The off-season is over, pre-season has begun. Some clubs have already started playing friendlies, Kingstonian supporters have to wait until Saturday 13th July and a visit to Dorking Wanderers to see an almost completely new squad.

I’ve tried to delay doing very much in the way of preparation as long as possible, but other people at the club have been working their behinds off as normal, there is no off-season for some individuals. For example, Phil, our esteemed secretary, will have had forms coming out of his ears all summer, especially with the signing of so many new players (and de-registering of two…), but there’s so many things that need to be done by Phil even before we are allowed to kick a ball. It was busy enough for me when I was secretary of the under 18s, but that task is nothing compared to Phil’s.

The fact that pre-season is looming fast hit me in the face when I realised that I needed to write the pen pics, Dorking Wanderers will be producing something for our friendly and they made their request a little while back. I hate writing pen pics, I really do, and at times in the last two years, it felt like that was all I was ever doing. This time it was unusual, there is only so many ways of saying that Player X signed for Kingstonian in the summer of 2019 from Merstham. Out of the sixteen I was able to announce the other week, eleven came from Merstham, plus there is Tutu Henriques who has also registered as a player, so make that twelve (as I said, two have already left, which is regrettable but one of those things). And of those non-Merstham, I think three at least were former Merstham players.

I’ve written so many pen pics for players in the last few years that sometimes a player gets mentioned to me, and I genuinely can’t remember him, erroneously say that I’ve never heard of him and then get reminded that I wrote a pen pic for him. A programme editor’s senior moment.

I did realise that a few Merstham players would switch amber and black for red and white hoops, but I didn’t envisage the stampede. It’s normal that when a manager switches clubs, he will take a few players with him but I haven’t been around to see it in action to that scale. It must have been a stressful few weeks for the people at Merstham, a fine group that have enjoyed some very deserved success in the last few years, and if I wasn’t a Kingstonian person, I would feel immense sympathy for them. But obviously I have to be biased and simply say that I am looking forward to seeing our new players in hoops, which is the truth. Merstham will be ok, they have done a good thing and appointed a fine man in Frank Wilson as manager and he looks like he’s putting together a quality squad. It won’t stop the matches between us becoming “special occasions”, like for example our matches against Hampton when Dowse moved to the Beveree, but I think anyone predicting the demise of the Moatsiders will be sadly disappointed.

It was early in June when I received the e-mail that the ladies’ team was folding. Even though I didn’t often get to see them play, something I regretted at the time, it was very disappointing to hear the news. Basically the reason was that we were struggling badly to get a squad together and it was best to close it down than to limp on and then stop either nearer the start of the season or, worse still, during it. Last season we often turned up with no substitutes and only ten players on a couple of occasions, it was a miracle that the K’s women did as well as they did and won as many games as they did. And this despite the fact that in Stef Loucaides, we have a genuinely top quality coach (an FA award winning one) and despite the predicted participation boost that the current World Cup is going to produce. It’s such a shame and very sad – Stef and Mark Robson worked very hard for that team and deserved better. Hopefully, sometime down the line we can begin again. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching the World Cup, but it has been tinged with a bit of sadness for me in the background.

And so the first pre-season game approaches, back to the scene of one of our more harrowing thumpings of the last campaign – Dorking Wanderers probably never got out of first or second gear when they beat us 7-1 on their way to winning the title, but I won’t be going to watch the men in red and white stripes, it’ll be the guys in yellow taking my attention, as we’ll probably wear those away shirts with the practically invisible numbers on them – oh how much I am hoping that this is rectified when the new shirts come in…

As I’ve said before, I am not (currently) setting targets of any significant altitude at all for Kingstonian this season. It’s daft setting targets anyway at non-league level, but most of us do it anyway, and I’m no different. However, I am not going to say that the season can only be a success if we finish in the play-offs or higher, my initial targets are simpler, and essentially there are two of them. Sort them out, then I can launch into things that lack realism…

Number one is to see us win away. That didn’t happen last season, I missed all our away wins and it always got me wondering whether it was me (could well have been…), in some banal way it did start feeling a bit personal. Anyway, an away win when the competitive stuff starts, friendlies will not count for this particular task.

Number two is to allow me to enjoy watching the K’s, this means watching a set of hoops that are competing hard for ninety minutes, a set of hoops that I can get behind and cheer on, a team that I want to start looking forward to seeing in the next game as soon as the game just witnessed has ended.

A lot of the last three seasons have been spent waiting for new and unusual ways to get humiliated and forever thumbing Ye Olde Book of Cliches to find new and colourful phrases for “we got beat again”. I’ve had enough of that, I don’t want to constantly feel that way any more. Mondays at work are partly spent fielding questions about how many we lost by and have we sacked another manager in the last ten minutes, and it really is brave face time. No more, please. Non-league football is supposed to be fun, and I haven’t had fun for a long time. It’s time that ended.

One more blank weekend, though it will be filled by Women’s World Cup or African Cup of Nations football watching, and the league fixtures come out on Thursday and then the grind can begin again. Let’s hope that for once when it comes to the end of April/beginning of May, we can look back on a season and think that it was not a grind and it was actually ok.

Finally, to finish on a completely mushy note, tomorrow is the 22nd anniversary of Rosey making the calamitous mistake of marrying me. I’ve always known for definite, and this has never changed in 22 years, that me marrying Rosey was never ever a mistake and easily the best things I have ever done. So, happy anniversary, my love!