Monthly Archives: June 2009

The General Specific (Saturday 27th June ’07)

Moving house, writers block, humidity, a hangover and a really annoying blister between my big toe and whatever the next one along is called (if you have more than one choice there you come from Milton Keynes – step away from the computer, exit PC World, your mum and sister’s looking for you – she’s outside by the way…), that was caused while taking a leisurely stroll along the river in flip-flops this afternoon, have all conspired to prevent me writing as much as I wanted to recently. Therefore I’ll be keeping it to the point this evening, and try and keep the number of tangents I go off on down to one or two.

Wellard has signed. Great, now get out there lad and show us what you can do. Jut in time for him as well, as pre-season training started today. I’d love to be the sort of uber-fan who turns up for this type of event, or The Paul Strank Family Fun Day, but I’m not. I’ll be evaluating the newbies where it matters, on the pitch in pre-season. And I know that doesn’t really matter either.

This means its judgement day as far as Ben Judge is concerned, and I presume that would mean its innsment day for Alan Inns as well. Apparently there is a new boy in town, in the form of Brett Johnson. I know what your thinking, me neither. I was expecting Rhys Day, which just goes to show how far getting all your information from the Kingston Informer gets you. Hmmm, I’m just and educated commentator, I’m out of my depth predicting the future, I’ll leave it to the proper professionals in future. In fact I cannot wait for getting back to what I’m best at, watching a game of football, making a few notes, taking some photos then sitting down to think about it a writing a couple of thousand words on what the experience meant to me.

In fact, this time next week we will know who we will be playing six weeks today (yes, just six little weeks… or 42 days…) when the season starts properly. Are we excited? Well its about bloody time that’s all I can say. The last game of what I am considering the 08/09 season takes place on Monday when England U21’s take on Germany, and what I consider the start of next season is the Wycombe game. Which means twelve football free days. How ever shall we cope?

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The General Specific (Thursday 25th June ’09)

So I’ve witnessed the Miracle On Grass and realised that South Africa have a couple of players whose names sound like Counting Crows lyrics. But what else have I learned from watching the Confederations Cup? I have learned that Jonathan Pearce is actually a better commentator while watching the action on a screen in Shepherds Bush than actually being there (come on BBC, what do we pay our licence fee for? Get your commentators to the game!). And I’ve also learned that I really, really miss proper football.

By proper football I mean watching our beloved AFC Wimbledon, and the next best thing to seeing them play is knowing they are back in training. Which is this weekend! Woohoo! One player who may not be there is Ricky Wellard. I am now christening this as The Ricky Wellard Affair after the Kingston Informer (I do read other papers) likened it to The Carlos Tevez Saga. This only weeks after I had compared it to the Ronaldo transfer… catch up Informer! In fact I’m not sure why I’m being so nice to them by mentioning their reporting when they threw My Old Mum on the scrapheap a couple of months ago, making her redundant! C***s! Boycott The Informer I say!

Family bias aside, it was nice to read Terry Brown say even he is getting fed up with transfer talks which lets not forget began several years before Wellard was even born. Well it feels like it. What is weird is Wellard is one of the largest tags on the tag bubble thing down there on the right, which means I’ve written by now thousands of words on a player I have admitted to never having seen play, and may never play for our club!

By the weekend we will know whether we have landed our ‘number one signing’, although by now I doubt if any of use really cares, as very shortly a number of Football League players will be out of contract, and the number of Conference clubs lining up to sign them will be down after the Setanta Debacle (see previous posting). In fact we have been ‘in talks with a League Two defender’, not mentioned of course as he is still CCCOOOUURHYSDAYGGGHHH under contract.

WHEELER!Next, who remembers that crazy CCL Cup game at Walton Casuals, part football match, part music festival/piss up? You know, the one that went to penalties and we all got to call Danny Wheeler a wanker at the end? To be honest I prefered the second game better, the one when it was bastard cold and that guy scored the comical own goal, and me and my mates gained entry to the warm Casuals bar just by approaching the elderly Walton steward and saying ‘Alright mate’ like we knew him (I still can’t believe that worked – one of said mates once gained free entry to a Portsmouth-Man United game by pulling the same trick…).  

Well we can relive those happy times several times over next season as the Reserves will be playing there next year. How any of us non-drivers are going to make it there I’m not sure… it is after all in the middle of nowhere. As well as this we are being charged admission! Preposterous! Except we are not, as most of us will have season tickets and the rest of you can get in free merely by approaching the man on the gate and saying ‘Alright mate’!

