Personally I’d never anticipated a forthcoming campaign with so little enthusiasm as I did this year. The departure of Roddy and decimation of the squad had meant that there would - effectively - once again just be the one relegation place for the rest of the division to worry about. Now it’s all changed, and I’m hoping to make it to Brunton Park for the big kick off, and then down to Southend for our first away fixture the following Tuesday.
Great news that the change of ownership may be, we do need to keep our feet on the ground here. It’s not unheard of for a team to go from struggling to promotion material in one season, but it doesn’t happen very often. Even with new owners, a bit more money and fresh blood, it takes time for a manager, even one with a head start like Roddy, to get the players he wants and - more importantly - to get them playing together and reading each other’s games.
No-one would be more pleased than me if we were to be in the top seven come next May, but it even took Fulham a couple of goes to get out of the bottom division after Fayed took over, and I’d be pretty happy with a season of consolidation and a mid-table finish (though a decent cup run and a big cup-tie would be a nice bonus). What would be refreshing, however, would be to see us starting to hold on to players who perform, as Brighton did - and look at them now, rather than off-loading them as soon as they threaten to push the team up the league a bit (for them to then spend the next four years in a Premiership or Division One reserve side). We should be prepared for success to take a little time, however how the club reacts to the first good offer for Foran or Andrews will be a very clear indicator of its longer-term ambition.
There probably aren’t as many local games for those of us down in the South East as we’d like - another good reason for getting in to the Second; there are loads there... - but we’ve got a few to look forward to over the coming months. I know that quite a few exiles are planning on getting up to Carlisle for the Hartlepool game, but for those who can’t make it we have Southend away the following Tuesday which is easily accessible from the capital. After that we have Bournemouth at the end of September and Cambridge in October, both down from last year’s Second Division, though it’s a shame that the schedulers have arranged the Orient game - always well attended, and a good day out, not to mention quite often delivering a decent result - for between Christmas and New Year when many exiles are making the trip back north (and the chance to take in Southend again, I see).
It’s encouraging that so many London Branch members kept the faith during the dark days. Decisions had to be made and our annual contribution to the club was redirected from the club itself to CCUIST instead, but we’ll be hoping to pick up a few new members on the back of the takeover. If you haven’t joined yet, and would like the opportunity to get together with like-minded exiles, we meet once a month in a Victoria pub, get together at - and to travel to - games, can organise tickets (which will be particularly useful for those FA Cup games at Arsenal and Manchester United) and issue a 60-90 page newsletter every six weeks or so. If you’re interested in joining, just drop me a line.
The next outing for the Branch is the now annual Family Day and BBQ in St Albans this weekend, where the adults drink and play pool and darts (could it get any better?), the children run loose around the beer garden, and the barbie gets out of control. So, if you’re looking for somewhere where the sun is shining, Hertfordshire is the place to avoid. It’ll be a chance to celebrate the new dawn of the club as well though, and to look forward to 10 August and beyond. Roll on the new season. And I didn’t think I’d be saying that three weeks ago.