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Season Preview 2011-12 Part 2 31/07/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
2 comments

Poland again?  Oh.  Part 2….

BRISTOL CITY

INS: Yannick Bolasie (Plymouth Argyle, Undisclosed), Ryan Taylor (Rotherham United, Undisclosed), Neil Kilkenny (Leeds United, Free)

OUTS: Stephen Henderson (Portsmouth, Undisclosed), John Akinde (Crawley Town, Free), Ivan Sproule (Hibernian, Free), Patrick Hoban, Jimmy Keohane

OUR EX-ROBINS: Sean Dyche, Chris Iwelumo

THEIR EX-ORNS: David James, Lee Johnson, Keith Millen (Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: An enjoyable 2-0 win at Ashton Gate early last season featuring an astonishing turbo-powered performance by Don Cowie, and a rather less enjoyable 3-1 reverse at Vicarage Road in February.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

James
Skuse      Carey         Nyatanga       McAllister
Adomah       Cissé         Kilkenny       Woolford
Stead         Maynard

VERDICT: Keith Millen. A solid bloke, a more important player for us than our mind’s eye probably recognises having once being part of a glut of signings that helped see off relegation and then, several years later, a regular part of a back three (along with Page and Mooney) as we won our first trophy in 20 years.  The next season he got injured early on, missed the insane run to Wembley and never played for the club again.  At the start of the Prem season, as the autograph-hunting kidz were clustering around the injured Tommy Mooney at the foot of the Rookery, Keith stood to one side, slightly embarrassed and unnoticed.  They didn’t know who he was.

Keith Millen is now the manager of Bristol City, and again hasn’t perhaps been dealt a hand that will permit him to be looked back on fondly or fairly.  City have a huge squad, many of whom recruited by Millen’s predecessors and many of whom on excessive salaries, making them unshiftable. Nobody wants Nicky Hunt on a big wedge for some reason.  Heaven knows we’ve been there.  Critically for Millen, this also means that he’s got limited scope in the transfer market, which is a problem when your defence looks as flaky as the Robins’.  There’s some quality there, and City managed to finish just behind us last season despite missing talisman Nicky Maynard for most of it.  Fancy that flattered them though, and they’ll struggle this season although like Barnsley they’re in the box labelled “could go down” rather than “will go down”.

BURNLEY

INS: Ben Mee (Manchester City, Season Loan), Kieran Trippier (Manchester City, Season Loan)

OUTS: Chris Eagles (Bolton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Chris Iwelumo (Watford, Undisclosed),  Tyrone Mears (Bolton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Stephen Thompson (St.Mirren, Free), Graham Alexander, Chris Anderson, Michael King, Nik Kudiersky, Chris Lynch, Kevin McDonald, Remco van der Schaaf, Clarke Carlisle (Preston North End, Season Loan)

OUR EX-CLARETS: Chris Iwelumo

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two defeats to the Clarets last season; a 3-2 reverse at Turf Moor secured by an iffy late Graham Alexander penalty, and a more comprehensive defeat at Vicarage Road featuring an uncomfortable mix-up between Scott Loach and Dale Bennett early doors.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Grant
Trippier            Bikey            Mee                Fox
Marney         McCann         Bartley        Wallace
Rodriguez      Austin

VERDICT: Heaven knows, we remember how this feels.  The rules of the game have changed for Birmingham, Blackpool and West Ham of course, but Burnley were relegated under the same deal as we were in 2007… which means that they had one season to get it right, to bounce back, before needing to cut their cloth.  You’ll notice that they’re still here.  A year ago it felt as if the Clarets had done it “right”… by strengthening without gambling they had, OK, been relegated after a season but used the revenues to build the club in a way that might be sustainable.