Finally, and to attempt to gain some cheap hits from people searching for news on the Other Wimbledon, Andy Murray won through to the third round at The Championship today. Well done, sir. And for all us red blooded males, Ana Ivanovic is still in the tournament too!

http://www.anaivanovic.com/

Hurray!

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Forward Thinking

For all the randomness in football, some things are relatively easy to predict. One of the big four was always going to win the Premier League last season, as will one of them next season. Plus it seemed obvious Setanta were wobbling atop a tightrope with no safety net towards the end of last season, and having the Premier League pelt them with rotten tomatoes has only sped up their death plunge rather than causing it.

In that respect, I was pleased to read the board had planned for the TV companies eventual splat into the sawdust of the circus floor, even if it meant planning for a loss. Back in April/May when the budget was drawn up, Setanta looked doomed, but there still seemed plenty of hope that a knight in shining armour might gallop in and catch their fall, thus safeguarding all TV contracts, be they EPL, SLP or BSP. And the clubs £85,000 would be safe.

Now the worst case scenario has happened, clubs will need to re-budget quickly. It was only last month that Lutons MD (or CEO, whatever he calls himself…) admitted to have spent their TV money already. Now I have no idea what sort of crowds Luton are expecting this term, but having taken 40,000 to Wembley last season I suspect they are quietly confident they will remain around 6-7,000. Setanta’s collapse won’t affect the Luton’s, Oxford’s or AFC Wimbledon’s of this division.

special one tvAs the statement reasures us (well, at least you should feel reasured…) the club have once again budgetted cautiously in other areas – getting knocked out of all competitions away in the first round and only averaging 3,000 for example. So unless we get the FA draws from hell we should do better than that. Plus we have effectively sold 2,250 tickets for every league game already next year, I think we can expect a good 500 paying punters through the gates more on average than the clubs original estimate.

If you are still worried please bear in mind – would you rather support a club that makes a small manageable loss or a club that makes a small profit only down to a fortunate cup run, or selling players?

Its the smaller clubs the Setanta collapse will affect the most. All those clubs who just cannot afford to lose £85,000 a year, or even worse, those who were pushing the boat out with their budget even if the extra £85 grand is included. We could be seeing an extremely polarised division next season. The big clubs will fight out at the top, whereas at the bottom anyone could go down, and a number of places will be decided by 10 point deductions.

With the budget decided we won’t have to worry about emergency cutbacks that could affect a lot of teams in our division this year. As a Dons fan I obviously feel sorry for the people who lost their jobs, but the whole Setanta debacle could well work in our favour come August and beyond.

Finally, I have noticed a few people commenting that they don’t think promotion from the Conference will do us any good in the long term, citing factors including the cost of turning full time, and upgrading the stadium. Well surely those are the sort of problems a football club wants?! Lets not fear success. Even if by some miracle we do gain promotion this year then surely we could compete with the deadwood floating around the bottom of League 2 until we found our feet?

Even though I think we will do well, I’m in no hurry to change my vote on the pre-season poll from ‘6th-9th’ to ‘playoffs’ – which actually I couldn’t do even if I wanted to (and if you haven’t voted yet why not??? Get voting now…). There are still only two places available for teams heading upwards, and there are some stronger, more experienced clubs than us in this division. At least we can be sure that off the pitch we have the security and stability required to return us to the promised land.

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The General Specific (Monday 22nd June ’09)

Well, that was a quiet weekend wasn’t it?

No Dons news of note over Saturday and Sunday, not even any scurrilous rumours. I would have started some but I was too busy sorting through my old football programmes. Obviously my Dons collection is sacrosanct (especially my mint copy of the ’63 Amateur Cup Final), however I have picked up a number of others over the years, FA Cup Finals and England games from the 60’s and 70’s, notably a complete set of Arsenal programmes 70/71 including the away game at Spurs and the cup final. I was going to get rid of them by flogging them to a dealer for beer money, until I decided to check a couple of valuations.

