, we might be able to get away with a youngster on the bench now – and hopefully one who is a little less whiny than Jack Turner – and dip into the loan market if Seb gets sold/breaks his arm.
Does this mean that we’re playoff bound now? Probably not, if truth be told. Pim is but one position, and as important as he is (and will be), it’s very easy to get carried away with his signing.
Missing out on the likes of Ryan Creswell will see that we are still most likely to push on for mid-table mediocrity and not much further. One can argue that it’s our level for the time being, especially given current structure and personnel.
Even so, we have made a step forward to securing ourselves as a legitimate L2 side this morning, and whatever we’re paying Pim will be worth it for that alone. Let’s just hope he doesn’t do an ACL…