That assessment was inaccurate, judging by the summer’s dealings at the time of writing. Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears have gone to Bolton, Chris Iwelumo has also moved on as we know, and manager Eddie Howe hasn’t as yet been able to add to his permanent staff this summer.  It may be that the Clarets will do business late in the window, exploiting the loan market to supplement increased reliance on their younger professionals as we have;  if so, the opening day of the season with their squad incomplete and the locals anxious might not be a bad time to get this traditionally unprofitable fixture out of the way.  As it stands, Burnley look weak in midfield beyond Chris McCann, and will rely heavily on player of the year Rodriguez for goals.  Bottom half, but clear of trouble.

CARDIFF CITY

INS: Joe Mason (Plymouth Argyle, £250,000), Kenny Miller (Bursaspor, Undisclosed), Aron Gunnarsson (Coventry City, Undisclosed compensation package), Craig Conway (Dundee United, Free), Don Cowie (Watford, Free), Rob Earnshaw (Nottingham Forest, Free), Rudy Gestede (Metz, Free), Andrew Taylor (Middlesbrough, Free), Filip Kiss (Slovan Bratislava, Season Loan)

OUTS: Michael Chopra (Ipswich Town, £1,500,000), Jay Bothroyd (Queens Park Rangers, Free), Chris Burke (Birmingham City, Free), Adam Matthews (Celtic, Free), Martin John, Gavin Rae

OUR EX-BLUEBIRDS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Neal Ardley (Academy Manager), Richard Collinge (Medical), Don Cowie, David Kerslake  (Assistant Manager), Malky Mackay (Manager), Joe McBride (First Team Coach), Andrew Taylor

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A thumping, Buckley-fuelled victory in December in which we managed to spurn an early penalty and still win 4-1, and a reverse at Cardiff a month later where our winning run came to an end after we went 3-0 down and couldn’t quite claw it back.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Marshall
McNaughton     Gerrard         Hudson        Taylor
Cowie     Gunnarsson        Whittingham        Conway
Miller        Earnshaw

VERDICT: Don Cowie was the one that pissed me off.  I suspect I’m not the only one.  Malky leaving was a huge disappointment, but as suggested at the end of last season not hugely surprising in itself;  the losses of Kerslake, McBride and Collinge all had a depressing inevitability about them given the sort of club Mackay moved to, frankly I’m delighted that Sean Dyche didn’t make the same decision.  Andrew Taylor and Craig Conway… both players that we thought we might sign, in Taylor’s case one that we were painfully close to signing (if only Gordon Strachan hadn’t been quite so unhinged and lasted until January).  Mackay owes his knowledge of both to his time working for us, but would be an idiot not to exploit that knowledge in his new position. Cowie though… Cowie felt underhand and deceitful.  I suspect that it may have made a difference if we’d known what the score with his contract was; whatever the dawning realisation inside the club, the first most of us knew that the Scot wasn’t under contract was when his move to Cardiff was announced.  Again, one could argue that Mackay was merely being professional, serving the interests of his new employers.  From our position, it felt like a rug was being pulled from under us. GT’s comments at the time were singularly unimpressed, accompanied by the smell of bridges being burned.

City have undergone a comprehensive revamp over the summer of course, on the pitch as well as of it.  There can be little doubt that a great big broom was needed… several years of not quite making it left a number of senior players out of contract and of an age where they really wanted to be negotiating elsewhere in the absence of a top-flight pay day.  If it was a surprise that Mackay chose Cardiff – one suspected that he might have got less risky offers – there can surely be no surprise, or indeed criticism, of Cardiff’s desire to go for Mackay in the circumstances.  Just the job really, you’d have thought.  If Dave Jones seemed to rely on expensive loans of Premiership cast-offs, Mackay… well, we know.  Last season’s fourteenth place might have been inconspicuous in the end, viewed from the outside.  Uninspiring, almost.  But we know different, we know the context and we watched the football.  As stated before on these pages, I haven’t enjoyed a campaign as much since we got promoted in 1999, such was the vim and character of the side in defiance of expectation.  Two of the key men in the particularly enjoyable run of late 2010 will be in blue next season in a side that has been almost wholly revamped;  indeed, only Whittingham of the front six suggested above was at Cardiff last term.  The pieces aren’t all going to just fall into place, but despite having lost big names like Bothroyd, Chopra, and Burke, City look to have built a more competitive squad.  Earnshaw and Miller doesn’t feel like the most obvious partnership but fellow new recruits, Mason and Gestede, provide younger, rawer options and have showed up well in pre-season.  Wonder if they were on our list too, unbeknown to us.  Doesn’t matter really, I suppose.  City won’t be competing for automatic promotion, but sixth place at least will be as up-for-grabs as ever.  City have a good shout as anyone, and unburdened by the weight of expectation they might well do it this time.