Well it turns out when my mate went to the 1993 FA Cup Final replay and asked if I wanted a programme I was right to say ‘yes’ as apparently its now extremely rare and quoted by some dealers at £125! ‘Bloody hell!’ thought the Anonymous Don, who is now working out how he can exploit his goodwill in the form of a spare-time mail order style business, probably on E-bay…

That will mean I will have less and less time for the blog… no, hang on, sorry… that will mean I will have less and less time for the wife (a good thing as far as she is concerned). Naturally when I get it all together I’ll link to it from here, just in case you have always wanted a 1969 England v France programme or the 1986 Topical Times Football Annual (crossword completed)…

As Monday crept up on us while we were dozing on our sofas, the press were gearing up to burst back into life. Which means I do have some Dons News to report. Our Tel has returned from his holidays red-in-face and ready to one-up Stuart Cash’s comment in the Informer last week that we will be signing two players. In fact he two-upped it, by revealing he is targeting a further four new faces (I’m not sure why that bit was in bold, I think I’m turning a bit tabloid…). He’s named his targets, in an ideal world, as;

  • A young goalkeeper
  • A left-sided central defender
  • Another midfielder
  • An extra striker

I don’t want to dwell too much on the Wellard transfer right now, suffice to say he’s probably the midfielder. That left sided central defender could spell big trouble for Ben Judge, who filled that position last season, but more likely Alan Inns. A new goalkeeper will pretty much consign Andy Little to the Dons scrapheap, and as we found out last season you just cannot have enough strikers.

I really think the signings of Hussey and Hatton are key, both players still have a lot to prove, but were up for the challenge last season. Plus Hatton has probably got used to being abused every time he goes near the ball, and might take a bit of the crowds flack off some of the younger players coming in. I imagine most of the boneheads who find themselves sharing a terrace with normal folk like me in the John Smith Stand next season are already salivating at the prospect of telling a number of teenagers they aren’t fit to wear the shirt next year.

I think most of you had already worked out I am a huge admirer of Sam Hatton, and this term he will face a career defining challenge not just getting up to speed with Conference Premier football, but just getting into the side. In fact, try not to think of the players we will have on the pitch next season, think of the quality we are going to have on the bench, or not even in the squad… this season is going to be absolutely fascinating.

The news that Terry intends to ‘experiment’ in the forthcoming friendlies doesn’t really fill me with enthusiasm, but to be honest I wouldn’t have expected otherwise. He’s hardly likely to demand results is he? I predict pre-season will be as crap as it was last year, in fact as crap as its been every other year except that glorious first AFC Wimbledon season. For the manager pre-season allows him to experiment and take a look at certain players in certain situations, for players they gain match fitness and get to show the manager what they can really do in a game situation.

For us supporters, we get to realise just how much better actual competitive games are, and in the early games just how far away that first day really is. I suppose the only people who actually get something out of them on the terraces are webmasters and bloggers like myself, starved of any match action to commentate on during the barren months to the point I find myself writing a news article based on the manager telling the papers he might be signing some new players…

…And he might not. I put those key word, ‘in an ideal world’ in italics for a reason. It’s likely, but we shall have to wait and see how it does pan out. There are plenty of players knocking about without contracts, I’m sure we will see a fair few triallists in the friendlies for both the senior team and reserves, and I know an experienced manager like Terry will not see his squad finalised until the transfer window closes.

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The Conference Files – Forest Green Rovers

Forest Green first really came to my attention a decade ago when they burst onto the Conference scene, and I was in attendance to see them lose 0-1 to Kingstonian in the FA Trophy final of 1999. At the time I expected they would hang around in the top level of non-league football for a couple of years. In fact if you had asked me then which club would still be in the Conference ten years later I would have said Kingstonian. How glad I am to be proved wrong, as over a decade later FGR are still here, having moved into their new stadium just in time (well, a couple of years in advance anyway) for a first visit by a Wimbledon team next season.

For a club sometimes referred to as The Little Club On The Hill (which sounds a bit patronising to me, either that or the title of the worlds first football/horror movie), its unlikely FGR will be phased by the arrival of the Womble hoards. After all, they had the pleasure of welcoming Derby in the third round of the FA Cup last year, and have become used to large travelling support in the form of clubs like Oxford in recent years.

FGR hit the headlines towards the end of the season following those match fixing allegations over the Grays match  – fortunately I documented the incident on the much lamented Control>Shoot blog, which can be found here http://controlshoot.wordpress.com/2009/05/04/the-great-blue-square-match-fixing-scandal/

HISTORY

Forest Green Rovers have been in existence since 1889 (a good year to form a football team!), playing in a variety of local leagues. From the very beginning they played at The Lawn, their ground until 2006, which was only properly enclosed in 1926. Prior to this they had an interesting couple of seasons in the early twenties, picking up four league titles and six cups in only two seasons (the club playing in two separate leagues simultaneously a la the Old Centrals Clapham League and Herald League victories in our early days).

