Well, we made it to the second game of pre-season before the first nay-sayers crept out of estivation and declared that our season is in trouble. It seems that we’ve improved a bit, then, they’re usually much earlier than this. Whether they haven’t actually been to either game yet and have put out automatic messages that been dormant all summer and scheduled to be released at a certain time, I don’t really know. But, after all, for some, this is the Kingstonian Way.
We were good in places against Walton Casuals, most of those places were in the first half – we let a badly defended goal in after about seventy seconds, using my biased eyes I thought the forward was more than a little offside, but it’s pre-season as well for match officials, he says charitably. Regardless of the “more than a little offside”, it was a disappointing start to the game. We equalised after a quarter of an hour thanks to a nice round-the-keeper goal from Louie Theophanous, and the rest of the half saw us have lots of possession, but ultimately it was an even half and deserved to go in level at the break. There were one or two moments that caused palpitations as goalkeeper Amadou Tangara wanted to go around as many forwards as possible before passing to a defender with an opponent within millimetres of his personal space – much more of that and I will lose my hair by the end of August. But overall the first half was a continuation of Saturday and could be played in the “not bad” category.
The second half started with Dan Bennett missing a penalty that was apparently given for handball – it looked like one of those handballs that plagued the Women’s World Cup that used the new interpretations of the handball law and wouldn’t have been given last season. It’s all set to become incredibly fraught this coming season as the Premier League is going to be flooded with handball shouts and VAR inspections. I haven’t got a problem with VAR in theory, I just don’t think they’ve worked out how to do it properly. The system worked in France at the WWC very well, but the humans involved looked completely lost and confused most of the time. Anyway, the penalty was missed, lots of substitutions were made and Walton Casuals’ replacements proved to be better than ours on the night and walked away with a well-earned 4-1 win.
Whilst it would be nice to start winning games straight away, and whilst I did leave Waterside Drive grousing and grumbling, unless the Martians come down and invade (though they will attack Woking first – and anyway the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one…), our season is in no way in peril. Remember a few things, the first I have mentioned several times before is that there are (certainly from me) no targets other than winning a competitive away game when I’m there; secondly we’re in July, thirdly unless a friendly match is lost by double figures then there can be no panic, after all sometimes you learn a lot more from getting beat than you would winning a game by similar margins, especially in pre-season. We have players away on holiday, one or two injuries, we’ve played good opposition, and unless you do get beat by double figures not many people are going to remember the result.
Case in point – the season we won Division One South in 2008-09 (sometimes it feels like yesterday, other times it feels like decades), we were flattened 0-8 by Fulham in pre-season, Clint Dempsey and his mates went absolutely ballistic on our backsides. It felt humiliating. But that game made us toughen up and clinical. Apart from one bad night at Fleet Town (which ultimately in itself did us the power of good as we embarrassed ourselves that night), the rest of the season went like a dream, and we won the title by ten points. I’d like to think that Dempsey’s four goals, plus the four others from other Fulham players did us the world of good, even though it didn’t feel that way. I’m not saying something similar is going to happen here, but the point is that we learned a lot about ourselves when Fulham went berserk, and I think we learned something about a few things at Walton Casuals on Tuesday night.
I really don’t like our sat nav – I think it takes the piss out of us. On Tuesday night, Rosey picked me up from Sainsbury’s in Wallington, we plugged in the postcode of Waterside Drive, and it felt like we were given a grand tour, one of those you get when you get on a bus with a route number beginning with the letter “S” or “K”. When we’re on our travels, the best way for us to get to the M25 is through Coulsdon – the sat nav at one point is desperate for us to turn left, go down some small narrow road, turn right at the main road and carry one. Which is pointless – going straight on takes you to the very same point, and not only that, we don’t have to wait at the junction for hours trying to turn right into the main road when going the proper way we can use traffic lights. It’s a wonder that the sat nav sometimes doesn’t tell us to eff off, especially when at least two or three times a journey it is being given a rude sign or twelve by the passenger (which is always me, by the way). Our sat nav is also like a fireman – always running towards the trouble. It hasn’t the foggiest about traffic conditions and when it says it does, it leads us to the jams. In fact, it must be sponsored by a preserves company because it loves jams and putting the occupants of the car into a pickle. Thankfully, on Saturday we know where are going, and the sat nav can have the day off.
I like most of what I’ve seen so far in our two games, we have a bunch of hard working players who seem willing to give all they can to the cause. That is already an improvement.