COVENTRY CITY

INS: Chris Dunn (Northampton Town, Undisclosed), Joe Murphy (Scunthorpe United, Free)

OUTS: Aron Gunnarsson (Cardiff City, Undisclosed compensation package), Marlon King (Birmingham City, Free), Stephen O’Halloran (Carlisle United, Free), Isaac Osbourne (Aberdeen, Free), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland, Free), Michael McIndoe, Michael Quirke, Lee Carsley (retired)

OUR EX-SKY BLUES: John Eustace

THEIR EX-ORNS: Steve Harrison (Assistant Manager)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: A 2-2 draw in the first home game of last season, featuring John Eustace’s Goal of the Season and a draw snatched from the jaws of victory, and a limp defeat at the Ricoh in April.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Murphy
Clarke         Crainie           Turner         Hussey
Clingan
Bell                                Baker
McSheffrey
Eastwood       Jutkiewicz

VERDICT: Coventry City’s recent history has something artful about it.  34 years in the top flight up to 2001, at least the last twenty years of it utterly inconspicuous (excepting that magnificent Cup Final in 1987 – Spurs had hardly been gracious victors in the semi, lest we forget).  On relegation to the second tier… they continued in much the same vein.  Ten seasons in Div 2 now, only once have they finished in the top ten (despite, bizarrely, apparently anticipating promotion every season – not this time, mind) and, significantly, seventeenth or lower in each of the last four.  Aidy Boothroyd’s appointment last year proved to be the latest in a series of grotesque management decisions (Iain Dowie?  Chris Coleman?); new guy Andy Thorn, who I remember looking nothing like as old as that in the middle of Wimbledon’s defence, comes across as decent but impotent and already frustrated by the constraints of managing a side losing money hand over fist, thanks in no small part to the legacy of tenant-status at a half-full Ricoh Arena.  Cruelly appropriate that the representation of the City badge on their latest kit depicts the elephant in white.

A side that hovered above the drop zone last season has since lost, in Westwood, Gunnarsson and King, three of its four outstanding players;  the only incoming moves have been replacement goalkeepers, and whilst Joe Murphy is an experienced stopper he’s nothing like in Westwood’s class.  Rumours of administration persist with the boardroom situation murky and unhappy; any further incomings will be loans and freebies, but City will hardly be the most attractive proposition for someone looking for a club at this level.  Sammy Clingan is a decent midfielder, but he’s not guaranteed to be around by the end of August; there are good kids coming through, and defenders who would be adequate at least in a stronger team, but with or without a ten point penalty there’s only one way Cov are going this season.  Very bottom, and one less relegation spot for the rest of us to worry about.

Season Preview 2011-12 Part 1 30/07/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
4 comments

Football.  Splendid.  A slight change to the usual format this year;  I’m figuring that if I release this out in easier-to-digest chunks, more of you might get round to reading it.  Part 2 tomorrow.  Let us begin…  

BARNSLEY

INS: Matt Done (Rochdale, Undisclosed), Jimmy McNulty (Brighton & Hove Albion, Undisclosed), Scott Wiseman (Rochdale, Undisclosed), Craig Davies (Chesterfield, Free), Rob Edwards (Blackpool, Free), David Perkins (Colchester United, Free), Miles Addison (Derby County, Six Month Loan)