From then on Forest Green began their initially slow progress, via founder membership of the Gloucestershire Northern Senior League in 1922, then the Gloucester County League in 1968 (the year their supporters club built their own social club). They then moved to the Hellenic League in 1975, which saw a spectacular League and FA Vase double achieved in the 1981/82 campaign, which saw the club earn promotion to the Southern League.

The club knocked around in the Southern League Midland Division for a while, until a change of name (what we would probably call a ‘rebranding’ these days) saw them become Stroud FC for a few seasons. The attempt to appeal to the larger settlement four miles to the north only succeeded in alienating long time Forest Green fans. After their name reverted back to FGR in 1992, the village proved they could stand on their own in the following year.

FGRFrank Gregan was the manager that took them to back-to-back promotions through the Southern League in 1997 and 1998, making it to the Conference. Continually confounding what would appear a logical assumption that the side would struggle in the national game, they became the first club to reach Wembley in the Vase and Trophy in 1999 (the aforementioned Kingstonian game), also reaching the final in 2001, losing this time to Canvey Island at Villa Park.

Relegation battles had been an all too regular occurrence at The Lawn in the last decade, but stability seems to have come from their move to The New Lawn, only a few hundred yards from the old Lawn, paid for by the sale of their former home for housing (a ground originally purchased for £120 at auction in 1936).

LAST SEASON

An end of season finish of 18th probably made the season look a lot worse than it actually was, they effectively guaranteed themselves Conference Premier football with a February/March run which saw them lose only twice, culminating in an impressive 1-0 win at eventual playoff finalists Cambridge. They only managed to win one of their last seven though, albeit a 4-0 win over Rushden, which contributed to their low placing.

The season will be remembered by FGR fans for their cup exploits. The only managed to make the quarter-finals of the Trophy, but went all the way in the Setanta Shield, losing on penalties to AFC Telford at the New Lawn. But the moment everyone will remember was their first appearance in the FA Cup Third Round at home to Derby. They must have enjoyed their moment in the limelight, although we must have all had a chuckle at the moment a national journalist, sent down to scout out the Forest Green players, showed his ignorance of the lower leagues by asking manager Jim Harvey what his players did for a living, apparently surprised to find the answer was ‘footballers’. FGR managed to lead 2-0 and 3-2 before succumbing 4-3 to the Championship outfit.

THE CLUB

As I mentioned previously, Forest Green Rovers are one of the many fully professional sides in the BSP, as of course we will be ourselves in a couple of years time. Their top scorer Andrew Mangan had an interesting season, winning the Conference Premier golden boot with 26 goals (pay attention Mainy, Keds and Luke!), scoring three hat-tricks in the process, before finishing up being investigated for match fixing for the second time in two years. A negative verdict from his perspective is probably the only thing that can stop him repeating the trick this term, as he has signed up for another season at The New Lawn.

Much as Wimbledon fans converged on Kingsmeadow a couple of weeks ago for a clean-up weekend, Forest Green fans take pleasure in repainting their ground every summer, a tradition they have carried over from The Lawn to The New Lawn. This sort of help is undertaken by fans of clubs up and down the country over the summer, but in FGR’s case I would imagine it is essential in keeping the close bond that exists between small clubs and their local supporters over the summer.

THE GROUND

Another newbie for Dons fans to take in this season, and a very nice one it is too. Built only two years ago it features its own pub (don’t expect Dons fans to be allowed in unless we get a Tuesday visit in November…). The away section is seated and holds 500 which may not be enough for a Saturday trip there, but there is overspill in the adjacent terrace to the left if required.

Out of interest the two end stands were both imported from the old Lawn ground (or at least the roofs were), which must have cut costs in constructing the ground. The main stand holds about 2,000, which means FGR don’t have to worry about lacking ambition, although survival and midtable are the priorities right now should they one day find their way to promotion, their ground would only require  minor alterations to cope with the League.

ADMISSION

2009/10

(Dons home admission in brackets for comparison)

TERRACE – £13 (£12) Conc £8 (£6) U16 £5 (£2)

SEATS – £15 (£14-16) Conc £10 (£7-8) U16 £7 (£3-4)

Forest Green charge a lot more for concessions and youths than we do, however its worth remembering they don’t have 3,000 people through the gates every week to subsidise these prices.

