Woking’s Expectation Game

By Jacob Greenwood

After a stop-start beginning to the league season, October was jam-packed with fixtures for Woking and the month had as many highs as it did lows.

Coming off the back of an impressive victory at home to Chesterfield, The Cards took three points away at Notts County and then at home to Dagenham. Just as fans dared to dream, they were brought back down to earth with a bump after losses in the National League against Grimsby, Maidenhead and Yeovil – and not to forget amongst all of that Woking found themselves victims of a giant-killing in the FA Cup. 

Horsham Dump Cards Out FA Cup

The last game of the month saw three points being picked up against a COVID-hit Altrincham side that gave a good showing of themselves in the circumstances. Despite this victory, grumblings have been audible amongst the fan base – but what is behind these and are they anything more than typical fan frustration when their side doesn’t win convincingly every week?

A poll ran by Cardinals 1887 found that over half (56%) of fans believe our current league position is ‘as expected’ but 40% consider this as an underachievement so far. Although we’ll never know what fuels everyone’s expectations, it is easy to see how such a large number were swept up in the pre-season excitement and are now feeling slightly defeated losing to sides they feel we should be beating. 

Comeback Kings – Woking Defeat Notts County

Although the new regime were quite clear about the target being mid-table that isn’t seen as progress for some. In fact, since our promotion in 2011/12 we have finished 12th or above in the National League five times. Pushing on to them would see us giving getting into the play-offs a really good go like in 2013/14 and 2014/15. 

However, this lacks context and both the club and league are in a very different place to then. It’s no secret Woking have struggled for funding in recent years and with the additional impact of the Sheerwater groundsharing deal ending, GolDev providing no further funding and any means of becoming self-sustainable in the immediate future disappearing with the ground application – we were in a very tight spot. You only have to look at Dover to see how quickly a club can deteriorate in this league when funding is hard to come by – and I’m thankful that isn’t us. 

In many respects, going full-time, hiring off-field staff and rebranding the club isn’t the quick fix that some assumed it would be. That’s because it has only allowed the club to catch up to teams in the National League, not surpass them like the 40% no doubt thought we would. However, we are competitive and have some exciting players, so we are probably on track to meet this season’s aims. 

It’s the communication of these aims that should be the focus in the coming weeks. The marketing of the new era has been done very well, but to draw fans in you need to sell them a dream and an experience. When fans feel like they’re not getting that don’t be surprised when they are asking questions, like is happening now. Wherever we go next this season, it might be time for expectations to be re-evaluated and communicated. But this is football, don’t expect everything to be straight forward and rational as we head into the winter months.

Images from wokingfc.co.uk. For full galleries, please visit the club’s official website.

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