OUTS: Jason Shackell (Derby County, Undisclosed), Liam Dickinson (Plymouth Argyle, Free), Matt Hill (Blackpool, Free), Steven Bennett, Conor Branson, Hugo Colace, Martin Devaney, Danny Fearnehough, Kern Miller (Accrington Stanley, Six Month Loan)

OUR EX-TYKES: Carl Dickinson

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Four points off the Tykes last season; the last win of the season at Vicarage Road, if only barely, which saw John Eustace score early for the ‘orns who featured little as an attacking force thereafter, and an equally fortunate point at Oakwell in December that preceded a seven-match winning run.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Steele
Wiseman         Edwards           Foster         McEveley
Addison           Doyle
O’Brien                      Perkins                        Done
Haynes

VERDICT: Before I launch recklessly into this, I should point out that I know that Watford are hardly the sexiest ticket in the division. Not under any illusions on that score. Nor, in all honesty, am I particularly interested in sexy. I’d far rather… unsexy, if sexy means the unblinking, stultifying, arms-length plasticness of the Premiership. Nonetheless… Barnsley aren’t very sexy, are they? It’s not just inertia that has seen me put off writing the first of these pieces. Hell, such is the disconnect between me writing and you reading that I went to the TV to try to watch Argentina vs Uruguay in the Copa America, realised it was on ESPN, went to bed and got up again since I started the last sentence, rather than drag together an opinion on Barnsley.
No more provarication… Barnsley come into the season under new management, Mark Robins having resigned in June ostensibly following a disagreement with the Tykes’ board over the budget for the forthcoming campaign. New man Keith Hill looks like a sensible, pragmatic appointment; he’ll certainly have his side fit and working hard. However there are causes for concern. It’s not atypical of a manager to return to his previous club for key men, but one has to wonder quite how many more potential stars the previously infertile pastures of Spotland had to offer after at least five upwardly mobile outward transfers over the last few years. Several of the familiar characters in the side (Steele, McEveley, Haynes) are names one might have had question marks against whenever we’ve faced them at previously, and there’s little doubt that there’s a shortage of firepower as it stands (with Haynes, a little surprisingly, being touted as hot property himself earlier in the summer). Perhaps of greatest concern is the fact that Robins was concerned enough about the budget of a side that was solidly bottom half for most of last season to resign, despite not having anywhere to go; in the last week (as I write), the board suggests that Hill is happy with his squad whilst the man himself says he’s after a couple more – not altogether reassuring. The Tykes are in the group that could struggle rather than being certainties for the drop – there’s still a solid look about the side – but certainly more likely to be looking downwards than upwards at the business end of the season

BIRMINGHAM CITY

INS: Chris Burke (Cardiff City, Free), Steven Caldwell (Wigan Athletic, Free), Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United, Free), Marlon King (Coventry City, Free), Adam Rooney (Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Free), Boaz Myhill (West Bromwich Albion, Season Loan)

OUTS: Barry Ferguson (Blackpool, Undisclosed), Craig Gardner (Sunderland, Undisclosed),  Roger Johnson (Wolverhampton Wanderers, Undisclosed), Lee Bowyer (Ipswich Town, Free), Martin Jiranek (FC Krasnodar, Free), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland, Free), Jay O’Shea (Franchise FC, Free), Kevin Phillips (Blackpool, Free), Dan Preston (AFC Telford United, Free), Robin Shroot (Stevenage, Free), Marcus Bent, James McFadden, Mitchell McPike, Stuart Parnaby, Luke Rowe, Maik Taylor, Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion, Season Loan)

OUR EX-BLUES: Martin Taylor

THEIR EX-ORNS: Marlon King, Jordon Mutch

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two single-goal defeats under Brendan Rodgers; the first, a 3-2 defeat at St Andrews, saw Ross Jenkins’ first senior goal, and Martin Taylor lining up for the Blues.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Myhill
Carr         Davies           Caldwell       Murphy
Burke         Fahey           Gomis          Beausejour
King          Rooney

VERDICT: All about timing, these previews.  A few weeks ago, forced to write this piece, I’d have had the Blues up there competing for automatic promotion;  a little unfortunate to go down in the end, suffering from injuries to what looked a very solid defensive unit and in King, Burke and Gomis a very good, pragmatic start in building a squad capable of bouncing straight back up.