PREVIOUS

AFC Era – None

All time Wimbledon – None

Another first timer for the Dons, as we look to make new friends in the village for the first time.

LINKS

Forest Green Rovers O/S – http://www.forestgreenroversfc.com/

Forest Green Rovers Trust – http://www.fgrtrust.com/

Forest Green MAD – http://www.forestgreenrovers-mad.co.uk/

FGR Forum – http://fgrforum.publicitymatters.com/index.php?sid=3a243a5b7a229b0bce61d745fab76c42

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The General Specific (Thursday 18th June ’09)

So will he or won’t he? The on-off-on-and-currently-off-by-the-look-of-it move for Ricky Wellard has still not been resolved. It seems like months since I first heard Wellard’s name being bandied about by the more intelligent internet commentators as a potential signing, yet we still seem to be no nearer to securing his signature. I’m sure it would be hard for Terry to take (and for the player as well, undoubtedly) if the deal were to break down now.

So what’s the current state of play? Well, Ashford manager Mark Butler was interviewed on their official website and stated although Wellard was given permission to discuss terms with Wimbledon, there was still a final ‘glitch’ that the respective chairmen needed to resolve. It seems that this could be a dealbreaker. The way the clubs are viewing the deal, Ashford want to get as much guaranteed cash for a player they have nurtured, whereas we don’t want to overpay upfront for a player, preferring a structured deal where money is handed over when his potential is realised.

cashIt’s tough for me to have an opinion either way on this saga. I don’t think I have ever seen Wellard play, so despite having faith in the ability of Terry and Stuart, I’m starting to wonder what the fuss is all about. Then I pick up tonight’s Informer where Stuart Cash is confidently predicting the deal should be wrapped up ‘early next week’. So perhaps this ‘glitch’ will be easily resolved after all.

Cash also revealed we are in negotiation to bring a ‘left-sided centre back’ plus another midfielder, both of whom experienced League Two football last season. Answers on a postcard anyone? Cash also hit back at critics who suggest the management team are sacrificing 09/10. ‘People are saying we are writing off next season but they are wrong’ said Cash (it wasn’t me sir!) ‘If we can build a young hungry side who are willing to listen and learn we reckon we’ve got half a chance. Yes you need experience but it’s not the be all and end all.’

Michael Haswell has signed for Grays next season. I’m personally delighted that he will have the opportunity to play Conference football next year, and hope he gets a great reception when he returns to Kingsmeadow with his new club. As for one of our summer targets, Matt Pattisson has joined Rushden. I’m not sure how true this is, but the jungle drums suggest he was never offered a contract by us in the first place. Therefore, no matter how talented he is, ultimately the management team think they have done better with what we have, in other words Derek Duncan.

I’m not sure how much you’ll be hearing from me over the next couple of weeks. I’ve just this moment discovered this great new sport that takes place once a year… in Wimbledon itself. Two blokes hit a ball over a net and try and get it past their opponent, winning points in the process. Women play as well, and for some reason they earn a load more money per hour than the men. presumably because they have to wear little skirts and show their pants off quite a lot. Anyway, there’s this English guy, except he’s not English he’s Scottish, but that doesn’t seem to matter because he’s really good and he’s going to win it for us this time round, for the first time since ever!

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Dons Icons #3 – Marcus Gayle My Lord

When I was at school there used to be this kid, Marcus, who was always good for a laugh – not always intentionally either. For example one day he managed to bang his head on the floor while still sitting on a chair (you needed to be there), much to our delight (don’t worry, he didn’t get hurt, we weren’t evil…). Anyway somewhere down the line he picked up the nickname Mungo (I think it was originally Mongo, but as I said he was a good guy so we toned it down a bit).

Around this time Wimbledon signed a strong young forward from Brentford called Marcus Gayle. He made his debut a day after he signed, so naturally one of my friends christened him ‘Mungo’ too, shouting ‘Go On Mungo’ as he roared around the field much to the bemusement of the Dons fans around us. Eventually it stuck, as far as we were concerned anyway, and I continued to refer to him as Mungo until his £1m move to Rangers in 2001.

