Let’s Go Round Again

Not as sung by the Average White Band, but a pre-emptor to an Average Football Team.

Another season is almost upon us, and it will be our third season as season ticket holders. Although when I wrote most of this piece on Wednesday night, I hadn’t picked up my season ticket as it was last minute dot com again for having them ready to pick up. They only became available less than a week before the first home game of the season. I did see this week on my timehop that I picked last season’s season ticket up at this time as well, after the first game of the season, but that was away at Carlisle, so it was in time for the first home game. They weren’t ready until the last week in July and I was on holiday.

It really doesn’t seem like nearly three months since the last game of last season, the smoke flare filled away trip to Swindon.

That trip showed up some of the differences in the running of clubs, between well run, organised ones, and the omnishambles we have running ours. They were already selling their season tickets for this season; their prices were in place and sales were open. It would still be another month before our new season prices were set (the same as last season, so surely a decision that could have been made earlier), and another week before they went on sale to existing season ticket holders. Then another two weeks before general sale, all of which compresses the time to produce and have them ready. It would be nice if they were ready sometime before the week of the first game, and ideally before the school holidays start and there is the mad rush away for two weeks.

I saw this in Swindon’s programme. It was four quid, so a pound more than ours, but miles better in content and production. I did moan quite a bit about the quality of the content of the programme last season, but at least we had one last season. One of the summer announcements from the club was they have scrapped the programme. Not moved it to a digital one as some other clubs have, but got rid of it completely. I’m not happy about it in the slightest, and did a long post on the forum and Facebook page about how it was wrong. The reasons were it’s too expensive to produce (raise the price then), and sales had dropped off (which I saw evidence to the contrary of during the season).

We survived being relegated last season by the skin on the skin of our teeth, and since then the revolving doors of players leaving and then joining the club has picked up pace. In fact, it has gone around quick enough that the club could have stored enough power from the dynamo to generate electricity to see us through to Christmas.

A lot of the longer established players, and some of the fan favourites have left. All the loanees went back to their parent clubs, only to then get loaned out again somewhere else for this season. Jack Powell and James Tilley went within a couple of days of each other, but thankfully there has been plenty of time for Scott Lindsey to work on who will be the dead ball specialists this season. Unlike the game last season when they both got substituted within a couple of minutes of each other and when we got a free kick all the players on the pitch stood around looking at each other wondering who was going to take it.

A day before the season started last year a plausible starting line up may have been Glenn Morris, George Francomb, Ludwig Francillette, Tony Craig, Jake Hessenthaler, Atamide Oteh, James Tilley, Jack Powell, Ashley Nadesan, Tom Nichols, and Kwesi Appiah. And with a bench of Balcome, Nazeeb, Fellows, Balagizi, Mason, Jenks, and Marshall. None of them survive going into Saturday’s first game of this season. And that’s not including a whole raft (well more like a cross channel ferry) of fringe players to be out the door.

At first it seemed as if there were no replacements coming in. Incoming were thin on the ground. This has picked up over the last few weeks with a new name appearing every couple of days. It is going to be a vastly different team and squad to the one we were used to that sees the new season in. And although the club always announced the new signing as being ex-<insert league club’s name here>, invariably the club we picked them up from were non-league.

To be fair, after last season’s utter shit storm, having a vastly refreshed squad may not be the bad thing that many people have made it out to be.

And if I’m honest the person I feel sorriest for is whoever comes up with the player chants and songs. With only Tsaroulla left of the established songs (there was a fledgling Telford one starting), there is a whole new playlist needed. I can see potential for a couple of new songs, but they are most definitely showing up my age. As I would be disappointed if there isn’t a bit of Modern Romance action going with ‘Ay ay ay ay Orsi’, and I’m not sure whether it should be the Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All Over”, or Captain Sensible’s “Glad It’s All Over” that needs to be repackaged as ‘Gladwin’s All Over’. But I know it certainly wouldn’t do to be using the chorus of Jilted John’s “Jilted John” for Kellen Gordon as is, but there are so many other adjectives that might be more appropriate than moron for it.

I had high hopes going into last season, and I’m much more muted this season. Pre-season has been interesting. All our games against non-league opposition have finished with us winning 2–1. Our two games against higher level opposition including the four thirty-minute period one against Portsmouth, were heavy defeats. But there are signs of a plan and a playing style, which is more than Betsy ball brought us last year. I’m not going to say playoffs, but I think somewhere in mid table is achievable. And perhaps a few less manager changes in the season might help.

Four Four Two magazine has us to finish dead last, relegation favourites, and going down with Sutton. It’s so bad none of the other team’s contributors to the review section bothered to take pot shots at us like five of them did last season. Our own fan file contributor just said bottom half for us. Which I suppose is realistic.

When Saturday Comes left their pre-season issue until the last minute, it came out today, so I’ve not seen it yet, but as they had us to finish twentieth last season, I doubt they’ll have us any higher than that for this season.

I’m going to go for where Four Four Two had us finishing last season — fourteenth.

As for the cups? Well, I can’t see us doing as well in the Carabao cup as we did last season. Exeter away that early in the season isn’t deal, and I can see a first round exit.