Since then it’s all gone belly-up. Carson Yeung, City’s largest shareholder and front-man of a protracted take-over two years ago, was arrested in Hong Kong at the end of June and is facing money laundering charges.  Trade in City’s holding company BIHL has been suspended, and as the exit door starts to spin increasingly quickly suddenly City don’t look much like promotion favourites.  A snapshot in time is of bugger all value at this point, frankly;  City’s fate is the hardest to predict of any team in the Division and the line-up guessed at above assumes the departure of Ridgewell, Dann, Zigic, Jerome and Michel.  Vice chairman Peter Pannu has attempted to dismiss talk of administration (and, presumably, optimistically, talk down the possibility of a fire sale) whilst conceding that difficult decisions will have to be made, and high earners sold.  As we know, that’s rather dependent on someone being prepared to take them, which suggests that the departure of Ridgewell might be rather more imminent than those of the injured Dann and Zigic.

Where will they finish?  At this point, your guess is as good as mine…  I would say anywhere from play-offs to lower mid-table is possible, but even with a points penalty City will retain, in the short term, too many good players to be involved with relegation.

BLACKPOOL

INS: Gerardo Bruna (Liverpool, Undisclosed), Barry Ferguson (Birmingham City, Undisclosed), Angel Martinez (Girona, Undisclosed), Craig Sutherland (North Carolina State Wolfpack, Undisclosed), Bojan Djordjic (Videoton, Free), Bob Harris (Queen of the South, Free), Matt Hill (Barnsley, Free), Kevin Phillips (Birmingham City, Free)

OUTS: Charlie Adam (Liverpool, £8,500,000), Danny Coid (Accrington Stanley, Free), Ishmel Demontagnac (Notts County, Free), Rob Edwards (Barnsley, Free), Marlon Harewood (Shenzhen Phoenix, Free), Malaury Martin (Middlesbrough, Free), Paul Rachubka (Leeds United, Free), Andy Reid (Nottingham Forest, Free), David Vaughan (Sunderland, Free), David Carney, Jason Euell, Richard Kingson, Saleheddine Sbai

OUR EX-SEASIDERS: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: Craig Cathcart, Kevin Phillips

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Two high-scoring encounters two seasons ago; a 2-2 draw at the Vic in what was both Tom Cleverley’s home debut and Tommy Smith’s last outing for the ‘orns, and a 3-2 reverse at Bloomfield Road in which we shipped twice in the closing minutes.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Gilks
Eardley         Evatt         Baptiste      Crainey
Southern      Ferguson        Bruna
M.Phillips      K.Phillips  Taylor-Fletcher

VERDICT: It was, of course, quite ridiculous that Blackpool got promoted at all.  Not undeserved, a massive achievement clearly.  But extraordinary that a club with such limited recent experience in the second tier, a patchwork stadium and no great bankrolling should gatecrash the top table.  For a brief period it looked as if they might even stay up, too, but as with Burnley a year earlier (except perhaps more so…) once the trundle downhill started it did rather feel as if nothing was going to stop it and last-day drama or otherwise the Seasiders’ relegation was no surprise in the end, much as many fingers were crossed for them.  Ian Holloway’s demeanour had been rather free of sparkle since at least January;  there were suggestions that Charlie Adam’s head had been turned (and whilst I’m veering towards the subject, if we’re going to crack down on something then why not the tapping up/discussing of other club’s in-contract players?).  Whatever.  Down they are, and if they stand to benefit from the first season of even-more-ridiculous parachute payments (despite, entertainingly, being just the sort of oiks that the ramped up monies are surely designed to exclude), they suffer on the other hand from the complete decimation of their squad on relegation with Adam, David Vaughan and, one anticipates, DJ Campbell amongst the departures leaving a great big hole in the Blackpool side.  They’ve got the means to at least try to replace them of course and had made a start at the time of writing – Barry Ferguson, on a free, kept Adam out of the Scotland side for a long time so that’s a bit of a coup, and Kevin Phillips is surely worth his corn for any side at this level, even at 37.  It’ll take a while for new players to adapt to Holloway’s 4-3-3 though, and I can see Blackpool stuttering at first, putting a decent late run together, but falling short.  Top half, with a shout of the play-offs.

BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION

INS: Craig Mackail-Smith (Peterborough, £2,500,000 + clauses), Will Buckley (Watford, £1,000,000), Will Hoskins (Bristol Rovers, £500,000), Romain Vincelot (Dagenham & Redbridge, £100,000), Roland Bergkamp (Excelsior, Undisclosed), Anton Rodgers (Chelsea, Free), Kazenga LuaLua (Newcastle United, Six Month Loan)

OUTS: Elliott Bennett (Norwich City, Undisclosed), Chris Holroyd (Rotherham United, Free), Radostin Kishishev (Chernomorets Burgas, Free), Jimmy McNulty (Barnsley, Undisclosed), Glenn Murray (Crystal Palace, Free), Fran Sandaza (St.Johnstone, Free), James Tunnicliffe (Wycombe Wanderers, Free), Agustin Battipiedi, Cristian Baz, Gary Hart, ?Alan Navarro?

OUR EX-SEAGULLS: Chris Iwelumo, Mark Yeates

THEIR EX-ORNS: Liam Bridcutt, Will Buckley, Will Hoskins, John Stephenson (Head of Recruitment)

RECENT ENCOUNTERS: Last season’s cup tie, in which an early Rene Gilmartin error and a lightweight Watford midfield allowed Brighton to kill the game. Prior to that, a 1-1 draw at Vicarage Road and Chris Eagles’ ridiculous long-range strike finally giving us a win at Withdean in our promotion season.

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Ankergren
Calderon       Greer           Dunk          Painter
Bridcutt        Dicker
Noone        Hoskins          Lua Lua
Mackail-Smith

VERDICT: There’s a lot to be said for momentum.  We’ve seen in recent seasons how a successful side can gallop through the division (Norwich last year, nearly Leicester the season before, ourselves not so very long ago) and not only were Albion comfortably the top side in Division Three, they also have the added bonus of the new stadium at Falmer, finally.  Not just your bog standard move to an idetikit out of town shell, this one, as anyone who hasn’t had their head underwater for the last fifteen years or so will be aware (as, um, much as they’re aware of anything. poor analogy, perhaps…).  It would be a cold-hearted bastard that begrudged the Seagulls their long-awaited home.  A new stadium can sometimes be a mixed blessing as a club moves in, redecorates, replaces the dodgy lampshades and so forth and altogether takes time to get settled in.  No danger of that here, one suspects.

So… momentum, new stadium.  And a side that made mincemeat of the division below.  Two senior players out of the door in Murray and Bennett;  Buckley may prove to be an adequate replacement for the latter, we’ll see, but at any rate Albion have options that don’t guarantee their million-pound man a starting place.  But in recruiting Craig Mackail-Smith they’ve certainly traded up;  an extraordinary, eye-catching signing.  Would have loved to have seen the Watford-born Hornets fan in a yellow shirt;  that was never on the cards this time, but he could prove to be the perfect striker to operate at the apex of a side so adept at keeping possession.  The one thing you don’t want to do is to give a side like Brighton the ball… and in CMS you have, perhaps, the ultimate possession-winning centre forward, and a prolific one at that.  That defence might get asked a few more questions at a higher level, but comfortably top half at any rate, Brighton; they could well make the top six.