Marcus started his career at the Bees in 1989, making 158 appearances, as well as 22 while on loan to Finnish outfit KuPS while learning his trade in 1990. Its fair to say Gayle is as much an icon to Brentford fans as he is to us, and fortunately he got to bookend his career with a spell at both clubs, making 30 appearances for them in 05/06. They apparently had a song based on him that went along the lines of ‘Marcus Gayle, has a fucking huge cock…’. Not sure how they knew this for sure, it sounds a bit like lazy racial stereotyping to me, but I could be doing the great man a disservice!

gaylerMarcus song at Wimbledon was as per the title of this article, perhaps due to his religious convictions, perhaps his name just lent itself better to this tune (Wimbledon fans aren’t that clever, or they weren’t in those days. I remember when we stole a Cantona chant from Man United to use for John Fashanu- complete with French national anthem. I mean we could have been clever like we are these days and fitted it to ‘God Save The Queen’ in reference to Fash’s England caps, or even found out how the Nigerian anthem went…).

I vaguely remember an early Gayle game against Manchester United where his strong run down the left wing left whoever was playing right back for United that day for dead, delivering a perfect cross for Fashanu. Fash seemed to be preoccupied by his physical tussle with Pallister, and if he got a touch at all it was probably an arm – but a goal it was. Of course Marcus carved his name into Wimbledon legend for a rather more important goal against the same opponents a few years later…

Gayle was the first of the new wave of players that came through in the mid to late 90’s, big, strong and quick, but withgreat ability to go withit. Combined they played fast counter attacking football combined with an unbeatable spirit. There’s no coincidence that Gayle’s ‘career season’ was probably the greatest in terms of football played we ever saw from a Wimbledon side in the Premier League, 1996/97.

Plus he scored in that memorable 4-2 win at Stamford Bridge. Yes we had taken great pleasure in battering the Blues 4-0 and 5-2 there in the old Division One days, but this was New Chelsea. Gayle put the icing on the cake, the result only tarnished by the dodgiest of dodgy penalties given in the last minute for a non existent foul outside the area. But the pace and movement of Wimbledon’s performance, especially Gayle and fellow front-man Efan Ekoku, meant Wimbledon had earned a place at the top of the Premier League, even if league form was to slip away after that.

But the Dons were to prove their worth in the cups as well, reaching both semi-finals. In the League Cup Marcus made a habit of beating dozy keepers at their near post from a tight angle, smashing the winner against Aston Villa in the 4th round, before repeating the trick in the semi-final second leg against Leicester. Heartbreak was to follow as the Dons crashed out on away goals (just rubbing salt in the wound – we didn’t actually play a ‘home’ game for nearly fifteen years during that period). The season petered out after a 0-3 surrender to Chelsea at Highbury in the FA Cup Semi-Final leaving us only with memories. But what memories they were.

Plus lets not forget Marcus, along with Robbie Earle, was one of the first Dons players to see action at a World Cup. Although Robbie gets a lot of attention for his goal (and Robbie will get the ‘icon’ treatment himself one day…), lets not forget Marcus did more than just make up the numbers in 1998.

My personal favourite Marcus moment was set against the backdrop of unpleasantness. I found myself close to the front of what must have been C block in the HolmesdaleEnd, only to my horror to find myself sitting next to a Liverpool fan who not only felt he had the right to be there, he had the right to loudly support his team as well. Naturally, I was slightly annoyed, and this lead to several arguments with the plastic scouser, an argument witha steward, and worse still an argument withmy dad, for taking my argument with the previous two too far.

Just as I was about to snap, Wimbledon won a free kick shortly after, and Gayle floated it into the top corner, bouncing off the inside of the post and into the net after travelling across the goal line and off the opposite post. An absolutely brilliant free kick, and our joyous celebrations persuaded our illegally positioned Liverpool friend to find a different seat for the second half!

If anyone deserved a move to a big club it was Marcus. Sadly Wimbledon were desperate for money by the time he left, post relegation in 2001 to Rangers, and its probably fair to say they were the wrong club at the wrong time. He moved back to England with Watford, and it was here he made the transformation to centre half, a move that effectively extended his career by several seasons.

Normally a pace merchant will leave the game the moment their legs go, but Marcus was always too good a player for that to happen. His footballing brain was put to use at the heart of the defence of not only Watford, but Brentford, Aldershot (where he finally managed to score his first hat trick after coming on as a substitute against Kidderminster), before finally returning home to Wimbledon last season.