For the FA cup, pretty much anything would be better than last year’s effort, especially with the Sideman ‘trial’ debacle overshadowing the build up to the game, and the non-performance in it. I’m going to go for the third round for us, as hopefully we’ll have a settled side by the time the first round comes around in November.

As for the EFL trophy, I know there is a lot of ‘who cares’, but we did well enough last season and were unlucky not to progress from the group stage. Let’s go a game further this season, eh?

There is always the cloud of the crypto clowns hanging over us. The new kit isn’t due until at least tomorrow, if it is in time then it will be the same as the first batch last season, sold out the back of a transit van. We don’t have a shirt sponsor for the season, it’s going to rotate between various half-hearted organisations through the season. We don’t even have a stadium sponsor again. But there was a big fanfare about County Mall sponsoring the “Goal and Replay”. Which means I’ll see about thirty five percent of that from my seat.

There will be protests, there will be flares (not sure whether the smoke ones, or the seventies fashion disaster are worse), there will be abuse of the lino, and there may even be two hundred fans at an away ground in the middle of winter waving one shoe at the pitch. It may be bad, it may be good, but it is unlikely to be boring.

Roll on Saturday, and for a change we have a home game instead of an away trip to the ends of the earth. Bradford City start us off, so plenty of opportunity to wind Mark Hughes up again, and for at least one set of fans to wish the crypto clowns had succeeded in buying Bradford.

Come on you reds.

49 Problems, But The New Season Ain’t One

Another new NFL season is upon us, and to say I am not prepared is a massive understatement. I’m sure that July was only last week. But apparently no, it’s the second weekend in September and the first game of the new season is tonight, as reigning Superbowl Champions the Los Angeles Rams (it hurts to have to type that) take on most people’s favourites for a Superbowl win this year, the Buffalo Bills on the first Thursday Night Football of the season. And therefore, this has been thrown together and typed up in a bit of a rush without any research or actual fact gathering. (So much so it would be a much better preview of a team such as the Eagles, Falcons, Cardinals, Ravens, or Seahawks, as I’m totally winging this.)

The mass dismantling of the Rams that was foretold after their win back in February hasn’t really happened, and a large majority of their winning team is back this year. It could have been us, but the 49ers ran out of offensive ability in the final quarter of NFC Conference Final. Although to be fair it was more luck than judgement we got there. A last play of the match in the final regular season game saw us beat the Rams and squeeze into the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers had his usual missing in action game against the 49ers in the wild card game, and the Cowboys showed they were just that bit better at shooting themselves in the foot in the divisional round.

The offseason has been more of a soap opera than East Coronation Dale Oaks could ever be. Between Deebo Samuel and Jimmy G it’s been a drama roller coaster over the summer. Deebo has been persuaded to stay with top dollar, which we hope he plays up to. Meanwhile we haven’t been able to give Jimmy G away for a dollar. It looks as if we are going to start with Trey Lance at quarterback, and have the most expensive backup quarterback in the league.

After the travails of the end of last season now more than six months down the line, my nails and hair have all grown back just in time for the new season. Quarterback discussions aside, we look to be a more settled team this year, we’ve kept most of our high performing players.

Trent Williams became the first offensive lineman to earn a 99 rating in Madden since 2007, and was only the fourth 49er to get that accolade (Terrell Owens, Patrick Willis, and Ken Norton Jr were the others. Although Jerry Rice did get a now defunct 100 rating). He was the highest rated of the seven 49ers players to make the NFL top 100 list for the new season. (Deebo, Kittle, Bosa, Warner, Ward, and Juszczyk being the others)

The talent is there, but can they put it all together? Will Trey Lance make the offense more potent, so that we can convert more of our possessions into points (7’s not 3’s), instead of having to rely on our stellar defence to keep the opposition score down. If he can then I can’t see the season being anything else apart from good. Outside of the Rams, our division may be less testing than it has been over the last few years. Not sure what Cardinals will turn up this year, the ones that started the season like a train last year, or the ones that couldn’t get out of their own way at the end of the season. But playing the Seahawks should be easier. Eternal pain in the backside Russell Wilson has gone to the Broncos, and so there will be no pulling miracles out of his arse against us for the chewing gum obsessed Pete Carroll this year.

Outside of the division it’s hard to look past the Packers and Buccaneers again this year in the NFC. The Cowboys may pretend to look good, but it’s easy to do when their division is more like Brit Bowl standard (and seriously, which halfwit took nearly two years to come up with the new Washington nickname and after all that time thought Commanders was a good name. If they wanted an apt name for what goes on in Washington, they really should have gone with Dumpster Fires).

There really shouldn’t be any reason why we can’t make it to the playoffs. 12-5 is well within our reach, and a third NFC Conference final in four years is a distinct possibility, without most of the dramas of last season. And playing for an extra five minutes this year would se us to the Superbowl.

And when we get there, I don’t care who we play. Whoever survives out of the Bills, Chiefs, Chargers, and Bengals will have been worn down enough for us to take advantage.

Which means I’ve just predicted that we’ll go all the way and win the Superbowl. That probably shows just how much I’m out of it, as it is far too positive for me. Let’s hope that doesn’t mean the new four-leaf clover addition causes the horseshoe to fall off the wall and crush the rabbit’s foot.

Go Niners!