AFC Wimbledon 2 Watford 1 (23/07/2011) 23/07/2011

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
11 comments

Five thunks from the first defeat of pre-season.  Oh, and apologies for the erroneously published season preview earlier in the week, which was around long enough to propagate itself all over News Now and then had to be withdrawn.  I have no excuse but my incompetence.  The finished article will start to emerge next weekend, assuming I get my finger out between now and then.  Where were we?

1- First off, isn’t it nice to be here?  A number of us have been to Kingsmeadow before of course;  some of us even came here without seeing a game of football.  The club bar pre-match is as relaxed and convivial now as it was then, even if I don’t remember a queue for season tickets stretching out the door on that occasion. I’m conscious that plenty of people never got the whole Wimbledon thing… for me it’s always been something to defend passionately.  Sometimes aggressively.  No aggression here though, no debate, that’s long gone. This is just a bunch of people getting on with supporting their football club, a football club that has elevated itself to League status in only nine years.  An awesome achievement.  So, yes, it’s nice to be here in any circumstances but particularly those. ig has a banner with him to welcome our hosts back to the Football League,  and we’re standing on a mixed terrace, lounging in that relaxed pre-season kind of way and enjoying the welcome dryness of the day, renewing acquaintances missed over the summer.  Life is pretty good.

2-  Oh look, a game of football.  There’s a fair number of people who just don’t “do” pre-season friendlies.  ig would normally be one, but this game is a little different of course.  My Dad is another.  John Eustace, it seems safe to conclude, is another.  Nothing laid-back or half-arsed about this performance, nor of the bollocking that Aidy Mariappa receives at one point for one of several pieces of slightly dozy defending.  Nor the snarling, snapping around midfield, or the deflected drive that gives us a deserved lead after about a quarter of an hour.  I’m on the phone to my five year old daughter at the time… “where are you Daddy?”.  “At the football”.  “Can you sing a song then Daddy, say WATFOOORD”.  Big cheer.  “What happened Daddy?  What happened Daddy?”.  Next season, she’s coming to this fixture.

3- Watford dominate early on, and look like adding to Eustace’s goal.  Central to this Chris Iwelumo, who is a monster… Wimbledon haven’t got an answer, and it feels as if there are more goals coming.  But they don’t and a big factor in that is Iwelumo coming off with what must be a knock close to the half hour.  Iwelumo’s recruitment always felt like a good one to me, ticking a lot of boxes that needed ticking – experience, physical presence, aerial ability.  A concern expressed by those less convinced is the natural tendency of a side fielding a big target man to go long too often, a lazy option or a Plan A that subsumes all others.  Rather worryingly, our attacking play loses all its shape when the big man goes off;  the ball doesn’t start to stick up front again until the last ten minutes of the game, and although we carve the occasional chance it’s odd that even at this early stage we seem so dependent on the target man’s presence.  Encouragingly, he seems to be moving fine as he strolls past us to the changing room;  the blokes giving him gentle stick at the end of the terrace either brave or rather stupid.

4- Of the other new boys, rather a mixed bag.  With Prince Buaben, it was difficult, from the far end of the pitch, to see a black no 8 dancing around with the ball and cherishing possession, and not think of Micah Hyde… he looked tidy, we’ll see more of him when he’s fit.  Forsyth came off the bench and worked hard, plenty to like there even if he does look like a twelve year old (albeit a rather lanky one).  Only Yeates disappointed, then, barely having a touch of consequence in the final third and only really noticed when rolling around on the turf.

5- The view of Dons fans, and of those with some insight, is that staying up would more than do this season.  Without any in-depth knowledge of the fourth division and despite taking into consideration that, with a League Cup qualifying tie against Crawley in under a week the Dons should be as good as match fit, they didn’t look like a side destined to struggle to me.  Their keeper looked very decent, the obligatory big ugly centrebacks dealt with most of what we threw at them pretty comfortably (albeit Iwelumo caused problems early on), and the side moves the ball about well. They probably deserved this victory, and look well equipped.   If they make a go of it this season, you won’t find us complaining.