He didn’t have the pace that made him a Premier League star, but it all seemed a bit too easy for Gayle at times. To have him with us just for one season was a dream come true for most Wimbledon fans, one last link to the glory days. Our playoff win must have been a brilliant way to finish a career, walking off the pitch, knowing your job was done.

Except Marcus Gayle wasn’t finished with Wimbledon just yet. He took over the running of the reserves midway through last season, placing an emphasis on youth and guiding the side to a Suburban League Cup win over Bedfont, a game they dominated despite facing a stronger and more experienced side in the final. In future it will be his job to bring promising young players from a successful youth programme, and turn them into footballers. What does the future hold for Marcus Gayle? He has mentioned previously it is his ambition to become a manager, and there is no reason why he can’t move through the ranks at Wimbledon, as first team coach, assistant manager and perhaps even as Wimbledon manager himself one day?

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NEW SIGNING – Derek Duncan Joins

Stewart Cash today finalised the signing of Derek Duncan, 22, who was released by Ebbsfleet at the end of last season. Derek is primarily an attacking midfielder operating down the left, but can play at left back, and after a quick web search he is also Professor of Italian Cultural Studies at the University of Bristol, so truly multi-talented (don’t write in – I know its a different Derek Duncan…). Cash has worked with the player before, as he had a spell on loan at Lewes when Stuart was there, so it seems apt Terry’s holiday meant he was the one to conclude negotiations.

derek duncanIn my strange brain there’s a thought bouncing around that maybe Stuart was told to sign a different player, but when he took the reigns temporarily for the week the power went to his head… and in the manner of a cheesy sitcom the whole thing will pan out with hilarious consequence when Terry returns. In years to come we could see the incident turned into a modern day pantomime along the lines of Jack And The Beanstalk, as Duncan fires us into the Football League…

Of course those of you having heart attacks over the average age of the squad won’t have been assured by another youngster coming in. At this rate the likes of Luke Garrard will be the old timer of the squad next year. As I have said before if you are good enough, you are old enough… or more accurately if your young enough, it doesn’t matter if your not quite good enough yet. I’m looking forward to this adventurous, youthful side coming together over the next few months, so for those of you thinking we are going to need experience to get out of this division – I say if no-one tells the player that we should be ok!

Seriously, we aren’t going to have relegation problems next year, and that’s all we should worry about this term. None of us – perhaps least of all Terry – know how good this side can be next year, but we know they are talented individuals, and with luck some of them will form the nucleus of the side that will play for us in the Football League one day.

In fact the only problem I have with the signing is we have acquired far too many players whose names are both first names – so Terry! Get out there and sign a couple of guys whose first names are Lloyd or Donovan or something…

PS… All the ladies out there (and some of the men out there) if your into this sort of thing, here’s a cheeky view of our new boy http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/football/article1984898.ece

Enjoy

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Opening Day

My attention was drawn this morning to the following link…

http://www.conferenceforum.co.uk/cboard.mpl?action=View+Thread&thread=33896

Not because I actually believe it of course, after all isn’t it really strange how staff at businesses who sort out fixtures manage to get made redundant just at what I would presume is their firms busiest time of the year? 

As well as this, the WHAK spin off ‘What The Hell Are We Doing In Stratford?’ has already pointed out the fixtures are produced ‘manually’. I presume this means a series of unique rounds are produced, then inserted into the calendar for whenever they see fit. This explains how they get the Xmas/New Year derbies in place. The newsletter already pointed out the fixtures are produced after the League fixtures are published on Wednesday to avoid clashes.

Which means the person who posted this is a bit of a Billy Bullshitter. As you will remember from seasons past, there are normally a good few of these. If there are enough, there are only 46 possible fixtures we could have, so someone is bound to get it right. This plum has us as Altrincham away, and a few days ago frequent Anon Don commenter Kevin Smyth went for Grays Athletic away, one of the smallest away sections in the division as a worst case scenario.

So its time for me to weigh in with my guess opinion. I’m going to go for AFC Wimbledon v Eastbourne Borough. Feel free to join the game, and we’ll see who’s right on 3rd July (or before…).

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Ground Developments

Some of you may have noticed that the latest edition of ‘What’s The Latest From The Cherry Red Records Fan Stadium – Kingsmeadow’ featured a worrying problem in terms of ground grading – namely that if we fail to move the pitch 30cm (a foot in old money) away from the hoardings on the Strank Stand side of the field we will fail it. Apparently there are two solutions. The first being to move the pitch closer to the John Smith Stand, this being extremely expensive due to the fact a Perspex shield must be inserted in front of the supporters for fear that opposition wingers/linesmen (that’s right… opposition linesmen…) may be covered in spittle and pie crumbs sprayed in their direction should said winger/linesman irritate the incumbents of this stand.

Previous rumours the club would also have to install an elaborate air conditioning system to prevent smaller supporters asphyxiating, overcome by the dense, thick, acidic clouds that develop in this area (due mostly to the stale urine on supporters that stand here reacting in a sweaty environment to form toxic gases), have now been overcome by the over subscription of The Tempest, meaning this stand will be flooded with ‘normal’ folk next term, who mostly do not stink of piss.

That means we should be seeing the end of those horrible A-boards next year, which although ideal (but seldom used) for hanging flags on, did look a little strange compared with the rest of the ground. Taking these down and adding ‘proper’ fencing round will not only please the Health and Safety Officer, it will look more aesthetically pleasing too, thus satisfying those of us who like that kind of thing.

Finally, the KRE has been re-profiled to allow for better viewing from this terrace. Sadly it will largely be occupied by visiting supporters until the new turnstiles are built, meaning its going to get worn down by the knuckles of opposition fans by the time we get to occupy it. While on the subject of the KRE, have you noticed despite its name it’s got to be a good fifty yards at least from Kingston Road itself?

Back in the day when the AFC era was new to us all, it acquired the nickname ‘The West Bank’ in homage to our former home end at Plough Lane. This was quietly dropped after a few seasons due to the three pronged strike that was 1) It wasn’t on the west side of the ground 2) It couldn’t in any way be described as a ‘bank’, and 3) it wasn’t even the main home end anymore!

Plus as I see it now, it’s the only part of the ground that doesn’t have its own sponsorship deal yet (unless you support Kingstonian and wish to remain bloody minded, still thinking that the now covered end should still be referred to as ‘The Athletics End’… do they refer to the John Smiths as ‘The Allotment Terrace?). Now I’m sure Ivor and Keith are on the case here, and I’m sure they are doing the best they can to find a commercial partner willing to put their name to the (Not) Kingston Road End.

Now I’m one of those people who still find shirt sponsorship slightly distasteful, so it may seem strange to you that I’m hawking an idea around to have this terrace renamed. But I’ve had an idea – or rather I’ve stolen an idea from various other clubs who have done the same who I have conveniently forgotten the names of. The idea is you sell tickets for £25 (or £100 for four tickets minimum for commercial entries) and whoever gets pulled out of the hat first wins the naming rights. There should be no limits to the amount of tickets sold to any individual, so even in these uncertain financial times you should get even small firms buying them by the bucketful.

Bear in mind this part of the ground is going to be used mostly by visiting supporters, which means it will gain nationwide exposure. You could further tempt companies by adding a number of runners up prizes – a free programme advert, numerous free entries into the Dons Directory, every business mentioned in the programme. Plus the price will be cheap enough to tempt individuals to buy tickets in the hope the stand will be named after them, so again you could throw in a couple of shirts as runners up prizes for them too.

It seems to me as though the club are happy to allow the terrace to remain sponsor free – yet I’m no marketing expert, there may be a bloody good reason for this. For example how will Tempest and Paul Strank feel about their five figure deals knowing that the Fred’s Window Cleaning Terrace has only cost three figures for a season? Plus the marketing team will probably look like a bunch of mugs when they turn up at one of the big boys asking for Proper Money, only for these big time players to find one of the clubs key stadium sponsors are Bills Butchers….

Still, how cool would it be to have a part of the ground named after your business, or even you as an individual? We could even see ‘The Anonymous Don Stand’! (I can just see visitors turning up at the ‘Meadow now asking ‘Who the fuck’s the Anonymous Don?’ and home fans coming back with ‘Exactly…’. This could also open doors to other sponsors who don’t yet have a relationship with us. Am I the only person wondering why the South London Press has hoardings at Millwall, Palace and Charlton but not at Kingsmeadow?

There are probably those of you out there who think this is a reasonably good idea, and those of you who don’t. All I can say is, operating in a market where our budget is everything, if we are going to lift our skirts to be defiled by corporate cash, let’s at least make sure we rinse every penny out of it to make it worth our while. 

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